Nosh On This

September 13, 2013

 

 

Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel's "Nosh on This" (an update of last year's self-published "Gluten Free Canteen's Book of Nosh: Baking for Jewish Holidays & More") is a veritable treasure trove of delicious Jewish-American baked goods like mandelbrot, hamantashen, rugelach, babka, and macaroons rounded out with cupcakes (pumpkin with honey buttercream, dark chocolate cinnamon, cherry chocolate, coconut), donuts, fluffy layer cakes, Danish, éclairs, and Austrian-inspired gems like Sachertorte and Linzer torte. You'll also find several variations of challah and baked savories like kugels, hand pies, latkes, and quiche, as well as homemade confections (peanut butter cups, marshmallows, truffles, and the sinfully delicious coconut matzo rocky road). In addition to being gluten-free, many recipes are dairy-free as well, very handy for those keeping kosher as well as those who are allergic to dairy as well as gluten.

I had eagerly awaited this book as soon as I heard it was coming out; in preparation for marathon baking, I stocked up on white and brown rice flour and tapioca starch. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any local stores selling the recommended Authentic Foods superfine white and brown rice flours and it would have cost me close to $40 to order them online, so I ended up using Bob's Red Mill GF flours. Unlike some GF cookbooks, "Nosh on This" does not use any premixed all-purpose mixes containing starches or stabilizers; the base Nosh flour recipe consists of brown and white rice flours and tapioca starch in a 2-1-1 ratio (given by weight and also volume). Most of the Nosh recipes are (xanthan/guar) gum-free as well; several (particularly the bread recipes) call for Expandex Modified Tapioca Starch to help create the "nice bendy tear" in traditional breads. Many recipes also layer flavor by combining various extracts (vanilla, orange, almond, lemon). In Lisa's words, "Baking gluten-free doesn't have to be taste-free or texture-challenged and whenever possible, use chocolate."

I loved the foreword by Arthur Schwartz (his Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited is a staple in my kitchen) and reading about Lisa's family ("Oy gevalt - you're so skinny. Nosh something. No one ever died eating two desserts. Nosh on this!") and the vintage family photos sprinkled throughout. Each chapter kicks off with handy tips and tricks, and each recipe has a chatty intro that's like sitting down with a cup of coffee and a good friend. There's a great Jewish holiday baking chart that lists all the recipes alphabetically along with which Jewish holidays they are suited for. The font is easy to read, and I liked that recipe substitutions were printed in a lighter font (although it was a tad hard for me to read as it was light grey; light blue or a different color might have been easier to read from a cookbook holder). Instructions are clear, and there are gorgeous color photos for each recipe.

So far I've tried three recipes (Mom's double chocolate gelt, marzipany gooey brownies, and chocolate chunk cherry brownies) and have many more bookmarked (flourless chocolate orange cookies, I'm looking at YOU). I love to bake, but am fairly new to gluten-free baking, so I stuck to familiar territory (baked goods rather than breads; the bread recipes are more complicated than traditional yeast breads as the dough is more fragile and requires careful handling). I'm a chocoholic, and LOVED the double chocolate gelt (next time, I would consider forming the dough into a log, chilling it, rolling it in coarse sugar and slicing it vs. making individual rounds). The brownies were fabulous, especially the marzipan brownies. My only prior experience with GF brownies was from a box mix, and I found it sadly lacking. But these are infused with almondy goodness with the added bonus of mini chocolate chips studded throughout the batter. The macaroons (unlike the recent The Macaroon Bible I reviewed as part of Amazon Vine) are conveniently dairy-free (and thus healthier and lighter than using sweetened condensed milk as a binder). One of these days I will work up the nerve to attempt the chocolate babka (the recipe calls for 28 ingredients and spans two pages)!

This is one of those rare cookbooks where I actually want to make EVERYTHING (usually I count myself lucky if I tag a handful of recipes out of any given cookbook). You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this cookbook; this should be in every baker's kitchen (especially if you are new to a gluten-free diet; this is SO much better than premade GF frozen baked goods or GF boxed mixes!) "Nosh on This" is perfect for those new to (gluten-free) baking; there are plenty of tips, a "411" on frequently-used ingredients, a handy locator list for equipment, ingredients and information, celiac and Jewish baking resources, and the aforementioned Jewish holiday baking chart. This is a blessing for those who are celiac or gluten-intolerant (I count myself in the latter category), or even if you're an experienced (non-GF) baker looking for a challenge and some new, delicious recipes to add to your baking repertoire (I'm eager to try the apple upside-down cake with honey pomegranate syrup for fall). Thank you Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel (and their blog Gluten-Free Canteen) for making the delicious Jewish-American treats of our childhoods accessible once again!

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