Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef

By Shauna James Ahern & Daniel Ahern

Cookbook review courtesy of contributing writer
Andrea Savard

Gluten-Free Crackers/Pizza

RATING: 4 out of 5 (dough easy to work with, results tasted great)

THE TEST: As any good celiac will tell you, there are a few recipes for baking that are all important to living happily without wheat: hassle-free cake, pie, and bread recipes, but above all an easy pizza crust recipe. You can buy all of the above gluten-free items premade and frozen, or prepackaged mixed flours at most grocery stores, but I have yet to find premade or premixed pizza dough that competes with nice yeast raised, hand rolled dough crust made from scratch.

As I am always on the lookout for new pizza crust recipes, I was excited to try out the one in Shauna and Daniel’s Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

THE RESULTS: The book lists this recipe as a cracker recipe which can be substituted for pizza dough. As a cracker recipe it fits the bill and resulted in crisp, flavourful crackers that go great alongside soups or charcuterie. The dough rose up nicely after it sat near the warming stove for an hour. It rolled out like a dream, not super sticky like other gluten-free dough. It cooked up in the oven with nice air bubbles and crisp, golden edges. You can also add any type of spice to the dough. I used a touch of basil, pepper and garlic, and it was delicious, especially just out of the oven with a slice of Manchengo cheese. But as I was biting into the cracker I couldn’t imagine it as a pizza crust I would enjoy. I liked the ease of the ingredients (which are basics that all gluten-free bakers should have in their pantry), and the cornstarch and corn flour gave the dough a nuttiness and lightness that I haven’t found in other recipes.

However, I decided to tweak this recipe as it was just too crunchy and crackly for my pizza tastes. I added all the dry ingredients listed, but to the wet ingredients I added two lightly beaten egg whites, and used 1/4 cup less water than called for in the recipe. The egg whites acted as a leavening agent to the dough and gave it more structure and chewiness. I have used this altered version of the recipe several times in the past few months, and even my gluten eater friends enjoyed it and were surprised that it was gluten-free. This recipe is a keeper as it is easy to make, holds together well, and yields four 9” x 13” pizza crusts.

That being said, I will continue to scour gluten-free cookbooks looking for other pizza dough recipes that can top this one.

For a copy of the recipe for Gluten-Free Pizza, please click HERE

Fresh Gluten-Free Pasta

RATING: 3 out of 5 (tasted good but dough’s workability frustrating)

THE TEST: Prior to testing this recipe I had never attempted making gluten-free pasta from scratch. For some reason it always seemed too daunting, plus it’s just too easy to buy the Tinkyada dry pasta noodles at the grocery store, boil it and throw on some sauce…effortless dinner! But this winter I was all about the dough and thought that I was finally up for the challenge. Fresh wheat pasta is delicious and comforting so I was curious to see what gluten-free pasta made with my own two hands could yield.

Again the recipe was very simple; the only thing I needed to pick up was quinoa flour. The recipe calls for 6 eggs (well 2 whole eggs, and 4 egg yolks from large eggs – save the egg whites for the pizza dough). NOTE: Shauna and Daniel created this recipe through trial by error, testing more than 15 different recipes in search of the correct combination for this pasta recipe.

I felt this recipe was overly elastic and really tough to roll out. In fact, after three or four honest attempts at rolling it out only to have it fight me and bounce back to the smallest little circle of dough, I ended up rolling up the bowl of dough, wrapped it in plastic wrap and threw it in the freezer out of frustration.

THE RESULTS: After a few days – when my temper finally cooled off – I defrosted the pasta dough ball and to my surprise it was willing to be a bit more workable! I rolled it out into three separate balls. The first one I cut by hand into one-inch ribbons and threw in boiling water. The dough held together well and cooked up el dente in a few short minutes, and happily it stood up well under the traditional tomato sauce. I could imagine using this recipe with a nice cream based pasta sauce, or a simple olive oil, garlic and caper sauce as well. Yum.

I also used this dough to make ravioli (I made my own filling but there is a Smoked Duck Breast Ravioli recipe on page 130) however I found that the ravioli opened up and unleashed the filling once I placed them in the boiling water – even though I followed directions and pressed down and even tamped the edges with a fork. I will use this pasta recipe again as it did taste good, but I probably won’t use it for ravioli unless I buy a pasta machine that can enclose the ravioli pockets with a bit more force than I could do by hand.

Warm Rice Salad

RATING: 5 out of 5 (a bowl full of my favourite things!)

THE TEST: There is something undeniably satisfying about eating a salad in the winter months that is not comprised just of leafy lettuce. This recipe is full of hearty ingredients, including red rice, seeds, artichokes, avocados, wild mushrooms and tomatoes – all of my favorite things in one big bowl!

THE RESULTS: This salad is a great example of what I love about the recipes that Shauna has to offer in this book and on her blog; a rice salad re-invented. The flavors are warm, nutty, and savory, with a bit of tang from the wine vinegar & Dijon mustard dressing (she calls for champagne vinegar, but I just used regular wine vinegar). The recipe also calls for fresh artichokes but canned artichokes hearts (or bottoms) cut up in cubes work just as well. This recipe was so easy to throw together, and is a filling option to take for lunch or eat as a simple dinner served on its own or with barbecued chicken breasts. It would also pair perfectly with the Black Cod in Black Rice Flour recipe on page 215.