Book Review: “The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking” by Peter Reinhart and Denine Wallace

Book Review - cookbook on gluten-free, low-carb bakingOne of the hardest aspects of a low-carb diet is cutting out bread, cakes and other flour-based treats. I love bread, so the absence of it created a big baguette-shaped hole in my soul.
Although I have now found ways to create reasonable low-carb substitutes for most of my favourite recipes, I really do wish this book was available years ago. It would have saved me many messy failed experiments!
All recipes in this book are gluten-free, sugar-free, and low-carb.

Authors

“The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking” is co-written by Peter Reinhart – famous baker who already published eight books on traditional baking and bread-making, and Denene Wallace – founder of a business that produces high-protein, low-carb flours.
Both Peter and Denene got converted to the virtues of low-carb eating after severe health problems, including type 2 diabetes. In the introduction section, they both explain how their personal experiences formed the foundation for researching low-carb baking and creating this book.

Recipes

All recipes in the book are gluten-free, sugar-free, and low-carb. Nut and seed-based flours are used instead of wheat flour, and Stevia and Splenda are used instead of sugar where required. The list of recommended brands and manufacturers of ingredients are all based in North America, but it is possible to obtain equivalent ingredients in the UK.
There are 80 recipes in total, split into sections:

  • breads and rolls
  • pizzas and focaccias
  • crackers, breadsticks and pretzels
  • breakfast treats
  • cookies
  • brownies and cakes
  • pies

Some specific examples are: toasting bread, rosemary and olive oil focaccia, sesame seed breadsticks, blueberry pancakes, almond cookies.

Strengths

Basics section. There is an excellent, very detailed section explaining the basics of gluten-free baking – over 20 pages long. It provides everything a beginner would need to know, regardless of whether you have some experience of traditional baking. I also found quite a lot of new stuff for myself in that section.
Flavour. As someone with a lot of experience in traditional baking, and as a self-confessed bread lover, Peter specifically wanted to create recipes that would be flavoursome and satisfying – unlike many bland or rubbery gluten-free products.  Having tried some of his recipes, I believe he has managed to achieve that. Of course, these don’t come out exactly the same as their wheat-based equivalents would – but nevertheless, they are very tasty and certainly help to satisfy the cravings.
Variance. There can be quite a lot of variance in how baking goods come out, depending on the ingredients used (some brands of nut flours are drier than others), oven temperature (each oven is different!) and even room temperature. Peter acknowledges this factor and provides some guidelines to combat it, for example, giving descriptions on the feel and texture of the batter before it goes into the oven.

Weaknesses

The only point I would identify as a weakness is the absence of nutritional information on each recipe, such as calories and breakdowns of carbs, fat and protein. I can understand that this could also be variable depending on different brands and ingredients one would use, but I think it could still be useful to include this info, even if just for approximate guidance.

Conclusion

Overall, this is a fantastic book that I am intending to use on a regular basis. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is following a low-carb or gluten-free diet.
All recipes contain nuts or seeds, so would not be suitable for initial phases of Atkins or Dukan, but would be fine for the ongoing stages. For the same reason, it is obviously not suitable for anyone with nut allergies.
If you are on Paleo and don’t eat Stevia, you would have to experiment with honey or agave nectar instead, but I think the recipes should be quite easy to adapt. (If any of my Paleo-follower readers tries this, please let me know how it goes and I would be happy to add your comment to this page, with a full credit and link back to you.)

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