Book review: Gluten-Free Baking for Dummies

by Stephanie Weaver on January 22, 2013

Gluten-Free Baking for DummiesI have been using this cookbook for a couple of weeks after reading it cover to cover on a trip to Portland. I’m happy to know one of the authors in real life, Dr. Jean Layton. We’ll be giving away a copy of this book on Friday, along with some other goodies.

Jean is a naturopathic doctor with a thriving practice in Bellingham, WA. She took time out of her busy schedule to chat about the book.

How long did you work on the book?
I got the official contract in February of 2011 and handed in a completed file in July. Publication was Thanksgiving weekend of 2011.

Was it a dream of yours?
I’ve always wanted to teach people; books are one of the best way to reach out.

How were you chosen as the author?
My co-author Linda Larsen [a Dummies author] found me from my blog. Yup, just like those stories of starlets being discovered by a talent scout.

Is the formatting and style set?
The formatting and style is set by the Dummies series, that is why they feel so familiar. You know you’ll get the series of tips, things to remember and warnings in the sidebar. Personally, some of the work becomes a bit redundant with the call outs, but readers love them.

How did you work with your co-author?
We worked completely by email. Other than our official contract phone call, we never spoke. Someday I hope to meet Linda in real life, she is a wonderful writer and virtual friend.

How many of the recipes are yours and which are hers?
150 are mine and the remainder are Linda’s.

Who shot and styled the photos?
T.J. Hine Photography was the photographer and Lisa Bishop was the stylist.

Whose idea was it to create the baking mixes?
The baking mixes were my idea.

To create the right structure in gluten-free baked goods you have to use multiple flours. The idea that a newbie gluten-free person would want to find all of them in their cupboards each time they wanted to bake would be frustrating. The two mixes allow me to vary the amount of whole grains in each recipe, replicating the gluten-full versions folks missed.

Did you discuss also including the individual amounts of flours for each recipe, but decide against including those for space issues? 
Not really, once we decided to make the mixes to simplify life, we just went with those.

How were the recipes tested?
There is a group of wonderful testers hired by the publisher: Pamela Mitchell, Nicole New, Emily Nolan, and Angela Okragly. They tested and retested each recipe after Linda and I had tested them. Then we would recheck the editing on the recipe, verify the quantities and check the temperatures. Since we were using weights for the dry ingredients but not the wet ingredients, sometimes the amounts were just a touch off.

I had hoped to write the book entirely in weight measurements but the editorial decision was to only weigh the dry.

My thanks to Jean for sharing her thoughts about the process and for providing the giveaway copy!

What I liked about this book:
I read this cover to cover because I have been baking gluten-free for several years but not completely knowing why certain things worked and others did not. The incredibly thorough primer on gluten-free flours, explanation of how to combine them, and discussion of successful gluten-free baking methods is really going to improve my recipe development.

I tested three recipes from the book. I made sesame seed crackers (not vegan, included one egg white), which came out very tasty. I plan on making them again without the egg white to see if they will work that way.

Next I made the toasted onion buckwheat crackers. These were a lot of work and I accidentally burned a lot of them by following the suggested timing, but the ones that weren’t burned had a very nice nutty texture, good flavor, and were an appetizing color. I will likely use the recipe as a jumping-off point for other types of crackers using cooked grains. Gluten-free Pizza from Gluten-Free Baking for DummiesFinally, I made basic pizza dough. It was as good as any gluten-free pizza dough mix or frozen GF pizza crust I have tried. Again, I will probably use this as a starting point for dough in the future for flatbread, bread sticks, or pizza crust. I loved that they explained how to pre-bake it and then freeze it, as that would be helpful for me as I am cooking for two.

I would say that if you are completely new to gluten-free baking and are not vegan/vegetarian, definitely buy this book. They created flour mixes that you make up, and then each recipe uses those mixes (only a few do not). If you are vegan and want to learn about gluten-free baking, the book will be incredibly useful as a reference point.

I wasn’t so keen on:
Most of the recipes use sugar, eggs, and dairy products, so they are not suited to my way of eating. (There are a handful of vegan recipes.) The other issue I had is that the book completely depends on you making up large amounts of the flour mixes, and it’s very difficult to figure out how to make a recipe if you don’t have the flour mix pre-made. I don’t have room in my kitchen or pantry to store mixes of 15 cups of flour. So you have to commit to making them up and baking from these recipes if you’re going to use the book in the way it was intended. I did do the math to figure out how to make the pizza crust dough, which I have permission to share here. You will need a kitchen scale to weigh the flours.

If you are a traditional baker who has had to go gluten-free for yourself or a family member, this book is perfect for you.Gluten-Free PizzaBasic pizza crust
Makes 4 individual pizzas or 2 medium-large pizzas
Used with permission

1/4 oz. (7 g) active dry yeast (one packet)
1 t. (2 g) raw sugar (I used one packet)
1-1/4 C. plus 1 T. (325 ml) warm filtered water

98 g. potato starch
96 g. brown rice flour
96 g. sweet sorghum flour
94 g. sweet rice flour
63 g. millet flour
49 g. tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
1 t. (2 g) sea salt
1 T. (15 ml) olive oil

Proof (test) the yeast by mixing the yeast with the sugar and warm water in a bowl. After 10 minutes it should be bubbly and foamy. If not, the yeast is dead and you need to buy more.

In a large bowl (I used the one for my stand mixer) whisk all the grains together with the salt until they are one color. Add the olive oil and the yeast mixture and beat for 3 minutes. The dough will be smooth and not too sticky.

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into halves or quarters and press into the pans, smoothing with your fingers.

Let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/gas mark 6.5. If you have a pizza stone, set it in the oven on the lower rack.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. If freezing, let cool completely on wire racks, then wrap and freeze. Gluten-free Pizza before BakingTop with sauce, toppings, and cheese. Return to the oven. If you have a hot pizza stone, move it to the top rack. Transfer the pizza to the stone, using the parchment paper to move it. (I leave it on the parchment paper so that any loose toppings don’t stain the stone.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes more until golden brown on the edges and bubbly.

Mmmm, pizza.

Today’s post is part of our mission to help you rebuild your health through food and lifestyle choices. Look for posts on Mondays featuring gluten-free, sugar-free recipes made with healthy plant-based ingredients, Wednesday essays, and Friday giveaways (when available).

Here is the book if you want to check it out!

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