The moment Kelli and Peter Bronski’s new book, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes (The Experiment, $16.95, 272 pages) hit my mailbox, I knew I was in for a weekend of baking. Since I’ve had great success with recipes from the Bronski’s first book, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, I suspected they set the bar high on this one as well. I was right.
In this collection of 50 appealing recipes, cupcakes are divided among several enticing categories: classics, fruity, nutty, chocoholic, sweet surprises, old faithfuls, and extraordinary. The cakes are based on the painstakingly developed “artisan gluten-free flour blend”, a successful blend in terms of both taste and texture. The blend, a combination of brown rice, sorghum, and potato flours along with cornstarch, potato starch, and xanthan gum, includes substitutions for readers sensitive to most of those ingredients.
In addition to the recipes, the book instigates helpful discussions on the various types of cakes and frostings, tools and ingredients, decorating and pastry bag tips, and general secrets of gluten-free baking. An easy-to-follow table clearly maps out ingredient substitutions for those with other dietary restrictions, such as refined sugar, dairy-free, egg-free, or vegan lifestyles. Although it’s simply presented, I can only imagine the effort involved in creating a substitution chart of this magnitude, proving the Bronski’s dedication to all their readers, not just those who are gluten free.
One thing I love about these recipes is how they highlight the main ingredient in both the cake AND the frosting, providing reinforcement of the flavor profile. My initial baking bonanza included the cherry vanilla cupcakes and the mocha cupcakes, each paired with an Italian buttercream that mimicked those flavors. Both cakes were moist with a tender crumb and amazing taste; the cherry vanilla dotted with bit of fresh cherries, the mocha rich with the classic combination of chocolate and coffee.
Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes employs several general types of frostings (buttercream, cream cheese, ganache, whipped creams, glazes), customized to match the personality of each cupcake. I just so happened to choose recipes that each called for Italian buttercream, a somewhat involved process I had never attempted before. (Baking is not my specialty.) Luckily the book offers step-by-step instructions–with photos–on making the buttercream. I actually found the process quite satisfying up until the last second when my buttercream broke. (“Broke” refers to a separation of ingredients, leaving the mixture looking like scrambled eggs.) I knew this must be due to a temperature discrepancy, but wrongly guessed the mixture was too warm, so I put it in the fridge. After a bit of research, I discovered it was actually too cold. I dipped the mixing bowl in a larger bowl of hot water, remixed the frosting at high speed, and ended up with a gorgeous, silky buttercream. After tasting the frosting, it was admittedly well worth the effort, although I would have benefited from that one extra instruction on fixing a broken cream.
I assembled my 48 little beauties and carted them off to a friend’s house for the ultimate test of gluten-free cupcakes: serving them to a crowd entirely made up of gluten eaters (except for me). I chose to withhold the details of the cupcakes’ gluten-free status because, frankly, I think it’s a fun little game. As anticipated, the cupcakes disappeared within minutes, followed by the highest praise. I revealed my secret (yes, they were gluten-free cupcakes!), took pleasure in the stunned surprise, and returned home with my empty tray.
Baking from Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes is an invitation to make something special for your family and friends using the highest quality ingredients. Some of the recipes take a bit more time than others, but that’s the point. I think you’ll find Kelli and Peter Bronski met their goal of creating a full roster of delicious, beautifully crafted cupcakes. I’m sure you will enjoy them!