Baking Books I Love: Part Two (this post is now gluten free for your convenience)

Okay! So in my last post I told you all about my top 5 fav baking books to peruse and adapt right now. But I didn’t get a chance (because I got lazy and hungry and also felt I kept rambling on and on and on and on and oonnnn…. you get it) to go through my new gluten-free cookbooks and tell you how I picked them, why I love them, and why I think they’re great. The process is a little different than my “normal” cookbook shopping, but the basics are the same: I want accessible recipes, pretty pictures, interesting desserts, and a nice layout. These things are, sadly, much harder to find in a gluten-free cookbook than one might assume and I’m even pickier about gluten-free cookbooks, if at all possible.

Now some of you are probably sitting there thinking “PSSSSH I love my gluten-free cookbooks – you don’t know what you’re talking about, newbie!” but let me tell you a secret – my happy place? Yeah it’s a bookstore. Usually the Barnes & Noble down the street, but I’ll go in any bookstore. I go at least once a week and armed with some warm tea I start flipping away through the pages of fiction, non-fiction, travel and baking books. I browse to my hearts content and rarely buy anything so I feel semi-qualified to tell you which cookbooks are better than which in the most amateur and subjective way possible.

And here they are! My favorites, my new best buddies. Wanna see who made the cut?

ImageThe How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen – brilliant. Given what I said about my dad’s affinity for ATK cookbooks in the previous post, you probably won’t be shocked when I tell you he gave me this book for my birthday. And it’s wonderful. They test every recipe and explain to you the nuances of gluten-free cooking and baking and for the baking section they give you THREE options for the gluten-free flour blend – usually their own mixture (recipe provided), Bob’s Red Mill, and King Arthur Flour’s. (Just do you know, Bob’s is suuuper bitter and bean-y… So if I were you, I’d make my own). Everything is explained so well that I reference this book when baking from other recipes. Example? Last week I adapted a cinnamon sugar peanut butter cookie to make it gluten free and wanted to be sure it would work out okay so I checked this book’s peanut butter cookie recipe and they talked about refrigerating PB Gfree cookies before baking… so I did. And the cookies were perfect. Whether using this to cook from directly or even as a reference, it won’t let you down.

 

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Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking by Kelli Bronski and Peter Bronski is the very first gluten-free cookbook I bought. I wanted something with breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, appetizers and snacks all laid out for me and this couple is just the best. They provide you with their own flour recipe at the beginning and while I have been tweaking and perfecting my own, I still like the one they use too. Their chocolate chip cookies taste like the real deal and aren’t dry or chalky at all like some store-bought glutey-free cookies tend to be. Next up? I want those waffles on the cover. Bad.

ImageOkay, so this book Les Petits Macarons by Kathryn Gordon and Anne McBride isn’t exactly gluten free, but it’s like…. 98% gluten-free! Macarons are made with almond flour (YAY! Gluten-free cookies for all!) and while I bought this book years ago I only recently delved into it out of one part desperation one part necessity and one part blind optimism. Macarons are hard and there’s no sugar coating (hehee) that fact. They take a while to perfect and honing your macaroning skills may take a while. But I have a thing for these European delicacies and always have so I will persevere! My first batch was edible and even good, but after reading more online I found easier recipes than even the “easiest” recipe in this book. That said, it will teach you everything you need to know and then some. And honestly it’s worth it for the flavor combinations of the filling and cookies alone!

ImageSweet Cravings by Kyra Bussanich is still relatively new to me and I have my reserves based on the one recipe I tried for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t like them, my parents actually did (or so they claimed) so I can’t write it off yet. That said, I do love the variety of the 50 recipes, the fact it has scones and other scrumptious breakfast breads, and the use of flours. Typically the author uses 3 – 4 flours maximum instead of a crazy blend and it’s really interesting to see what she chooses for each recipe. This book has great reviews online and I am ready to jump in try out some more before I give it a thumbs down. I think it was just me not paying attention to my mixer that fateful oatmeal cookie day but we’ll see! I can’t wait to make the espresso scones they look soooo good.

 

ImageGluten-Free Baking for Dummies by Jean Layton and Linda Larsen. Yes, I own this book. Yes, I like this book! It’s not enough to me to just make the recipes – I want to know what’s happening with all those weird flours when I do it. How is flour x different from flour y? Are they interchangeable? What happens with the liquids? How much xanthan and/or guar gum is needed? WHY is xanthan and/or guar gum needed? This book answers those questions and I like having it in case one day I want to try my hand as a recipe developer… Hmm….

 

 

ImageThe Complete Guide to Naturally Gluten-Free Foods by Olivia Dupin is the BEST. It’s the second gluten-free cookbook I bought and I love it, though I actually use it rarely. I find I’m still in the adapting phase trying to make old favorites, but I love pulling out this book too. All the recipes – even dessert! – in this book are naturally gluten free, as the name implies. Desserts, pudding, asian food sans soy sauce, quinoa based entrees, meat, salads free from contaminates. If this book didn’t say it was gluten free, you might not notice because the recipes are so fantastic and don’t try to “recreate” or pretend to be gluten. It’s nice to see such a large book of such simple, delicious meals that don’t need no flour! (This book is almost completely flourless, by the way)

 

Last but certainly not least, if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, you need to own Gluten Is My Bitch by April Peveteaux. I love it more than words can express and you will laugh throw your tears and cry till ya laugh. And that’s what everyone living without gluten needs in their life, ammiright?

 

PS – all these pics are from amazon.com too!

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Baking Books I Love: Part One (aka NOT gfree)

Over the past four or five years I have accumulated enough baking books and cookbooks to earn my own shelf in the kitchen amongst my parents overflowing bookshelf (my father has countless Spanish, Indian, Southern-with-a-spin and America’s Test Kitchen books; my mother’s of the family recipe books, Southern Living and decadent dessert variety). I have a cookbook entirely made of egg recipes (astounded? Well get this – there are 250+ pages… It is an art my friends) and a few of the Vegetarian persuasion for when I leaned that way (aka, the better part of three years until I got mono and pneumonia last spring and my parents decided rounding out my diet might be a wise course of  action) but for the most part I have a deep, unconditional love for baking books.

I’m picky about them though… Reeeeeal picky and not even a little objective.

I like pictures, first off. Who doesn’t? Obviously I won’t be turning out picture-perfect drool-worthy cupcakes right off the bat like the author has painstakingly done for their book – but if there aren’t any pictures I don’t even know what level of awesomeness I should be aspiring to! And then there’s the whole helpful aspect of them – are they supposed to be raised, or did the cake sink on purpose? Are these cookies flat or tall and fluffy? Some food is hard to capture, but you don’t need everything photography… You just need photographs.

Aside from nice pictures I get really into layouts as well. Does it make sense? Is there a little intro/description of each baked goodie? Does this author have a voice or identifiable style? Are the pages neat or will it be hard to find instructions and follow the recipe while I’m knee-deep in gluten-free flour? (Yes, I am that messy of a baker!)

Ease of recipes is something I like too. I don’t mean four-ingredients-no-bake easy (though that can be nice too….) I just mean do I need to fly to Madagascar and stock up on vanilla beans or visit the weird health foods store and science museum to make all the recipes in this book? Because if so, you can count me out. Experimental baking is cool and very 21st century and whatnot, but let’s keep it realistic (until I fulfill my lifelong dreams and study pastry making in France… le sigh)

The last – and most crucial (to me) – thing I look for in a cookbook is are the recipes unique? (Without needing those 2 vanilla bean pods and 10 meyer lemons but the hair of a Himalayan yak, that is.) I don’t just want a chocolate chip cookie – I want it with a twist, a unique personality, a new flavor. Who needs chocolate cake when you can have cocoa deep dark chocolate accidental vegan chocolate cake? I want some excitement in my life and since I can’t eat gluten by golly I will have to bake up some exciting treats myself!

Okay, That was very lengthy but all that said I will now list some cookbooks I own and love – starting with the “for regular people” ones, then moving onto the gluten-free books.

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The first cookbook I received was Baking Illustrated by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine from my parents and I love it. Very few pictures but in a lot of ways this gorgeous tome with its breadth of recipes makes me feel like a professional baker. There is a chapter before almost every thing you bake explaining how they put together this recipe and troubleshooting ideas should it go wrong – along with some invaluable tricks of the trade! And their pumpkin cheesecake recipe? You’ll wonder how you went your whole life without it.

 

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Joy the Baker Cookbook by blogger and baking heroine Joy Wilson is simply wonderful. Her recipes make me ridiculously happy – because who doesn’t want grilled nutella with orange cream cheese or chocolate granola? Her cookies and cakes are beautiful and tasty as well (I’ve experimented with quite a few!) but her magic lies in her perfectly devised recipes – comfort baking every female wants to sink their teeth into.

 

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Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes by the Martha Stewart Living Magazine is another personal favorite and old standby of mine. There are toooons of recipes and cute ideas to choose from and inspire your cupcake baking self. Yes, some of them require the vanilla beans (I can’t afford) and extensive preparation but this book is still a gold mine and worth every penny. I’m also rediscovering Martha Stewart’s Cookies which I forgot I owned until I unpacked my bookshelf and it rocks too.

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Baked Elements by Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito and Tina Rupp Photos Inc. may I just say – hoooomyyygooood this stuff is incredible. They organized this book into ten chapters – each representing one of their favorite ingredients and I think it is sheer genius. I too share all the same favorite ingredients – who would’ve thought?! Booze, Citrus, Pumpkin and MORE! I love all of it. And the banana, peanut butter, chocolate cake on the front cover? Every bit as good as it looks and then some… trust me.

 

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trEATs: Delicious Food Gifts to Make at Home by April Carter is one I actually just purchased but have been eying up at the bookstore for a while. It’s a gem of a little baking book and because its British there are some lovely, authentic tea time snacks and cakes in here. I also just love the premise – she is making gorgeous little baked goods to give as gifts… if you can stop eating them all yourself! Some examples are coconut madelines, cake pops, salted caramel, and flavored salts. It’s beautifully done and I am eager to take this baby for a spin!

 

So those are my top five right now! I have more, of course, but these are the ones I love enough to take the time to adapt and make gluten-free recipes from. And the gluten-free cookbooks will be in the following post coming to a blog near you soon….

 

PS – ALL photos in this post are from amazon.com