It’s not an exaggeration to say that I have looked forward to this book for nearly one year. I met Ricki Heller last year at the Dole Salad Summit. We bonded over our shared diet, love of dogs, and being gingers.
When I received Ricki’s lovely book Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free: Allergy-Friendly Vegan Desserts, I was not disappointed. Page after page of incredible recipes, all gluten-free, vegan, and free of refined sugars. These are about as healthy as desserts get, as Ricki sneaks in all manner of whole foods to amp up the nutrition. Since we thoroughly enjoyed the pancakes shown above, I thought I’d share this recipe from the book at the end of my review. Click here for an interview with Ricki, where she talks about whether it’s difficult to bake this way, and seeing the adventure in cooking with new ingredients.
The book contains 100 recipes, and begins with a thorough description of pantry ingredients, tips & techniques, bakeware and tools. Since Ricki used to own an organic bakery, her experience really shines through here. Chapters include Breakfast Bakes—Cookies, Squares & Bars—Cakes, Cupcakes, Toppings, & Frostings—Cheesecakes, Pies, Tarts & Puddings—and Raw and No-Bake Treats. Every other recipe is gorgeously photographed in full color by Celine Saki, which simply adds to the lusciousness of the book.
My first recipe was banana-carob chip muffins, as I happened to have 3 bananas in the freezer and the exact amount of carob chips in the pantry. They were delicious: tender, golden, lightly sweet. I found it a little confusing when the recipe referred to 12-cup, 8-cup, and 9-cup pans. I made 12 and they were perfect.
Next I made “salted caramel” walnut butter. While I followed the instructions exactly, my end result was nothing like she described. After an email exchange with her about it, we still don’t know what happened. The nut butter is supposed to be “pourable” and “liquefied,” with a taste reminiscent of salted caramel. Mine was super-thick and chalky and had to be scraped out of the Vitamix. It’s possible that the walnuts and the coconut were drier than the ones she uses, and therefore my end product was not what she described. (I’m just using it as nut butter, adding it to smoothies.)
I made glazed almond bars, as the glaze in the photo looked amazing. While Ricki says you can substitute other baking mix blends for hers, I am going to recommend that you make her recipes exactly as stated. I did substitute my own flour mixture for hers in this recipe, and the end result was very dry. I think that’s totally my fault, given my experience with her other recipes. So, no substitutions!
I then baked ultra fudgy brownies, using her flour blend and exact ingredients. They were perfect! Super dense, very, very chocolately, luxuriously rich.
Finally I made the fluffy fruited pancakes I’m featuring here, with the last of her flour mixture. They are just amazing. Some kind of chemical reaction occurs to make the batter fluff up, and they griddled up perfectly golden and super fluffy. The Husband said, “Thank your friend for the great breakfast.”
What I liked about this book:
It’s beautifully designed, user-friendly, and visually appealing. The photographs leap off the pages, demanding that you put on your apron and turn on the oven. All the recipes are gluten-free, vegan, and free of highly refined sugar. In addition, recipes are labeled if they are grain-free, soy-free, corn-free, or nut-free.
I wasn’t so keen on:
My only critique is that the recipe instructions are designed in sans serif typeface, making it a little harder to read. I also was surprised to see some of the metrics in the recipes using milliliters, where I would use grams. But because Ricki lives in Canada, I’m assuming she must have measuring spoons with milliliters she’s using to formulate these recipes.
Anyone who wants to bake healthier treats and is willing to buy the specialty flours. Diabetics, people with food allergies, families following a gluten-free/casein-free diet. Vegans. People following an anti-candida diet.
Fluffy Fruited Pancakes
from Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free by Ricki Heller
Used with permission
Makes 10 to 12 large pancakes
These light and foolproof pancakes are great when made with berries, apples, pears, or bananas. Unlike most dairy-free versions, they provide a good amount of protein on their own, due to the protein powder added to the batter. You can use leftovers for another day’s breakfast or lunch: simply spread one pancake with your favorite nut butter and/or jam, then top with another pancake for a quick and delicious pancake “sandwich.”
Regular readers please note that Ricki uses milliters for dry ingredients, unlike my regular metric measurements
1-3⁄4 cups (420 ml) plain or vanilla soy, almond, or rice milk, plus up to 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) more, if needed
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely ground flax seeds (from about 1 Tbsp or 15 ml whole seeds)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
1⁄4 cup (20 g) whole psyllium husks
1-3⁄4 cups (235 g) Ricki’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix or another all-purpose gluten-free baking mix
2 Tbsp (30 ml) unflavored rice or soy protein powder (substitute soy or chickpea flour, sifted)
1⁄8 tsp (.5 ml) pure stevia powder, 1⁄4 tsp (1 ml) pure plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or 1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut sugar or agave nectar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
1⁄2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
1⁄4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1 cup (240 ml) fresh or frozen berries or chopped apple, pear, or banana (DO NOT thaw if using frozen fruit)
In a small bowl, combine the 1-3⁄4 cups (420 ml) milk, flax, vinegar, oil, and psyllium, stirring well.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, protein powder, stevia, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix just to blend (there will still be a few lumps here and there; this is fine). Gently fold in the fruit. [Add more milk if it is very thick.]
Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Using a large ice-cream scoop or 1⁄3-cup (80-ml) measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan and spread slightly with the back of the scoop or measuring cup.
Cook each pancake about 3 to 4 minutes, until puffed and golden at the edges. Flip the cake and cook another 3 to 4 minutes on the other side. Serve immediately.
Refrigerate leftovers, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 days. May be frozen. (When reheating, place frozen pancakes directly in the toaster).
Note: If the batter thickens while you are cooking the pancakes, add a little more milk to the bowl to retain the consistency of the batter.
We’ll be giving away one copy of this book in our October giveaway, beginning 10/25/13.