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Alternative Baker cookbook
I am so excited to welcome Alanna Taylor-Tobin of The Bojon Gourmet back to the show today. The last time we talked was over a year ago. And Alanna has been busy working on a bunch of awesome stuff. One thing in particular is her cookbook called, Alternative Baker: Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours. I’m super psyched to have her here today to chat about her labour of love. And to learn about the process of putting her book together.
(*All photos below are Alanna’s.)
On Her Cookbook, Alternative Baker:
I really wanted to write a cookbook about rustic fruit desserts because that’s my favorite way to cook. It’s like using what’s in season and how do you take those perfectly ripe peaches and make them even better than they are on their own? And I’m gluten sensitive so I’ve been playing with different flours for the last decade or so. I think actually the thing that made me really want to write this book was my gluten-free pie dough, which I’m really proud of. It’s so delicious. I just wanted to really highlight that in the book. And how you can create these great flavours and textures from these alternative flours. The publisher was really excited about the alternative flours aspect of it so we sort of put the two together and we came up with this concept of alternative grains and flours, but also seasonal fruits and vegetables. It makes for this really vibrant, colourful, fun cookbook.
In October, it will be two years since the initial e-mail exchange. I started working on the book actually right when we had talked the last time in January of 2015 but it was brand new and I hadn’t told anyone about it yet. I had eight months for the recipes and manuscripts and then an additional month for the photographs after that. And then it was tying up things and doing editing. Then it’s been at the printer being printed.
So it will be almost two years from start to finish.
On Creating a Cookbook for All Skill Levels:
I didn’t really think about that at first. The thing that really made that become important to me was when I started sending my recipes out to testers. I ended up with I think 60 or 80 recipe testers, just volunteers or friends or readers. I really wanted to get each recipe tested by at least two different people because gluten-free baking is so finicky. And so I just really wanted to make sure at least two people could make each recipes before they went into print and went out to the masses.
When the testers started making these recipes I really realized like, this isn’t just a hypothetical person who I don’t know, who’s anonymous and who buys the book years in the future. This is my teacher from pastry school making this or this is an old friend of mine, this is a reader who I have a nice rapport with. I want to make this recipe really easy for them and make it as good as possible, and as streamlined as possible. I realized I was already asking a lot for people to go find these obscure flours to use and also seasonal produce that maybe was not in season or was hard to find. So I started to try to simplify things.
On an Instant Household Classic for a Beginner:
I have a few recipes. And actually, I have a full section in the book that lists the simpler recipes or the more complex ones. If you’re a flour child, F-L-O-U-R, then you can make these simpler recipes that don’t use many flours or these easy to find flours. Up to you. If you’re a grainiac then you can make these crazy recipes with more obscure flours. And so one recipe is a brownie recipe that is adopted from Alice Medrich who’s the goddess of baking, gluten-free baking and alternative flour baking. And her brownie recipe is just…it’s amazing. You whip the eggs with the sugar so you get the light and airy, but they’re really dense and fudgy, and chocolate-y at the same time. But it’s totally easy to make and you can use pretty much any flour in there. There’s so much chocolate and eggs to stick it together. The ones in my book have chestnut flour in them. It makes an extra earthy, rich brownie with this delicious buttery texture.
On Probably the Most Challenging Recipe in the Cookbook:
There is one recipe. I think it’s probably the most challenging recipe in the book. And it’s not necessarily hard to make. But it’s just sort of a pain in the butt. And it’s this trifle… When you make a chiffon cake, just add like a citrus flavor in the chiffon cake… And the chiffon cake is like, it’s just really easy to make. It just takes a little bit of technique that you have to whip the egg whites and then fold them into the batter so you have to know how to do that. And then you make a Zabaglione… Zabaglione is such an annoying dessert because first you have eight egg yolks and what are you going to do with those egg whites. That’s annoying just to begin with. And you put sugar and I put Lillet Blanc in it. It’s that aperitif…It’s a wine base that has these citrus, honey flavors in it. So delicious. So you put that with the egg yolks and then sugar. And you put it in a hot water bath. You have to whisk it and you have… You’re sweating and there’s steam coming up from the pot and it’s burning you, you have to just keep whipping and whipping, mixing by hand with the whisk until it get’s really frothy. And then you have to chill it. Then you have to fold heavy cream into it. It’s such a pain to make it but it’s just like nothing else. It’s just this super silky, fluffy, light sort of custard that is layered with the chiffon cake and soaked with more citrus juice and more Lillet, and then layered with winter citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruits and tangerines. It’s this amazing really impressive looking dessert. But it’s really a pain to make.
On a Surprising Challenge That was Different From Blogging:
The thing that snuck up on me was that when I’m photographing for my blog, first of all, I do those process shots. And so I get to warm up…you don’t just go sprint out the door. You stretch and you start slowly and work up to it. When shooting for my blog, I realized shooting these process shots was kind of a warm up to get the final beauty shots at the end. And then with the book, it was only the finished shot. It kind of surprised me how much it helps me when I’m shooting for my blog to have this warm up period to the beauty shot. Also, just being creative under pressure was really hard for me.
With my blog, it’s free content, it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. But, with the book, it kind of put the fear in me. First of all, there was this intense deadline – all these other people are waiting on. For my blog if don’t post one week it doesn’t matter really. No one’s mad at me. For the book they had this deadline and I had to try to be creative and really think on my feet and just come up with interesting shots. At first I felt paralyzed. Because it was just so different and it just felt really difficult.
On If We Can Expect More Cookbooks in the Future:
I think I’m crazy enough to do this thing again. I don’t have kids but I would imagine, your first kid, is like you have no idea what you are doing.
It would be nice to do a second book to apply all of those things first of all. But also I love the whole process, making all these recipes that all fit together. For the blog, I do that to some extent on the blog, but it’s not the same as like having it all together in a book and pulling all these different influences and flavors and everything and having it all come together into a book. That was really satisfying and I’d love to do that again.
On How to Get our Hands on Alternative Baker:
Well it comes out September 13th. And it can be preordered through anywhere. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore, Books-a-Million, any retailers of books you can preorder it. And if you want to find out more about the book you can go to alternativebaker.com and that’s my cookbook page. I talk all about the book there.