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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book or books that contribute to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we review a book that presents vegan versions of old-fashioned classic baked desserts.

Vegan Baking Classics

By Kelly Rudnicki

Surrey Books, 2010
Paperback, $17.95

Many of us turn to our favorite vegan cookbook for dessert recipes without concern that the ingredients may be deadly. They're vegan, after all. But when author Kelly Rudnicki's son faced a life threatening challenge from consuming dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and legumes, she knew she had to explore new territory that didn't rely on those items, especially nuts that are so prevalent in vegan baking recipes.

Years of researching, experimenting, and learning resulted in Kelly's exquisite book, Vegan Baking Classics, an impressive work that includes many classic favorites we cherish and remember from childhood.

A busy mom of five children, this author relies on simple, familiar ingredients rather than expensive, exotic items to achieve her delicious success. She says, "Most of my egg substitutes rely only on water, vinegar, or perhaps a little silken tofu." She uses soy and rice milks in place of dairy, while egg substitutes feature mashed banana, flax meal, and soy nut butter.

Vegan Baking Classics In only four pages, she covers baking tips and tools, but each invaluable tidbit contributes greatly to the success of her recipes. She says, "Don't go cheap on your vanilla," and suggests a high-quality brand available at Williams-Sonoma or Whole Foods. Her ingredient preferences include unbleached flour, Earth Balance Natural Shortening and Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks.

Families with allergy-prone children will be grateful to Kelly for searching out pure chocolate chips not processed on equipment shared with ingredients that must be avoided. Other baking staples she keeps on hand are unsweetened applesauce, vinegar, silken tofu, and dairy-free sour cream and cream cheese.

One of her top baking hints, "Never measure ingredients over your mixing bowl," will prevent accidents like a flurry of salt pouring out all at once and spoiling the batter. She suggests reading the recipe thoroughly before starting to make sure all ingredients are on hand.

The chapter Quick Breads, Muffins, and More contains a lusty array of recipes for quick breads like Apple Spice Coffee Cake and Cinnamon Raisin Bread along with waffle and pancake recipes that can be frozen for convenience. A multitude of muffin recipes like Breakfast Bran Muffins and Cranberry Orange Muffins will provide families with great breakfast starters.

Home-baked bread, an old-fashioned tradition, enters the 21st century with soul satisfying recipes like Currant Scones, Bakery-Style Bagels, and Old-Fashioned Whole Wheat Bread, along with items like Italian Focaccia and Quick Pizza Dough.

The kids in the family will adore the cookie recipes with 17 mouth-watering choices ideal for lunchbox treats. Standards like Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cut-Out Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Chip Brownies, and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies appear alongside holiday goodies like Gingerbread Kids and Pumpkin Cookies with Classic Icing.

Kelly Rudnicki Birthday parties, celebrations, and family gatherings will become joyful occasions with finger-licking desserts like Carrot Cake, Classic Yellow and Classic Chocolate Birthday Cakes, but seasonal treats like Strawberry Shortcake with Soy Ice Cream are on the menu, too.

Frostings and Icings like Creamy Vanilla or Chocolate Frosting and Cream Cheese Frosting make perfect toppings for Kelly's Harvest Pumpkin Cake or Red Velvet Cake. Treasured pies, cobblers, and crisps are highlighted with recipes for Classic Apple Pie, Apple Crisp, Cherry Cobbler, and Holiday Cranberry Pie.

Concluding the book is a pint-sized chapter, Other Sweet Treats, that spotlights easy-to-prepare beverages like Hot Cocoa, frozen desserts like Lemon Granita, and a recipe for Snickeroos that includes an attention-getting photo of these chocolate frosted bars stacked three layers high.

What makes this dessert cookbook doubly attractive is the well-crafted three-color graphic design and the excellent choice of slick, clay-coated paper that enhances the appearance of each page. Readers will adore browsing the banquet of stunning full-color photos by Robert Knapp of almost all of the recipes. With the addition of these color photos, home bakers will be able to see what the finished dessert looks like.

Veganizing traditional desserts has many challenges, but by eliminating peanuts and tree nuts, the task becomes an even more ambitious endeavor. Author Kelly Rudnicki succeeds in achieving sweet success in Vegan Baking Classics, a dessert cookbook that will be treasured by all, especially families with members avoiding dairy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. Rudnicki offers the real goods--delectable classic desserts that are vegan, yet indistinguishable from the old dairy and egg-laden standards.

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