Monday, September 25, 2006

Book Review: More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts

Recently, I've been trying recipes from "More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts - Naturally" by nutritionist, pastry-chef and cooking teacher Fran Pierson. This book is completely vegan and most recipes contain some whole grain ingredients and less refined sweeteners.

The first chapter - Getting Started - contains helpful information about baking without dairy products and using natural sweeteners. I especially liked the "Tips and Techniques for Making and Baking Desserts" and "A Baker's Dozen Secrets to Successful Desserts." I also like that Costigan recommends using organic ingredients.

The rest of the book is devoted to recipes. I particulary enjoyed the information, advice and tips at the beginning of each section.

- Great Good Gels, Creams, Puddings, and Sauces
- Great Good Cookies, Bars, and Little Bites
- Great Good Cobblers, Crisps, Biscuits, Muffins, and More
- Great Good Cakes, Fillings, Frostings, and Glazes
- Great Good Pies and Tarts
- Great Good Fruit, Beverages, Frozen Desserts, and Confections

Here are my experiences with the recipes I tried:

Oat Sesame Squares (wheat free)

These are pretty much sweetened crackers made with oat flour, sesame seeds, some oil and maple syrup. I found the dough a bit dry so had to add about a tablespoon of water to get it to hold together.

These squares were really delicious - crispy, great flavor. These were one of my favorite recipes from the book and probably the only one I didn't have to cut down the sweetener in.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I was disapppointed in these. They seemed kind of dry and cardboardy. I think they needed more oats and maybe more oil. They also made a very small batch. I wouldn't make them again.

Peanut Butter Cookies

These were very good. I cut the sugar down from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup and replaced the white flour with whole wheat. Yummy.


I found this a little sweet - very light though. My family loved it.

Banana Currant Walnut Cornmeal Pancakes

Not sure how pancakes fit into a dessert cookbook but we tried it just the same. They were light and yummy - I would cut the sweetener down to 1 tablespoon next time.

Banana Walnut Bread

Very light even though I replaced the white flour with whole wheat. I cut the sweetener in half and it was still plenty sweet. Great as muffins.

Currant Scones

Excellent! - Even with replacing the white flour with whole wheat, they were light and puffed up nicely. I reduced the sugar dramtically - to 2 tablespoons and they were perfectly sweet. Also - didn't have currants so used dried cranberries which worked out fine.

Also - a couple of other changes. Since I decided in the morning, I was in a scone mood - the prep steps to this are very long and my kids were not about to wait 2 hours for their breakfast so rather than putting canola oil in the freezer for 45 minutes - I used Earth Balance that I already had refrigerated. However, the dough came out way too dry so I had to add quite a bit more rice milk until the dough would hold together. Then you are supposed to let that dough sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for gluten to relax. I put it in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Anyway - they came out great - definitely one of my favorites.

Coconut Sorbet

Wow was this good ! (with a little tweaking)

When I use my ice cream maker - I need at least 3 cups of liquid to get a good batch. This recipes called for 1 cup soy milk and 1 cup coconut milk. I used an entire 14 oz. can coconut milk (about 1 3/4 cups) and 1 cups soy milk (which I will increase to 1 1/4 next time).

Also - to save time and dish washing, I toasted the coconut in the pan (rather than oven roasting) before adding the recipes of the ingredients which worked great. I also reduced the light sugar to 1/2 cup and omitted the dark sugar entirely and it was still very sweet.

This was so good - rich and creamy with lots of roasted coconut. I will definitely be making this one often.


A couple of things that bothered me with this book:

- The recipe format: The ingredients are listed in a column on the left and the instructions to the right - fine if the recipe fits on one page (which it rarely does.) So when it continued, for some reason, there'd be a short list of ingredients on the first page and I'd say - great I have all that stuff and then I'd get to the next page and there'd be this long list - often twice as long - of all the rest of the ingredients. And I kept falling for it every time - maybe it's just me but that drove me crazy.

- Many of the recipes call for 1/4 juice. I don't normally buy juice - we don't drink it - and I only bake a few times a month - so I don't want to buy a bottle of juice to just use 1/4 cup. It seems such a small amount - does the recipe really need it? Can I just use water?

- Many of the recipes are very time consuming to make (like the scone thing) - with all these added steps. I think I would have tried more recipes if I didn't have to freeze canola oil first (what about coconut oil - would that work?) or make prune purree or toast a bunch of stuff. Once in a while, I don't mind a complicated recipe that I have to plan for but usually I just want something on the spur of the moment to make with the kids.

Also - what's with the pictures? The" Strawberry Shortcakes" are filled with raspberries, the "Super Fudge Low Fat Brownie" has frosting on it which is not in the recipe.


I think this cookbook is great if you want vegan desserts that taste just like regular very sweet desserts that you'd get at a bakery or bake from a regular non-vegan cookbook. The baked goods are much lighter and sweeter than typical whole-grain baked goods. You could defintitely make these recipes for your non-vegan, non health food eating company without pride.


aTxVegn said...

I know what you mean about the juice. I never drink my calories, so I don't buy it either. Two suggestions: 1. Buy apple juice. It keeps forever. Martinelli is a great brand. 2. If I don't have any juice and don't/can't use plain water or soymilk, I add a drop of orange oil to some water.

Thanks for the review!

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Hi - I just saw that you mentioned my book, Hugging the Rock, at the community. I wanted to say thank you for sharing it.

Be a rock!

Susan Taylor Brown

Cathe Olson said...

Good suggestions atxvegn.Thanks.

And Susan - I really enjoyed your book.

Valery said...

Great post about great book! It's great when you know so many recipes! I can cook only this few easy desserts...:(

Robert said...

Wow...... love chocolate chip cookies at Schlotzskys.

Robert said...

Wow...... love chocolate chip cookies at Schlotzskys.