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Chocolate Without Compromise

Vegans deserve decadent desserts, too – and a new book is here to help

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TM_BK_VEGCHOC_AP_001When I was in high school, my best friend was a vegan. She subsisted primarily on rice, beans, fruit, and the vegan cookies her mom baked in giant batches every weekend. Any time there was a party, she’d bring a plate of these cookies to share. They were overly sweet, weirdly gummy, and not at all appealing to anyone who wasn’t devoted to a strict plant-based diet.

Happily, things have changed a lot in the world of vegan desserts over the last 20 years, in large part thanks to Fran Costigan. She has been working as a vegan pastry chef and baking instructor for more than two decades and is known for desserts that satisfy in a way that’s better for you and for the planet.

In her recent book, Vegan Chocolate (Running Press, 2013), Costigan serves up a luscious array of vegan truffles, cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, tarts, and drinks. Of the recipes I tried, not one felt like a sacrifice or compromise. They were universally delicious and were a pleasure to make, because I could taste freely throughout the prep process without worrying about raw eggs in the batter.

The first recipe I tried was the Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies. They are designed to be tender, a bit chewy, and deeply chocolate-y. I served them to friends after a simple (omnivorous) dinner and they were the perfect finish. The only truly exotic ingredient in this recipe is chia seeds, which are becoming easier and easier to find.

Next came the Bittersweet Cashew Cream Truffle Squares. These are a three-ingredient treat that come together in just five minutes (though you will need to soak some cashews ahead of time to make the cashew cream). Anyone with a taste for dark chocolate will appreciate these small squares. Just one warning here. You will need a small amount of guar gum for this recipe to help set the truffles. Most natural food stores carry it these days, so you should be able to source it easily.

Finally, I made Fran’s Almost-Instant Chocolate Pudding. As advertised, it was incredibly fast. In the span of just ten minutes, I went from a collection of raw ingredients to a dish of warm, creamy pudding. If your family loves pudding, you could even prep the combination of sugar, corn starch, cocoa powder, and salt ahead of time. That way, all you’d have to do would be to whisk, heat, and serve.

This is a book I plan on referencing for many years to come. As more of my friends and family members find that they have to cut certain ingredients out of their diet, it’s so good to have a reliable reference for delicious, satisfying, easy, dairy-free desserts.

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Ingredients

1½ teaspoons (3 grams) ground chia
1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) water, at room temperature
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (42 grams) organic all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (44 grams) organic whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup (25 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon (1.25 grams) aluminum-free baking powder
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup (54 grams) coconut oil, solid
¼ cup (50 grams) organic granulated sugar
¼ cup (39 grams) organic whole cane sugar or coconut sugar, ground in a blender until powdered
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
Heaping ½ cup (103 grams) vegan mini chocolate chunks or vegan chocolate chips

Instructions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F / 180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the ground chia in a small bowl. Pour the water over the chia. Set aside for 5 minutes undisturbed and then whisk hard. The chia gel will be lumpy at first but will smooth out as it hydrates. Whisk a few more times while you sift the dry ingredients.

Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the all-purpose flour, pastry flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt to the strainer and stir with a whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. (If any small bits remain in the strainer, add them to the mixture in the bowl.) Whisk to aerate the mixture.

In a deep mixing bowl, beat together the coconut oil and both of the sugars with an electric mixer, starting on low speed then moving to high. Beat until no solid oil remains. (If the oil is very cold, this can take a few minutes.) Whip the chia gel with a fork and add to the bowl with the vanilla. Beat until thoroughly combined.

Add about one third of the dry ingredients to the bowl and beat on low until combined. Repeat with the remaining thirds until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Stir the maple syrup and chocolate chunks into the batter with a silicone spatula.

Scoop the dough into a measuring tablespoon and pack tightly. Roll between your hands into a ball. (This will get messy!) Wipe your hands on paper towels as needed. Drop the cookies onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and press to about 2 inches / 5 cm in diameter. Bake on the middle rack for 9 minutes for a softer cookie and 10 minutes for a crisper but still chewy cookie. The cookies are soft when they come out of the oven but will firm as they cool.

Place the baking sheet on a wire rack. Cool the cookies to room temperature.

Store the cookies in a covered tin or jar at room temperature for up to two days. Freeze for up to one month.

Makes about 16 1-inch (2.5 cm) cookies

Bittersweet Cashew Cream Truffle Squares

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Ingredients

1 cup (240 milliliters) Basic Thick Cashew Cream (below)
7 ounces (198 grams) dark chocolate (72% to 75%)
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) pure vanilla extract
Dutch-process cocoa powder or chopped nuts, for coating

Instructions

Pour the Basic Thick Cashew Cream into a small saucepan and set aside.

Chop or break the chocolate into pieces, then process in a food processor until powdered. Add the chocolate to the cashew cream and cook over very low heat, stirring slowly and constantly with a silicone spatula until the chocolate is about two-thirds melted, about 1 minute.

Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and continue to stir gently until the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is smooth. Stir the vanilla into the ganache.

Line a 8 x 8-inch/20 x 20-centimeter pan with parchment paper large enough to hang over the sides. Spoon the ganache into the pan and smooth the top. (You want to make a block of ganache that is ½ to 1 inch/1.3 to 2.5 centimeters-thick.) Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours until firm and then transfer to the freezer. Freeze for 4 hours or overnight until quite firm.

When the ganache is firm, lift the block onto a cutting board with the help of the parchment paper. Square the edges with a sharp knife and cut the block into squares. If the ganache gets soft, refrigerate until chilled. (If the ganache is too soft to cut, work with half or even a quarter of the block at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated.)

To finish the truffles: Pour the cocoa powder into a fine mesh strainer and lightly sift the cocoa powder over the truffle squares. (If the squares are very cold, the cocoa may not adhere. If that happens, allow them to soften slightly for a few minutes.) Sprinkle with chopped nuts or seeds of your choice if you like. You may also coat them in melted chocolate and cocoa powder (the hybrid method), or enrobe in tempered chocolate. Place the finished truffles in the refrigerator to set for 30 to 45 minutes.

Makes 30 to 36 ¾-inch (2-centimeter) square truffles

Basic Thick Cashew Cream

Ingredients

5 ounces (about 1 cup) (142 grams) whole raw cashews, rinsed and soaked 3 to 4 hours or overnight
⅔ cup (160 milliliters water) at room temperature
¼ cup (60 milliliters) agave syrup or pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon guar gum

Instructions

Drain the cashews in a strainer. Put the rinsed nuts into a blender and add the water, agave or maple syrup, and vanilla. Blend, starting on low and quickly increase the speed to high. Blend for about 1 minute until the cream is perfectly smooth.

Push any pieces of unblended cashews down into the cream and blend for 1 minute.

Add the guar gum directly onto the cream, making sure it doesn’t land on the sides of the container. Blend on low for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high and blend for 1 minute.

Pour the cream into a container, cover, and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to two months. I freeze cashew cream in silicone ice cube trays, defrosting only the amount I need and giving the defrosted cream a good whisk before using. Store the frozen cubes in a zipper-lock bag until needed.

Makes about 1¾ cups (420 milliliters)

Almost-Instant Chocolate Pudding

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Ingredients

½ cup (111 grams) organic granulated sugar
¼ cup (28 grams) organic cornstarch (do not use arrowroot)
¼ cup (25 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups plus 6 tablespoons (450 milliliters) vanilla soymilk, vanilla almond milk, or vanilla coconut milk beverage
1½ ounces (43 grams) dark chocolate (59 to 62%), chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Sift the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt through a wire mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Slowly stir in the milk. Keep stirring until no trace of any of the dry ingredients is visible. The idea is to make sure the cornstarch is completely dissolved before you turn on the heat.

Cook over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken and is close to a boil. This can take as long as 23 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to get a full boil, but don’t let it be so high that the bottom scorches. As soon as the pudding starts to boil, it will thicken to pudding consistency. Immediately lower the heat and boil gently for another minute, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Gently stir in the chocolate with the silicone spatula until the chocolate is melted and incorporated. Stir in the vanilla.

Spoon the pudding into a bowl. It will be set and ready to use in about 30 minutes at room temperature, but it can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. If you refrigerate it, cover the surface with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap adheres to the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.

Makes 2¼ cups (540 milliliters)

Comments

  1. What beautiful photographs of the desserts you chose to test. Thank you so much! Marisa.

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