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Cookbook Club: Baked to Perfection
Zero gluten + a little bit of science = crave worthy recipes for everyone.
Katarina Cermelj began her gluten-free baking journey while studying Chemistry at Oxford University. Her thirst for research and craving for chocolate means that she’s done all the hard work for us in unlocking the science behind delicious desserts that just happen to contain zero gluten.
Kat, also know as the @loopywhisk, fully believes that gluten-free recipes aren’t “just as good” as the “real thing”, but are gooey and decadent and flaky and tender while being gluten-free, not despite of it.
Are you gluten intolerant or know someone that is? Or do you just love incredible bakes? It doesn’t matter- Baked to Perfection is for everyone! Kat provides a pinch of science for those that want to gain valuable knowledge about protein content, water absorption capacity, and more (plus loads of fun illustrations that help explain along the way). If not, take the shortcut to delicious-town and flip straight to her foolproof recipes. From her Lemon Drizzle Cake and Cheesecake Brownies to Brioche Doughnuts and Crusty Loaves, this is truly the only gluten-free baking book you’ll ever need.
Tessa Huff: Why did you decide to write this book?
Katarina Cermelj: To show people that gluten-free food isn't "almost as good" or "just as good" as the "real thing". Gluten-free food is delicious and fun in its own right. It is the real thing. I know that having to restrict one's diet can making baking and eating a bit of a chore and I wanted my book to help people regain their enthusiasm for food.
TH: Which recipe should readers try first? Or which has become a stand-out recipe with readers so far?
KC: The Bread chapter has been the most popular one for sure, since bread is pretty much the holy grail of gluten-free baking. So far, fan favourites have been the Proper Boiled & Baked Bagels, the Super Soft Sandwich Bread and, of course, the pizza.
My personal favourites are the Salted-Caramel-Stuffed Brownies and the Coffee Coffee Coffee Cupcakes – the coffee caramel centre and the cappuccino frosting are just divine.
TH: Can you name a must-have ingredient or signature flavor that you use in your recipes often? Or do you think there is special quality about your recipes or writing that readers can identify as being uniquely yours?
KC: Chocolate. There's no doubt about it – if there's a way of adding chocolate into a recipe, I'll find it. Otherwise, I just try to stuff as much information into my recipes as possible, including interesting and useful science-y tidbits that explain why the recipes actually work. I think having an understanding of the ingredients, their interactions and the various techniques is incredibly important for consistent success and also confidence in the kitchen.
TH: What keeps you inspired and creative in the kitchen?
KC: As odd as it may sound: attempting difficult, not-sure-whether-this-will-work kind of recipes. I'm at my most creative when I take on rather difficult recipes like gluten-free phyllo pastry or gluten-free croissants...though admittedly, the croissants are still giving me trouble. I just love analysing and dissecting recipes and techniques, and pushing the boundaries of what I consider possible. And usually, a breakthrough with one recipe then causes an avalanche of other ideas, which is always incredibly exciting.
TH: What were you listening to or reading at the time of writing this book?
KC: Mostly just random, upbeat playlists on Spotify. Hah, I do remember playing a lot of Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" whenever a recipe was giving me unreasonable amounts of trouble!
TH: Walk into a reader’s home and where can you find your book? Displayed on a coffee table, next to the bed for late-night studying, or splattered with batter in the kitchen?
KC: Hopefully liberally splattered with batter and frosting. I basically want this book to become like a nerdy friend in the kitchen, that always has the answers to questions or problems. If there's one thing I want readers to take away from my book is to never stop questioning and analysing recipes and thinking about WHY they work. I find the science of baking, and especially gluten-free baking, endlessly fascinating and I hope I've managed to capture that.
TH: What is one important key to success for home bakers wanting to try new recipes?
KC: Read the whole recipe thoroughly before you begin, think about why certain ingredients or steps are crucial to the recipe actually working, and use a kitchen scale! I really can't over-emphasize that last one: especially with gluten-free flour blends, their densities vary hugely between brands so 1 cup of one might weigh 120g, whereas 1 cup of another might weigh 150g, and that's a HUGE difference.
Know someone that is gluten intolerant or just loves chocolate cake? Please consider sharing this newsletter!
Super-Moist Chocolate Cake
Rich, moist, and so so chocolatey! Is the taste and texture identical to my moist chocolate cake? Not exactly. But is it insanely delicious anyways? You bet! Would I know that it didn’t have gluten if someone made it for me? Probably not.
The point is, this chocolate cake is amazing - and not just for a gluten-free cake. It is amazing in its own right - fluffy fudge frosting and all. I can detect the almond flour for its slight chew, but that is not a negative, in my opinion. - Tessa Huff
280g dark chocolate (60–70% cocoa solids), chopped
200g unsalted butter
250g caster/superfine sugar
4 UK medium/US large eggs, room temperature
160g gluten-free flour blend
80g almond flour
40g Dutch processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ tsp salt
120g hot water
120g warm milk
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and line two 8 inch (20 cm) round cake tins with baking paper.
In a heat-proof bowl above a pot of simmering water, melt the dark chocolate and butter together. Set aside to cool until warm, then add the sugar and eggs, and mix well.
Sift together the gluten-free flour blend, almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt, and add them to the chocolate mixture. Mix well until you get a smooth batter with no flour clumps.
Add the hot water and milk. Whisk well until combined.
Divide the cake batter equally between the prepared cake tins and bake for about 35–40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the cake tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
600g unsalted butter, softened
400g icing/powdered sugar
100g Dutch processed cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
300g dark chocolate (60–70% cocoa solids), melted and cooled
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or using a hand mixer with the double beaters, beat the butter for 2–3 minutes. Sift in the icing/powdered sugar and beat for a further 5 minutes until pale and fluffy.
Add the cocoa powder and salt, and beat until evenly distributed.
Add in the melted and cooled chocolate and beat until you get a rich, smooth chocolate buttercream.
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
If the sponges are domed, level them using a sharp, serrated knife.
Place the bottom sponge layer on a cake stand and spread a generous layer of buttercream on top, but leave enough buttercream for the outside of the cake. Sandwich using the other sponge layer, turned so that its bottom faces upwards. This will give the cake a nice, flat surface for decoration.
Use the remaining chocolate buttercream to frost the outside of the cake. Decorate the cake by creating swirls of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
The cake can last 3–4 days in an air-tight container or wrapped in cling film in a cool dry place or the fridge. If you keep the cake in the fridge, leave it out at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.
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