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AGAINST THE GRAIN by NANCY CAIN REVIEWED

Against the Grain
By Nancy Cain
Published by Clarkson Potter
ISBN#978-0-385-34555-2
400 Pages

Back Cover: Revolutionary all-natural recipes for gluten-free cooking--from the owner of Against the Grain Gourmet.

Nancy Cain came to gluten-free cooking simply enough: Her teenage son was diagnosed with celiac disease. After trying ready-made baking mixes and finding the results rubbery and tasteless, she pioneered gluten-free foods made entirely from natural ingredients--no xanthan or guar gums or other mystery chemical additives allowed. That led her to adapt many of her family's favorite recipes, including their beloved pizzas, pastas, and more, to this real food technique. In Against the Grain, Nancy finally shares 200 groundbreaking recipes for achieving airy, crisp breads, delicious baked goods, and gluten-free main dishes.

For any of these cookies, cakes, pies, sandwiches, and casseroles, you use only natural ingredients such as buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, and ripe fruits and vegetables. Whether you're making Potato Rosemary Bread, iced Red Velvet Cupcakes, Lemon-Thyme-Summer Squash Ravioli, or Rainbow Chard and Kalamata Olive Pizza, you'll be able to use ingredients already in your pantry or easily found at your local supermarket.

With ample information for gluten-free beginners and 100 colorful photographs, this book is a game changer for gluten-free households everywhere.

REVIEW: This book is exactly what I've been looking for and so much more. I've just entered the world of Gluten-free and have been confused. I liked reading this author journey to re-create dishes her family loved in a gluten-free format. Both of her sons were diagnosed with Celiac disease. She and her husband agreed their whole family would eat Gluten-Free. The author states, “I looked at ingredients (in all the flourless recipes she could find) examined the techniques, and paid attention to the proportions of fats to starches, proteins, and liquids. Among lots of other things, I learned that I had been working with a very narrow definition of flour. “Flour” didn't necessarily have to be milled and poured from a box – flourless recipes worked because some other ingredient acted like flour.”

This was fascinating to read. She goes on to say, “Eventually, I had to go back to the basics of kitchen chemistry, to understand how fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and water affected the taste, texture, aroma, and shelf life of both wheat based and gluten-free baked goods”

The first recipe she mastered was pizza dough. Her friend had a restaurant and handed out free pizza for their honest opinion. The feedback was wonderful. Everyone loved it and couldn't believe it was Gluten-Free. Someone suggested she should sell it. That’s when Against the Grain company was born http://againstthegraingourmet.com/ She takes a very different approach to gluten-free baking.

The author says, “We believe that it is entirely possible to bake gluten-free using natural properties of real foods. We don’t use processed ingredients that simulate the effects of gluten like xanthan gum, modified starches, or things you can’t pronounce….We look for real solutions that come from your local grocery store.”

This book was as much fun to read as it was to make the recipes. Not only did my family and I enjoy the items I made Lynn’s lovely oat bread, Microwave Vegan Cowboy cookies and Vegan Carrot Muffins, but I learned so much. This is a book I’ll be referring to and using often.

There is an introduction to how and why she was making gluten-free items. Then this author talks about the Fundamentals of Gluten-Free Baking. She breaks it down to the following categories:
1. Gluten-Free flours are not created equal
2. Most Gluten-Free Flours work better in a mixture
3. Gluten-Free hydrated ratios are surprisingly high
4. Non-Gluten protein builds structure
5. The Contribution of starch is as important as that of gluten
6. Gums are not necessary
7. Gluten Free Techniques

Note to readers: Make sure you read through the recipe a few times to make sure you don’t miss a step (like I did Grin) There are things she does that are a little different than what I’m used to. Technique matters in this book. It doesn’t take long but it’s well worth your time.

My family and I liked the recipes we tried so far and look forward to trying others such as Bagels, Soft Pretzels, Pizza, Calzone’s, Caramelized onion focaccia, Maple toasted Oat Biscuits, Flourless blueberry Banana Crepes, Old Fashioned cookies, Carrot Cake and many more. There are mouthwatering pictures throughout the book but not one for every recipe. The subtitle to this book is, “Extraordinary Gluten-Free Recipes from Real, All-Natural Ingredients.” I agree!

I am thankful for this review copy provided for me by Blogging for Books.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

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