America's Test Kitchen did a beautiful job in their efforts to create a cookbook filled with mostly baked goods that actually taste good. While they seem to grasp the need for many of us to be on a gluten free diet, I didn't get the impression that they fully understood the severity of the health risks involved for some individuals. They had one goal - make gluten free treats that are as close to gluten based treats as possible.
They have a flour blend that they came up with. They recommend it over any other flour blend. This is all well & good if you can tolerate the flours they chose in their blend. Unfortunately a lot of people cannot have oats as well as wheat. Oats have a protein structure that closely resembles wheat & many cannot digest oats even gluten free oats. ATK's flower blend uses white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch & nonfat milk. If you are sensitive to dairy this is another problem. This is your "all purpose flour" for lack of a better term. From there the recipes will call for additional ingredients that may once again be an issue for some: Pysillium, Xathan Gum, Eggs, & Corn.
Our family has very sensitive digestive systems & must use extreme caution. Therefore we cannot use their flour blend. We did make their pumpkin pie using our own coconut flour recipe as the crust. The pie filling was okay. Nothing to get excited about. We am rather surprised because we have another of ATK's cookbooks & every recipe we tried came out amazing. The pie coconut flour crust was pretty awful & we don't recommend it. We usually make the crust using a recipe from Breaking the Vicious Cycle that uses nuts. Everyone loves it! We also made the flourless chocolate cake. This was amazing! No added sugar either. Too sum it up, it's a lot of eggs, bittersweet chocolate & butter. You do bake it & have to let it chill for a long time. The flavor is intensely rich. You don't want to eat too much of it. It is very satisfying. When all our hens are in full lay & we're overloaded with eggs, we plan on utilizing the recipe for family, neighbors & friends.
ATK breaks down a lot of gluten free products available. We really enjoyed this part of the book. Granted they didn't cover 90% of the options, but they did cover the most popular or easiest to find in stores. We have tried Bob's Red Mill. ATK is dead on regarding the overly beany flavor of Bob's GF flour. Besides GF flours they also discuss in detail various GF pastas, breads, grains, etc. They explain the purpose for particular ingredients & also compare the results. Example Xathan Gum vs. Guar Gum.
ATK gives you the option of using their flour blend, Bob's Red Mill or King Author GF for most of their recipes. They explain why the other flours may or may not work as well as their blend.
The main reason we selected this book was that we wanted to make our own GF English Muffins. Sadly it's a no go for our situation. We find that we can consume certain GF products in moderation if they are FODMAP safe.
Overall it is a fabulous in depth book for the gluten free baker but how much use you can get out of it depends upon each individuals health situation.
March 21, 2014