Book Review: Williams-Sonoma Gluten-Free Baking

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I know what you’re thinking. I’ve succumbed to the ever-present fad that is gluten-free. Let me assure you that I have done no such thing. But for many people, living with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity is serious business.

According to the CDHF, more than 330,000 Canadians are believed to be affected by celiac disease (a condition where people’s immune systems react to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley). In the U.S., that number is a staggering 1 in 133 Americans, or about 1% of the population (according to the NFCA).

With the help of Williams-Sonoma, gluten-­free expert and author Kristine Kidd released her eighth book, Gluten-Free Baking, featuring 80 recipes that are naturally gluten-free. Ms. Kidd is a gourmet chef and was the food editor at Bon Appétit magazine for 20 years. After adopting a gluten-­free diet due to an intolerance, she set to work developing recipes in her own kitchen, exploring an array of gluten-free whole grains with the goal to create baked goods with great flavour and texture.

The book is designed to help readers, both with celiac disease and without, tackle all types of traditional and non-traditional guten-free desserts. The chapters focus on standard baking staples: morning treats, cookies, cakes, pies and tarts, puddings and custards, and breads.

The recipes use naturally gluten-free ingredients like eggs, cream, butter, oats, buckwheat and more, with an eye towards avoiding processed substitutes and embracing whole grains.

I have no intolerance to gluten and generally run the other way from gluten-free baked goods. A polite ‘no thank you’ is my standard response to an offer of gluten-free ‘treats.’ Most are dry, have no flavour and are essentially inedible. Consider me a non-believer. However, as I flipped through the book, I started making mental notes of what recipes I was going to attempt. The book is gorgeously illustrated as per usual for Williams-Sonoma.

Ms. Kidd notes that many of the recipes in the book did not require modifying to make them gluten-free. She did, however, adjust the flavours so that they would be attuned to modern tastes. For example, the pots de crème have a deep caramel flavour and are topped with flaky sea salt; the flan is imbued with exotic chai-style spices; and the rice pudding features fragrant orange zest and chewy dried fruit.

Speaking of the pots de crème, they were as simple to make as non gluten-free versions. And as delicious. The chocolate walnut brownies were chewy fudgy goodness. The recipe is conventional, safe for the substitution of sorghum and tapioca flour instead of traditional all-purpose flour.

The book concludes with details on how to set up a gluten-free pantry and an ingredients primer. A checklist of staples, some tips on organizing the pantry and gluten-free sources are listed. This very helpful section would benefit from a shift to the beginning of the book before any baking attempts are made, rather than being relegated to page 122.

For the most part the results were successful and the replacement ingredients did not sacrifice taste or texture. Am I a sudden convert to gluten-free baking? Not yet. But for now, I am happy to guided by the steady hand of an expert like Kristine Kidd.

Williams-Sonoma Gluten-Free Baking by Kristine Kidd is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Chocolate Walnut Brownies

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Photo courtesy of Annabelle Breakey for Gluten-Free Baking

8 oz (250 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

6 tablespoons (3 oz/90 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3⁄4 cup (6 oz/185 g) firmly packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon sorghum flour

1 tablespoon tapioca flour or potato starch

1 ⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (4 oz/125 g) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

* Makes 1 dozen brownies

 

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line an 8-inch (20-cm)

square baking pan with foil, letting some excess foil extend

up 2 opposite sides of the pan. Butter the foil.

 

2 In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter

until smooth, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat,

add the brown sugar, and stir well. Stir in the eggs, 1 at a time, then

stir in the vanilla. Add the cocoa powder, sorghum flour, tapioca

flour, and salt and whisk vigorously until the batter is silky and no

longer grainy, at least 1 minute. Stir in the walnuts. Scrape the

batter into the prepared pan.

 

3 Bake until the brownies are just set in the center and a

toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs,

25–30 minutes. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on

a wire rack.

 

4 Holding the ends of the foil, lift the brownies onto a cutting

surface. Peel back the foil sides. Using a large, sharp knife, cut

into 12 rectangles. Store at room temperature, covered with foil,

for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.

 

*Pecans or toasted hazelnuts are good alternatives to the walnuts. For cappuccino brownies, add 1-1 ⁄2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder and 1 ⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. For mint brownies, leave out the nuts and add 11 ⁄2 teaspoons peppermint extract. For orangenut brownies, substitute toasted hazelnuts for the walnuts and add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest

Coconut-Lime Cream Pie

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Photo courtesy of Annabelle Breakey for Gluten-Free Baking

FOR THE LIME CURD 

6 tablespoons (3 oz/90 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1 ⁄2-inch (12-mm) pieces

1 cup (8 oz/250 g) sugar

3⁄4 cup (6 fl oz/180 ml) fresh lime juice (from about 6 large limes)

1 tablespoon grated lime zest3 large eggs plus 3 large yolks

Ginger-Coconut Crust, see below

Whipped Cream, see below

1 ⁄4 cup (3⁄4 oz/20 g) unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (see note)

* Serves 8

 

1 To make the lime curd, set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, combine

the butter, sugar, lime juice, and lime zest, and cook, stirring, until

the sugar dissolves and the mixture just comes to a simmer. In another

bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks.

 

2 Slowly whisk the hot lime mixture into the eggs, whisking

constantly. Pour the lime-egg mixture back into the same

saucepan and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until

the curd thickens (do not boil), about 4 minutes. Immediately pour

the curd into the sieve, pushing it through with a rubber spatula.

Let cool slightly in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly

onto the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours

and up to 2 days

 

3 Follow the instructions to make, bake, and cool the crust.

 

4 Scrape the cold lime curd into the crust-lined pan. Cover and refrigerate

up to 8 hours, if you like.

 

5 Spread the whipped cream over the lime curd and sprinkle the toasted

coconut over the top. Cut into wedges and serve.

 

*The lime curd can be made a day or two ahead, and the pie canbe assembled early in the day. To toast coconut, preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Spread the coconut on a small baking sheet. Bake untilgolden brown, about  8 minutes. Let cool completely.

 

FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM 

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) cold heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Makes 2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml)

 

Using a mixer, beat the cream in a bowl until soft peaks form.

Add the granulated sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

 

FOR THE GINGER COCONUT CRUST 

1 cup (3 oz/90 g) unsweetened shredded coconut,toasted and cooled

4 oz (125 g) gluten-free gingersnaps

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1⁄4 cup (2 oz/60 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

 

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). In a food processor, pulse

the toasted coconut, gingersnaps, brown sugar, and salt until

the mixture is finely ground. Add the melted butter and process

until moist clumps form. Scrape the crumb mixture into a 9-inch

(23-cm) glass pie dish and press it evenly into the pan bottom and

sides. Crimp the edges, if desired. Bake until the edges begin to brown,

about 8 minutes. Transfer the crust to a wire rack. If the

crust is puffed in the center, us a small rubber spatula to gently

press it down. Let cool completely.

 

NOTES: The crust can be made with pecans rather than coconut,or leave out the nuts and use 8 oz (250 g) of cookies.

 

Salted Caramel Pots de Crème

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Photo courtesy of Annabelle Breakey for Gluten-Free Baking

 

3⁄4 cup (6 oz/185 g) sugar 

1-1 ⁄2 cups (12 fl oz/375 ml) heavy cream

1 ⁄2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) whole milk

6 large egg yolks

1 ⁄4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ⁄8 teaspoon kosher salt

Fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt for sprinkling

* Serves 6

 

1 Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Place six

2⁄3-cup (5–fl oz/160–ml) or 3 ⁄4-cup (6-fl oz/ 180-ml)

pots de crème cups, custard cups, or ramekins in a large

roasting pan. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large glass

measuring cup. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

 

2 In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat,

stir together the sugar and 1 ⁄4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) water

until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to medium-high

and boil, without stirring, until the mixture turns a deep

amber color, occasionally brushing down the sides of the

pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling the mixture in

the pan, about 6 minutes. Gradually whisk in the cream

and milk (the mixture will bubble vigorously), reduce the

heat to medium, and then stir with a wooden spoon until

all the caramel bits dissolve. Remove from the heat.

 

3 In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy. Slowly

add the hot caramel mixture, whisking constantly. Stir in the

vanilla and kosher salt. Immediately pour the mixture into

the sieve, then divide the mixture among the cups. Add

enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of

the cups. Cover the pan with foil.

 

4 Bake the pots de crème until they’re just set around the

edges but still move in the center when gently shaken,

about 35 minutes. Carefully remove the cups from the pan

and let cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate

for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

 

5 Sprinkle a pinch of fleur de sel over each pot de crème

and serve cold.

 

*It is safest to caramelize the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan that has a light-colored interior so you can observe the color of the boiling sugar as it browns. The darker the caramel gets, the deeper the flavor will be, but be careful not to burn it.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free Baking, by Kristine Kidd, Weldon Owen 2014

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