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Just In Time for The Holidays: A Dessert Cookbook Review Extravaganza!

Posted Nov 17 2010 3:21pm
Today is a very special post indeed, because it features not one, but eleven guest bloggers!

About a month ago, I gave these lovely ladies an assignment - to help me review a few brand spankin' new vegan cookbooks on the market. And help me they did! 
 
The cool part for readers today? Not only do you get to read these awesome reviews, but recipes are included for your own testing, and we'll be giving away copies of these books to three lucky readers!!  The three cookbooks coming to you from Book Publishing Company , as part of their Luscious Vegan Desserts Campaign , are as delicious as they are diverse. They are:

More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally  by Fran Costigan  Simple Treats:  A Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Guide to Scrumptious Baked Goods   by Ellen Abraham    Sweet Utopia  by Sharon Valencik 
All three cookbooks already rock because they contain yummy vegan desserts that my ladies found easy to make and fun to consume. While I could go on and on, I'd rather let the reviewers do the talking!
From Fran Costigan's cookbook, More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally, I chose Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins, a seasonal goodie I thought the ladies would love.  Reviewer Kira (who used fresh pumpkin puree instead of canned and whose photo is below) says:  This recipe is a great way to use up leftover Halloween pumpkins, but also a good excuse to buy pumpkin! The spiced purée made the muffins moist on the inside, and gave them a complex flavor - it was a great foil for the tart cranberries! Making the muffins was really easy (my four-year-old helped), and super quick once the prep was out of the way. The batter came out sticky, and I was afraid something had gone wrong somewhere, but the little guys domed up in the oven like champs and tasted oh-so-yummy fresh from the oven. The texture is more like a breakfast scone than a muffin, but the flavor makes up for it (also, I love scones). These were tasty little creations, and I will probably be making them again! Also, I was excited to learn from the recipe that there is actually a term for curdling soymilk to make a buttermilk substitute: clabbering. I will be using the word often. 
 Assembling the ingredients was a snap (although I was unable to find dark whole cane sugar, but an all natural dark sugar did the trick just fine), and the steps were simple. Halloween eve, I made up the Spiced Pumpkin Puree and left it overnight in the refrigerator to use the next day.  The next morning, I mixed the batter, and baked up the first dozen muffins.   I had enough batter left to make another six, so I experimented with filling the cups all the way to make bigger muffins - adding a few extra minutes in the oven was all it took for them to turn out perfectly.   
 
The smell of Fall filled the kitchen as they cooked - Halloween was a perfect day to make these!  And they tasted delicious (on their own and with a swirl of Earth Balance )!  My non-vegan father even took three home with him to have for a snack later - and that's really saying something!  I'm planning to make them again for a Thanksgiving breakfast feast in a few weeks. Yum! Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins Recipe by Fran Costigan  Yield: 12 to 13 standard muffins  2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1. c. unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2/3 c. soymilk
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 c., plus 1 tbsp. Spiced Pumpkin Puree (recipe to follow)
1/2 c. oil (safflower or sunflower)
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp orange extract
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. dried cranberries

1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and pre-heat to 400 degrees. Oil the top and cups of a 12-c. standard muffin tin. (The cups can be lined with paper liners but the tops of the tin still must be oiled).

2. To make the muffins, place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the flour, white flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to the strainer. Tap the strainer against the palm of your hand to sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to distribute the ingredients.

3. Mix the soymilk and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for 2-3 min. (This is called clabbering and will result in a buttermilk subsitute.)

4. Combine the pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add the clabbered soymilk and whisk until well blended. Pour into the dry mixture and stir only until the batter is smooth. Stir the cranberries into the batter and spoon into the prepared tin, filling each cup three-quarters full. (Any leftover batter can be backed in an oiled custard cup.)

5. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the muffins are well risen (the tops will be domed). golden brown, and a tester inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

6. Cool the tin on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a thin knife between the muffins and the inside of the cups, and lift each muffin onto the rack to cool completely.
  Spiced Pumpkin Puree  Yield: 2 cups

2 c. (16 oz) unsweetened pumpkin puree
2/3 c. dark whole cane sugar
1 1/2 tsp tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a simmer and sputters. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly until the puree is dark, shiny, and thickened, and the sugar has dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and spoon into a container. Cool, cover, and refrigerate or freeze. Allow time for the puree to return to room temperature before using.
 
From Ellen Abraham's cookbook, Simple Treats: A Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Guide to Scrumptious Baked Goods, I chose Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints, a recipe that spoke to my heart because my family has been making a variation of these at Christmastime every single year.  This was also a special recipe because it was gluten-free! Recipe courtesy of Reviewer Jennifer
Reviewer Jennifer says: I found this recipe to be very easy to make. All I really needed was the food processor, 2 bowls, a spatula, and a baking sheet (plus measuring cups and spoons). I thought the trick of using a bottom of a glass to flatten the cookies worked very well. All in all, I think it took about 10 minutes of prep to get these cookies in the oven. It even made exactly 18 cookies just like the recipe said. The hardest part was finding the barley flour! Reviewer Ariel says: Peanut butter cookies are pretty much my favorite things - a little salty, a little sweet, a lot delicious. So, here's the scoop: These cookies taste AMAZING. The dough is really sticky and they didn't come out so pretty for me, despite my very best cookie wizarding. Perhaps this can be attributed to my inability to find barley flour anywhere. (I live in Chicago with a HUGE Whole Foods that has nearly every Bob's Red Mill product, and still no barley flour.) I used whole wheat flour in one batch and quinoa flour in another, but neither resulted in a perfectly coherent cookie. The texture of the cookie was actually a bit closer to a scone. But, all that aside, they're still really, really tasty and I anticipate making them again!   
Reviewer Kristina says: First off, the thumbprints are delicious. The ingredients were easy to find, reasonably priced and I had most them in my pantry already. The instructions were straightforward and the cookies were quick to make. They would be excellent when someone is in a pinch. The only problem I had was resisting eating all the dough which is just as good as the cookies!   Photo courtesy of Review Bev
Reviewer Bev says: Okay, I made these yesterday and they were very easy to make. The instructions were concise and easy to follow and the results were amazing. My hubby is a diehard peanut butter fan and wasn’t too impressed when I told him there was no PB in the PB cookies - until he took a bite that is! He a-d-o-r-e-d them. In fact, he asked me to make them again this weekend! My daughter loved them too, and kept finding different ways to remove the jelly without touching the cookie! 
Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints

Recipe by Ellen Abraham

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies 
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. safflower or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. roasted peanuts (place peanuts in a 350 degree oven until browned nicely, and stir once or twice while roasting to make sure they don't burn)
3/4 c. rolled oats
1 c. barley flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 tbsp. grape jelly

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix the syrup, oil, and vanilla; set aside. Process the peanuts and oats in a food processor or blender until they are they are the consistency or fine meal. (Be sure the peanuts are completely cool before processing; otherwise, you will end up with a pasty mess).

In a separate, larger bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. (Sifting isn't absolutely necessary, but it ensures there won't be clumps of flour or salt in the batter.) Add the nut-oat mixture. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix with a spatula until everything is well incorporated.

With a 1-oz ice cream scoop or two spoons, scoop out 1 heaping of the batter onto well-oiled or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Flatten the cookies slightly with the bottom of a cup or glass. (Dip the bottom of the cup/glass in warm water before flattening each cookie. The water will prevent the batter from sticking.)

With your thumb or the back of a tsp. measuring spoon, make an indentation in the top of each cookie. (Dip the spoon into warm water to prevent the batter from sticking.) Place 1/2 teaspoon of the jelly into the indentation of each cookie.

Bake for 11 minutes and rotate the cookie sheets a half turn to ensure even baking. Bake 4-5 minutes more or until the cookies are golden around the edges. Let cool on the cookie sheets 5-6 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. 


From Sharon Valencik's cookbook, Sweet Utopia, I chose Divine Chocolate Pudding, a recipe that seemed easy and fun to make. Thankfully, the ladies had as much fun as I had anticipated and even got the whole family involved!
Alison's adorable two-year old helper!
Reviewer Alison says:  It was pretty simple to make! I've never made pudding before so I was unsure how it would go, and  I was a bit worried I didn't make it right since after stirring in the chocolate chips there were tiny little clumps - but they went away after being refrigerated.  I think this tastes great - it is not too rich, so I don't feel gross after eating a few bites.  My family loved it too, and next time I'll have to double the recipe so it will last a bit longer for a family of four.  I managed to snap a pic of my two year old - I never realized that I could get her to sit still for a long time with pudding and a teeny tiny baby spoon - I'll have to do that next time I need to accomplish something!  Reviewer Shelly says: I was pretty excited to see this recipe hit my inbox! A vegan chocolate pudding - sounds good to me! Pudding is one thing I hadn't yet tried to veganize.  The recipe was easy enough to follow. I've never made pudding from scratch before, so the whole experience was new to me. I got to try out one of my new kitchen gadgets - the sifter - and what a surprise it was when I started sifting the cocoa. I think I inhaled half of it, while the other half ended up in the pan! While the end result was less thick than I expected, it was certainly delicious! Decadent, even. It turned out more like a thick sauce than pudding for me. I enjoyed a bowl for dessert, and the next day enjoyed a bit more drizzled on top of some fresh strawberries. This morning, I'm having some on my oatmeal. (Chocolate for breakfast? Have I landed in heaven?!) Overall, thumbs up!  Reviewer Carla says: My daughter helped me put all of the ingredients together and sift the dry ingredients into the pan (she's three years old, so that's a testament to how easy it was!!). The directions were clear and easy to follow and from start to finish, I had the whole thing done (and cleaned up) in about 20 minutes. The pudding itself was DEEEELICIOUS!! I couldn't believe how smooth, rich, and creamy it was!  I can see how I will be able to use this recipe to surprise non-vegans with how good a vegan dessert can be (and how much it tastes like a comfort food that they can recognize!).    Reviewer Nathalie says: It's a really simple and quick recipe which is something I love. Although the recipe says it takes 10 min of stirring on the stove to thicken, it actually took me 15 min for the consistency to change. Once poured into a bowl, I licked the pan and it was so good! I tasted it last night for dessert and the taste of cocoa is decadent and delicious. Would I make it again? Absolutely!
 Divine Chocolate Pudding Recipe by Sharon Valencik  1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c. granulated vegan sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. vanilla soymilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract or additional vanilla extract
1/3 non-dairy chocolate chips.

Sift the cocoa powder into a medium saucepan. Mix in the sugar, cornstarch, and slat until there are no lumps. Place on low to medium heat and slowly whisk in the soymilk until the mixture is smooth. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until thickened (it should be the consistency of cake batter). Do not let the mixture come to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the extracts. Then stir in the chocolate chips and continue stirring until they are completely melted.

Pour evenly into six-6 oz. ramekins or a large bowl. Cool, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4-8 hours before serving, or until thoroughly chilled. Store leftover pudding tightly covered in the refrigerator. 
 * Endless thanks to the tireless, dedicated KMIV volunteers who helped make this cookbook review a success.  You are all vegan baking rock stars! * And, now, for the GIVEAWAY:  

Here's your chance to win a free copy of one of the cookbooks featured today!
I challenge you - yes, YOU - to a Vegan Thanksgiving Challenge!  To enter to win a free cookbook, please submit a photo of a vegan dish you made for Thanksgiving - extra points if your dinner photo doesn't include a turkey!  Please include with that photo: 1) A sentence or two about your dish, and 2) One major thing you're thankful for this year.  I will choose three winners to feature in a Thanksgiving Roundup Blog in early December!
The deadline for this giveaway is Monday, November 29th. So, open those holiday cookbooks and get crackin' people! 
Need cooking inspiration? Check out my Thanksgiving post for ideas to help you get started.  
Book Publishing Company is also doing a giveaway of their own this month. Click this link to learn more and enter for a chance to win a free vegan cookbook!
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