Book review by Kristina Sepetys

Sweet Vegan Treats: 90 Recipes for Cookies, Brownies, Cakes, and Tarts
By Hannah Kaminsky
Skyhorse, 2019

If the words “vegan desserts” make you think of hard-to-prepare, overly sweet recipes, Hannah Kaminsky’s new cookbook with 90 recipes for plant-based confections may change your mind.

Desserts like the Chocolate Mousse Cake and Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Pie are rich and satisfying without the usual additions of butter, eggs, and cream. Peanut butter cookies are made soft and chewy with lentils and potatoes. Recipes call for ingredients most cooks will have on hand or can find easily nearby. Kaminsky also introduces some unusual items like ground flaxseeds and aquafaba (the liquid found in a can of chickpeas), both of which make excellent egg replacements. The ratios of protein and starch in aquafaba can replicate the binding and whipping properties found in egg whites. Also notable is that recipes use less sugar, no corn syrup, and vegan butter (instead of margarine), and many are gluten-free and use whole grains.

Kaminsky’s Cashew Crème Pear Tart, enriched with non-dairy milk, is lovely to prepare right now when pears are still in the market. Her Harvest Pie, which combines apple, sweet potato, cranberries, and walnuts in a whole-wheat crust sweetened with maple syrup, is a perfect contribution to autumn and winter holiday gatherings. Mont Blanc Mini Tarts, an especially pretty dessert that looks like the mountain for which it is named, start with an almond crust that’s filled with maple crème before being piped with a mound of chestnut crème and sprinkled with powdered sugar. ♦

Based in the East Bay and the author of multiple best-selling vegan cookbooks, Kaminsky has food interests that began at a young age. Her bittersweetblog.com features crafts, sweets, and her own photography of food and places.

Note: The editors admit to developing a shameless addiction to this book while perusing it for recipes to reprint (with permission from the author and publisher). Find them below.

Gingersnap-Pistachio-Parfaits

Gingersnap Pistachio Parfaits

Crisp and invigorating as the frigid air on an icy winter’s morning, gingersnaps are synonymous with the season for good reason. Crunching through the thin planks of spice-flecked biscuits can instantly evoke the warmth of the holidays, no matter the time or place. Though each gingery morsel would be delightful all alone, pairing them with a vivid green pistachio mousse turns this childhood treat into a spectacular parfait. The creamy base acts as a soothing foil to the lively cookies, heightened with spicy chunks of candied ginger in every spoonful. When you’re done shoveling snow, dig into a much-deserved reward that will melt away the frightful conditions outside.

Makes 6 to 10 parfaits

Gingersnap Cookies
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup coconut sugar or granulated sugar
¼ cup molasses
3 tablespoons olive oil
1–2 tablespoons plain nondairy milk

Pistachio Mousse
½ cup toasted pistachios, soaked for 3–4 hours and drained
1 large, ripe avocado
1 cup fresh baby spinach, loosely packed
6 ounces extra firm silken tofu
¼ cup light agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon salt

Whipped Coconut Cream
1 (14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, chilled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
To assemble:
¼–½ cup candied ginger, roughly chopped
½ cup toasted pistachios

For the Cookies

The cookies will take the longest time to make, so start by preheating your oven to 300° and lining two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In either a large metal bowl or a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda. While you can certainly bring this dough together by hand, it will require some vigorous stirring, so I would advise bringing out the heavy artillery if you have it!

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, molasses, and oil in a small saucepan and heat gently. Cook the mixture and stir gently, just until the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour the hot liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients, immediately followed by the non-dairy milk, and mix well. It will be very thick and somewhat difficult to mix, but give it all you’ve got and don’t waste time; it will become harder to work with as it cools.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, press it into a ball, and roll it out to about ⅛ inch in thickness. Cut it into your desired shapes with cookie cutters and transfer the cookies over to the silicone baking mat. Aim for smaller pieces around 1 inch to best fit comfortably into the parfaits, and don’t worry about making everything look perfect. Go ahead and toss the scraps right on the sheet without shaping them, since you’ll be crushing them into crumbs anyway.

Bake until the cookies are just barely browned around the edges, 15 to 18 minutes, depending on the size of your shapes. Let the cookies sit for a minute on the baking sheet before moving them over to a wire rack to cool.

For the Mousse

Place the soaked and drained pistachios in a high-speed blender along with your peeled and pitted avocado. Pulse to combine before switching over to top gear, pureeing to a creamy consistency. Pause to scrape down the sides of the container with your spatula as needed. If you only have a basic blender or food processor, allow an extra 5 to 10 minutes to ensure that mixture is perfectly smooth.

Add in the spinach, tofu, agave or maple syrup, lemon juice, orange zest, and salt, blending again to combine. Continue blending until there are no visible pieces of spinach remaining and the mixture is entirely homogeneous.

For the Whipped Coconut Cream

Carefully open the chilled can of coconut milk, being sure not to shake it, and scoop off the top layer of thick coconut cream that will have risen to the top. Save the watery liquid left behind for another recipe, such as a soup or a curry. Place the coconut cream in the bowl of your stand mixer and install the whisk attachment. Whip on high speed for about 3 minutes before slowly sprinkling in the sugar, just a little bit at a time. Continue beating the mixture for up to 10 minutes, until light and fluffy. Finally, fold in the vanilla extract. Use it in any recipe that calls for whipped cream, and pipe, dollop, or slather it on as artfully or generously as you desire.

To Assemble

When you’re ready to assemble the parfaits, spoon the mousse into 6 to 10 small glasses, depending on how many mouths you’d like to feed. Take any scraps and extra cookies and toss them into your food processor, roughly crushing them into a pebbly consistency. When you have about 1 cup of crumbs, toss in the candied ginger, as much or as little as you like, along with the pistachios. Distribute the crunchy topping equally between your glasses.

Finish each parfait with a dollop of Whipped Coconut Cream, and don’t forget to crown each with a perfect little gingersnap cookie! Bonus points if you can fashion yours to look like a miniature Christmas tree.

Serve right away or the cookies will begin to soften. Keep all components separate and assemble no more than 2 to 3 hours in advance if you’d like to prepare this dessert ahead of time.

Recipe and photos reprinted with permission from Sweet Vegan Treats
© 2019 by Hannah Kaminsky, Skyhorse Publishing. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.

Orangettes-2

Orangettes

From Sweet Vegan Treats by Hannah Kaminsky

Few people think to compost their old orange peels, let alone save them for a second use, but with a little love and a touch of sugar, the zesty scraps may end up being even more delicious than the fruit itself! It takes some patience to extract any residual bitterness from the pith, but the payoff is worth the extra work. This same approach will allow you to salvage any other discarded citrus skins, such as grapefruits, lemons, and limes.

Makes 48 to 64 candies

3–4 navel oranges
3½ cups water, divided
½ cup granulated sugar
3 ounces (about ½ cup) dark chocolate, chopped, or semisweet chocolate chips

There are many ways to remove the peel from the oranges. Some suggestions include using a vegetable peeler or grater, but I like to do it with a knife. To do it my way, begin by cutting the oranges into quarters. With the skin side down, cut right along the edge as close to the actual peel as possible and remove the edible innards. If there is still white pith left over on the inside of the peel, simply scrape that off with the knife. Cut the resulting clean peel into thin quarters, so that each orange produces 16 strips. You should now have a few nicely cleaned segments of orange, so take a break and have a snack, or toss them into a salad later!

Place the cleaned strips of peel in a small saucepan and pour in enough water to cover, about 1 cup. Bring the water to a boil and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Drain the water, return the orange peel to the pan, and add a fresh cup of water. Bring back to a boil, cook for 5 minutes, and drain again. Repeat this process once more to leach out any residual bitterness.

Now you are ready to candy the rinds! Add the sugar and a final ½ cup of water to the peels, and boil over medium heat once more. Continue to cook until the excess water evaporates and all you have left is a thin coating of smooth sugar on each of the strips. Remove from the heat and immediately move the saucepan contents onto a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Spread the pieces out so that they don’t touch, before the sugar begins to cool and solidify. Let cool.

Once the coating has completely hardened, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave in 30-second intervals to prevent scorching. Stir thoroughly after each heating until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Dip a piece of peel half way into the chocolate and return it to the silicone baking mat. Repeat this process with the remaining orange peels. Allow the orangettes to dry before storing them in an airtight container.

Reprinted with permission from Sweet Vegan Treats © 2019 by Hannah Kaminsky, Skyhorse Publishing. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky.