Good to the, um, Grain?
When Melissa and I were offered the opportunity to review Kelly Smith’s new allergy-friendly cookbook, Everyday Grain-Free Baking: Over 100 Recipes for Deliciously Easy Grain-Free and Gluten-Free Baking*, my first thought was, “what—first you can’t have gluten, now you can’t have any gluten-free flours, either? What fresh hell is this?!”
So it was with great interest that I started perusing the pages of Kelly’s book. For those who don’t know, Kelly has an award-nominated blog, TheNourishingHome*, and often posts interesting recipes (cheesy cornbread, great-sounding cookies, and so on) and has been living gluten-and-grain-free for several years now.
Now, I personally am not grain-free and was admittedly skeptical while flipping through some of these recipes. But, you don’t know until you try—and so I tried. I found a few of my concerns—both culinary and editorial—to come true, but I discovered a couple of pleasant surprises, too!
Due to time constraints, I was only able to sample two of the recipes I’d planned to make. (By happy accident, they were the two I was most eager to try.) First up, those yummy-looking Chocolate Ohs! (Honestly, grain-free or not, what could possibly be bad about two chocolaty cookies sandwiched with a rich nut butter spread? )
I used almond butter for the filling, and tested out a new ingredient—Coconut Secret Coconut Crystals, Raw, 12-Ounce*—as the sweetener in the cookie itself.
Never having tried this product, I was curious as to the results, and they did ultimately result in the crispier texture promised by the author (more on that in a moment.) The dough came together quickly and smoothly, and as you can see, these were a plateful of happiness for someone like me, who isn’t wild about chocolate on its own (heresy!) but who looooves chocolate and any kind of nut butter together. (Take my advice—you need the glass of milk with these!)
As Kelly’s preferred sweetener across the board tends to be honey—the nut butter filling has a quarter-cup of honey in it to a third-cup of nut butter, so make sure your butter is unsweetened—the baker would be wise to make sure no one has an allergy to honey.
Also, I’m not a lover of honey—I find that it can often have a rather “forward” flavor, and on first taste, this cookie tasted of two things—chocolate, and HONEY. I still liked it, but they needed to cool for a while longer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, after cooling for a few hours they’d crisped up nicely, and the honey flavor had mellowed to the background.
Sadly, my iPad ran out of battery before I could get any photos of the Cinnamon Crumb Cake situation as I put that batter together. I used coconut oil for the topping, and butter for the filling and the cake itself. (While in her introduction Kelly talks about her recipes being suitable for those with dairy allergies, nearly all can be made with butter for those who prefer to use it, as noted in each recipe. This gives the book some nice flexibility for those with certain allergies—say, grain or gluten—but perhaps not dairy.)
Back to the recipe. This batter is made in a food processer, making this a quick cake to put together. Again, it has a lot of honey (half a cup!) which wasn’t helped by the fact that all I had left was buckwheat honey, which is pretty strong. The number of eggs gives the cake a nice moist crumb, and that in combination with the baking soda and cider vinegar helps allow for a good rise in the oven.
The finished cake has a lighter flavor despite the strong honey I used (almost too light—I would double the cinnamon filling next time) and my topping didn’t make enough to cover the cake (my error—I didn’t have walnuts and had to use sliced almonds.) The butter for the filling should be melted while making this part of the recipe—but the recipe doesn’t specify this. Still, we liked the end result.
I did find a couple of issues here, personal honey bugaboo aside. Once again, we have a book with teeny, tiny print—multiple times I found I’d measured out the incorrect amount of some ingredient, only to have to go back and redo part of the recipe (1/3 mistaken for 1/2 and so on.) This is not the author’s fault, of course, but the publisher might want to take note.
Also, the author uses coconut oil in a number of recipes but I noticed she never, throughout the book, specified whether it should be melted or left solid. In other books, I’ve seen it used both ways, depending on the recipe, and I just took the extra step to melt it. But would newer bakers know to do so?
Ultimately, Kelly Smith’s book is without question an overdue and most welcome sweet treat for those whose allergies have kept them from enjoying the baked goods they’ve been missing out on—which they won’t have to do any longer! (Now pass me the almond butter!)
Disclosure: Susie did receive a complimentary copy of Everyday Grain-Free Baking for review but opinions expressed are 100% are her own. This post does contain Amazon Affiliate links designated by an asterisk.