Cookbook Review: “Flavor Flours” By Alice Medrich

 

Who would have ever thought brownies made with rice flour would make them taste even more chocolaty? Or that chocolate chip cookies would be even tastier made without traditional all-purpose white flour? In “Flavor Flours”, it is evident that Medrich spent countless hours in the kitchen, testing and experimenting with these flours that would eventually be a unique collection of over 125 never seen before gluten-free recipes. For those of you who are familiar with Alice Medrich’s past books, you know that they do not disappoint. For those who do not know who Medrich is….well where have you been?! And please read on and get to know this wonderful pastry chef and chocolatier through her work.

Medrich takes gluten-free baking and the use of specialty flours to a whole new level. She takes classic cakes such as Chiffon, Genoise, and Carrot and creates structure without the use of xanthan gum or guar. Brilliant! In most gluten-free recipes, several flours are used to create an all-purpose blend as a basic substitute for wheat flours. Here, Medrich uses single flour types in most of the recipes to feature that particular flavor profile of that individual flour.

The making of this book required a lot of trial and error. Kudos to Medrich for all the hard work that was put into this unique cookbook, as I would never have the patience for it and I would most definitely get discouraged quickly. Something as simple as using one recipe but 2 different pans on separate occasions yielded 2 completely different results. The ratio of flour to egg was played with as whipping eggs would help to create structure in the finished product since gluten was absent.

Classic baking techniques can be finicky but baking with these flours brings on a while new, if yet simpler experience. “Ingredients do not have to be at room temperature, flour need not ever be added to batters in three parts alternating with 2 parts liquid, and over mixing is rarely the problem because absent gluten, mixing cannot make a cake or biscuit tough. (p.19)

Medrich omits the use of traditional binding ingredients such as flaxseeds and xanthan gum in most of the recipes (unless absolutely necessary) and will only use it if their distinctive flavors are necessary for that particular finished product.

The Chapters are organized by the following flours:

  • Rice Flour
  • Oat Flour
  • Cornflour & Cornmeal
  • Buckwheat Flour
  • Chestnut Flour
  • Teff Flour
  • Sorghum Flour
  • Nut & Coconut Flour

FlavorFlours2p_ja-index

The introduction includes instructions on buying and storing flours, the fineness of flours and why it matters, the importance of weighing flour and other ingredients, oven rack position, and lining pans. Also included is a basic list of ingredients. The list she includes is a familiar list to anyone who bakes with pantry items that are easily accessible if you don’t already have them. A list of basic equipment and tips for success is also included. Other than the nut grinder (which allows you to make your own fresh nut flours), the remainder of the equipments listed is pretty basic.

Each chapter begins with a page or two of description of the flavour quality and affinities of the particular flour mentioned, as well as where to buy and how to store the flour.

The Recipes

Each of the over 125 recipes begins with a wonderful description of the mentioned recipe, how the flour enhances the finished product as well as unique accompaniments to the particular baked good.

Recipes are cross-referenced with an index by hero flour as well as a general index which makes it super easy to locate a favourite recipe. Recipes are easy to follow and well organized. Ingredients are listed in order of use.

Most of the recipes are accompanied by a picture of the finished product. The pictures are beautiful and definitely make the recipe look even more enticing.

I managed to tackle the chocolate chip cookies recipe. I know..basic right? Why on earth would I choose this generic recipe when there are so many other unique and fantastic ones to choose from! Well… I have a love affair with chocolate chip cookies and I am on the hunt for the perfect recipe. So when I saw this one made with brown rice and oat flour I thought this sounded different and tasty and let me try this out. Turns out I was pleasantly surprised. I think I just may have found the perfect chocolate chip cookie! In my opinion they are tastiest when warm, or if eaten in the next couple days, zap them in the microwave for 20 seconds. Find the recipe below and if you try it, please comment and let me know how it turned out.

THE ULTIMATE GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE

(ok ..I added “the ultimate gluten-free” but they really are phenomenal)

Makes about 60-3 ½ inch cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups (125 grams) oat flour
  • 1-cup (135 grams) brown rice flour
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams) potato starch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ pound (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1-teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (340 grams) chocolate chips or chunks or hand-chopped chocolate
  • 1 cup (100 grams) walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

Equipment: Baking sheets, lined with foil (dull side up) or greased.

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, sugars, and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the flour mixture. With a rubber spatula, mix the batter briskly for about 45 seconds (to activate the binding power of the xanthan gum- the more you mix, the chewier and less crunchy the cookie will be). Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. If possible, let the dough stand for 1-2 hours or (better still) cover and refrigerate overnight.
  •  Combine the flours, potato starch, salt, baking soda, and xanthan gum in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk.
  • Postion racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F.
  • Scoop 2 tablespoons of dough per cookie and place 2 inches apart on the lined or greased baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, 12 to14 minutes. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. For lined pans, set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. They may be kept in an airtight container for several days.

** I used pecans, 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips for most of the amount listed with the exception of ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips only because I did not have enough. I used cornstarch instead of potato as I could not find it. I don’t know if that would hinder the quality of the end product but it still tasted amazing and texture was perfect-crunchy on the exterior and crunchy, slightly chewy on the interior. I also lined a baking sheet with parchment instead of the foil. Not for any other reason other than I just did it out of habit.

IMG_4412
Combining the pecans & chocolate chips in the batter.
IMG_4413
Cookie dough batter all ready for the fridge.
IMG_4464
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Some other recipes you can expect to find:

  • Buckwheat Sables
  • Buckwheat Cake with Rose Apples
  • Buckwheat Coffee Baby Cakes with Toffee Sauce
  • Chestnut Buche de Noel
  • Chestnut Praline Gelato
  • Ricotta Cheesecake with Chestnut Crust
  • Chocolatey Coconut Tart
  • Chunky Double Chocolate Coconut Meringues
  • Coconut Chocolate Pecan Torte
  • Blueberry Corn Fritter Cobbler
  • New Classic Boston Cream Pie
  • Seed Crackers
  • Crunchy Corn Fritters
  • Hungarian Crepe Cake
  • Sorghum Cinnamon Sticks
  • Nutella Sandwich Cookies
  • German Chocolate Cake

And many, many more great recipes!

FlavorFlours2p_ja.pdf-36

FlavorFlours2p_ja.pdf-50

FlavorFlours2p_ja.pdf-93

Where to find these unique flours?

The end of the book takes us to a fantastic set of resources where you can purchase these specialty flours. A selection of them are also available at your local natural food store or regular grocery store depending on the store and where you live. Asian grocery stores will likely carry white rice flour.

I live in Downtown Toronto and checkout out my local Loblaws which only carried oat, coconut, and brown rice flour. I checked in with a relative of mine who lives a gluten-free lifestyle due to allergies and she mentioned she is able to find most of the listed flours (Bobs Red Mill in particular) at local grocery stores in the natural food isles. You can also find all of the flours listed above at most bulk barn stores across Canada.

In the appendix, Medrich discusses the importance and accuracy of weighing flour. She goes over different brands of flour, how they differ and the weight of the particular flour by cup as they can all be of different fineness. There is also a great DIY section on creating your own nut flours with a food processor, blender, coffee grinder and nut grinder.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this cookbook. I thought it was unique and very different from any other cookbook I have read. I’m not too familiar with the gluten-free territory and I found that I learned quite a bit just from reading it. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking to try something that is out of the ordinary and for gluten free bakers. Keep in mind that a lot of the recipes do include sugar so if you are searching for a book with healthy alternatives to white flour, this cookbook would not be your best option. Other than the recipes being gluten free, they are not necessarily healthier…but they are truly fantastic and if you chose to pick it up, I do not think you would be disappointed.

Please stay tuned to my social media accounts as I occasionally recreate more of the recipes in this book. Look out Boston Cream Pie, I’m coming for you!!

**All opinions in this post are 100% my own. I received this book from Artisan Books to give an honest review. “Flavor Flours “ by Alice Medrich can be purchased at amazon.ca or chapters.indigo.ca for $35.99 CAN. (Prices are subject to change)

Other books by Alice Medrich:

Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts

Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts

Alice Medrich’s Cookies and Brownies

A Year in Chocolate: Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts

Chocolate Holidays

Pure Dessert

Chewy Gooey Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts

Seriously Bitter Sweet

SOCIAL MEDIA: Alice Medrich

SOCIAL MEDIA: Artisan Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s