The Fresh Loaf

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"Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking" Wallace/Reinhart

LapLap's picture

"Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking" Wallace/Reinhart

The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking: 80 Low-Carb Recipes that Offer Solutions for Celiac Disease, Diabetes, and Weight Loss

I waited for over 9 months for this book. Bought it on Kindle, returned for refund within a couple of hours.

With Reinhart's WW baking book I felt I was enjoying the distillation of knowledge from hundreds of bakers from all over the world.  Not so here.  Denene Wallace is the lead and she offers what are obviously excellent but very personal solutions for certain life threatening conditions, Reinhart seems to have a student role here.

I would have liked to have seen the book have an alternative description.  "The joy of cooking with ground nuts and seeds, xantham gum, Stevia and egg whites."

The reason it feels like a personal approach to gluten free baking is that some of the choices are not shared by others in the gluten-free blogging sphere.  From Wallace's own circle of influence the only non-gluten flour that she feels able to recommend is that from chick peas/garbanzos.  I know Gluten Free Girl hates the stuff and I'm not a fan either (reminds me of grass pea/almorta flour).  The main 'flours' called for are ground almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and coconut and ground flax/linseed and sesame. Lots and lots of them.

Xanthan gum is used pretty much exclusively and I didn't see any mention of the adverse reactions many people have to this powder. No chia seeds in this book.

The sandwich loaf commended by Reinhart has, get this, 8 egg whites. The advice is to buy egg whites in a catering pack so that you don't need to worry about what to do with the yolks. Animal welfare is important to me and I pay a premium to source my eggs from responsible producers (the minimum free range standards aren't enough in my view) so this isn't an option for me.  Egg whites feature very prominently in other recipes also.

I've been successfully losing weight without trying very hard having shifted my tastes away from refined flours to WW and by coaxing myself to accept and even prefer less sugar in my foods and drinks. I've also come to a personal belief that WW flours are healthiest when they have been given a long period to ferment (the biga and soaker approach is one I'm happy with). I want to adapt the way I cook quick breads, muffins and cookies as these don't give the gluten in the WW flours a chance to get worked on by yeast and bacteria.  

I am thankful that I have no health issues which would force me to change to the recipes in this book which, to me, seem like endless variations of macarons sweetened with Stevia.  Without a life threatening condition I don't see who would adopt these recipes, even for weight loss you'd need to be extremely focused to commit to this style of cooking.  The co-author has admitted that, despite his motivation, at the point of publication he hadn't been able to and the website we were invited to go to online to learn of his progress over the last few months doesn't make it clear either.

For someone hoping to casually reduce the amount of gluten they are consuming, this is not a book I can recommend.  I earnestly hope it is of use to those who need to change their approach to cooking and eating for medical reasons, if that's you, I wish you every success.


Janknitz's picture

I think the title is unfortunate, because people who will be drawn to the title may be people like LapLap who want to simply reduce or eliminate gluten, but not necessarily reduce starches and sugars along with it.  It is a low carb book, even though it's not called that--probably because of all the connotations that term brings up.  If you simply want to reduce gluten, there's a plethora of books and recipes out there that substitute other starches for the gluten containing grains.  Peter is candid in the epilogue that he chose a different path because of his own health concerns. 

This book is meant for a niche audience, those of us with health issues who need to eliminate grains AND other starches, and sugars--for health reasons.  I dare say that very few true bread afficianados on this site will fall into that category.  There are several great Peter Reinhart books for you, but this book was not meant for you.     

Recipes in this book will NEVER taste like the originals made from grain.  They will NEVER satisfy a true bread and/or pastry afficianado.  They are designed to have similar properties in taste and texture, but they'll never be the same.  If your body can tolerate grains, starches, and sugars, then you are very fortunate not to need this type of book.  Eat the real thing and enjoy it. 

But for those of us who can't tolerate grains, starches, and sugars, it's very exciting to finally have some options.  I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but I expect that they will be good coming from Peter Reinhardt's hands.   

I adopted a grain-free, starch-free, sugar-free lifestyle when my health was deteriorating.  I tend not to make "fake breads" and other substitutes for the most part.  I try to mostly eat REAL whole foods.  I manage to live very well without bread, crackers, pastries, etc.   The result to date has been a huge improvement in health--normal blood sugars, stellar cholesterol, great BP, better energy, significant weight loss, etc.  But every once in a great while, I wish I had a cracker to go with my cheese, or bits of toast to dip in my egg yolk.  The recipes in this book will let me indulge occasionally without harming all the hard work I've done to improve my health. 

I haven't been around here in a long time, this is why.  I still love baking bread for family and friends, but I don't eat it myself anymore.  If you are someone who can eat bread without problems and who loves bread, you don't need this book and the recipes will never please you.  But you may want to try the recipes for someone in your life who needs to follow a different way of eating for health.  Or consider the book to give as a gift for someone you know who has chosen a grain-free and sugar-free pathway. 

GrapevineTexas's picture

while doing some recipe testing for this particular book.  Mainly, nut flours are absolutely delicious and satisfying!  I did not, however, enjoy using the alternative sugar substitutes and would have LOVED to have seen the same recipes adjusted accordingly, because they truly are very flavorful, and (in my opinion), would have become absolutely stellar with the use of that darned white and brown stuff.  ;)

My husband purchased the book for me as an anniversary gift (I wanted to see my name in the recipe tester list, vain little devil that I am... ;) ...), but will I bake from it regularly?  Not really, but I will rejoice having it when I want to bake for those that MUST watch their dietary restrictions.  (I have a young neice that suffers from Crohns desease. I'm indebted to Mr. Reinhart for offering guidance and instruction while teaching me many a new technique.)  








Janknitz's picture

I was surprised too that the sweetener options were limited to Splenda and Stevia. My sweetener of choice are xylitol  or erithrytol , and I expect it will work well but I'll be on my own for proportions. 

Directions are given for how to adapt the recipes for sugar or honey if sugar isn't a problem for you. 

I made the cheddar pecan crackers tonight and they're delicious!  I appreciate that they give the ingredients in volume measurements, grams, and ounces. So nice to use my baking scale again. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Using substitutes have distinct problems and side effects.  I suppose they could be left out, but the fact remains that the formulas includes some kind of added sweetness and leaving it out may mean the balance of the recipe is "0ff."   In the last few years, I prefer recipes that require no added sweeteners at all to be tasty.    

Janknitz's picture

It's rather difficult to make tasty cookies, cakes, brownies, and pies with no sweeteners at all ("natural sweeteners" like fruit juice and dates are not an option because they are not low carb, and many low carbers avoid fructose, too).  Some of the recipes are special treats, and those call for some sweetening, there's no getting around it.  The recipes ARE sugar-free, but not free of all sweeteners.  They are not something I'd eat daily or even weekly. 

Several of the recipes don't need sweeteners, although I did see that the "basic cracker" recipe called for some sweetener.  I'd be tempted to try it without first, I don't see why sweetener is needed in that recipe.  I have a very low tolerance for sweetness now.  I made the cheddar cheese pecan crackers last night and no sweetener was called for--they are really good (hit all my savory, crunchy salty buttons way better than a celery stalk!). 

Again, I think most people's objections are that there's a semantic problem with the title.  If the book had been called something like "The Joy of Grain-Free, Low Carb Baking" (or Gluten-Free Low Carb Baking)  there'd be no quibble.  They were trying to capture the gluten-free market, which is broader and more diverse than the low carb group the book really best addresses.  Many gluten-free people simply avoid gluten and don't see a problem with loading up on other starches and sugar.  I understand that the authors and publisher hope to appeal to a broader audience (the "gluten free market" rather than just the "low carb market") to make good sales numbers, but the title may cause some people to feel misled.   

 Like I said before, if your only concern is gluten, there are already plenty of books, products,  and recipes out there already substituting all sorts of starches for gluten flours.   I am most impressed by the fact that Peter and his co-author went off on a totally new direction (instead of following the gluten-free herd) in this book--and the direction they took happens to be perfect for my own personal needs.  IMHO it's much healtier than substituting other forms of starch for gluten flours, but I know not many people recognize that. 

It is also important to note that the authors are very clear that the recipes can be adapted and give suggestions for how to substitute real sugar for the artificial sweeteners,  although they discourage other AS because of their  baking properties (and they never seem to have considered xylitol or erithrytol which would probably work fine).  They include substitutes for dairy and eggs in the recipes too, but the one thing that cannot be substituted is nut and seed flours.  I think that should be indicated somewhere on the cover, so that people who are allergic to nuts don't buy the book and find that there's not one recipe they can use. 

jackieosjunebug's picture

I bought this book, after waiting for quite some time, at a workshop that I was fortunate enough to attend given by Peter Reinhart in Hudson, Ohio at the Western Reserve School of Cooking (a lovely place). I was immediately saddened to see that he was going in a completely different direction than the research that I had been doing - and the ingredients I had been gathering to me - all the endless flours, gums and starches. He goes for nut flours in this one. 

That said, once I dug into what he was doing, I really liked it. I feel that it helps broaden my palette further than what I had been researching before. I do not have any particular allergies to anything, but I have numerous friends and potential customers that continue to ask me if I have anything that they can eat. I feel like this book - along with Laurie Sadowski's book, "The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread" - gives me a fuller range of of possibilites to create tasty products to fit any particular person's dietary needs.

I am sure that there are people that will be disappointed with this book, but it is what it is: gluten-free, sugar-free. It gives you good ideas, and delicious formulas to make these products. If you have nut allergies, forget it. Dairy-free: try again. Vegan: certainly not.

Peter was very gracious, signing my book and my battered copy of the Bread Baker's Apprentice. To get to be with my hero for awhile and to pick his brain for a bit was a really great experience (he was doing an artisan bread baking workshop the next night, but my own bakery needed attention. Drat!). He is also very open to corresponding with you, answering questions and debating points.

I'm going to go to work on my vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free pumpkin pie!

berryblondeboys's picture

I haven't made anything from it, but I'm ecstatic about it!  So much gluten free stuff is NOT low carb and low carb is what I need. My body simply cannot handle simple carbs, sugars at all. I make two loaves of white bread and two loaves of whole wheat bread every week for my family and I cannot eat any of it.  It's not the gluten that's the problem, it's the simple carbs that are.

While true, perhaps a better name would have been, "no gluten, low carb and no sugar, but it's a start.

I'm going to assume for those who prefer to use sugars instead of fake sugar, you probably can exchange it one for one, but I am thrilled to see a low carb book as most gluten free stuff just exchanges one type of simple carb for another (like rice flour or other grains). Now NUTS... that's satiating AND tasty!

ensete2002's picture

i have made this recipe twice, but each time i did two versions, so i guess thats actually four times.

i do use real sugar, well actually coconut palm sugar, which tastes close to brown sugar, with a caramel flavor. 

i was puzzled by the recipe giving 1 cup and 1/2 cup amounts of different fake sugar products.  knowing people often oversweeten when using splenda etc, my first cookies i tried versions with 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup sugar pro rated.  the 1/2 cup sugar was barely sweet, didnt quite register as "cookie", but worth eating.  the 3/4 cup sugar version was delicious.  not just 'good for something thats diet' but actually very good.  much better than commercial oatmeal cookies.  it has a big advantage over real pecan sandies, as those leave a nasty hydrogenated mouth coating.

second batch i tried some with a an ounce of heath bar bits mixed into the half-batch, didnt have much impact.  the reason i tried this was based on an oatmeal cookie where it did have a big impact.  this reminded me how bland real oatmeal cookies are, esp as that oatmeal recipe used regular Crisco.  This gluten free recipe uses lots of real butter, so the toffee addition turns out to be pointless. 

and these cookies are really filling.  by the way, you can get them crisp by pressing the cookie dough flat, or get a softer center by baking the dropped spoonfuls.

i have also tried the banana bread recipe, which was not really worth making again [for me] but  i dont have any gluten issues as motivation.

the pecan sandies recipe uses just one egg for 2 dozen cookies.  i really identify with the original poster's comments about eggs--i usually buy vegetarian feed/cage-free eggs, so cartons of whites are not an option, not yet.  i think the industry is heading that way though, due to consumer demand.  

i bought the book because i am reducing, NOT eliminating carbs.  i find in many cases, starch, like rice and flour, gives less flavor impact than sugar. although few people seem to know this, complex carbohydrates [even in whole wheat flour and potatoes] affects your blood sugar just as much as ordinary sugar. i think i have benefitted from switching to pistachios instead of pretzels as my go-to snack, but it is an expensive choice, especially as i favor turkish antep pistachios over the huge bland california ones.  it is another example of how much cheaper manufactured junk food is than real nuts and fruit.

 i would love to hear which recipes GrapevineTexas, who did recipe testing for the book, liked the most.

LapLap's picture

"'d need to be extremely focused to commit to this style of cooking.  The co-author has admitted that, despite his motivation, at the point of publication he hadn't been able to and the website we were invited to go to online to learn of his progress over the last few months doesn't make it clear either."

As I mentioned in the first post, I returned this book and didn't keep a note of the website that readers were invited to look at in order to keep a track on Mr Reinhart's progress in incorporating these recipes into his own lifestyle.

Periodically I take a look on the internet to see if there are any reports but never find any.

I'm still curious to learn if it is possible for someone who loves bread and doesn't face an imminent life or death ultimatum which would force the issue to make the change from their current diet to the fake sugar nut flour macarons this book advocates.

I'm open minded about this, but without any indication that the actual co-author has been able to follow through in any meaningful way it is hard not to become sceptical... and I am trying not to. 

Red5's picture

It clearly says in the title the book is for people with Celiac Disease and Diabetes. You state you don't have any of these issues but you want to complain about a book written for a specific group that you are not apart of? Then even worse you return the book in a few hours. How many recipes did you actually try in that time?

Laura T.'s picture
Laura T.

To be fair, I have coeliac disease and I can still see why this isn't a great book. There are much better ways to make gluten free bread than by using a whole box of eggs!

LapLap's picture


The book cover clearly says "80 recipes that offer solutions for Celiac Disease, Diabetes and Weight Loss"

It does not say it is solely for people with celiac disease and diabetes.  

The book also invited me to follow Peter Reinhart's progress.  I am expressing here my interest in taking up Mr Reinhart on this invitation.

In order to try the recipes in the book one also is required to invest a significant amount of money (and pantry space) on a large selection of ingredients someone like me just doesn't have at home.  Surely before making such an investment it would be wise to enquire how that same investment worked out for others.  A co-author solemnly agreed to make his progress public, my latest post isn't a complaint, it's an enquiry - I may very well have missed these promised posts - if the posts weren't made it's worth while knowing why they weren't made.


Here it is:

"As I write these words I can only give a short term progress report and can't promise that I will be able to stay the course.  I haven't cut out carbs completely, but I try to keep them to under 120 grams a day, and I reduced my sugar intake to about 15 grams a day, mainly from fruit.  Within the first three days, I dropped 4 pounds (the easy ones). Better still, my energy level increased and I felt less drowsy after meals.  I'm pleased to say that I am keeping to the plan, continuing to eliminate excess carbs and using the recipes in this book every day to replace the usual breads and desserts i would have previously eaten.  I have a couple of slices of our toasting bread everyday (toasted, of course) - it's my favourite! To confront my carb-heavy job, I take only small bites of students' bread to judge the quality.  You can follow my progress at . My new life has begun."

Except you can't follow the progress.  Which invites the assumption that even the co-author was unable to 'stay the course'.

Laura T.'s picture
Laura T.

This sounds so different from my approach to gf baking. I hate how many eggs a lot of recipes recommend. Most of my favourite formulas I've come up with have been entirely vegan and the ingredients have been natural (no gums, etc). Definitely won't be getting this book!