I received an advance copy of Cristina Suarez Krumsick’s new book No Bake Makery: More Than 80 Two-Bite Treats Made with Lovin’, Not an Oven to review. Now, those of you that follow me regularly know that baking and Gluten Free Mike do not go together – they are not even remotely compatible. For this reason, I rarely (read, never) review cookbooks that focus on baking. When Cristina’s publisher reached out to me to review the book, I first thought no-way, there has to be an oven required in there somewhere.
Alas, after learning more about the book, there is no oven in sight in any of the recipes. I became instantly fascinated with the concept of being able to make desserts (my favorite food group) without having to deal the stress that, in my life, is known as baking. I would just as soon run out and pay a ridiculous amount for a pre-made baked good than have to wrestle with a recipe and cross my fingers that my oven would not destroy the fruits of my labor.
The book does in fact live up to its title of no baking and is actually one of the most fun and unique cookbooks that I have come across in a very long time. The book itself is divided into seven delicious-looking sections: Truffles (yes, please); Clusters & Bark; Fudge & Bars (hello); Mini Pies & Cakes; Cold Cravings & Pudding; Candy & Cookies; and Breakfast for Dessert. Each recipe is clearly described and makes even this novice “baker” feel like Hey, I can actually do this. There is also a great selection of recipes grouped by major holidays for easy reference.
Now you are probably wondering why on earth a Celiac is reviewing a cookbook that does not have gluten-free in the title? Well, there are a host of gluten-free recipe options throughout the book – all clearly noted. Also, nearly every recipe that I looked at could very easily be made to be gluten-free by merely replacing the gluten-filled ingredient (usually a store-bought cookie) with its gluten-free counterpart.
All of the recipes yield fun-sized small bites that are big on presentation and I personally think that making a range of the small bites paired with some wine or cocktails would make for a fun evening to share with friends.
I also had the opportunity to interview Cristina to find out what was behind the idea to put the “no” in baking:
GFM: What made you decide to include a selection of gluten-free recipes in the book? Is there a personal connection to Celiac disease?
CSK: I have a bunch of friends that are Gluten-Free and I know Celiac is on the rise. I knew from the beginning that it was incredibly important to keep this in mind when putting the book together and actually some of my favorite recipes in the book happen to be GF!
GFM: I know it is like picking a favorite child, but, if you had to pick one recipe from the book, what is your personal favorite and why?
CSK: My favorite is probably the Icebox cakes. They are so yummy and so easy to make your own. You can swap out the cookies and crackers for GF varieties and use GF whipped cream or pudding for the cream layers. No rules with garnishing either! I literally chopped up a snickers bar and threw it on top of an icebox cake this weekend!
GFM: What inspired you to come up with this no-bake concept – where did it all start?
CSK: I have always loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I’m not a big baker but obviously love sweets. When I combined my playful approach in the kitchen and my love for sweets, all of my recipes were naturally no-bake. Baking is way to precise for me!
GFM: Do you actually bake? I saw on your site that you do indeed have an oven at home and you do use it. I was just curious if the no-bake came from an aversion to baking or out of a love for it? I very rarely bake.
CSK: I just love whipping things up on the fly and using whatever is in my pantry to make dessert with. Unless you are a really experienced baker or pastry chef, it’s not easy to do that with baked goods. If you add a little too much of something to your cake mix, it might be totally ruined! What’s so great with no baking is that it can really be as easy or fancy as you want it to be. Mixing cereal and chocolate is a no bake treat but so is a really decadent mini pie or mousse. The range and level of creativity you get with no baking it just so cool and fun!
GFM: What tips would you give to reluctant bakers, like myself, (no-bake or traditional) who feel intimidated when it comes to “baking”?
CSK: Start small with easy stuff like fudge and rice krispie treats and build from there. If you go through a few recipes in the book, you’ll pick up the tricks pretty quickly and be able to come up with you own creations in no time!
GFM: Is there anything else you would like to share about the book or no-baking with my readers? Please feel free.
CSK: Just so honored that you are interested in my book and the concept in general! I’m so excited for people to dive in and no bake! It’s really so fun!
I think that last response really sums it up – desserts and sweets should be fun and thanks to Cristina you can dive right into making the recipes and not have to feel like it is a chore. If you can melt chocolate (something I do exceptionally well) which is likely the most difficult part of any of the recipes than you’ll do just fine. Not to mention that Cristina has a whole section on working with chocolate just in case you need a bit of reassuring.
Best of all, I have a brand spanking new copy of No Bake Makery that the publisher has graciously offered to one of my readers. All you need to do is shoot me an e-mail and you’ll be entered to win. The lucky winner will be selected at random on May 17th. If you just cannot wait and want to purchase a copy, head-on over to Amazon.com where you can pick-up a copy (at a great price at the moment).
Be sure to check out Cristina’s web site and blog to learn more about No Bake Makery (the book and her Brooklyn-based business). She even accepts orders for her sweet treats for special events and parties.