A while back I received a complimentary copy of Sweet Cravings: 50 Seductive Desserts for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle (Ten Speed Press 2013) written by Kyra Bussanich. You may have heard of Kyra, since she is the first gluten-free baker to win The Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. She is also the owner of an all gluten-free bakery called Kyra’s Bake Shop (formerly Crave Bake Shop) in Portland, Oregon. I do not review all the cookbooks I receive, some of them just aren’t a good fit my lifestyle, and my type of baking, and I end up just passing those along to my local library. However, when I paged through Sweet Cravings, I knew it was a book I wanted to share with you. I say this because, reading through the recipes, this is a book that I could have written. The 50 recipes included in the book, of which a lot are indulgent desserts, are written up using individual flours – the flours I already stock in my pantry. Kyra has a passion for baking and making delicious baked goods – not good for gluten-free, but just good – the same way I strive to create delicious gluten-free recipes for you here on my blog. Paging through the book, and seeing recipes for Espresso Scones, Eggnog Cupcakes, and Apple Crisp, I knew this is a book that you would enjoy as well.
Kyra, who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu’s Patisserie and Baking program after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder which resulted in having to live a gluten-free life, has taken what she learned from the science of baking, and translated it to gluten-free baking. I asked Kyra a few questions about her training, her appearance on Cupcake Wars, and her bakery.
Me – How did you manage to attend. and graduate from, Le Cordon Bleu’s Patisserie and Baking program without being able to taste any of the food you were making?
Kyra – Just be being around all the flour and working with it every day, I was sick a lot and missed quite a bit of school. But it just made me more determined to create delicious gluten-free pastries that I could safely eat!
Me – You are educated as a pastry chef. What similarities are there between traditional pastry baking and gluten-free baking? What are the primary differences?
Kyra – Just like with exceptional gluten-free baking, pastry chefs don’t just rely on one all-purpose flour for every product: they have a high-gluten flour for chewy items like bagels, and a pastry flour for tender pie crusts. I used my knowledge of the protein content of the different flours that traditional pastry chefs would use to tailor my gluten-free flour blends for the different products I make. The biggest difference is that when you’re baking gluten-free, you can’t just scoop one ingredient (flour) for cookies or a cake and be done. For best results, you really do need to have a blend of flours and starches, as well as a binder of some sort. I think baking gluten-free is way more scientific than baking with “regular” flour.
Me – Are there any traditional baked goods that you have not been able to create a gluten-free version of (yet)?
Kyra – Baklava made with Phyllo dough! I want to make baklava and apple strudel and all sorts of phyllo desserts and I’ve found it extremely difficult to get a dough that you can roll paper thin, without ripping.
Me – Does the challenge of baking gluten-free provide more satisfaction than traditional baking would?
Kyra – Absolutely. When I have a success, there’s this sense of accomplishment, like I’ve surmounted an incredible obstacle! That’s pretty exhilarating, and then you couple that with feeding people and bringing people together to restore their family traditions and celebrations, and I get a warm glowy feeling!
Me – What inspired your winning cupcake flavour combination for Cupcake Wars?
Kyra – I draw inspiration from all around me and think on my feet very well; I’m also able to adapt to a situation on the fly if I am trying something and it is not proving to be successful (like with the African Yam cupcake, which was originally going to have tamarind in it, but when that didn’t work out as intended, I swapped out the tamarind and coconut for coffee and clove.)
Me – Currently, what is the best seller in your bakery?
Kyra – Oh my gosh… best sellers at the bakery: our housemade icecream sandwiches, our cinnamon rolls, our Cupcakes Wars Winning cupcakes (of which there is 15 flavors) and anything new or with my salted caramel on it.
Since I had a bag of apples from my Mom’s apple tree to use up, I decided to make Kyra’s gluten free Apple Crisp. We really loved the spice combination, as well as how nice and crisp the topping became when baked. I also tried out one of my new-to-me toys, an all-in-one apple peeler, corer, slicer that I bought used for $3.50. Best score ever! Mine is LIKE THIS ONE, and although I had my doubts about how well it would work, I was amazed. The kids are begging for apples now just so we can use “the new apple toy”. 🙂
- 6 large tart apples (Pippins or Granny Smith)
- 1/3 cup sugar or 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- generous pinch salt
- 3 tablespoons cold butter
- 1/2 cup sweet white rice flour
- 1/2 cup millet flour
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 1 cup packed golden brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup gluten-free oats
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Peel, core, and slice the apples into 1/4-inch slices. Put the apple slices into a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Add the tapioca starch, cinnamon five-spice, ginger, and salt and toss together to evenly coat the apple slices.
- Pour into a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, dot the top with pieces of the butter and set aside.
- To make the topping, combine the flours, tapioca starch, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, five-spice, and ginger in a mixing bowl. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix in the butter until it is uniformly incorporated into the flour mixture. stir in the oats and pecans.
- Crumble the oat topping evenly over the apples. Bake until the topping is golden brown and set and the apples are warm and bubbly, 55 to 60 minutes.
- You can prepare everything ahead of time. Refrigerate the apple filling and keep the topping frozen until ready to assemble and bake. Don't refrigerate the unbaked topping overnight, as the millet flour will interact with the butter and taste and smell cheesy when it's baked.
Reprinted with permission from Sweet Cravings: 50 Seductive Desserts for a Gluten-Free Lifestyle by Kyra Bussanich (Ten Speed Press, © 2013).
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