“Babka” is the meanest word you could utter to someone on a gluten-free diet. In most parts of the world, it’s impossible to find the yeasty cake, let alone a gluten-free version.
Lisa Stander Horel and Tim Horel are bringing babka back to the gluten-free set with their new cookbook, Nosh on This. The must-have book includes an extensive introduction with information about the particulars of gluten-free baking. They harp on the importance of measuring ingredients by weight, and for good reason: substitutions by cup measure yield an inferior product. They insist on using superfine flours for your all-purpose baking mix because they tolerate grit just about as well as they tolerate gluten.
The Horels don’t want you, bubbele, to bake any gluten-free good that falls short of delicious. They even offer to help you, via email, if you follow one of their recipes and it doesn’t turn out. If we think of being a Member of the Tribe as automatic inclusion in a tight-knit family, gluten-free MOTs are an even smaller and closer bunch. The warmth of that community comes through on the pages of Nosh on This; Lisa’s bubbe feels like our collective bubbe. And luckily the Horels have codified bubbe’s recipe collection (oral or written) into this gorgeously photographed book.
Don’t be fooled by the heymish tone, though: this book is sophisticated. The recipes tend towards the challenging, although the introduction’s informative baking primer makes the book appropriate for all levels of experience. You might not want to start with the Dark Chocolate Raspberry Sachertorte — save it for the veteran bakers — but they’ve demystified the basics so you’ll be eating their Kichlach and Black and White Cookies in no time.
In that vein, the book’s greatest asset is that it makes the gluten-free baker feel like anything is possible. Gluten-free folks have had enough of macaroons and gritty brownies. (And there are plenty of macaroon recipes in the book if you haven’t had enough.) With Nosh on This, the gluten-intolerant can enjoy the Jewish treats that were previously off-limits because there were just no gluten-free versions. Say hello to gluten-free Chocolate Almond Rugelach!
Nosh on This doesn’t skimp on indulgence. Within the confines of a gluten-free (and sometimes dairy-free) diet, the book focuses on mental health over physical health. Think lots of chocolate, whipped cream, and butter. The gluten-free eater won’t mind. These recipes are worth it.