Cookbook Review

America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook

HCIBGFI was so excited to receive this book. My mother had ordered it for me for Christmas, but it didn’t arrive until a few weeks ago.

America’s Test Kitchen has a webpage and email newsletter devoted to gluten free baking with some recipes from the cookbook. It is worth a look if you are on the fence about buying the book.

I have mixed feelings about the book. I admire that the staff at ATK did so much research and tried out many different flour blends and ingredients. However, from the point of view of someone who has been reading about gluten free techniques, methods, ingredients and testing out recipes from a variety of sources, I was disappointed with how much ATK missed. For instance, they reviewed popular flour blends but do not even mention Better Batter, which is one of the best products out there. They focused mostly on Bob’s Red Mill, Cup4Cup, and Pamela’s products. They developed a recipe for their own gluten free all purpose flour blend; it is similar to Cup4Cup with a higher percentage of white rice flour and smaller amount of dry milk powder. They leave out the xanthan gum and psyllium husk powder, tailoring those additions to each recipe. They found that breads worked better with psyllium husk than xanthan. Also, they added xanthan to cookies and other lighter tasting baked sweets. I understand why they did this, but it does make the recipes a bit more complicated.

I’ve made several recipes from the book including english muffins, pizza, sugar cookies, and peanut English Muffins-005butter cookies. I found the English Muffins to be particularly good but was surprised that the recipe contained so much liquid–two eggs and two cups of water. After mixing all the ingredients, which included the ATK flour blend and oat flour, I formed the muffins and let them rise on cookie sheets. After about an hour, I semi-cooked them in a frying pan before putting them in the oven to finish them off. I should have shaped them so that they ended up being larger–they are slightly too small for the toaster–they have gotten jammed a few times.

Cookie Dough
Frozen cookie dough is so convenient.

The cookie recipes are delicious. The sugar cookies were lovely, but they called for a bit of almond flour which gave the cookies a gritty mouthfeel. They had a beautiful crinkly finish. I made a batch and put the rest away in the freezer, which I sliced and baked later. The peanut butter cookie recipe called for too much butter. They spread and spread to create very flat and large cookies. I would have liked more traditional peanut cookies that are a tad thicker—you know the kind–the ones with the fork hash marks.

Ice Cream Sandwich
Peanut butter cookies make great ice cream sandwiches.

The pizza recipe was the worst ever. if you get the book, DO NOT BOTHER MAKING THE PIZZA. It basically created two pie sized loaves of thin bread. It had to first rise for 90 minutes and then it had to parbake for 50 minutes. The recipe advises to freeze the parbaked crusts to pull out to make a pizza at the last minute. The crust was too thick and bread like–not how pizza crust should be. I threw away half of a pizza and the second, parbaked crust. It was disappointing. I prefer Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s pizza crust recipe.

Pizza
The topping was delicious–Stonewood Farm Turkey Italian Sausage with caramelized shallots.

I look forward to trying out a few of the other recipes: muffins, cupcakes, piecrust. There is also a section in the middle with recipes for making various whole grains. I need to incorporate more of these into my diet. There is also a pad thai recipe that might be worth trying. I will not, however, bother making any of the bread recipes.

I am glad that America’s Test Kitchen took the initiative to create this cookbook, but it falls a bit short of being spectacular. There are a few recipes that are complete bombs, and I question some of the ingredients–like almond flour in pizza dough.

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