VEGAN BAKING

I do not follow any type of dietary style, at most I would say I control my intake of carbs, but not that tightly. My fascination with vegan baking comes from the challenge it poses. It is not that hard to bake cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, when you have all ingredients available to play with, eggs being one of the most important, and perhaps the trickiest to replace. I’ve been experimenting with vegan baking for more than a year now, and I’ve assembled more failures than successes. I confess to coming up with a little term: Vegan-Instagram-Trap. That happens when you see the most gorgeous bakes in instagram, and when make it, the results might look pretty nice but the taste and texture? Disappointing, to put it very mildly. A certain vegan matcha cookie comes to my mind (sigh). On my blog today I shared a cookie recipe from one of my favorite Vegan cookbooks, Modern Vegan Desserts, by Petra Stahlová. Simple, elegant, and delicious. Last month I baked another recipe from her book, for my beloved’s Birthday. A Tonka-bean and Chocolate Tartlet topped with a crunchy-nutty decoration that was great not only on the tart, but enjoyed in little bites with a cup of coffee.

This recipe is a good example of what Petra’s book is all about. You will learn how to make shortcrust vegan pastry, a chocolate cream (using lecithin and plant milk), and a crunchy topping based on nuts, cocoa nibs, and coconut oil. What one needs to keep in mind is that because the ingredients are so different – for instance no plant-spread behaves exactly like butter, no emulsifier behaves exactly like eggs – the way you handle the ingredients must be adjusted. Shortcrust pastry can be challenging even with “normal” ingredients. When you get into vegan territory, things can degenerate fast. But Petra gives very precise instructions that take you through the process and I was quite pleased with it.

Modern Vegan Desserts starts with a couple of chapters on animal product substitutions. It is very comprehensive and it will help you adapt regular recipes into a vegan-friendly version. Recipes are divided in chapters as follows: Bakery and Viennoiserie, Tarts, Verrines-Entremets-Petit Gateaux, Plated Desserts, Frozen Desserts, Chocolate Confectionery, and Cookies + Sweets.

Bakery and Viennoiserie. The complexity of the bakes increases as you turn the pages. She opens up with a Lemon Drizzle Cake, gorgeous, with perfect white icing dripping over the loaf-shaped cake, and candied lemon slices decorating the top. From cakes she goes straight into what separates common mortals from great bakers: laminated dough. Yes, VEGAN laminated dough. And her picture of the inner structure of KOUIGN-AMANN proves she knows what she is doing! Croissants, pain au chcocolat and show-stopping apple turnovers are also included in this chapter.

Tarts. This whole chapter took my breath away. Flavors, colors, textures, she does pure magic with her recipes. The Tonka Bean Chocolate Tartlet is from this section, but I must share a screen shot of another favorite of mine, which is actually the cover of her book: Earl Grey and Banana Tartlet.

Verrines, Entremets & Petit Gateaux. Those who have been around my blog, know that I have a very soft spot for entremet cakes. I actually never imagined it possible to come up with vegan versions, as entremets rely heavily on cream-based mousses and gelatin. Petra proved me wrong. You can make them if you follow her detailed instructions. Many things for me to try from this chapter, but one of my favorites would be her Fraisier.

Plated Desserts. Many concoctions appealed to me like Pavlova with Vanilla Cream, Apple Tarte Tatin (truly beautiful!), Cherry Clafoutis, and a recipe for Peanut Brownies that I almost used to showcase the book. But in the end the cinnamon cookies won… (it was a tough competition, trust me).

Frozen Desserts. That is the only section I would not bake that much from, but it is definitely not a problem with the book. I just never cared for frozen desserts, although I do love granita and she opens the chapter with a great vegan version: Blood Orange Granita. Her recipes are all super stylish and elegant, and I share the last one from this chapter, called quite simply as Raspberry Ice Cream Dessert…

I know, right? To die for!

Chocolate Confectionery. I don’t have enough praise for this chapter. From chocolate bars she gets into truffles, then hand-dipped bonbons, and molded bonbons, two passions of mine… I simply want to make them all. My favorite perhaps, her Hand-Dipped Fruit Chocolates. So so beautiful!

Cookies and Sweets. The featured recipe is from this final chapter, but you will also find chocolate cookies, florentines and even more unusual recipes like Panforte and Nougat.

So that is the end of a short virtual tour through Petra’s cookbook Modern Vegan Desserts. Baking from this book showed me that Petra really wants you to succeed in making her recipes, from the simplest to the most advanced. If you follow a vegan diet, or you have friends who do, this book will open your horizons in ways that very few others will. No traps there. Just great recipes, well-explained, for desserts that are also a feast for the eyes.

Petra, thank you for allowing me to publish your Chocolate-Dipped Cinnamon Cookie recipe!
I look forward to your next cookbook (wink, wink).

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