Monday, December 28, 2009

The Allergen Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal

I encountered many challenges when I learned that one of my children needed a gluten free, casein free diet, and that she has allergies to several other foods as well. I baked a lot before autism, breads, pizza crusts, rolls, cakes, brownies, cookies etc. I took cooking classes in my life BC (before children).

Having to switch to gluten free baking was challenging enough, but I have to avoid dairy, nuts and nut flours, soy, too. Baked goods have tried my patience for the past 8.5 years. Because my child has sensitivity to soy, I can't buy a lot of GFCF mixes that are on the market. And many years I lost count of the absolute flops that went straight to the trash can. GFCF baked goods can be gritty and gummy, especially when you are avoiding eggs, too. (Because we rotate eggs, sometimes I need to bake without them.)

The demands of a child with autism monopolized my time, and I have, over the years, found a cake mix, a brownie mix and a pancake mix that I like and have stuck with them, and that's pretty much it.

Gluten free flours, xanthan gum, and all the "tricks" to GFCFSFEF+++ baking are expensive. They take up a lot of space in kitchen cupboards. Spending the money and time to try a recipe only to have turn out gritty or gummy is frustrating, and I admit, I gave up in a big way. (Gluten was the first big allergen that we removed 8.5 years ago, and I remember it being so very challenging at the time. Little did I know I'd have to remove a lot more and that I would envy folks who are simply gluten free -- I think that would be so easy!)

I simply never understood the science to baking GFCFSFEF+++ breads, cookies, cakes and other baked goods. I didn't have the time or the background to try to figure it out.

Until now. Now, I'm getting an education about the alchemy of baking without traditional baking ingredients like milk, wheat and eggs: The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook, How To Bake without Gluten, Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Peanuts, Tree nuts, and Sesame by Cybele Pascal.

The press release from Ten Speed Press offers a nice summary: "Featuring delicious recipes that omit the least tolerated foods (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat) as well as dairy, sesame, and gluten, The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook is a baker's basket full of free-to-eat sweets from A to Z. Allergen free, gluten free, vegan, and one-of-a-kind, this is the first comprehensive multi-allergen-free baking book--chock full of 100 recipes from an award-winning cookbook author. Covering all the bases for baked goods, from glazed vanilla scones to chocolate chip cupcakes and from fruit crumbles to pizza crust, it offers allergen-free versions of traditional favorites--muffins, scones, biscuits, quick breads, cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, crumbles, buckles betties, and more--that are every bit as good as their traditional counterparts.... There's even a whole chapter on savories."

Cybele Pascal is a chef who happens to be the mother of a child with severe food allergies. She went to work adapting all of our favorite baked items and put her collection of successes into a beautiful cookbook. And yes, there are color photos of some of the recipes (I like photos!).

I. Adore. This. Cookbook! This book is not just a collection of recipes. Instead, Pascal takes the time to teach me about baking allergen free with almost the same restrictions we have at my house. The section called, "The Dry Goods Pantry" in Chapter 1, Stocking your Allergen-Free Pantry, combined with all of Chapter 2, "How To Bake Allergen-Free" provide a mini-baking school, and I would like these pages + the resource section in the back of the book available in a purse sized tri-fold to take with me to the grocery store. Pascal offers suggestions for replacing eggs, dairy, and wheat flour that have me looking through "regular" cookbooks with a new perspective.

Pascal spotlights something for me that I have not considered before. She lets the reader into her thought process so we can apprentice how she thinks -- she chooses products based on risk of cross-contamination. She's done her homework. She knows which companies are dedicated to gluten free or nut free products and which ones are not. Her basic flour blend, a blend of superfine brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour, carries the "least risk of cross-contamination" (p 20).

My one disappointment is that I do not see a recipe for a basic sandwich bread in the cookbook.

I made Pascal's chocolate chip cookie recipe before Christmas. Because it is egg-free, we could munch on the cookie dough as we were baking! :) The cookies are awesome!

The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook is priced at $16.50 at Amazon dot com. Also at Amazon dot com are links to Pascal's flour blend and a coffee cake recipe.

Check out Cybele Pascal's blog for occasional recipes. A search of YouTube yielded a clip of Pascal with Martha Stewart:

and a clip of Cybele Pascal making Cherry Oat Scones:

Ten Speed Press sent me a copy of The Allergen Free Baker's Handbook to review on this blog.


Tony and Julee Huy said...

Oh! I want that book! I'm going to have to figure out a way to get my hands on it! :)

Cybele Pascal said...

Dear Penny:

Thank you so much for your thoughtful, and excellent review! I am also happy for the introduction to your blog. I don't homeschool, but my son Lennon has ADHD, and therefore, we are living with many similar issues. Your post on "The dreaded "T" word" spoke to me! So thank you for all you do. If you are comfortable doing so, I encourage you to repost your review of my book on Amazon, so people living with multiple food allergies can learn from your review. Again, many thanks. And Happy New Year!

Kind regards,

Cybele Pascal

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