Book Review: The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook

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Book Review: The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook

by Editor's at America's Test Kitchen

Gluten-free foodies and hard-core cooks take heart!  If you’ve tried switching to baking and cooking gluten-free and haven’t had the best track record, here’s the ultimate book that explains the “science of food and cooking”.  Their ultimate goal is to “investigate the fundamental principles of cooking so that you become a better cook.”   Their mission is to test a recipe over and over again until they understand how and why they work and until they arrive at the “best version”.

The folks at America's Test Kitchen feel that the majority of gluten-free recipes either don’t work or the results are second rate.  Muffins that are gritty and crumbly; cookies that spread all over the baking sheet; cakes that are dense, gummy and overly sweet -- they must not have tried the GFP recipes, but I totally understand some of these generalizations about some GF packaged foods or disastrous attempts at substituting gluten-free flours for regular wheat flours.

This book teaches you by using the science behind the basics of cooking.  It describes in great detail what gluten does in recipes, what happens to the molecular strands when gluten is removed, and how flour and water react in the absence of gluten. They explain not only how to make successful adjustments, but also why those adjustments work and why others may not.

They also spend quite a bit of time discussing the various foods and flour mixes on the market and the results of using those items in their test kitchen.  The authors provide an in-depth explanation of measuring foods for baking and how to adjust your standard methods.

I tried three different recipes in the book and found mixed results.  I do need to divulge that I’m baking at altitude AND gluten-free, so that adds another dimension of difficulty in baking. The standard rule for baking at altitude is adding more flour to a recipe and baking at slightly lower or higher temperatures and longer times.  Also, some of these recipes are quite involved and use a lot more steps in their directions than I’m used to.

An excellent recipe that I was given permission to reprint is the Lemon Pound Cake.  What a wonderful  once in a long while sweet treat when that special occassion arises!

How Can it be Gluten-Free Cookbook also offers up recipes they believe many Americans are hankering for since going gluten-free. They are not as concerned about nutritious cooking or for people dealing with other allergies to foods. Rather, it’s focus is on a thorough analysis of gluten-free cooking, baking and explaining why a recipe will or won’t work. They evaluate currently available flour blends on the market as well as offer their own blend and why it works well.  

This book has wonderful baking and cooking techniques, and recipes.  It’s an excellent resource for anyone who has had to make the switch to eating and cooking gluten-free and absolutely loves to cook.

Jan Phillips, M.Ed.