Cupcake cookbooks abound on the bookstore shelves and a couple or so years ago, there was talk that the trendy cupcake was coming out of style. If it is indeed coming out of style, it’s a slow death: people don’t seem to let go of their treats as easily as a fashion piece that was stylish or fashionable back in its heyday but now outdated or only suitable for a costume party.
Food trends come and go, they dictate our culture, but there are some things that shall remain classic, no matter how many grand, ritzy reincarnations it goes through and that includes cupcakes. When we were kids and ate cupcakes, or any treat for that matter, we didn’t care if it was fashionable or not. We just ate because we enjoyed eating – and, shouldn’t that be the point?
Until Elana Amsterdam’s newest cookbook Gluten-Free Cupcakes hit the market, though, gluten-free folks were missing out on the party. If you Googled for gluten-free cupcakes there are lots of search results for online recipes but, until now, no gluten-free cupcake cookbooks.
It’s now been only but a little over two weeks since Gluten-Free Cupcakes was released and everyone who has tried the recipes rave about them. There are bloggers’ confessions of how many cupcakes they ate. Even before it was released, her cookbook was already making waves in the gluten-free blogging community with pre-order sales, giveaways, reviews – sneak peeks of the recipes that this gem of a cookbook contained. I was honoured enough to receive a review copy from the publishers and have been thrilled with it. Everyone oohed and aahed over it, gushing over the lush photography, before we’d even tasted any of the recipes. Most of all, the constant ring in the air – “I can’t believe it’s gluten-free!”
Last year, before the holidays, I was contacted about reviewing The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free and I said yes. A copy was sent to me, arriving on Christmas Eve.
The author, Anne Byrn, is the mastermind behind The Cake Mix Doctor series. It all started when she was baking for her children and, being a busy mother, didn’t always have time to bake from scratch and she would use cake mixes. This would eventually cumulate into a cookbook idea that used cake mixes as the basis for recipes. For this new cake mix book, the focus is gluten-free and it is a timely release as gluten-free cake mixes are increasingly becoming better in quality and more available.
I don’t ordinarily use cake mixes – mixes have never been a big thing with my family – and nowadays I make everything from scratch, but I still recognize the importance and convenience of cake mixes. Using gluten-free cake mixes also helps eliminates a lot of the thinking and guess-work for people who are new to gluten-free baking and helping ease the transition until they are confident enough to work with a variety of flours and perhaps eventually make their own recipes with ease.
Although a cake mix cookbook, this are recipes for more than just cake. There are recipes for cookies, bars and brownies, and muffins as well – all using cake mix! There is even a recipe for fruit crumble. Included for all the recipes are quantities that the recipe yield, prep, baking, and cooling times as well as a space in the sidebar for recipe reminders for any observations the baker may have made, including variations (“special touches”) not mentioned in the cookbook. Throughout the book dairy-free options are also suggested.
It was only yesterday that I finally (!) got a hold of The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook from my library. I put it on hold ages ago and it only just came in. If the title sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve been to the author Elana Amsterdam’s blog, Elana’s Pantry. Would I recommend her cookbook? Definitely. The book is nothing short of beautiful colour photography and has ninety-nine recipes included, all made with almond flour and sweetened with agave nectar. The cookbook is also just the right size, too, for carrying around and resting on your kitchen counter for it to be by your side as you cook or bake out of it.
Because all her recipes are made with almond flour [edit: some recipes also use arrowroot powder], the recipes are very easy and simple – at a glance, that goes for even the more complicated ones. In my own experience with baking with almond flour, it is much simpler to use because you’re not having to deal with a mix of gluten-free grain flours as is often the case with gluten-free baking by and large. Baking with gluten-free flour mixes, which here I mean working with a variety of flours, i.e. one cup of this flour, one cup of that flour, not pre-mixed baking mixes, isn’t hard either but it can feel complicated to those new to gluten-free baking and are still learning to get their way around. Baking with almond flour alone will not give the same results as baking with wheat or other gluten flours, or even gluten-free flours, but many things often taste just as good, if not better, depending on what it is you’re making.
As Elana’s recipes are based on using almond flour, her recipes can be easily tweaked for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet – really, the only thing you could tweak is just substituting the agave nectar [edit: and yacon syrup, which she also uses] with honey instead. Chocolate is not one of things allowed on the SCD for what is a largely unknown reason, or at least never has been fully explained, but if you want to treat yourself, this is it. Or at least one of several. Sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free, and, of course, gluten-free.