Cheryl McEvoy – National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)
Simply…Gluten-free Desserts is laid out in chapters: Cakes and Cupcakes; Puddings and Custards; even one just for Frostings. Within each chapter, there is page after page of sweet and sinful recipes (brace yourself – your savory side’s about to get jealous). Each recipe includes a little intro from Carol, with some tips or a pleasant story behind the treat, then a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions. There’s even a call out section in the sidebar to note things like “Grain-free” or “Makes 24 cookies.”
Now, they say you first feast with your eyes, and this book certainly takes care of that. The pages are framed with a delicate orange icon and a dash of scrolls along the border. Similarly, the ingredients are highlighted in a pale orange box, which makes them stand out without being distracting.
Mexican Flourless Chocolate Cake
There’s also eye-poppingly good food photography. My only complaint is that there aren’t more photos speckled throughout the book, because when you come across the snapshot of the Mascarpone Berry Pie or the Mexican Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream, all you want is more.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
As for content, Simply…Gluten-free Desserts ranges from the classic – Red Velvet Whoopie Pies – to the refined – Apricot Dacquoise – to the downright clever – “Chips and Salsa” (dessert). My favorite entry had to be Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Sandwiches. It takes two of my favorite foods: ice cream and PB & J sandwiches, and turns it into a gluten-free dessert fit for all ages.
Should you be like me and require some guidance in the kitchen, Carol’s book also devotes an early chapter to “Gluten-free Cooking and Baking,” which includes tips on ingredients, equipment and techniques. For example, “Add Flour in Batches.” (Guilty.) And “Please, please use freshly squeezed citrus juice and freshly grated citrus zest.”
Cheryl McEvoy Writer – National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)
Amanda Gold – San Francisco Chronicle Review
Simply…Gluten Free Desserts, by Carol Kicinski (Thomas Dunne Books, 290 pages) There are plenty of desserts that don;t contain gluten products, and those form the backbone of this book. Dishes like Mochaccino Mousse, Mexican Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Whipped Cream, and Rhubarb Fool are among them; it also means that many of the desserts are grain free. Others contain a sweet rice flour or almond flour in place of regular flour – the blueberry muffins (see recipe) are a prime example.
Laura Byrne Russell, Special to The Oregonian
I recently sat down with a copy of Carol Kicinski’s new book, “Simply … Gluten-Free Desserts” (St. Martin’s Press; $26.99, 304 pages), and found myself dog-earing recipe after recipe of tempting treats.
What really drew me in was that 60 percent of the recipes are naturally gluten-free.
Kicinski covers some of the obvious (yet no less delicious) choices, such as puddings and ice creams, but she also offers many that are unique, including an ancho chile-spiked Mexican chocolate cake, chewy hazelnut-based Baci di Dama cookies and a clever Upside Down Lemon Meringue Pie that uses a disk of meringue as the “crust.”
Recipes included with this recipe: Mascarpone Berry Pie, Grain-free Nut Crust.
Everything in the book is gluten-free; some recipes are also tagged as grain-free, dairy-free or sugar-free, a boon to those with multiple food sensitivities.
After a difficult decision-making process, I narrowed my choice to the Mascarpone Berry Pie, a perfect showcase for ripe summer berries.
The foolproof nutty crust — I used pecans — was completely satisfying underneath a billowing cloud of mascarpone cheese and whipped cream. Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries glistened on top, drizzled with a glaze of seedless jam and berry liqueur, though you can substitute orange juice for a more kid-friendly version.
Like many authors of gluten-free cookbooks and blogs, Carol Kicinski came to her specialty after being diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Rather than being limited by what some might see as a restricted diet, the Florida-based blogger (Simplygluten-free.com) prefers to focus on what she can eat. Kicinski also refuses to settle: To make sure her
desserts aren’t just “good for gluten-free” but “good, period,” she tests every recipe on people who don’t follow a gluten-free diet. Kicinski’s recently published book, Simply . . . Gluten-Free Desserts, is all about accessibility. Her recipes tend toward the classic–think peanut butter cookies, s’mores, and molten lava cakes–and require
only basic baking knowledge. And if you’re unsure about anything, a technique or ingredient, the front of the book includes practical guidelines on both.
Some gluten-free bakers are pro gluten-free flour mixes while other are strictly opposed. Kicinski is in the later camp and finds most commercial blends too gritty for baking. Rather than sacrificing on texture, Kicinski created her own flour blend. It combines white rice flour, sweet (glutinous) rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum and is the basis of many of the recipes in her book, including the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies included here. The peanut butter cookies are flourless making them naturally gluten-free and big on peanut flavor.
Recipes to try:
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Sandwiches
Epicurious by Lauren Salkeld
Baking Bites Review
Baking is always a balancing act, getting the right proportions I was recently accused of being a party pooper when it comes to holidays since the kids have gotten older. Seems that even if they are college-age and taller than mom, the lack of attention I’ve been paying to the traditions they enjoyed as young children and the giving away of the tacky Easter baskets to charity has been noted. That’s a challenge if I ever heard one.
To help me get my holiday spirit back, I turned to a brand new book that arrived in the mail last week. One of my gluten-free blogging buddies sent me a copy of her new book Simply Gluten Free- Desserts. I’ll be trying several recipes and reporting on the delicious results, but with all my thoughts on bunnies, I first chose Carol’s version of carrot cake in cupcake form. Any recipe for carrot cake that starts with a pound of carrots gets this carrot cake lover’s attention. Carrot cake is always my choice for my birthday and I haven’t had a decent one since going gluten free. Topped with cream cheese icing it is the only cake I really like. Shopping for seasonal baking cups and gluten-free decorations was just as fun as I remembered from my kids’ younger days and I admit I missed it too. I chose Annie’s gluten-free bunny cookies and fruit snacks in bunny shapes and Jelly Bellies to decorate the cupcakes and bought some Easter grass in an effort to redeem myself in the holiday department.
Carol created her own gluten-free flour blend for dessert recipes in her book and gives the recipe. I blended up a
batch and then made her recipe for Julian’s Carrot Cupcakes named after her grandson who laughed at the idea of
dessert made with carrots. These cupcakes were full of raisins, walnuts, and of course the pound of carrots. They
are also scented with orange zest. The best carrot cakes I remember had just enough ‘tender cake’ to hold the nuts
and raisins and carrots together. Carol’s recipe is just what I remembered a good carrot cake should be.
I whipped up a batch of the cream cheese frosting from her book and it was like having my birthday 4 months early. I can’t wait to try more of her recipes and do have to point out that while this cake used granulated sugar and I chose to
top it with dairy-filled cream cheese, Carol does have other choices in her book that are not so festive and full of
sugar and dairy. I’d have to say it is the best overall, good ‘basic to festive’ gluten-free dessert cookbook available
and would be an essential addition to a gluten-free cookbook collection. Visit Lexie’s Kitchen to see how she
adapted one of Carol’s blog recipes to use a different sweetener and the successful results.
This was also a test of the pretty Wilton baking cups to see if they stayed as pretty after baking. The flower cups
did hold their color, but there was some oily staining after baking that wasn’t so attrative. I just popped them intoof ingredients mixed together in just the right way to ensure that you end up with a perfect finished product. Gluten free baking can be even more so, because the regular rules of baking don’t always apply to non-wheat and gluten free flours and you have to take that into consideration when working a recipe. For this reason, it is helpful to start with a good cookbook that can introduce you to the techniques and tips (as well as to recipes) that will help build a foundation for great gluten free baked goods that are just as tasty as traditional baked goods.
In Simply… Gluten Free Desserts, author Carol Kicinski, seeks to give readers a comprehensive introduction to making great gluten free desserts. The book starts out with an introduction that provides an overview of many of the ingredients used in the book, as well as the equipment and techniques called for. It’s helpful to see tips about why, for instance, eggs should be beaten a certain way to get the best result.
The introduction also includes a basic recipe for a sweet rice flour blend that is the base for many of the recipes in the book. It is not meant as a replacement for wheat flour in all recipes and is often combined with other flours to produce the desired result in a recipe. The author also gives a suggestion for a commercially available gluten free flour blend (Carol’s Amazing All Purpose Gluten Free Flour) that she recommends just as much as her homemade blend.
There are over 150 recipes in the book that range from cakes and cookies to pies and puddings. The recipes are clearly written and well explained. Not every recipe in the book has a photo, but many do and they are very tempting – especially desserts like pound cake and peanut butter and jelly ice cream sandwiches.
There are also a number of recipes that are naturally gluten free, particularly in the puddings and frozen desserts chapter. With the exception of the flour blend (which can be made in a big batch ahead of time), most of the recipes call for everyday ingredients that makes them accessible and makes you more likely to try them out.
Simply…Gluten-Free Desserts celebrates the abundance of luscious recipes that can be made and enjoyed by anyone who is gluten intolerant.
This book’s philosophy is simple—anyone can make great food that is naturally gluten-free. While there are gluten-free products out there that try to substitute for glutenized food, Simply…Gluten-Free Desserts gives cooks and bakers terrific new recipes for food that is naturally gluten-free, offering amazing new recipes for fans of cookbooks such as Babycakes and The Gluten-Free Gourmet.
Carol Kicinski not only shows how easy it is to make your own gluten-free flours, but she also includes many recipes that don’t require wheat substitutions. This means a lot of the recipes are not only gluten-free but grain-free as well. Many of the desserts are also dairy and even sugar-free.
• No-Bake Chocolate Truffle Cake
• Lemon-Lime Cupcakes
• Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
• Dairy-Free Cream Puffs
• Frozen Tiramisu
• Plus Many More
40% of the population is estimated to be gluten sensitive, and celiac disease affects about 1% of people in the U.S. While at first living gluten-free can seem challenging, the results of good health, vigor and energy make the challenge highly rewarding. And with cookbooks like this one, a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean giving up on those delicious desserts.