Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway:
Vegan à la Mode
by Hannah Kaminsky

Yes, I work for a vegan ice cream company, and my freezer is filled with some of the most delectable dairy-free frozen desserts on Earth. But variety is the spice of life, after all, and a lingering desire for more exotic ice cream flavors compelled me to dust off my ice cream machine and dive into the recipes in Hannah's latest book, Vegan à la Mode.

If the drop-dead gorgeous cover photos (what I wouldn't give to spend a day in a photo studio with Hannah!) aren't enough to make you want to run out and buy a copy, then maybe the temptation of indulging in some of these exquisite flavors will: Turkish Coffee, White Russian, Blueberry Muffin, Toasted Marshmallow, Tiramisu, Chai Latte, and Birthday Cake. More venturesome frozen-dessert seekers can choose from Curried Peanut Butter, French Toast, Fresh Corn, and Rose Petal (my next adventure!) With more than 100 ice cream and sorbet recipes, there are enough sweet frozen dessert flavors to get you through the summer and beyond. There's even a frosty recipe for Pup-sicles (how cute is that?) for your canine companion!

Readers will appreciate the extensive ingredients glossary, "Kitchen Tools and Toys" (if you don't already own an ice cream maker, you'll find this very insightful!), and guide to essential techniques.  Most thoughtful of all, Hannah included the chapter, "Toppings, Accompaniments, and Components" that will take your frozen dessert creations to the moon and back! It goes way beyond whipped topping and hot fudge sauce (though these are included), with recipes for Brownie Cookies, Mini Mochi Bites (yum!), Tuile Ice Cream Cones (tuile is a thin, crisp sugary wafer), and even Rainbow Sprinkles!

The one ice cream flavor I've missed more than any other since becoming vegan is pistachio. It was my favorite flavor as a kid (even exceeding my exuberance for vanilla).

I was heartbroken the day I learned that the Almond-Pistachio flavor of the fabulous fruit-sweetened vegan frozen dessert, It's Soy Delicious was retired. So pistachio ice cream had once again become a distant fond memory, that is, until NOW! But before you continue, I just want to mention that the technicolor quality of the images that follow were not enhanced by any photo-editing tool. The truly vibrant colors are the result of using whole plant-food ingredients.

Thank you, Hannah, for nailing the pistachio flavor in your Pistachio Praline Ice Cream! As she points out in the introduction to this recipe, most pistachio ice cream suffers from an identity crisis (as she puts it.) While most are visually pistachio-hued, their predominant flavor actually comes from almond extract, not pistachio. (I never knew that!) But Hannah's interpretation of my favorite flavor doesn't make any such compromises. This delicious rendition starts with toasted and caramelized pistachios that are made into a praline paste, blended into a non-dairy milk and sugar base along with a couple of surprising ingredients which lend their luscious color.

Oh, and can you say, "pistachio milkshake"?  Easy-breezy recipe: 2 scoops Pistachio Praline ice cream, 1 cup So Delicious Coconut Milk, and 2 very ripe small bananas. Blend for 30 seconds, pour, and indulge!

Next up: Short-cut Spumoni, which takes no short-cuts
on flavor. It is far richer, more complex, and electrifyingly colorful than the three-layered ice cream with fruit and nuts between the layers that I remember eating at Italian restaurants as a child. This frosty delight is bursting with the vibrancy of fresh cherries that coalesce delectably with dark chocolate chips and roasted pistachios.

Blueberry-Balsamic Ice Cream was the third recipe I tried, and my favorite so far. The sweet fruitiness of the berries mingled sensuously with the balsamic and mint. I was fortunate to have an abundance of blueberries and spearmint growing in my garden at the time I prepared this recipe, their freshness further enhancing the complexity of flavors. And having high-quality balsamic on hand didn't hurt, either.

One thing I can say for sure about all of Hannah's recipes is that they are out-of-the-ballpark winners. Not only have I not tasted a mediocre recipe from any of her books, but every new recipe far exceeds my expectations. And while the recipes in this book are made with simple ingredients, each and every time you'll get knockout results.

The recipe for Blueberry Balsamic Ice Cream from Vegan à la Mode. is reprinted with the kind permission of the author and Skyhorse Publishing, New York. ©Hannah Kaminsky 2012. (Notes in italics are my own.) Enjoy!

Makes 1 quart.


1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed 
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (I used Blueberry Balsamic from Olive Grand)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups plain non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious® Dairy Free Original Coconut Milk)
1 1/2 Tbsp arrowroot
1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely minced


This ice cream base begins much the same as the procedure for making freezer jam. Place the blueberries, vinegar, sugar, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan, and set over medium-low heat. Cook until the berries burst and stew happily in their own juices for ten to fifteen minutes.

Separately, vigorously beat the arrowroot and non-dairy milk into a loose slurry, double-checking that there are no remaining lumps of starch before pouring the mixture into the pot of stewed berries. Stir well to incorporate, and turn up the heat to medium. Stir periodically until the mixture comes up to a boil; then turn off the heat.

Stir in the fresh mint, cover the pot with the lid, and let sit undisturbed until it cools to room temperature, allowing the mint to infuse. Transfer the whole mixture to your blender and thoroughly purée. Pass through a strainer to ensure the smoothest texture and discard the solids.

Chill in the fridge for at least three hours before churning in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Scoop the soft ice cream into an airtight container, and let it further solidify in your freezer for at least three hours before serving.

If somehow, you've managed to get all the way through this post without clicking over to to buy order your very own copy of Vegan à la Mode, then here's an opportunity to win one! Simply leave a comment below telling me your dream ice cream flavor, and one lucky winner (someone has to win, so why not you?) will be selected at random.* 

Update: Congratulations to Kelly of Kohlrabi and Quince! You're the very lucky winner of a copy of Vegan à la Mode! Please let me know where to send your book, and it will soon be on its way! Thanks to everyone for another terrific giveaway! There's lots more delicious fun to come!

To earn additional entries, you can do any or all of the following, and please leave a comment for each item you complete:

1. Join the group, My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, and Vegan à la Mode on Facebook.
2. Follow @BitterSweet__ (Hannah) on Twitter.
3. Follow this blog by clicking the "follow" link in the upper left-hand corner of this page, subscribing via email, or through Networked Blogs.
4. Follow @Vegiegail on Twitter.
5. Tweet the following message: Win a copy of @BitterSweet__'s new book Vegan à la Mode & make your vegan ice cream dreams come true! #recipe #giveaway

Please make sure I have a way to contact you if you're the lucky winner, (leave me your Twitter handle or email address or make sure it's linked to your blogger account.) Good luck!!!

*Sorry international friends. The giveaway is open to US residents only.