Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Book Review, Nov 18

This week, I'm going to consider Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-free Cupcakes.  This is, again, not a book in my personal collection, but one that I borrowed from the library.  I often do this to evaluate a book and determine whether or not I want a copy of my very own.
This book consists of a brief forward with a description of the author's motivation - and passion for cupcakes, a breakdown of the ingredients she favors, and 50 cupcake recipes that use almond and coconut flour plus accompanying frostings.

Those cupcakes I tried from this book came out well, though there was often some notable grittiness in those recipes that called for more coconut flour.  In a few, it was objectionable enough that my daughters both rejected them out of hand on a textural basis.

What the title does NOT mention is that all of the recipes use alternative sweeteners, usually agave nectar, and also grapeseed oil, rather than butter or vegetable oil.  Most are also dairy-free.  While I applaud the author for providing recipes for that subset of people who require not only gluten-free but also dairy-free and/or vegan recipes, I wasn't impressed.  I'm also unsure why only coconut flour and almond flour were considered for use in them.  The resulting recipes are "one step farther" from traditional baked goods than cupcakes made with other flours and containing butter, sugar, and other typical ingredients.  These recipes, on the other hand, are prohibitively expensive due to their ingredient lists and of less acceptable finished quality.

The frostings are no different.  I've always found pure shortening-based frostings to be bland and oversweet, and these are no exception.  Whether or not using Sweetex would improve matters, I'm unsure.  And, to be frank, I'd just as soon pull out another book and make a genuine buttercream.

If you're vegan or dairy-free, or wish to be entirely grain-free, this might be a useful book.  If you're looking for gluten-free cupcakes that are indistinguishable from their wheat flour counterparts - pass this one by.

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