Monday, February 20, 2012

Vegan Desserts:
Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season

Book Review and Giveaway!

After having my sweet tooth so soothingly satisfied by all of the sumptuously sweet recipes in Hanna's first book,  My Sweet Vegan, I couldn't imagine that there could possibly be that many more sweet surprises up Hannah's skillful sleeve. But to my amazement and delight, her new book, Vegan Desserts holds within its 240 hardbound (yes—layflat!), gloriously full-color pages, more than 100 new recipes that will tantalize any dessert-lover's taste buds—vegan or not!

I am in awe of the imagination that guides Hannah to create such uniquely beautiful and toothsome recipes as Marzipan Tea Cake, Persimmon Blondies, Zesty Rhubarb Ripple Cake, Avocado Crème Pie, and Roasted Apricot Ice Cream with Almond Praline Ripple. As with Hannah's first book, every recipe is accompanied by Hannah's gloriously rich full-color photos, which will make your mouth water with each turn of the page.

Recipe sections are divided into the four seasons, but even before diving into the recipes, readers will find invaluable tips and insights in the book's front matter that includes an expansive ingredients glossary, fun list of kitchen essentials, and an extremely helpful trouble-shooting guide. Food-sensitive readers will appreciate the food-allergy index at the end of the book that makes searching for gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and tree-nut-free recipes a breeze!

Hannah's Roasted Apple Cheesecake was a wonderful surprise! Apples and cheesecake? Who but Hannah would think of such a uniquely delectable pairing? The buttery-roasted apples, candied pecans, and gingersnap crust all conspired together to create an unforgettably delicious and creamy cheesecake.

I'm just mad about saffron. Saffron's mad about me. Spend the extra bucks and buy yourself a few pinches of the best saffron from Iran or Spain you can find, and make this Golden Saffron Pound Cake. I think it is one of the most exquisite little cakes I have ever eaten—certainly it's the best pound cake I've ever enjoyed. I actually had dreams about it after the last piece was just a memory. In my dream, I called it Mellow Yellow. It's sooooo good!

A funny thing happened on the way to the kitchen one day. I was all set to bake the recipe for Coffee Poppy Seed Cake. I assembled all the ingredients. (I was sure I had them all on hand!) Not so. There was only one missing—the instant coffee! What to do? I searched high and low for an alternative that would work in this recipe. (Truly, what can you substitute for instant coffee? You can't use anything that has to be brewed.) I eyed a bag of forgotten acai powder hiding at the back of a shelf. It was finely ground like instant coffee, it tasted kind of woodsy—not at all like coffee—but strong! What the heck? I went for it, and it worked beautifully in this cake. (I can only imagine how much more amazing the cake would have been made with coffee!) Everyone at the office remarked that it tasted delicious. Kudos, and a world of thanks to Hannah for creating truly no-fail recipes like this one!

I've made whipped cream by chilling a can of full-fat coconut milk and then trying to skim only the cream from the top with varying degrees of success. So I was super excited to find Hannah's recipe for Whipped Cream in Vegan Desserts. Not only does it not require that you remove the cream from the top of the can, but it tastes incredible, and unlike some other dairy-free toppings, this one holds together and doesn't melt, even after sitting out at room temperature. Which means you can not only dollop it by the spoonful atop your favorite pie or ice cream, but you can also pipe it through a pastry bag if you want to be fancy-schmancy. (Hannah's photo on page 234 will knock your socks off!) Here's my silky-smooth dollop of freshly made whipped cream atop of dish of chocolate almond milk ice cream

And here's the Whipped Cream recipe from Vegan Desserts, reprinted with the kind permission of the author and Skyhorse Publishing. ©2011 Hannah Kaminsky


1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup plain soy or coconut creamer (I used So Delicious Original Coconut Milk Creamer)
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp agar-agar flakes or 2 tsp powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


In a medium saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk, creamer, and sugar. Sprinkle the agar over the top and whisk vigorously to incorporate, being sure not to leave any lumps. Turn the stove up to medium heat and cook until the mixture comes to a full boil, stirring gently from time to time. Remove the pan from the heat and whick in the vanilla. Cool to room temperature before stashing it in the fridge. Thoroughly chill for at least 3 hours, until completely solid—you should be able to trun the entire pot upside down and nothing will fall out (but don't hold it like that for too long, just in case!) 

Scrape the disk of solidified whipped cream out of the pan and into your food processor or blender. Thoroughly purée, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, until completely smooth. At first, it will seem dry and grainy, but just give the machine enough time to work out the lumps. Once silky and soft, dollop it onto desserts with a spoon or move it into a piping bag to give it a more "polished" look.  
Makes 2 cups.

Update: Congratulations to Jessica Caneal! You won a copy of Vegan Desserts! Please send me an email with your postal address, and we'll get your copy right out to you! Thank you everyone, for making this such a terrific giveaway! More to come!!

Want to win your very own copy of Vegan Desserts?* (You know you do!) Just leave a comment below telling me which one of the recipes mentioned above most tempts your taste buds. (Please make sure I have your email address so I can contact you when you win!) If you'd like to earn additional entries, please do any or all of the following, and leave a comment for each item you complete:

1. Follow this blog by clicking the "follow" link in the upper left-hand corner of this page, subscribing via email, or through NetworkedBlogs.
2. Tweet the following message: Win a copy of @BitterSweet__'s Vegan Desserts & satisfy your sweet tooth compassionately+deliciously! #vegan #giveaway
3. Join the group, My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts and Vegan à la Mode on Facebook!
4. Make friends with Hannah Kaminsky on Facebook!
5. Follow @Vegiegail on Twitter!
6. Follow @BitterSweet__ on Twitter!

*Sorry international friends. Giveaway is only open to readers with a valid US postal address.