Cookbook Reviews – Older Reviews
Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook
The author is a graduate of the Johnson & Wales University Culinary School and an instructor of culinary arts. After his wife was diagnosed with celiac disease, Robert Landolphi added gluten-free chef to his passions and his credentials.
In this book, he serves up inventive gluten-free techniques, including his method for “dusting and encrusting” – herb and flour mix “breading”. The mains are mostly simple and always elegant. His wife must have a sweet tooth, since 82 pages are devoted to an impressive selection of pies, cookies, cakes and cobblers. For anyone who’s struggled with a gluten-free pie crust, his tutorial on that alone is worth the cover price.
After Erin McKenna was diagnosed with wheat and dairy intolerances, the self-described snacker suddenly found her choices of baked goods rudely restricted. Complicating shopping trips, she’d also cut sugar from her diet. But rather than settle for the few cardboard-ish vegan treats available, McKenna began to whip up her own desserts. Then she had a brainwave: why not create a bakery where she and others like her would want to eat?
“I set out to change the way people saw this kind of baking and to make it a new experience,” McKenna explains in an interview. After toiling feverishly for a year to develop delicious, workable recipes, McKenna opened BabyCakesNYC in August 2005 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. From cookies to cupcakes, cinnamon buns, brownies, muffins and more, the vegan goodies this bakery serves are free of dairy, egg, refined sugar and most are made with no gluten or soy.
It’s a small venue, but no small phenomenon: the quality of the desserts at McKenna’s shop has won over even hard-bitten skeptics. In 2006, New York magazine awarded BabyCakes the title of “best cupcake” in the whole Big Apple. “Even though ours was made without all these things, they said it was still the best,” McKenna says. Business has boomed, bolstered by media attention, including three appearances on The Martha Stewart Show.
And now, McKenna spills her secrets in BabyCakes, the cookbook. This is a beautiful compilation of recipes that employs tasty, healthful ingredients such as: agave nectar to sweeten, gluten-free flours, cold-pressed coconut oil instead of butter, and applesauce to replace egg. While the book is already a success, McKenna has one regret: that its subtitle says the recipes are gluten-free. Most are, but some of the early ones include spelt, which is not allowed for those with celiac disease.
I’d treat that as an oversight, and press on since this book contains page after page of scrumptious and truly gluten-free temptations. When Martha herself declares the cupcakes to be “absolutely delicious” – you might just have to test a batch of your own.
Note: There are also no nuts or peanuts in this book. But if you go to the bakery, be sure to ask about nut “may contain” items, since the shop notes certain suppliers are not “100 per cent nut-free”.
BabyCakes, $28 Can ($24 US), Clarkson Potter Publishers.
Peut Contenir des Traces de Bonheur (May Contain Traces of Happiness)
For those whose children have dairy, egg, peanut or nut allergies, the beautiful cakes, cookies and chocolate of Quebec’s Guardian Angel Foods have proved a godsend. The company’s slogan is “Peut Contenir des Traces de Bonheur” – may contain traces of happiness – and that’s now the title of a cookbook/memoir by Guardian Angel’s Julie La Rochelle and Jean-Sébastien Lord. The book, written in French, has the couple delving into a rich allergy-friendly repertoire, not just of great desserts, but also of flavour-infused dishes from appetizers to mains. There are imaginative salads, savoury soups, influences in the entrées from Asia to the South of France (Spicy Chicken Thai Noodles, Mediterranean Tilapia). What’s striking is that the recipes are sophisticated enough for guests, yet, like all the best cooking, are made of simple, fresh ingredients and uncomplicated in design.
This is more than a cookbook, however. It tells the family’s journey from the discovery of their elder son’s food allergies, and offers much advice that they accumulated on their road to food bliss. “We tried to be as original as possible, inspiring ourselves with recipes from around the world,” says Lord. The book also contains advice on hosting the allergic. In fact, it “even helps members of our own family to invite us to dinner,” he says.
Peut Contenir des Traces de Bonheur, $34.95, Les Éditions de l’Homme. Available at Guardianangelfoods.com