Friday, December 16, 2011

Gluten-Free Cupcakes (Elana Amsterdam)

It's another week, which means another cookbook review here at No Gluten, No Problem. (There appears to be no end in sight, as we have at least four more books in the queue following today's post!)

Yesterday was National Cupcake Day, and so today we're focusing on Gluten-Free Cupcakes by Elana Amsterdam. She's the popular blogger over at Elana's Pantry. We crossed paths with Elana a few years back, when we were both presenters at the Gluten-Free Culinary Summit in Denver, and would carpool to and from Boulder County, where we both lived at the time. (Elana still does. We obviously don't since we're in New York now.)

Today's write-up is a bit different than ones we've done in recent weeks. We're recusing ourselves from a formal review. As far as I can tell, there are only two cookbooks on the market dedicated solely to gluten-free cupcakes: Elana's and ours (Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes). Not only that, but the books coincidentally were officially released within 5 weeks of each other earlier this year, and both contain recipes for 50 cupcakes. Did we just enter the gluten-free cupcake Twilight Zone?

Clearly, there'd be a bit of a conflict of interest. No matter how objective we might try to be—or even claim to be—I think some readers would quite reasonably question whether we had any bias in writing the review. If we wrote a review we couldn't fault anyone for wondering if there was a bit of "Buy our cookbook! It's great!" in there, whether we said it literally or if it was hidden between the lines. So we're not going to go there.

But we didn't want to flat out ignore Elana or her beautiful book. Elana and us bring different perspectives to gluten-free baking. I like to think of our approaches as complementary. If you're a fan of Elana, her blog, and her previous cookbook, you'll likely love her cupcake book. Ditto for us—if you like this blog, and our previous cookbook, you'll likely love our cupcake book, too.

We realize that, for most kitchens, one cookbook on gluten-free cupcakes is enough. Unless you're an obsessive cookbook collector (or a really big fan of cupcakes), you're not going to buy both books. For those of you wondering, "What's the difference between them?" we thought we'd offer a side-by-side comparison, a tale of the tape. (Or in this case, a tale of the cake...)

Here's how the books size up:

Title Gluten-Free Cupcakes Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes
Author Elana Amsterdam Kelli and Peter Bronski
# Cupcakes 50 50
# Frostings 14 33
# Photos 16 pics of 20 cupcakes, plus a few "collages" 50 pics of 50 cupcakes, plus some step-by-step sequences
Flours Used Almond and Coconut Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend (whole grain brown rice flour, whole grain sorghum flour, cornstarch, potato starch, potato flour, xanthan gum)
Sweetener Agave nectar, Some stevia Sugar, plus appendix with instructions for refined-sugar-free with agave or brown rice syrup
Other diets? Many dairy-free recipes, Some vegan Appendix with detailed ingredient subs for dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan
Cupcake categories classic; chocolate; fruity; warm and spiced; special occasion; savory treats; frostings, fillings and toppings classics; fruity; nutty; chocoholic; sweet surprises; old faithfuls; extraordinary
Classic flavors in both chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, mocha, chocolate peanut butter, banana split, pina colada, pumpkin spice, German chocolate cake
Unique flavors ice cream cone, savory muffins (i.e. scallion goat cheese), fallen chocolate souffle, vanilla fig, orange rosemary strawberry shortcake, hazelnutty, s'mores, caramel apple pie, jelly donut, fruit tart, snickerdoodle, cannoli, tiramisu, poached pearfection

And so there you have it. Happy National Cupcake Day! (One day late...)

- Pete


Amanda on Maui said...

I think both books are fantastic. With my recent intolerance to xanthan gum Elana's book works out easier for me right now. However, I think I should be able to make your cupcakes without it. The easier thing with her book is that it's only two flours, whereas with yours I have to mix up a blend of many flours.

I've thoroughly enjoyed cupcakes from both books, and I intend to use them both. It would be interesting to try to combine some of the recipes, at least in terms of flavors.

peterbronski said...

Hi Amanda... Thanks for your compliments! So glad you've enjoyed both books. And thanks for sharing your experience with them and your perspective on what's most appealing to you. Always value your feedback!

Cheers, Pete

Sherri said...

I think your review was very fair and I wouldn't have thought you biased at all.

I won Elana's cookbook earlier in the year (from Shirley at GFE) and have enjoyed the few recipes I made from it. I also love the ease of one or two flours since I'm not much of a homemade cooking kind of person.

I appreciate your reviews more than you know! I have 2 GF cookbooks on the shelf now that I just never use because of so many ingredients. I like easy!

peterbronski said...

Hi Sherri... Glad to hear you've been enjoying Elana's book!

Cheers, Pete