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."
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two or three large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.
- 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.
*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.