I was reading my newsfeed this morning, and I came across an article about a blogger who reviews cookbooks. The article was about gluten free cookbooks, and how they are moving gluten free cooking into the mainstream. You can read the full article here.
The article appeared in the Washington Post, and was written by T. Susan Chang. You can find her blog here.
It’s great to see that gluten free cookbooks are not only being reviewed, but taken seriously. But it seems that some of the recipes, particularly in the cookbooks “Gloriously Gluten Free” and “Gluten Free Girl” have some glitches, according to Chang. Somehow, this does not surprise me.
I have written about converted gluten free recipes in several of my blog posts, describing both the triumphs and the pitfalls, but never about actual cookbook recipes.
It seems there are as many methods and recipes as there are grains of wheat. Ask six people the best way to thicken a gluten free gravy, and get six different answers. This seems to be the case with these two cookbooks.
Chang tried out some of the recipes and had mixed results. She had this to say about Ahern’s recipe for Cream of Artichoke soup in “Gluten Free Girl”:
The liquid-solid ratio seemed a little off in their Cream of Artichoke Soup: Two pounds of artichoke hearts, a single potato and just three cups of stock almost overwhelmed my standard-size blender, which produced a very thick puree. There was no question of reducing the liquid “by one-third its volume” over 45 minutes; any more reduced and a spoon would have stood up in it. But that simply meant it was done faster, and it still tasted good.
She had this to say about a recipe for gluten free crackers in the same book:
Every gluten-free book has a substitute for all-purpose flour, and the Aherns’ is no exception. Theirs is a blend of millet flour, sweet rice flour and potato starch (though Shauna provides alternatives, and a formula). I tried it in a recipe for rosemary-thyme crackers that involved about as much fuss as any wheat-based bread recipe I’ve ever made: a sponge, kneading, several hours of rising time plus rolling between layers of parchment paper. The dough wanted to crumble rather than “slump” off the mixer paddle; the crackers were a bit thick and pliable, not brittle and thin. I found myself wondering how long I would have had to go without wheaten crackers to find these GF versions attractive. Crisped up in a toaster and paired with some brie, they were palatable. Still, the usual rampant cracker thievery in our house came to a temporary halt.
Is anyone noticing a trend here? I have had similar issues with recipes I have tried in which the author either gave directions that didn’t make sense, or examples of textures that just didn’t match what the recipe was saying. I wonder why there is such a wide spectrum of outcomes. Is it how the flour is measured? Is it the type of mixer used? Is it cook’s error?
Granted, these things happen in gluten filled recipes also. Crumbly dough and lumpy sauces are not limited to gluten free recipes. But why does this occur? If these recipes are tested (I would hope so if you are publishing a cookbook) then why such a disparity of recipe outcomes?
Is it really cook’s error? Or is it writer’s error? Does anyone have an opinion on this? I would love to hear about your recipe triumphs and failures, and what you think happened. Please comment your stories.