Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Utopia

With a book like this, what's the first thing I do?  Flip through the pages and drool over the pictures.  And oh man, everything looks mouth-watering tasty! And believe me, I wanted to try everything.  (Check out this site for more images and recipes;)  So, I would like to take a moment to thank the Book Publishing Company for tempting me with such delicious things straight out of my mailbox and then giving me the opportunity to share such things with you!

A Little Education
Like many cookbooks on the shelves these days, Sweet Utopia by Sharon Valencik contains a "Stocking the Kitchen" section to inform you of anything you might need for the recipes.  Next, in "Succeed in Vegan Baking," Valencik shares a few tips on particular ingredients, including substitution and conversion charts.  Vegans with an assortment of cookbooks or experience will be able to skip this section, but these things are helpful for those new to vegan baking.  I am disappointed to see Nonvegan Alternatives listed in the substitution chart and, in general, find most of what this chart contains common sense.
The Sweets
What comes next?  What do you think?!  The good stuff, that's what.  All of the sweet treats are divided into five tasty chapters:  Decadent Cakes, Scrumptious Cookies, Creamy Cheesecakes and Pies, Velvety Mousses, Puddings and Cremes, AND Luscious Treats.  Most of the titles are pretty descriptive in their offerings, but let me clue you on what you can find in the last chapter.  Luscious Treats includes coconut tiramisu, chocolate-covered almond tangerine balls (I'm still dying to try these!), chocolate-rose halvah balls and more!  Over at Vegan Family Style, Debra has collected the whole contents page if you would like to check it out.

very berry corn muffinstahini coconut oatmeal cookies3

chocolate chip and nut streusel coffee cake3

Sweet Tastes
We tried the Chocolate Chip and Nut Streusel Coffee Cake, Very Berry Corn Muffins, Tahini-Coconut-Oatmeal Cookies, and the Cocoa-Berry Cake with Berry Cream Frosting :)  For the Tahini Cookies I basically followed the recipe and even with regular raw sugar these were subtly sweet, which suited them fine.  For the other three we used alternative sweeteners, date sugar for the most part.  The Very Berry Corn Muffins were about what you would expect and were a pleasant afternoon snack.  The Cocoa-Berry Cake was interesting.  I don't think that ours turned out very well because perhaps other changes needed to be made to accommodate the sweetener change.  I did, however, enjoy the texture of the cake, though the flavor wasn't exactly what I was hoping for.  Now, the Coffee Cake?!  This was my favorite!  It was amazing.  We used date sugar in the cake and in the streusel topping and this worked out just fine.  The texture and flavor were both quite desirable and it looked quite nice, too.  With a cup of the coffee on the side, well, what do you think?  AMAZING!

I think this is a worthy purchase.  Valencik has created some interesting, new spins on old favorites and made some gourmet-style treats seem quite obtainable from your home kitchen.  You may have to pick up some new ingredients that you wouldn't normally have on hand and put aside some extra time in the kitchen.  But I think you will find it all quite worth your while :)

***Stay tuned for a couple of sample recipes.  I will feature one that I made and one that I am dying to try.  You can also expect more cookbook reviews with a GIVEAWAY at the end.***


two vegan boys said...

I love this book. Every picture made me drool. The PB cake was so good. Hope you have a lovely week. xo

Kelly said...

Hi Cassie! I can't believe all the baking you did--wish I could have helped in the "taste testing" part! I have looked a this book a thousand times and voted a No on purchasing it--but this post gives me a nudge in the Buy Now direction! Great recap! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great book! (Pity I'm slimming...) It was interesting to read about your alternative sweetners. I must try date syrup. I bought some once, but didn't use it before it went yukky! :( I'll try again... Normally I use agave nectar or Sweet Freedom.

Cassie - Vegan Fox said...

Krys - I know what you mean! I'll have to try the PB cake, it does sound tasty.

Kelly - Yeah, it's definitely worth a double take ;)

Penny - Mostly we use date sugar, agave nectar and brown rice syrup. We haven't used a lot of date syrup, actually, but I will warn you it has a strong flavor! The date sugar doesn't have quite as strong a flavor, but it does at a subtle taste at times. What is Sweet Freedom?

Reading in the Dark said...

This all sounds amazing. I would especially want to try the coconut tiramisu and chocolate-covered almond tangerine balls that you mentioned! Wow, maybe I should buy it (though I have so many cookbooks now that are devoted only to sweets)...

Cassie - Vegan Fox said...

Han' - Can one more cookbook really hurt? Not if it's this one! Yeah, both of those sound amazing, I will consider posting one of them.