When the publisher of Elizabeth Gordon's "Allergy-Free Cookbook: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Egg-free, Soy-free, and Nut-free Delights" (NY: John Wiley, 2010) asked if I would like to review this book I was pleased to say yes. My GF baking skills always need improvement and my celiac hubby loves his post-prandial bit of sweet stuff, so I was up for some new ideas. We can't always snack on the GF carrot cake and almond cookie recipes I've mastered.
First off, Gordon's book is beautifully produced, with airy margins, colorful type, ethereal photos and fun flowery illustrations throughout. The book designer deserves a bow for outstanding curb appeal and for keeping the recipes all on one page so the home cook doesn't have to keep flipping through with floury fingers. When there is a photo present, it is on the opposite page of the recipe, and again, that is appreciated when thumbing through for recipe inspiration and while cooking.
The author runs her own mail order allergy-free bakery and offers many tweaked versions of baked goods favorites for home consumption. She calls for a master flour blend for most of the recipes, which uses garbanzo bean flour, potato starch and tapioca flour. These are more and more readily available in mainstream supermarkets and health food stores, but I find cheapest to purchase in bulk from Asian markets. Gordon also relies on coconut oil for many of her recipes, and though our household only needs to be gluten-free, I decided to try out some of her multiply allergen-free recipes and purchased some coconut oil and brown rice syrup to experiment with.
Dan pines for his memory of the Rice Krispy Treats of his youth, so that was his first request from this new cookbook. They call for GF crisped rice cereal (I used Erewhon Brown Rice Cereal) and not the traditional Rice Krispies, which contain barley malt, a verboten GF enemy. They were easy to make, and a big hit with the family. This tin of Crispy Rice Squares lasted only two days before it contained nothing but a couple of lonely crumbs.
I was intrigued by the properties of the coconut oil (it is liquidy at room temperature and has a very low melting point), so I turned to Gordon's recipe for Lemon Ice Box Pie next. This dessert lasted a good while longer among my crew of taste testers. There was something just a little bit unsettling about the texture of the pie. It tasted lovely and tart, but the center was somewhat more like eating a lemony fudge in a crust rather than a softer pie mouth feel. I will have to keep trying recipes from the book using up my supply of coconut oil to see if we like this healthier shortening and soy substitute.
I plan on working my way through many of the other 80 dessert recipes in this cookbook over the next months and commend the author on providing so many great options for sweet treats for those with multiple dietary allergies. The book is seductive and has a nice mix of traditional favorites made allergy-free and some unusual ones to mix things up (Gotta try those Raspberry-Cardamom Sandwich Cookies soon!).
Overall, a nice addition to my GF cookbook shelf and one that I can recommend to others who want to share some love in the kitchen with their friends and family that can't deal with those pesky allergens. And "Allergy-Free Desserts" gets extra Crispy Kudos for its stylish packaging!