Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Book Review, Nov 11

Today, we'll consider the Flying Apron's Gluten-free and Vegan Baking Book.  This book is actually not in my collection, but one I picked up from the library and played with for a while.
This book is a recipe collection compiled and presented by it's author, Jennifer Katzinger, owner of the Flying Apron Bakery.  Thus, it begins with an appropriate section detailing the history of the bakery and Jennifer's motivation and journey.  There follows a chapter that details some of the special challenges of baking not just gluten-free, but also without the use of unrefined sugar, eggs, soy, or butter.  The remainder of book is divided into chapters for morning pastries, cookies, pies and tarts, cakes, cupcakes and frostings, breads, and savory baked goods.

The recipes I tested in this book all came out well.  But, I will say that I have not adopted a vegan lifestyle, so it was frustrating to need to acquire specialized ingredients that I do not normally use, such as palm oil.  The same holds true for some of the alternative sugars and sweeteners.  Too, while the end products are acceptable, there is a notable difference in quality.  Now, having been baking gluten-free for over a year now, I've become accustomed to the textures and alterations caused by alternate flours.  I am NOT accustomed to the quality issues that develop with the use of rice milk, palm oil, and agave syrup, just to name a few.

Many of the recipes yield a more than acceptable baked good.  While I wouldn't say that you couldn't TELL it was a vegan/gluten-free product, it wasn't usually objectionably so.  The one place it really made a definitive difference for me was in the frostings.  Because I don't have to avoid butter, I found the palm oil based frosting to be an unacceptable substitute for a "real" buttercream.  I might feel differently about the matter if I were forced to eschew butter.

The muffins and scones, in particular are excellent.  The cakes and cookies I found to be less so, though the suggestion for the use of Dagobah Chocolate is certainly a good one.

In general, this is a good book with well written, workable recipes.  However, if you only NEED to be gluten-free, it introduces a whole additional range of atypical ingredients that most people who aren't dairy-free and vegan are unlikely to have on hand.  And, while acceptable, these baked goods are an adjustment to the palate in the same way that gluten-free goods can be.  You'll need to ask yourself if you find the minor loss of texture and quality acceptable, or if you'd rather try recipes that are gluten-free but use more traditional pastry ingredients for the remainder.

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