A Gluten-Free Cook Book for Foodies at Last

Categories: Books, Gluten Free

Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free by Karen Morgan (Chronicle Books $24.95)

We usually don't review cookbooks by non-local authors here at SFoodie, but sometimes we'll make an exception in the case of something exciting or different that catches our eye.

There's no way around the fact that gluten-free cookbooks tend to be boring and bland. They are often written by unskilled chefs and geared towards the health food community rather than people who actually enjoy flavor. Fortunately, that's not the case with this book. Karen Morgan is not gluten-free by choice. The self-trained pastry chef was forced to give up gluten in 2002 after being diagnosed with Celiac disease.

After seven years of experimentation, Morgan has developed a repertoire of recipes for
rich, decadent, and over-the-top desserts. Her recipes are based on French baking and pastry methods, except she mixes all of the dry ingredients first, rather than creaming the butter and sugar and then adding the flour. She's found that this makes for a better final gluten-free product.

As with most gluten-free bakers, Morgan mixes several different flours together to get optimum results in different recipes. She relies mainly on cornstarch, and flours made from glutinous rice, almond, millet, sorghum, and tapioca.

Among the book's 75 recipes, you'll find gluten-free versions of traditional apple pie, buttermilk biscuits and chocolate chip cookies -- if that's what you're looking for. However, creative recipes like chesnut genoise hearts, young coconut cupcakes, basil infused custard with lemon chantilly cream, and white truffle infused honey pannacotta are what really makes this book stand out.

Out of the seven chapters, perhaps the most appealing is "Crepes and Pate a Choux." Morgan tackles gluten-free cream puffs like a pro, proving that she is a baker first and Celiac second.

Helpful baking tips and unique recipes are among the many reasons why I love this book. Plus, its unassuming size makes it easy to travel with or squeeze into an overstuffed bookshelf.

Marla Simon is a San Francisco-based chef, food stylist, and food writer.
Follow her on twitter at @Marla_Simon
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1. "Foodies" by definition would not confine themselves to gluten-free only, unless, of course, they have celiac disease.

2. What do you mean by "except she mixes all of the dry ingredients first, rather than creaming the butter and sugar and then adding the flour"? This would depend on what she's making. It's not a technique for making pound cake. 

Sea Maiden
Sea Maiden

Would you like to point out specific authors that you think have boring and bland recipes or do you just like to make generalizations and insult an entire genre which developed to help people with a medically necessitated diet eat better food? This cookbook might be great, but it isn't the first one written by a trained chef. (See Rebecca Reilly). There are plenty of cookbooks in all kinds of niche markets written by people not trained as chefs, so I'm not quite sure why you felt the need to pick on this genre. Every author has their strength and weaknesses but each gluten-free cookbook author has contributed something valuable to the gluten-free community. When I make gluten-free food for my family and friends (gluten-free or not) I serve food that they enjoy that is not at all boring OR bland. I might serve bread from Bette Hagman, pizza from Carol Fenster, and a dessert by Rebecca Reilly. If I want to limit my carbs I'll make something from Elana Amsterdam's almond flour cookbooks, and if I want to serve something international I might try something from the Gluten-free Asian Kitchen or one of the gourmet gluten-free italian cookbooks. If your experience with gluten-free cooking has been bland, I'm sorry for you, but it is far from bland in my house! This might be an excellent review otherwise, but with the negativity you are not doing this book any favors. -Sea


I'm not sure we're reading the same cookbooks if you think they're "boring and bland". Some of the most creative cookbooks I own are written by gluten-free authors. Many are chefs, and all are "foodies". If I'm not mistaken, Shauna Ahern's first cookbook (Gluten Free Girl & The Chef) was criticized as being "too upscale" by more than a few critics. The very best GF authors focus on foods that are naturally gluten free -- there's an entire world of real food jammed with flavor.

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