I’ve been sitting on this for far too long, because this is a really, really amazing cookbook. Imagine a world where vegan desserts have no refined sugar, no margarine, no wheat … and everything tastes AWESOME. You don’t need to imagine it, actually, for you need look no further than Ricki Heller’s Sweet Freedom: Desserts You’ll Love Without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy, or Refined Sugar!
You may already know Ricki through her Diet Dessert and Dogs website, where her wittiness, entertaining posts and friendliness is evident. When I first starting baking (or raw un-baking, too) from this book, I kept emailing Ricki recipe by recipe; “OMG, this tastes so good!” or “Are we long-lost taste twins? I <3 cardamom + carob together!” Case in point, my very first recipe from Sweet Freedom (which contains the aforementioned flavor combo), Carob Date Pancakes:
I don’t make a lot of breakfast foods like pancakes because I have so few mornings in which to make a breakfast for two (or more), but it wasn’t just me rejoicing in the yum-factor of this recipe. I still remember my girlfriend standing by and sneaking bites off the stack of pancakes and telling me “I’m eating this because it’s good!” So good, in fact, that I brought the recipe along to make for our cabin trip over the summer, where it received equally rave reviews.
One recipe I was really excited to try out was for (gluten-free) Soy Free, Sugar Free Coconut Whipped “Cream,“ which you see on top of fresh fruit above. This stuff is awesome! It also illustrates Ricki’s dedication to perfecting a recipe – the directions are easy to follow and places where you can or can’t substitute ingredients is very clear, as they are in all of the recipes I tried. If I had occasion to make a cake, I plan to use this in place of buttercream or icing… it’s pipeable, people! Also great atop Carrot Snack Cake, which introduced me to the concept of an afternoon-/after-school-appropriate treat that’s moist, soft, and not-too-sweet (which is how I like most of my desserts at any time of day):
These are nicely spiced, and a little bit of lemon zest further livens up the flavor. Plus, it has carrots in it, so a little extra healthy, am I right? In fact, if you’ve ever wanted to experiment with some other less common veggies in your desserts, Sweet Freedom offers up Tomato Spice Cake and Chocolate Mystery Cupcakes (containing spinach!) for your culinarily adventurous side.
Another thing I love about this cookbook is that there are raw dessert recipes in it. I made the Raw Frosted Apricot Pecan Bars, and felt very lucky that my ladyfriend shies away from anything labeled “raw,” since it meant I got to eat the whole thing! Again, the magic of citrus zest (this time orange) makes these bars really stand out and taste decadently alive. I was feeling fancy the day I made these and made a pattern in the vanilla-scented, date-sweetened coconut frosting:
And last, but far from least, I present to you Pear Ginger Muffins, which use pear puree instead of chunks of pear, so that lovely sweet flavor gets to be savored in each and every delicious bite. Seriously, these taste more decadent than they are, and I forced myself to freeze most of them after wolfing down 3 in one sitting…
The lowdown: If you’re looking to clean up your dessert habits, or you’ve already done that and are looking for some new ideas, I highly recommend Sweet Freedom. Allergy-friendly recipe symbols (for corn-, gluten-, nut-, and soy-free) are indicated for all recipes. While all of the recipes are wheat-free, most of the baked goods recipes for cookies, cakes, muffins and such are not gluten-free, so that might be a consideration if you have a gluten sensitivity (but there are plenty of frostings, icings, puddings, and raw treats which are gluten-free, yay!). If you want a super glossy, color-photographs-on-every-page kinda cookbook, this probably isn’t for you, but as much as I’m a sucker for pretty pictures in my cookbooks, I’d take great and delicious recipes over glamour anyday. There are several black and white photos throughout the book, and 18 full-color photographs in the center insert. The directions are clear, easy-to-follow, and include informative introductions and notes about the background, possible substitutions, and/or potential uses for each recipe. I’ve had a great time making and eating all of these, and this is definitely the first book I grab when I’m jonesing for something sweet! Ricki is a really gifted baker full of inspired ideas and this cookbook would be a wonderful treat for your birthday or the holidays.
BONUS! Ricki is offering a holiday sale special on Sweet Freedom via her blog, check out the details here. Woohoo!
Check out the Sweet Freedom Flickr group for more yummy photos of tasty treats!