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story.lead_photo.caption The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook Volume 2, from America’s Test Kitchen

The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook Volume 2, from America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, $26.95) Volume 1 of this cookbook, released in March 2014, was my favorite gluten-free cookbook of all time. It is tattered and worn and in need of replacing. Volume 2 may afford Volume 1 the well-deserved rest it needs. This is a good cookbook.

Gluten-Free Girl American Classics Reinvented, by Shauna James Ahern

Overall, I was pleased with the recipes in the book with one notable exception. In an attempt to best Volume 1's brownie recipe, Volume 2 debuted a lunchbox

brownie recipe. They really should have left well enough alone. Lunchbox brownies were a failure -- dry, dense and gritty. By removing the melted chocolate and replacing it with Dutch-processed cocoa, the authors ruined the recipe.

Other revamps included a pie crust recipe with an additional tablespoon of water (wonderful) and the addition of a whole-grain gluten-free flour blend to complement the tried and true all-purpose mix. The orange chicken was a bit labor intensive but totally worth it. I would really love to see America's Test Kitchen come out with a complete gluten-free Asian cuisine book. The orange chicken will compete with the drunk noodles recipe from Volume 1 in our most-requested dinner recipes. As to be expected, the Test Kitchen delivers. Buy this book with confidence, give this book as a gift with pride.

Gluten-Free Girl American Classics Reinvented, by Shauna James Ahern (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99). I really wanted to like this book. When reviewing gluten-free cookbooks, I always start with the bread. Bread is the Holy Grail for those living without gluten and if the bread recipe is off, the rest of the recipes are usually similarly skewed.

The first time I made the sandwich bread, it tasted horrible. Admittedly, I may have used stale almond flour, so I bought all new ingredients and tried again. The second time was better. To be fair, the bread texture was really good; however, the loaf fell in the middle and it still had a faint indescribable unpleasant aftertaste. I switched gears and tried the gingersnaps and they had the same weird aftertaste. I'm not sure which flour is to blame but it was distracting. Nearly all of the recipes call for psyllium husks and, unfortunately, this ingredient is not tolerated well by everyone, including my gluten-free partner-in-crime. One taste tester down, I soldiered on and was continually disappointed. As has been noted by other reviewers, some of the moisture requirements for the recipes are way off. For many a home cook, the expensive flour blends and the requirement that one weigh all ingredients in grams may be too much to ask, especially when recipes fail.

In addition, many of the recipes that one would really want to make on the spur of the moment (i.e. chocolate chip cookies) have extended wait times before cooking. I was disappointed to find when I reached the end of the chocolate chip cookie recipe that they have to sit in the refrigerator for three days (!) before baking. But I have to admit, after three days in the fridge that cookie dough actually made the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.

If you are an experienced cook you may be able to "play" with the recipes (as the author encourages) and get better results, but if you are looking for something with reliable, predictable recipes that perform when prepared to the letter, this is not your book. I will keep and use this book because I can play, pull and tweak these recipes to make them work for me, but the idea is that a book should work straight off the shelf. And this one doesn't.

Food on 12/16/2015

Print Headline: 2 no-gluten books: 1 easy, 1 no picnic

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