When I, a mostly vegan, got involved with someone who is gluten-free, we both thought we were in store for some limited dining options. But then along came Cara Reed’s new cookbook Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking. It’s simple and attractive, with more than 100 short, easy-to-follow recipes.
Two things bother me about gluten-free baking. First, since gluten is a binder, you have to use xanthan gum or some other ingredient to make cookies stick together. Reed got me over my reluctance to deal with xanthan gum, that great unknown. My other gripe is that gluten-free flour costs about 20 times as much as normal flour. Unfortunately, Reed can’t help me there.
So I paid the exorbitant gluten-free penalty, brought home my flour, and tried some of her recipes. I’m not the sort of cook who likes recipes that go on for pages. Many of Reed’s recipes weigh in at no more than 10 lines. And the book is nicely bound to open and stay flat.
Pumpkin and Gingerbread
My biggest successes were the pumpkin streusel bread and the frosted gingerbread loaf. Unfrosted, the dark and spicy gingerbread loaf serves as a reasonably healthful breakfast. Frosted, I used it for my birthday cake. Since I can never simply follow directions, I added crystallized ginger to the batter rather than just on top of the frosting, as directed by the recipe. The ginger tastes great baked right in, especially if you’re foregoing the frosting.
The “Childhood Favorites” section of this cookbook is fun. Reed has devised vegan, gluten-free versions of her favorite Girl Scout cookies (Samoas and Thin Mints), Pop Tarts, churros with chocolate dipping sauce, and even Cheez-it crackers. While they look delicious, some of these childhood favorites were a bit too decadent for me. Vegan does not necessarily equal low-calorie, especially if you eat as much coconut cream as many of these recipes call for. So beware: If you’re considering a vegan diet as part of a weight loss program, this is not the cookbook for you!
The Resources section at the end of the book demystifies both vegan and gluten-free baking. How can you mix your own gluten-free flours? What vegan ingredients can you use to replace an egg? Is there life without whipped cream? The answers are all in here.
If health, allergy or other personal choices cause you to avoid eggs, dairy and gluten, I highly recommend Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking. Or if you’re involved with somebody following this sort of diet, you will make them feel happy and loved when you show up bearing maple-frosted donuts they can eat. – by Teresa Bergen, RFT Vegan/Vegetarian Editor
Check out the recipe for Cara’s frosted gingerbread loaf.
Learn more about Cara Reed on her popular blog, www. Forkandbeans.com.