Jeanne Sauvage’s Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays: 50 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats is a delightful cookbook that may just make you or the gluten-free people in your life feel normal this season.
The book covers several holidays from Thanksgiving to Epiphany, including Hanukkah, St. Lucia’s Day, Kwanzaa, and, of course, Christmas.
But don’t let the title fool you. In addition to traditional holiday treats springerle, candy cane cookies, and pizzelles, the book also has plenty of recipes you can use every day.
There’s sandwich bread (how else would you make stuffing for Thanksgiving?), chocolate chip cookies, cannoli, skillet cornbread, and pie crust.
The good: The recipes are simply excellent.
I tried four, and I made sure they were things I’d never made before.
My absolute favorite was Chocolate-Mandarin Cake. I can’t describe how good it is, with four whole cooked mandarin oranges mixed into a not-too-sweet chocolate cake.
The Cheese Crackers and Straws (I made the straws) were a close second. Sauvage says they will keep for five days in an air-tight container, but I can’t imagine them lasting long enough at my house to find out. Nothing about these crackers feels gluten-free.
I’d always wanted to try making Spritz Cookies, but I’d never gotten around to it. They’re delectable. The texture is right. They’re buttery and delicate, not to mention really cute.
My final experiment was with St. Lucia Buns, a yeasted roll that has a bit more sugar than regular bread and uses saffron. This recipe was the only one that didn’t feel quite normal — like I’d used wheat flour — to me. But taken on its own merits, it’s very good. And compared with any gluten-free product you buy in the store, it’s exceptional.
Sauvage’s recipes turn out food that is moist and just feels like it should in your mouth.
These aren’t substitutes. They’re good recipes.
She also uses the same all-purpose flour mix for all of the recipes, so you won’t have dozens of half-empty bags of specialty flour sitting around. The mix takes brown rice flour, white rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum. If you don’t want to mix your own, she has a section on substitutions, including which commercial gluten-free flour mixes are closest to hers.
The not-so-good: It’s tough to find anything that’s not so good in this cookbook.
The one thing I hoped for was more photos, perhaps some step by step ones, since gluten-free batters don’t look like other batters.
I bought the Kindle edition because I was pressed for time, so the hardback may have more photos.
Conclusions: These (and the recipes on Sauvage’s blog, The Art of Gluten-Free Baking) are the best gluten-free recipes I’ve found.
If I were buying the book again, I would look for the print edition. I’d like to make notes in the margins, especially so I can adapt some of the recipes to fit the ones I used to make.