It’s the season for branching out and trying something new, sweet, special and most likely once (as in once a year). Really now, who thinks to roast a turkey for six hours any other time of year than the late-month holidays? Apple pie? Frozen, maybe, but from scratch? Not so much.
Well, to help fulfill the definition of new, sweet and special comes a new book: Vegan Pie in the Sky: 75 Out-of-this- World Recipes for Pies, Tarts, Cobblers and More (Da Capo Press, Philadelphia; 223 pages/softcover; $17). Writers Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero have several vegan-titled cookbooks to their credit, and this one tackles items many bakers don’t consider for fear they’re too time-consuming: pies, tarts, cobblers and cheesecakes. Well, not cheesecakes since this is a vegan book, but “cheese” cakes.
Moskowitz certainly knows of what she speaks, having also written Veganomicon (Da Capo Press, 2007) and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (Da Capo Press, 2006). And for those who think a vegan pie won’t be tasty, consider this: Fruit pies are vegan by definition, just shortening, flour, water, fruit and sugar. Remember, though, that granulated sugar tends to be filtered through animal bones, but there are ready substitutes. Vegan cream pies, of course,
required a non-dairy dairy product, which are becoming more readily available with increased demand. You’ll find them at health food stores and the organic sections of local supermarkets.
Luckily for readers, the authors lead the book with a chapter titled “Essential Pie Ingredients.” They walk prospective bakers through creamy things, flours and starches, sweeteners and fats—all in keeping with their vegan sensibilities.
As for the reasons people are choosing to “Go Vegan,” there are many. But first, an explanation of what it means to be a vegan. The website vegan.org puts it this way: A vegan is someone who, for various reasons, chooses to avoid using or consuming animal products. While vegetarians choose not to use flesh foods, vegans also avoid dairy and eggs, as well as fur, leather, wool, down and cosmetics or chemical products tested on animals.
Among the reasons, again from that website, to avoid all animal-produced products:
Veganism, the natural extension of vegetarianism, is an integral component of a crueltyfree lifestyle. Living vegan provides numerous benefits to animals’ lives, to the environment, and to our own health—through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
It’s possible to dabble in veganism, much like the Meatless Monday move-ment that encourages one day a week to practice vegetarianism. And considering that this is a book about dessert, what better part of the meal to give being a vegan a try. Here are some recipes, all from the book, to get you started.
Very Berry Chocolate Chip Cobbler
10 cups berries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
8 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
To prepare the filling, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. In the meantime, combine the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in sugar. Add the margarine by the tablespoonful, cutting it into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry cutter, until large crumbs form. Add the milk/vinegar mixture and gently stir a few times to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.
On a separate plate, mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Remove the pan from the oven, discard the foil and top the filling with tablespoon-size dollops of biscuit batter. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
Bake for an additional 20 minutes. The fruit should be very bubbly and the biscuits on top sunken in but firm when peeking out from the fruit. Remove the cobbler from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes or so. Serve warm with vegan vanilla ice cream.
Banana Cookie Cream Pudding
10 ounces vegan vanilla cookies
3 large ripe bananas
1 package silken tofu, drained
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt Pinch ground nutmeg
2 cups plain soy milk
½ teaspoon agar powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar
Remove 8 to -10 cookies from the package and with a food processor or rolling pin crush them into coarse crumbs. Set aside the remaining cookies and leave whole. Peel and slice the bananas on a diagonal into ½-inch slices. Prepare the filling. In a blender, pulse together the tofu, coconut oil, vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon juice, salt and nutmeg until smooth. Then in a small saucepan combine 1 cup soy milk and the agar powder. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and cook for 30 seconds. Turn down heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a measuring cup whisk together the remaining 1 cup of soy milk and the cornstarch. Slowly pour it into the simmering soy milk mixture, then stir in the sugar and stir constantly until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
Scrape this hot cooked mixture into the blender and pulse again until everything is smooth, occasionally scraping the sides of the blender jar with a rubber spatula. Pour a third of the mixture into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch dish, layer with half the cookies and banana slices. Pour another third on top and layer with remaining cookies and bananas, then top with the remaining mixture, making sure to cover all of the banana slices. Sprinkle the top with crushed cookies and chill for 1 hour.
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