more great good dairy-free desserts naturally, a review.

Big Orange Bundt Cake

Big Orange Bundt Cake

More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally, is a dairy-free and egg-free dessert cookbook written by Fran Costigan. Fran is the author of several books and also teaches at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City.

The book sports a recipe layout that is straightforward and easy to follow, with simple black text that makes it easy on the eyes, and a selection of glossy colour photography. It is 224 pages long and is divided into the following sections: Getting Started; Gels, Cremes, Puddings, and Sauces; Cookies, Bars, and Little Bites; Cobblers, Crisps, Biscuits, Muffins, and More; Cakes, Fillings, Frostings, and Glazes; Pies and Tarts; Fruit, Beverages, Frozen Desserts, and Confections; Bibliography and Reading List; Resources for Ingredients and Equipment; Organizations and Publications; and Common Weights and Measures.

Big Orange Bundt Cake

Big Orange Bundt Cake

For the purpose of writing this review, I chose to bake up the Big Orange Bundt Cake (just like my mum used to make – beautiful crumb, super moist, and buttery without the butter), the Super Fudge Low Fat Brownies (super fudgey, moist and chewy, beyond decadent – the best brownies I’ve made so far), and the Pumpkin Pie (perfect - so much so, it did not survive long enough to be documented on film). In fact, I am quite familiar with this wonderful book, having previously made the Good Cornbread (I love that it’s more savoury than sweet – and the optional slathering of organic maple syrup on top makes for a beautifully balanced contrast of sweet and savoury), the Chocolate Chip Cookies (wonderfully thin, sweet and chewy), the Coconut Cloud Layer Cake (a beautiful, fancy cake – no wonder Fran makes these as wedding cakes for lucky friends), and accompanying Island Coconut Cream Filling and Frosting (so good, you can eat it with a spoon – and I did). I have never been disappointed baking from this book. Fran is truly a master – not only do her sweet inventions taste amazing and brag fabulous texture and appearance, they’re also filled with the best ingredients: Fran eschews the highly processed stuff and champions quality, organic, and natural ingredients. I appreciate that.

Super Fudge Low Fat Brownies

Super Fudge Low Fat Brownies

So we’ve established that these treats taste incredibly good and bake up reliably. But you get a lot more than just an impressive spread of fine desserts – you’re also benefiting from Fran’s years of baking expertise. This book boasts page after page of information, including tips and technique tailored to each section of the book, as well as detailed descriptions of ingredients and thorough explanations on how to use them properly. Did you know you can remove the beany-ness of firm tofu by blanching it in boiling water before using? Fran taught me that. Did you know that you can easily get a stubbornly stuck bundt cake to smoothly descend by draping a hot, wet tea towel over the tin? Fran taught me that too. Fran’s explanations on how to work with less common ingredients like agar agar and kudzu is priceless. I find myself coming back to this book time and again for reference on how to work with often tricky ingredients – it’s that useful.

To sum up – this book is worth its weight in vegan baking gold. You get an impressive spread of recipes that are not just scrumptious, but reliably sound. You get an education in baking and expert advice on how to work with alternative ingredients. You get a valuable reference book in the kitchen. And you get all this without eggs and dairy. Great taste, know-how, impeccable quality, and cruelty-free – sounds like a big win to me.

I like this book so much in fact that I think you should have a copy. Try your luck at winning one from Book Publishing Company (see details below). If you don’t win one there, come back here for a chance to win your own copy of Fran’s great book – I’ll be giving a copy away in November to celebrate Vegan MoFo 2010! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for further details on this and other favourite cookbook giveaways.

More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally - Book Cover

Book Publishing Company is currently running an online promotion called “Luscious Vegan Desserts” from now until the end of October. Clicking on their logo will take you to the Luscious Vegan Dessert Page, where you can click to register for a chance at winning one of the following vegan dessert cookbooks – very cool:

Did you know that Book Publishing Co. is a member of Green Press Initiative? They also have loads of awesome books on vegan cookery, baking, and more, that promote a healthful and sustainable lifestyle. I like them.

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sweet utopia, a review.

Tahini-Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies

Tahini-Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies

I recently received a copy of Sweet Utopia, by Sharon Valencik. These are my thoughts.

First impressions – lots of colour, glossy paper, and tons of photos – and I mean tons. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many colour photos in a cookbook, budgets generally being what they are. And photos are always helpful – people like to see a representation of something they might want to make – so kudos on that front. A lot of effort has clearly gone into putting this book together – the author has put her heart into this. It’s a fairly large book,  as vegan cookbooks go, and it’s filled with as much information as the author could fit in – with tips and tricks throughout, pairing recommendations, and even inspirational quotes.

The book is 184 pages, with over 130 recipes, and is divided into sections that include: stocking the kitchen; how to succeed in vegan baking (tips, techniques, substitutions, etc); decadent cakes; scrumptious cookies; creamy cheesecakes and pies; velvety mousses, puddings, and crèmes; and luscious treats.

Sweet Utopia

Best bits: I love the European flavour that runs through the book. Treats like Hamantaschen, Rugalach, Rum Balls, Poppy Seed Roll, and Apple Strudel beckon to me. There is a bonanza of classic desserts and treats on offer here – and all dairy-free and egg-free. Many will appreciate the fact that the required ingredients are pretty basic and can likely be found at any supermarket, generally nothing fancy. The recipes are well laid out and easy to follow, almost all with accompanying photographs. The three items I chose to make (Coconut Heaven Cake, Chocolate Chippers, and Tahini-Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies) all baked up fine and turned out as expected – sweeter than I personally like, but well received by my taste testers. I also appreciated the substitution section at the beginning of the book, and the implied flexibility of the recipes – see more on that in the next paragraph. The familiarity of the ingredients and the straightforwardness of the recipes make this a nice introductory book to the world of vegan baking.

Caveats: Mostly, those aforementioned easy to find ingredients – a lot of sugar, white flour, and cornstarch throughout (and you can also say that about 99% of the baking books out there). There is also a fair amount of processed vegan stuff: vegan cream cheese, vegan margarine, etc. Whether you think this is bad or not is a personal decision that may or may not factor into your personal thinking when it comes to baking. There are two schools of thought when it comes to vegan baking – making healthier choices, or throwing caution to the wind. A few years ago I sat happily in the latter group – I was strictly interested in making a great tasting vegan equivalent of whatever dessert I was tackling. Today I care, and try my best to live in the first group: I’ve striven to eliminate processed food from my family’s diet and have also made a concerted effort to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, my use of highly refined items like sugar, margarine, and white flour. That said, I see no problem baking from this book and making ingredient substitutions that I’m more comfortable with (whole grain flour, alternate fats and sweeteners). To that end, I was happy to see a prominent section on substitutions in the book. Both the author and the recipes seem flexible in this regard – I feel encouraged to make the recipes my own. Note that this time around I did not make any substitutions for the purpose of testing recipes for this review.

To sum up – I love the enthusiasm for vegan baking and all things sweet. This book is another testament to the fact that you don’t need eggs or dairy to make any sweet treat your heart desires, and it certainly offers a chance to make all of your favourites and more. Those who eschew refined and processed ingredients will want to make appropriate substitutions, as needed. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing a spread of treats from this book at the next Holiday party I find myself at.

Book Publishing Company is doing an online promotion called “Luscious Vegan Desserts” from now until the end of October. Clicking on their logo will take you to the Luscious Vegan Dessert Page, where you can click to register for a chance at winning one of the following vegan dessert cookbooks – very cool:

Did you know that Book Publishing Co. is a member of Green Press Initiative? They also have loads of awesome books on vegan cookery, baking, and more that promote a healthful and sustainable lifestyle. I like them.

sweet tea ice cream, vegan.

sweet_tea3

When Wheeler’s Frozen Dessert asked if I would like to take part in their virtual book tour, coinciding with the release of Wheeler del Toro’s newly minted Vegan Scoop, I couldn’t resist.

They even sent me a snippet of recipes from the book to try out (as if I needed convincing) and my sweet tooth socks were knocked right off. Oh Fig Ice Cream, how do I love thee – let me count the ways.

Prior to learning Wheeler’s secret to vegan ice cream success, I had struggled with making my own homemade vegan ice creams. Tofu: you know I love you, but you are not welcome in my ice cream. Fruit sorbets have never been an issue (they’re easy to make awesome) while ice creams have been a different story, until now.

How cool and generous is Wheeler’s, for sharing the secret to great homemade vegan ice cream? With Vegan Scoop in hand, everyone can make their very own awesome dairy-free ice cream at home. It’s easy – the book is very simple and straightforward to follow.  And a big plus, the ingredients are easily obtained and won’t break the bank.

Don’t have an ice cream maker? Do not fret – Wheeler’s has tips on how to make ice cream without one here.

More importantly, the ice cream on offer in Vegan Scoop is delicious. The texture is perfectly creamy and smooth. The flavours are inspired and, with the summer heat and humidity upon many of us, nothing beats a frosty bowl of creamy ice cream.

In a word, yum.

To celebrate the release of Vegan Scoop, Wheeler’s is sharing an exclusive new recipe with the sweet readers of Madcap Cupcake: Sweet Tea Ice Cream.

I really like this ice cream. It’s beautiful. It’s creamy. It’s sweet. It’s sophisticated – yes, sophisticated – elegant even. You could serve this ice cream after a swanky meal in a martini glass and it would fit in just fine – or go ahead and scoop it up high in your favourite cereal bowl and sit under a tree in this searing heat, cool off and be refreshed in style.

The secret ingredient here is black tea – but the possibilities are endless. I’m eying a box of chocolate chai tea for my next batch.

Enjoy, friends.

Sweet Tea Ice Cream
For Madcap Cupcake by Wheeler’s Frozen Dessert

1 cup (235 ml) soymilk, divided
2 tablespoons (16 g) arrowroot powder
2 cups (470 ml) soy creamer
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
8 bags black tea
4 teaspoons agave
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup (60 ml) soymilk with arrowroot and set aside.

Mix soy creamer, remaining 3/4 cup (175 ml) soymilk, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Place teabags in mixture and steep for 20 minutes.

Remove teabags, add agave, then heat mixture over medium-low heat. Once mixture begins to boil, remove from heat and immediately add arrowroot cream. Add vanilla. The arrowroot will cause the liquid to thicken noticeably.

Refrigerate mixture until chilled, approximately 2 to 3 hours. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Yields: 1 quart (approximately 600 g)