Usually I am happy and pleasantly surprised with the cookbooks publishers send me but in the case of Aran Goyoaga‘s latest book, Cannelle et Vanille, I made it my mission to ensure I’d get a review copy. “Pester” and “persistent” are probably good words to describe the tactics I employed in the months before the book’s release — but, in the end, I’m okay with this because as I opened the box from the publisher one sunny, late-summer afternoon I could see the prize nestled in a couple of sheets of bubble wrap. As Goyoaga’s Cannelle et Vanille emerged from the box I could almost feel the love — of family, food, and cooking — as I held it in my hands.
Flipping through I could see all of the attention to detail from the creamy-off white paper in the book, the delicious-sounding recipes, and gorgeous photography (for awhile I kept the book open to page 329 because I so loved the photo of the blush-hued flowers and just wanted to look at them for awhile). Everything works to become a physical manifestation of Goyoaga’s blog and natural aesthetic. The food pictures look cozy and inviting — almost so inviting that I’m over a dozen recipes into the book and I just want to linger. I also appreciate that she’s included step-by-step photos for recipes that need an extra visual (i.e. puff pastry or biscuits). With that dozen or so recipes I can agree with the Founders of Food 52’s claim from the front cover: “This is a book for all cooks.”
Her recipes are organized into seven chapters: Pantry Staples, Morning, Baking, Midday, Everyday Dinners, The Gathering Table, and Dessert and Small Indulgences. While you can order some of the more specialized ingredients online, I found that I could source all the ingredients at my local grocery store or market. For those new to gluten-free cooking and baking you’ll appreciate her Stocking the Pantry and Tools to Use section where she goes through and summarizes some of the alternative flours and binders she relies on. As well, she outlines other important pantry items that bring life and flavour to the food. This book follows a day in the life of her family. For those who are curious — it is not vegan or vegetarian (Goyoaga’s family is neither), but there are vegan or vegetarian suitable recipes and, there are some opportunities to substitute ingredients.
People who know me, know that I cook a lot — mainly from recipes. If each book that I review has around 10 recipes I make, and I’ve reviewed 29 books this year (Goyoaga’s will be the 30th) then that is many recipes that have cycled through my kitchen. And, I think what people have been waiting for is to know how good the gluten-free recipes Goyoaga offers in her book will be. While I don’t need to eat gluten-free I have many friends and family in my life that do and, I know how disappointing it is for them when they miss out on food because there’s no decent gluten-free substitute or the recipe they’ve used is sorely lacking. Wasting time and ingredients is truly the worst! And, to be honest, I wasn’t even going to try her recipes as gluten-free recipes because she offers directions on how to substitute wheat flour into her recipes. But it was with one of the first recipes that I tried — her Ricotta Gnudi — that I made them gluten-free as the recipe instructed by using fine brown rice flour and potato starch. To say the resulting dish was a triumph may not describe how good it was, so, maybe I should tell you how two adults and a 5-year-old made short work of a recipe which was meant to serve 6 (personally, I think Goyoaga meant to write “serves 3″…) It was delicious! It did not taste gluten-free — no strange texture or after taste. It was just good food.
So, with this first recipe I decided to give some of the other gluten-free recipes an honest try. While I didn’t get into making her gluten-free sourdough, I found many other delicious recipes, such as the Roasted Squash Brown Butter Cake (that I made as mini Bundts and doughnut holes because she gives directions on how to bake this for children). These mini cakes were light in texture, perfectly spiced, and with that signature nutty flavour of the brown butter. Moist and with a beautiful crumb — this is what cake should be. Then my daughter looked forward to Friday all last week because I told her we’d have the Buckwheat Crepes for dinner (I didn’t bother to mention that I had a jar of Goyoaga’s Chocolate-Hazelnut Butter already made and in the fridge because I was afraid if this fact was known the jar wouldn’t last until Friday — my husband and daughter are chocolate fiends!). The best of all was the boule of Buckwheat Sweet Yeast Bread w/ Dried Apricots and Walnuts (I used pumpkin seeds so I could send slices in my daughter’s lunch). This bread is incredible — moist with a thin, crunchy crust and such a divine scent (molasses, orange zest, lemon zest, grated ginger, cinnamon…). What I really think is that Goyoaga’s gluten-free recipes transcend this qualification to become just great recipes that are incidentally gluten-free. Sometimes good food is just good food — no category or qualification is needed.
Her recipes are for the everyday, which are the recipes I find the most useful. The daily question: “What am I going to feed my family?” always needs answering. With Goyoaga’s other recipes she relies on seasonal, whole food ingredients to bring nourishment and colour to her table, I found myself leaning on the recipes in her Pantry Staples to fill in the gaps. Just after Hurricane Dorian swept through Halifax, I found, like everyone else who had gone without power, that some of the dairy items in my fridge needed to be replaced. The first thing I did when the power came back on was to brew myself a good, hot cup of coffee and I used her Coconut Milk as my creamer (since she said it was her “go-to for coffee” in the recipe notes I thought I’d give it a try). Rich and creamy, her coconut milk was the perfect partner to my strong coffee and my daughter ended up having a bit of the “milk” in her cereal.
Another staple that I’ve fallen in love with is her quick Pickled Vegetable formula. When making her recipe for Spicy Chicken (I used tofu) Salad w/ Apple, Celery, and Pickled Vegetables I immediately got to work making her Pickled Fennel and Red Onion seasoned with fennel seeds, orange zest, and vanilla bean. A seemingly unconventional flavour combination but one that turned out to be so sublimely perfect. That signature anise flavouring of the fennel was so well-paired with the zest and vanilla bean, which somehow both mellowed and magnified the anise taste. Not only did we enjoy it with that salad but over the next week I would pull the jar from the fridge to steal a few pieces of fennel and onion to snack on or to throw in sandwiched or on crackers. When a recipe can fall into a daily food routine so seamlessly, you know it’s one to treasure.
I’ve been very lucky this year to have tried so many fantastic cookbooks — 2019 has been a stellar year so far with more books to come. My persistence paid off because Goyoaga’s Cannelle et Vanille Cookbook will be one that I keep returning to because the recipes suit the busy lives of families and of everyday cooking. I really love this book! Not to mention, this book is a boon for those looking for well-tested and extremely delicious gluten-free recipes. If you’re wondering about the other recipes I’ve tried then checkout my custom Instagram #cannelleetvanilleiseatworthy or my dedicated Facebook post.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Penguin Random House Canada and Sasquatch Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.