Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Gluten-Free Birthday for Me! Book Review

Of all the products I am asked to review, books are my favorite. Of course, if someone sends me a great new baking product or tool tomorrow, that could quickly become my favorite too. Nevertheless, I was excited to receive a complimentary copy of A Gluten-Free Birthday for Me! from Albert Whitman and Company (the publisher). The book is written by Sue Fliess and illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris.

The book is well-written, flows nicely, and very easy to read to a small child (or even with children learning to read). As an allergen-free baker and cookbook author, I completely appreciate that the book is encouraging young children to learn about their allergies, take control back, and to bake! "Wasn't all that hard to do!" exclaims the birthday girl. The book even includes two recipes (one for cake and one for pie) that are not only gluten-free, but also dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and nut-free!

Now, you know that I will be straight with you if there's something I don't like about a product I share here. In that vein, I have to admit that the first time I read the book I was a bit concerned about the sub-plot where a small boy feels left out because he can't have cake "Can't have gluten, can't eat cake, gives me such a tummy ache." The boy is told the cake is gluten-free, everyone is happy and eats cake.

My concern was that his mother was not to be found. Surely that little boy's mom would have had a conversation with the birthday girl's mom prior to the party. And surely she would have checked the cake's safety before her son was allowed to eat it. But upon reflection, and given that the book is written from the birthday girl's point of view, I have decided that adding the parent's point of view would have ruined the story line and that I will assume those things did indeed happen in the background.

The book is adorable, inclusive, and fun!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bare Chips Product Review

I love products that have very simple ingredients lists -- and that is what I found when I read the labels on these "chips" by Bare Foods.

 Disclaimer: Bare Foods sent me complementary samples of these products to try.

The apple chips contain simply, apples.

The crunchy coconut chips contain coconut, cane sugar, and sea salt. The chocolate bliss crunchy coconut chips contain coconut, coconut nectar (a sweetener) and unsweetened chocolate. The labels for the coconut chips carry a "contains tree nuts" warning due to the FDA's (mis)classification of coconut as a nut.

I found that these chips did live up to the slogan "Snacks Gone Simple."

They taste great and they are indeed "bare." Because of the limited ingredients, they can be added to whatever baking or cooking project you have, or just eat them plain. Gotta love it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

An Update on Off-the-Shelf Gluten-Free Flour Blends

I often choose off-the-shelf flour blends for my allergen-free and gluten-free baking. After all, they are convenient and easy to use. But not all flour blends are equal – in fact, they vary considerably in performance and taste. In my first book, Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, I suggested the use of these blends and gave the run-down on which I preferred at that time. But the landscape has changed and it’s time for an update.

There are both new flour blends to consider as well as changes to some of the flour blends. Nevertheless, my list of favorites hasn’t changed too much.

What I considered in making this list was performance, consistency, and taste. I did not consider cost. Why not? Well, with gluten-free flour blends (as with many things) you get what you pay for. Even flour blends that appear to have the same ingredients can vary considerably. The truth is, the better performing gluten-free flour blends tend to be expensive.

Here are my picks:


Best all around: King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-purpose Flour. I find that most gluten-free flour blends that claim to be “all purpose” are not always good for all types of baked goods. This one (in my opinion) is the exception, and gets the gold medal for consistency!

Best for pizza crust and bread:
GF Jules Gluten Free Flour. If you are looking for the flour blend created by the one and only Jules Shepard, this is the flour blend to use. This flour blend pick is what I now use in place of Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour. It’s a great one to have on the shelf!

Best for cookies and pie crust:
Authentic Foods Multi Blend Gluten Free Flour. If I’m reaching for an off-the-shelf blend to go on a pie-making binge and I don’t want to stop and mix my own flour blends in between batches, this is the flour blend I use.

Best for muffins and cakes:
King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Whole Grain Flour Blend. This flour blend is the best-kept secret in the world of gluten-free baking. It comes in a brown paper bag (sealed inside) with the King Arthur Flour label and I’ve only been able to find it on the King Arthur Flour website and in their store in Vermont. Nevertheless, it’s worth every penny. Love this blend!!

Honorable mentions:
Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking. The first of these is new to the world of gluten-free flour blends since the writing of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, while the latter (uniquely based on bean flours) continues to make my list. In both cases these flour blends (while gluten-free) may not be suitable for some with food allergies due to shared facilities and shared equipment. I continue to prefer this Bob’s Red Mill Flour Blend to the newer Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour, recently reviewed here.

No longer recommended:
Namaste Perfect Flour Blend. When I was developing recipes for Learning to Bake Allergen-Free this was one of my favorites. Since that time I have had too many inconsistent batches (usually resulting in baked goods that seem to be underdone and overly gummy) and I have heard from readers who have experienced the same thing. For that reason, I no longer use or recommend this flour blend.

As noted above, these flour blends can be expensive. I suggest signing up for mailing lists and newsletters so that you can hear about special deals.

And a reminder – these flour blends vary considerably by weight (from 120 grams per cup for The King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Blend to 160 grams per cup for the Authentic Foods Blend and the King Arthur Flour blend in the blue and white box). They are not substitutable by volume. In other words, use the scale rather than the measuring cup.

Note: I am not compensated by nor do I work for any of these brands.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Recipe Recap from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

I've been promoting The Allergy-Free Pantry quite a bit lately. That's what an author is supposed to do when a new book comes out, right? But I am also rediscovering some of my favorite recipes from my first book, Learning to Bake Allergen-Free and thought this was a good time to do a bit of a recipe recap.

Here are some of my favorites (and yours too!):

Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping - coffee not required

Strawberry Tartlets - those summer berries will be here before you know it!

Chocolate No-Nut Crisp - make this quick and easy

Chocolate Croissants - my all-time reader favorite recipe and most pinned photo!

Fan favorite recipes from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, all top-8 allergen-free, gluten-free, and vegan.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Announcing the Winner of the Safe & Happy Family Giveaway #MySafeFamily

Congratulations to latanya t!

Thanks to everyone who entered. If you missed it and want to check out all of the great food allergy awareness gear by Safe and Happy Family, click here.