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Book Review: The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek

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Do you love bakeries? How about baking? Is dessert the only justification for meals?  Do cookies, cakes, muffins, pies, brownies, and breads comprise your ideal food group? Do you avoid healthful foods because they can’t possibly be good? Do you avoid animal products (meats, dairy, gelatin)?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you will be interested in a new cookbook, The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes: Amazing Cookies, Cakes, Muffins, Pies, Brownies and Breads by Kris Holechek. This is not a compendium of healthful snacks for the diet-conscious. Instead it is a collection of animal-free (with the added bonus of being cholesterol-free) snacks and desserts.

All the recipes in The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes are rated for ease of preparation from one to five whisks, with one being the simplest. Holecheck provides suggested replacements for milk, yoghurt, and eggs (as well as a few other ingredients) and in what types of recipes the replacements work best. There are plenty of tips, hints, explanations, and definitions that will help novice cooks, novice vegan cooks, and experienced cooks who aren’t ashamed to admit they don’t know it all.

Beginning with cookies, The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes offers the standards — chocolate chip pecan, lemon drop, shortbread, snickerdoodles, and peanut butter — as well as a few that are unfamiliar but sound intriguing — spice-spiked chocolate chunk, pumpkin chocolate chip, chocolate cherry-filled, and hippy dippy crackers (hearty crackers to accompany soups, stews, hummus, or dips).

Muffins, those grand goodies that pretend they’re not cake so you can eat them for breakfast, come in 11 varieties, including the holiday-themed eggnog muffins with boozy raisins.  Some cooks may not be able to refrain from throwing chopped nuts into the recipe for “Randy’s Upside-Down Sticky Muffins,” a quick alternative to sticky buns, while others might want to experiment with the topping  and favorite coffee cake recipes. A personal favorite is “Peary Berry Muffins” — you can never have too many pear recipes.

Fruit pies are not a vegan challenge; most fruit pies are made without animal products  when margarine is substituted for the butter in crusts. On the other hand, tarts, tortes, cheesecake (cheese pie, here), and creamy pies call for major substitutions. If you’d rather leave the experimenting to someone else, The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes gives you a selection of proven recipes that range from the familiar cran-apple pie to the fun (and sticky) “Chocolate Walnut Toffee Tart.”

Nine pastry recipes designed to showcase wonderful puff pastry are presented, including a recipe for puff pastry that isn’t daunting. Those of us who only have pastry “on the road” or from bakeries will discover that it’s not difficult at all. Cakes and breads are also presented with that same “you can do it” approach that encourages cooks to try new things.

There is a collection of kid-friendly recipes, including pizza dough, and the book closes with a number of frostings, icings, toppings, and cream sauce.  If The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes has a flaw, it would be the lack of photos. There is something about pictures of completed baking projects that just pushes you into the kitchen and accepts no excuses. On the other hand, most people who have some familiarity with food know how these are supposed to look when done.  If you’ve never seen a chocolate chip cookie, you have no business in the kitchen.

Bottom Line: Would I buy The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes? Yes, it would make an excellent gift for vegan friends who need a push in the sweets direction, as well as people worrying about cholesterol.

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