Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Hannah Kaminsky's Blondies and Brownies

When Hannah Kaminsky of BitterSweet asked me if I'd like to review her new ebook, Blondies and Brownies, I made sure I had permission to modify her recipes in order to make them gluten-free. Since different gluten-free flour blends yield drastically different results, your success with these recipes may vary.

I began with the Double-Chip Peanut Blondies (though mine were actually single-chip: vegan white chocolate chips get expensive when you have to pay shipping and handling). To replace Hannah's all purpose flour, I mixed three cups' worth of Gluten Frida Mix from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, which amounted to a little more than three cups of rice, tapioca, almond, and quinoa flours, plus some ground flax seed. I added one and a half teaspoons of xanthan gum for good measure.

Because of the xanthan gum and my bulky flour blend, the final batter was almost too thick to mix; I had to add a quarter cup of water. After 35 minutes in the oven, the brownies smelled like roasted peanuts, and the edges were dark. I allowed them to cool for several hours, but when I finally attempted to slice them, I wished I'd waited: everything underneath the top crust still resembled a thick batter. The next day the blondies were perfectly sliceable; you really do need to wait until they're completely cooled.

These blondies have a great sweet and salty peanut flavor, with highlights of gooey melted chocolate. The recipe calls for unsweetened apple butter, and because mine was heavy on the cinnamon, that flavor shone through, too. Next time I make these, I'll use a lighter gluten-free flour blend.

Next I tried the Browned Butter Pecan Praline Blondies. These fancy things require some planning ahead: you have to make candied pecans (the recipes calls for a microwave, but my stovetop worked just fine), and the browned "butter" needs a few hours in the fridge to solidify.

This time I used a Self-Rising Flour Blend from Living Without magazine, a mix of sorghum, rice, and tapioca flour with xanthan gum and baking powder. Gluten-free baking tends to be dense, so I figured the extra leavening wouldn't hurt. The batter was thinner, with a consistency that seemed just about right for brownies. Unfortunately, after 40 minutes in the oven the edges of the batter were dark brown while the center still jiggled. I thought maybe the brownies would firm up overnight, but the next day they were still sticky and uncooked and had to be thrown away. Maybe the flour mixture was wrong for this recipe, or maybe it required more time in the oven at a lower temperature. Not all gluten-free flour blends are created equal, and in this case my misguided choice ruined an afternoon's baking.

Though I had a freezer full of peanut butter blondies and a trashcan full of pecan goo, there was still one more recipe I wanted to try: German Chocolate Brownies. They were a good candidate for de-glutenizing, since the recipe called for one cup of coconut flour, one and a half of cocoa powder, and only one cup of all-purpose flour. This time, I used a version of Karina Allrich's Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix, a blend of brown rice and quinoa flours, cornstarch, and xanthan gum.

The brownies turned out incredibly rich and almost as dense as fudge (there's no leavening agent, so I assume this was intentional, and not the fault of my flour). They're deep, dark chocolate with a hint of cinnamon. The topping, made with coconut milk, margarine, shredded coconut, and toasted pecans, is easy to whip up and hard to resist. I could have eaten it all with a spoon, but I dutifully spread it across the brownies. After a few hours, these cut into squares easily.

These recipes are just a sample of what you'll find in Hannah's ebook. She takes the concept of brownie in a dozen directions, using everything from lemon to salted caramel to avocado. The recipes are easy to follow and accompanied by yummy photos. If you're baking gluten-free, experiment with flour blends; you'll find that some of the recipes are more conducive to adaptation than others.

If you're craving something rich and sweet, give Hannah's new collection of Brownies and Blondies a try!


  1. What a great attempt to make some complex recipes gluten-free! I'm really craving a brownie now :)

  2. Isn't her e-book the best!?!?! I was so happy to get a copy to review because her blog and her recipes are always consistently fantastic.

    My favorite so far was the chocolate chip peanut butter blondies - delicious! And it is so great that they can be made gluten free!

    Great review!

  3. I love that ebook! I haven't made anything from it yet, but I'm thinking about it almost every day. Your brownies look stunning!

  4. Is it weird that I find the sound of "pecan goo" really enticing? :D Great review - it's always so helpful to hear how others go with recipes :)

  5. So glad that you (mostly) had success de-glutenizing the blondies and brownies! Thank you so much for your thorough and honest review! :)

  6. I have a serious craving for brownies now. I think I need that e-book ASAP. I'm glad using the gluten free flours worked for you.

  7. Ooh, these look & sound great! I love Hannah's recipes.

    I really want to try more gluten-free baking. I feel like it's the "next frontier" in learning different ways of cooking! I am really intimidated, though, which seems silly because I remember feeling super daunted by vegan cooking/baking when I first started that, and now it just comes naturally!

  8. Those look ridiculously goooooood.
    *drools on keyboard*

  9. You were awarded a Sunshine Blog Award at my blog! Thanks for the inspiration!

    My Veggie Kitchen


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