If you’re reading my teeny humble blog you’ve no doubt already come across Hannah’s blog, BitterSweet, if not read it regularly. She takes beautiful photos of not just food but her amazing crafts, all given great background stories with her signature and engaging writing style. She posts so regularly about so many of her edible and non-edible creations, all while attending school full-time and writing e-books and cookbooks and articles, I am convinced she must have found the secret to living without sleeping EVER. I don’t have homework or classes to go to and I can barely get a few meager posts in every month, let alone maintain an impressive creative hobby on the side. Oh! And the book at the center of this post was published when she was 18 years old. 18! It’s been said a million times before, but I will never be able to get over what she’s accomplished at her age. It is totally amazing and inspiring regardless of your dietary inclinations, baking abilities, or craft experience.
Not only did she publish My Sweet Vegan at 18, she took all the lovely photos included on every page. Visually, the book has a simple, modern layout with lots of color, pictures, and an easy-to-read format. You WANT to make everything in here. With my recent dietary restrictions I admit I was a bit apprehensive about trying out some recipes, but a list of allergy-free recipes at the back of the book was a helpful place to start (and making a few substitutions is all that’s required for most of the other recipes…simple enough even for this gluten-free baking novice).
A (lengthy but necessary) disclaimer about how and what I bake. My approach to baking is definitely different than what My Sweet Vegan entails. In attempting to eat healthier, less-refined foods, in the recent past I’ve been used to dessert recipes calling for spelt, brown rice and buckwheat flours, coconut oil, safflower oil, maple syrup, agave nectar, dates, raw nuts, fruit purees, avocados and soaked grains. With My Sweet Vegan, I was looking at a majority of recipes with ingredients like all-purpose flour, confectioner’s sugar, silken tofu, instant mashed potato flakes, margarine, and/or packaged vegan cream cheese and sour cream. Now the term “healthy dessert” might seem oxymoronic or just plain pointless to some people (it is dessert, after all), but both my body and my taste buds really, really like all those hippie/granola/raw treats, and the trial separation with me and refined-sugar which has turned semi-permanent makes more traditional baked goods largely too sweet for my taste. Take wheat/gluten out of the baking equation, and you’d think I might as well give up entirely on trying just about anything from a dessert book.
However, I was ready to tackle a few recipes even with adjustments to my personal preferences. I’m happy to say that despite the fact that I don’t bake enough to scientifically predict what will happen when making substitutions, everything I tried turned out delicious, which I definitely credit most to Hannah’s baking knowledge, clear directions and flavorful creativity. All the recipes I tried were made gf either by being that way to begin with or by substituting flours, and I opted to replace sugars called for with less-refined versions, often in lesser amounts.
My first recipe was for the Ginger Dream Pie. I love ginger with a passion, and the idea of pretty much a vegan gingery cheesecake-like dessert was just as dreamy as the title implies. This recipe calls for three forms of ginger: candied, ground, and freshly grated. This pie turned out delicious, with a spicy ginger kick and a smooth, cool filling. Perfect for dessert and impressive enough to feed to non-vegan dessert lovers (like my ladyfriend).
I’m really into cookies, but haven’t baked any since trying gluten-free. These aren’t actually gluten-free to begin with (though the Apricot Biscotti and Peanut-Plus Cookies are GF as written), but so intrigued was I with the idea of a sesame cookie that I made the necessary changes to be a me-friendly cookie. I suppose I should call these Sesame Quinoa Flake Cookies as that’s what I used to replace the oats (I can’t justify spending on certified GF oats), but Hannah’s soft, chewy Sesame Oatmeal Cookies have a sophisticated, unique flavor and a lovely, complex sweetness (thanks to a bit of blackstrap molasses). Delicious with a glass of creamy vegan milk!
The only already-gluten-free dessert I made was the Five-Minute Coconut Fudge. And silly me, I had accidentally bought light coconut milk (the higher fat content helps the structural integrity of the fudge once chilled). But you know what? This still turned out awesome even though it was lower-fat and I used a far lesser amount of Sucanat to replace the confectioner’s sugar called for (it was still a teeny bit sweet for me, but I am pretty sensitive). My ladyfriend and every lucky friend who got a piece (or more), couldn’t stop raving about it and its addictiveness. It’s easy to make AND it looks gorgeous!
Some other recipes I’d like to try include the Lychee Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting, Butterscotch Blondies, and Sesame Chews.
My Sweet Vegan is a great dessert book for dairy-free, egg-free recipes that range from the familiar to the decadent, from cookies to pies to cakes to muffins to chocolate-dipped candied orange peel; you’re sure to find a ton of inspiration here, including for those of us with additional dietary restrictions! For the more health-conscious/whole foods-lovin’ vegan dessert lovers, you’re going to have to make modifications and substitutions, but so many of the flavor combinations are sure to pique your interest and creativity in adapting these recipes. The recipes are clear, easy to follow, and very well-written, so if you’re nervous about baking you’ve got a nice helpful hand to guide you through, with a great little intro and picture of the final product for every recipe.
For a chance to win a free copy, just leave a comment on this post by Sunday, December 13, at 9pm CST and I’ll pick a name and we’ll exchange all that necessary mailing info. Edit: International orders are welcome too, so long as nobody minds the slowest, cheapest shipping method. Woohoo! Thanks to Alisa of Go Dairy Free for providing a copy of this book for the giveaway!