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Book Reviews

Vegan Chocolate
Book Review:
Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan
Sometimes I am just blown away by how much the vegan culinary world has grown since I first moved this direction 18 years ago. The seismic shifts that veganism has undergone is perfectly captured by the revolutionized cookbook scene. Whereas once we had a few good vegan cookbooks and a bunch of vegetarian ones loaded with dairy and eggs we’d have to try to adapt (recipes created at a time when people seemed to think that anyone reading them would be petrified to eat vegetables without several cups of sour cream to drown them in first), today, the vegan cookbook landscape is far more diverse, modern, and, frankly, appealing.

It is not enough to create excellent recipes, though: many published today come with stunning food photography and beautiful layouts. With the progress we’ve seen, the attitude behind vegan cookbooks has also gone through a big change in tone: it is now a given that vegan food isn’t anything to apologize for or try to hide. At its best, vegan cuisine is sumptuous and refined, cutting-edge and comforting. The gorgeous new cookbook by the accomplished and ground-breaking pastry chef Fran Costigan, Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Chocolate, represents just how far we have come from the days when I believe people weren’t far off in thinking that vegans really ate twigs and grass.

Vegan Chocolate, though, wow. First of all, it looks like it would be very comfortable on a coffee table to be ogled over. Speaking of, cookbook fiends are going to appreciate that the cover is actually part of the book, rather than a pesky dust jacket. I’d love to see more of this, especially with cookbooks, which really can be put through the wringer, at least in my kitchen. This isn’t a cookbook you’ll want to relegate to a coffee table, though. Full of background, breadth and an unabashed love for the occasional rich indulgence, Fran walks everyone from the novice baker to the more experienced chef through a perfect guide for creating divine chocolate desserts in the home. With beginning chapters that address everything from ingredients to instruction on how to temper chocolate by oneself (it’s surprisingly easy), Vegan Chocolate is like having a one-on-one baking intensive with a master right in your own home.

With chapters addressing Truffles (like Aztec Truffles, recipe below); Cakes (like Brownie Pudding Cakelettes); Showstoppers (like Brooklyn Blackout); Cookies, Bars, and Little Bites (like Gluten-Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies); Creams, Puddings, and Gels (like Coconut Milk Black Rice Pudding); Frozen Desserts (like Chocolate Brownie Crumble Ice Cream); Confections (like Chocolate Dulce de Leche); Beverages (Cacao, Matcha, and Kale Smoothie), and Master Recipes (like Thick and Glossy Fudge Frosting), this is a truly impressive labor of love. Even more impressive is Fran’s commitment to making indulgent desserts that are better and more beautiful than their dairy-and-eggs laden counterparts while also maintaining a commitment to natural, simple ingredients. She did it. This book is a winner; it is a generous gift to yourself or someone you love, especially with the holidays coming up.

With simple but never condescending instructions (helpfully, the measurements are provided both in cups and metric units) and accessible techniques and ingredients, you will easily be able to replicate these creations in your own home. Bring cake to work, though, or have a party to show these beauties off. We need to let the world know that vegan cuisine is not a diet of deprivation. Prepare to wow everyone with Vegan Chocolate.

Start out with these decadent-looking Aztec Truffles. Thanks to Fran Costigan and Running Press for permission.

Aztec Truffles

Aztec Truffles

Savory spices incorporated into desserts yield fabulous results, but restraint is necessary, particularly when the spices are potent. Remember: adding spice is easy; removing it, especially in this recipe, is often impossible. While the dark chocolate in this recipe will temper the potency of the spice, use the minimum amount of ancho chili to start, tasting as you go. Then, add cautiously until the flavor reaches your preferred level of heat.

Makes 28 to 30 (1-inch / 2.5-Cm) Truffles

8 ounces / 227 grams dark chocolate (70% to 72%), finely chopped
3 ⁄4 cup / 180 ml almond milk or soymilk
2 tablespoons / 26 grams organic granulated sugar
1 1⁄4 to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons / 2 to 3.5 grams ancho chili powder, plus 1 ⁄4 teaspoon for cocoa coating, if using
3 ⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ⁄8 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus 1 ⁄8 teaspoon for coating
2 teaspoons / 10 ml mild tasting or fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1 ⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Dutch-process cocoa powder, for coating (optional)

Make The Ganache

Put the chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set aside while you heat the milk. (Have a fine mesh strainer nearby for straining the milk over the chocolate.)

Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Add the sugar, 1 1⁄4 teaspoons of the chili powder, cinnamon, and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking a few times, to a low boil.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Let the milk sit for 30 minutes to infuse with the flavor of the spices, stirring a few times. The heat of the chili powder should be pronounced, so taste the milk now. If not, add some or all of the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon chili powder and let the milk infuse for another few minutes.

Warm the milk over medium heat until small bubbles are visible around the sides. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.

Pour the milk quickly through the strainer over the chocolate all at once. Rotate the bowl so the chocolate is completely submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate and let stand undisturbed for 4 minutes.

Add the olive oil and the vanilla and whisk from the center out only until smooth and glossy. (If the chocolate is not completely melted, refer to page 36 for instructions on using a water bath to melt the chocolate.)

Keep the bowl of ganache at room temperature while you test the final consistency. A properly made truffle ganache is firm enough to scoop and shape but still tastes creamy. Dip a teaspoon into the ganache, set the coated spoon on a small plate, and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes. After chilling, the ganache on the spoon should be smooth and firm, but still taste creamy. It is unlikely, but if the glaze is too firm, add a tablespoon of room temperature milk, and repeat the test. Add a second tablespoon if needed.

Cool the ganache in a shallow dish at room temperature for 30 minutes. (The ganache sets up fastest and most evenly in a 9-inch / 23-cm glass pie pan, but a wide bowl is fine too.) Refrigerate uncovered until the surface is no longer soft, then place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ganache, covering it completely, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until very firm. The ganache can be refrigerated at this point for up to one week in an airtight container.

Make The Truffle Centers

Line a shallow container with parchment. Remove the ganache from the refrigerator. Use a spoon to scoop out 1-inch / 2.5-cm pieces of ganache and another to push the ganache off the spoon into the container. (If you prefer more uniform truffles, use a 1⁄2 -tablespoon scoop.) When a half dozen or so are made, roll and press the pieces into irregularly shaped rounds. Repeat until all the ganache has been used, washing and drying your hands as needed. (If at any time the ganache becomes too soft to shape, refrigerate until cold and proceed.) Cover and refrigerate the truffle centers in layers separated by parchment paper for 15 to 25 minutes before finishing with the cocoa coating.

Finish The Truffles

Roll in cocoa powder, mixed with cinnamon, ancho chili powder, and flaked sea salt (or coat in melted chocolate and cocoa powder, aka the hybrid method; or enrobe in tempered chocolate; as noted in the truffle chapter intro. Chill the coated truffles in the refrigerator to set for 30 to 45 minutes.

Recipes reprinted with permission from VEGAN CHOCOLATE ©2013 by Fran Costigan, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group

Photo Credit: ©Kate Lewis 2013

© 2013, 2014, Vegan Street

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