Michael says: A true foodie, in my opinion, has an open mind accompanied by an appetite for everything. Following that theory, I was excited to do a review of a vegan cookbook: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking. Knowing my omnivore attitude, though, I figured I wouldn’t give the book a proper shake down like someone genuinely interested in veganism.
So for the real deal, I turned to my friend Shoshana, the voice behind Veggie 101. She examined the book from cover to cover and tried a few recipes. In this guest post, she offers her opinion on this very interesting cookbook. Take it away, Shoshana!
Red velvet cupcakes. Peach cobbler. Chocolate cheesecake.
Heart attacks waiting to happen? No.
Drool-worthy desserts that are not only healthy and delicious, but also animal- and environment-friendly? Yes!
Vegan diets are beginning to hit the mainstream, and Donna Diegel is right on time with her new book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking ($16.95, Alpha Books). You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy these recipes, but you may quickly change your mind after tasting only a few of them.
Consider this your vegan baking bible: it contains almost every possible classic baked good you can think of (over 120 recipes!), and then some. Muffins and coffee cakes, danishes and scones, tarts and pies, cakes and cobblers, cupcakes and cheesecakes, cookies and brownies…I could go on and on. Many of the recipes contain variations on the originals, thereby adding even more options to try. There’s even a chapter for savory goods like breads and crackers, complete with helpful yeast baking tips.
Recipes are easy to follow, and the book is easy to navigate. There are tips on freezing and short- or long-term storage for baked goods, which is nice because the recipes don’t necessarily yield the smallest batches (muffin and loaf recipes can easily be halved). Clearly marked information tidbits are plentiful, which include general baking knowledge, as well as vegan-specific ingredient descriptions. In addition, there’s a complete glossary of ingredients, terms, and techniques, which is nice for both the amateur and novice baker alike.
And speaking of ingredients, Diegel dedicates a very detailed chapter to vegan baking substitutions for things like eggs (super helpful!), butter, milk, and other dairy products. She names many well known vegan brands, including which ones to try, which work best, and which ones to avoid (her comparison of egg replacers is forthright and honest, which can really be appreciated), and this information makes it easy to veganize pretty much any recipe you want. Although some ingredients may be unfamiliar (nutritional yeast, soy lecithin, agave syrup, vital wheat gluten, etc.), many of them can be found at natural grocery and nutrition stores, such as Whole Foods or GNC.
Unfortunately, I did find a couple of editorial issues with the book. In one of the pie crust recipes, Diegel explains a long and drawn-out process that is basically that of a pastry blender; and then she tells you “…or use a pastry blender.” But the biggest horror occurs if you’re looking to make the Cream Cheese Danishes, only to find that the Cream Cheese Filling recipe alluded to in Chapter 22 is missing (gasp!).
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to start a vegan diet, eat healthier, or just try something new. It won’t disappoint, as the recipes will help you bake foods that are flavorful, nicely textured, decadent (yet light), and surprisingly “normal” tasting, even without any animal-based ingredients.
Try baking something from this cookbook for your next pot luck or party: you’ll be surprised at how many people will be fooled!
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Baking, Donna Diegel, Alpha Books, 2011