March 07, 2013

Chloe's Vegan Desserts — review and recipe


If you've ever wished for a desert to impress your non-vegan friends and family, or if you, yourself, are pining for the sweets you used to enjoy before you became vegan, this book was written for you. I never was much of a dessert person, and can't think of anything I miss, but even I was impressed by my results when I tried two of Chloe's recipes. I practically fainted when I saw my cookies come out of the oven, they were so beautiful, and gasped when I tasted one, it was so extraordinary. All my anti-fat-and-sugar rants went down the drain. Maybe a little fat and sugar at the right time and place isn't such a bad thing. Maybe.


I recently invited some friends over for dinner, and it seemed a good time to try one or two of Chef Chloe's desserts. I figured if it didn't work out I could blame Chloe, and if it was a success, I could share the credit. There were eight of us, and although the recipe for chocolate cream pie was for a nine-inch pie, I decided to use my eight mini tart pans to make individual desserts. Chloe provides a gluten-free option* for most of her recipes, and although there was a gluten-free suggestion for the crust, I decided to make my own gluten-free crust with almond flour and sorghum flour. I followed the directions exactly for the filling, but deviated a bit on the whipped cream, using just two tablespoons of powdered sugar instead of 2/3 cup, and adding a spot of vanilla. I have my limits on how much sweetness I can stand, and for me, the lesser amount of sugar was plenty. Sorry to say, I completely forgot to decorate the tarts with shaved chocolate, as directed in the recipe, but never mind — the tarts were exceptional even without it— rich, creamy, chocolaty and satisfying. My guests included vegans, vegetarians and omnivores, and I can tell you there wasn't a crumb of this dessert left on anyone's plate. The ooos and aaahs were a testament to Chloe's skills.


The week before the party, I made a batch of chewy ginger-molasses cookies, then froze them. I pulled them out for the party in case anyone didn't want a tart. (Ha!) At first, my guests claimed they were too full to eat any more; the cookies looked so professional, everyone thought they were store-bought. Trust me, I'm not a professional when it comes to baking, and my cookies NEVER look this good. Thank you Chloe! When I said I had made them, people began to sample them, and they were quite a hit. My cookies look a little different from the ones in the book — maybe because I made them gluten-free.* Mine spread and are flatter. The taste was wonderful and the fragrance intoxicating; the cookies are fabulous, and I don't think anyone would suspect they were gluten-free or vegan.

Chloe's Vegan Desserts is a beautifully produced book with recipes for everything from cakes, cookies, bars, pies, mousse, ice cream, gelato, pudding, and panna cotta to rich dessert drinks of every kind. Pumpkin whoopie pies? Coconut sorbet with cashew brittle? Black and white cookies? Yes, they are all here. You can find everything from homey cookies, to gorgeous cakes for special occasions, and there are beautiful photos to illustrate almost every recipe.

*The book is not written as a gluten-free dessert book, but Chloe says most of the recipes can be made GF by substituting gluten-free flour for the wheat flour, and she notes at the bottom of appropriate recipes how to make them gluten-free. She specifically recommends Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour. I'd never used Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix before, but in the spirit of following Chloe's recipes as she suggests, I purchased some. I have to say, it worked really well, and it was so easy. Many of the recipes are naturally gluten-free, and require no changes. In addition to GF baking, you can also easily bake soy-free with Chloe's recipes.

The publisher of Chloe's Vegan Desserts, Atria Paperback, has given me permission to reprint the recipe for chewy ginger-molasses cookies. I recommend the recipe highly. I think once you try the cookies, you may just want to buy the book.


Chewy Ginger-Molasses Cookies
Excerpted from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts; makes about 34, 2½-inch cookies
"These Chewy Ginger-Molasses Cookies have the perfect balance of sugar and spice. Molasses gives them soft and chewy centers, which I prefer over traditional crunchy ginger snaps. Plus, ginger aids in digestion, making these the perfect after-dinner cookies!

Make-Ahead Tip: cookie dough can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to one month."

Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon water
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two or three large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, beat margarine, sugar, molasses, and water until well-combined. Slowly beat in the flour mixture. Scoop about 1 rounded tablespoon of dough at a time, and roll the domed part of each scoop in sugar. Place them onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on the pan.
Makes about 34, 2-1/2-inch cookies.

*For a gluten-free alternative, substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour plus 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum.

Note: When I made the cookies with Bob's Red Mill GF flour mix, the dough was pretty sticky and I had a hard time getting the cookies the same size, but I noticed that as the dough rested, it became much easier to shape into balls. If you make these as a gluten-free version, I suggest letting the dough sit about 10 minutes before shaping, or even pop it into the refrigerator for five minutes. Form the dough into balls and dip into the sugar, flattening slightly. Leave plenty of room between the balls because the cookies will spread. It would have been helpful to have a few tips on baking gluten-free other than just to use gluten-free flour and xanthan gum.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of the cookbook for review. I was not paid to write it. All opinions are my own.

22 comments:

  1. Those cookies and tarts look so pretty I want to frame those pictures! I do love desserts, and I reckon my book shelf wouldn't say no to one more book...

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    1. Everyone who has tasted the cookies and tarts loved them. I can only imagine that the rest of the recipes are equally delicious!

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  2. I have a huge sweet tooth and would love to sink them into one of the chocolate pies. They look perfect! Like something you'd find at a bakery.

    I'm going to be tempted to make those cookies. They look absolutely perfect and the ginger/molasses combo is a favorite of mine.

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    1. You should make the cookies. Absolutely. They are delicious! As soon as I get more molasses I'm making them again.

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  3. Wow Andrea, I think both your tarts and the cookies look professionally done! For someone who doesn't much care for desserts, you certainly are good at making them :-) They look (and sound) fantastic!

    Courtney

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    1. It's all thanks to Chloe, really. My desserts are pretty haphazard — though not for lack of trying. I only post the better ones here. :)

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  4. This book looks fabulous! I don't have Chloe's other book either, but clearly both need to be added to my collection. Chocolate cream pie used to be a major favorite of mine, but I've never made one myself, vegan or otherwise. Your mini pies were gorgeous! If I lived in Seattle, I would seriously be angling for a dinner invitation!

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    1. If you lived (or visited) Seattle, I'd demand your presence at a dinner! I was worried about the tarts because of an experience I'd had in the past with a banana cream pie that was rather ... firm ... but the little tarts were a a huge success.

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  5. nice! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I love ginger cookies like that. I have been resisting this book, because I already love sweeties too much... but your review is very tempting! ha ha. :)

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    1. I'm very resistant to sweet recipes, but I'm very tempted to try more of Chloe's recipes. I have to say that the cookies were perfect!

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  6. yum! so good to know about the GF adaptions. I like bob's mix although it's hard to taste it before cooking because of the bean flour.

    wish i was a dinner guest!

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    1. Raw bean flour is pretty terrible, agreed. It's so nice to see you show up here. I just checked your blog again a few days ago to see if it was accessible, but it wasn't. Hope you'll be able to start posting again!

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  7. those cookies those cookies!! they look fabulous! i am a sucker for ginger cookies and these are getting made!
    thank you for the review Andrea. I hear you about the amount of sugar in things:)

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    1. Ah, sugar. Such a problem. The ginger cookies were/are wonderful, but so are the almond flour cookies I got from your blog. Love them!

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  8. Chloe is so adorable, and from the looks of her she never takes more than a nibble of her own baking. :-) I can easily imagine that these treats are irresistible and very effective tools of vegan outreach!

    Chewy gingersnaps are one of my favorite cookies, and these are as pretty specimen as I've ever seen! I may try making them with puréed prunes. I doubt they'll be as divinely chewy as yours, but my "no margarine" stance is firm after losing all control on that slippery slope when we agreed to test a dozen flavors of vegan cupcakes Robyn was experimenting with for her daughter's wedding reception last spring. They were from Isa's "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" and they were gorgeous, fluffy/creamy, mind-bogglingly delicious fat and sugar bombs. I swear we became addicted after the first bites, and when our pusher (Robyn) stopped supplying her new junkies (us), we had horrible cravings for at least a couple of weeks (and I don't even have a sweet tooth!) So, though your post makes Chloe's recipes awfully tempting, I agree with a recent McDougall forum commenter who said, "Why make food hyper-palatable, and then wage a war against our craving for it?" If any food could be described as "hyper-palatable," it would be your damned tarts and cookies and Robyn's damned cupcakes! LOL Get behind me, you sweetly evil vegans. :-)

    (Confession: had I been at your party, I'd have tried a cookie. And then broken out into shakes and a cold sweat trying not to snarf and pocket the rest!) :-)

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    1. She looks exactly the same in person — tall, thin and beautiful. Maybe she exercises a LOT. I don't think it's hard to make vegan baked goods taste like "regular" ones, but I, like you, am more inclined to make healthier treats that taste delicious. Once my tastes changed, "normal" baked goods were way too sweet and fatty to be enjoyable, but for those that still appreciate and crave traditional sweets, Chloe's delicacies are a great resource. They are healthier and kinder than dairy-and egg-filled treats, even if they wouldn't make the McDougall playbook. I think most people probably need transitional foods when they are changing their diet, especially if they aren't fully committed to changing their diet for animal rights reasons.

      Since I was doing a book review and serving the results to company, I didn't mess around with the recipes. The first couple of cookies tasted amazing to me, but now they seem too sweet, and I'm already scheming to use less sweetener and fat and make them again. :)

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  9. I agree, but I find very few cookie recipes that aren't made with added fats, and have never experimented with them before. But I think these gingersnaps are a great candidate for the puréed prune test.

    I know that you're a fan of the healthier foods too, and a rich treat now and then is fun. But we so enjoy the foods we eat now, the only time I've ever felt deprived was in those days following the last of Robyn's cupcakes! :-) We certainly relied a lot on transition foods in the early years, in part because of what we didn't know (and hadn't experienced) at the time, and in part because we, like most people, wanted things to look and taste familiar, but without the cruelty and most egregious of unhealthy ingredients. And you're right, tastebuds definitely change if we don't keep "corrupting" them (as I tend to with salt !) :-) We often find ourselves reducing the amount of sweetener in our recipes, especially.

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    1. I think we're in pretty close alignment, though we don't avoid all added fat. Have you tried Richa's oat and almond flour cookies? You can find them here: http://bit.ly/UDWPIe

      My version of them is here: http://bit.ly/10ejPUs but I added a little fat — only two tablespoons, but you probably don't need it. Bad me.

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  10. Btw, I meant to ask you ~ when and where did you get to meet Chloe?

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    1. Met her at a baking demo and book signing when she wrote her first book. There's a small bookshop here (The Book Larder) that sells only books related to food and cooking.

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  11. Isn't she adorable? I have the book and will be reviewing soon, too. Unlike you, I do have a sweet tooth, so I can't wait to feed it.

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    1. Looking forward to seeing what you make — I'm sure whatever it is it will be delicious. Even though I don't have a very big sweet tooth, it's still fun for me to feed other people's dessert cravings.

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