If anyone understands the world of gluten-free, it is Carol Fenster. Her library of cookbooks is a treasure trove for anyone who must live without wheat and its gluten-ous counterparts. That being said, the title and subtitle of this cookbook threw me a bit. “Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus” is a bit of an understatement, which might lead people to believe that this cookbook is not entirely gluten-free, when in fact it is. On the contrary, the subtitle “Delicious, Healthful Eating for People with Food Sensitivities” implies a bit more than the book can deliver. It gave me the impression that this was a cookbook for multiple sensitivities when really the focus is gluten-free. While there are many “free-from” just about everything recipes, eggs, cheese, nuts, and other allergens are called for in spots throughout the book. I was also a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a food allergy index of some sort.
Luckily, there is a low enough dairy load (with feasible substitute options offered for the dairy in several recipes) for me to recommend this book for gluten-free / casein-free (GFCF) diets. In fact, I could spot only a few recipes of the 250 or so in this book that just wouldn’t work well as dairy-free.
Yes, I said 250 recipes, though I must admit, it didn’t seem like it. The layout was not my favorite. They were “run-on” recipes as I call it. Multiple recipes on a page, recipes continuing onto the next page, you get the picture. Carol followed the neat and tidy one recipe per page theme in her book Gluten-Free 101, and I wish that she had kept it for this one. I would rather have 100 less recipes, if the remaining ones were good and easy to follow from a formatting perspective.
Okay, in terms of the recipes themselves, I would definitely say so far so good. Of course, I was most intrigued by the baking, and Carol offers many options. She supplies you with three flour blend options. While I liked the ability to choose, it would be nice if there were notes on which blends work best with which recipes. Nonetheless, I did the eeny-meeny-miny-mo and got to baking!
I went for a very basic recipe first, the waffles. I used the simple rice flour blend (brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour) and they turned out quite tasty. They were on the egg-y side with a very mild albeit slightly unique flavor. They cooked up perfectly with a soft and light texture; in fact, they looked better than the last wheat flour-based waffle recipe I made. Since they were very low in sugar on their own, some maple syrup would compliment them perfectly without creating a morning sugar overload. I went really low sugar and topped them with almond butter and cinnamon. Not bad, but the maple syrup would have been better.
I also found Carol’s quick breads/muffins to be pretty seamless. They turn out light, fluffy, tasty, and easily able to fool gluten-ous taste buds. Definitely keepers.
Of important note though, this cookbook goes well beyond gf baking. It is intended to provide entire menus for those who must live without wheat. Some recipes I have dog-eared to trial include the Grilled Vegetables & Quinoa, Vanilla Wafers, GF Teriyaki Sauce, Wild Rice Pancakes w/ Pecans, Thai Pork Noodle Bowl, and Avocado Dressing.
Oh yes, and the resources section at the end lays out several menu suggestions for all types of diets and food moods and several charts for substitutions of wheat (explaining all of the flours, yeah!) and dairy. All handy stuff.
Since some of the baking recipes in this cookbook seem to be duplicates from Gluten-Free 101 (actually, GF 101 seems to be the more current book, so I think it even has upgraded versions) and I like the GF 101 layout better, and I found the resouces section in it to be more applicable to my own needs, Gluten-Free 101 is definitely my gluten-free baking book of choice. Nonetheless, if you would like a more diverse array of gluten-free recipes, covering more aspects of the menu, then this may be a good option.
For myself, there are definitely some recipes I would like to give a whirl from Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus. However, for a spot among my daily go-to cookbooks I am holding out a bit more promise for the format and menus in Carol’s books Cooking Free (which is also dairy-free and egg-free) and the latest one Gluten-Free Quick & Easy. While Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus has some excellent recipes, and would likely be invaluable for many gluten-free foodies, the cookbook itself just didn’t click for me overall.