Chocoholics, I have a treat for you!
My dear friend, Fran Costigan is known as "the queen of desserts" in the vegan community, and in her gorgeous book, Vegan Chocolate, she shares 120 incredible chocolate recipes for cake, brownies, truffles, puddings, ice creams to delight every incantation of chocolate your heart desires. Some recipes are gluten-free and there is also some raw offerings. I've been saving this post, because this book would make such an amazing Christmas present! I'm making batches of these truffles with my mum this weekend to give as Christmas presents. But, the problem is.....we keep eating them. As soon as I finish this post, I'm heading to the store to buy some more ingredients!
For those of you who don't know Fran, she is an internationally recognized culinary instructor, recipe developer, innovative vegan pasty chef, and author of three cookbooks. If you're in NYC check out her incredible vegan baking boot camp intensive at the Institute of Culinary Education and at the Natural Gourmet Institute. She also teaches events all over the United States and Europe.
Fran has been featured on Discovery TV, demonstrating her celebrated “Chocolate Cake to Live For,” and on Better TV and ABC’s Nightline with her “Healthy Organic Vegan Twinkies.” Her work has been profiled in print and online media including VegNews, Vegetarian Times, Vegetarian Living, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Professional Pastry Chef, Café Sweets Japan and Organic Spa.
I have to tell you, I learnt so much from this book. Baking or working with chocolate (besides raw cacao powder) is not my strong suit. But, I really feel like I can handle all kinds of chocolate with absolute confidence after reading this book. It is so comprehensive.
Fran gives you the skinny on the vegan chocolate and baking essentials: wheat flours, gluten-free flours, starches, gums, fats, extracts, leavening agents, superfood ingredients, non dairy milks, nuts and seeds, spices and seasonings, sweeteners, and, of course, all about every kind of chocolate!
You learn about the different kinds of chocolate, how to store and chop chocolate, instructions for melting and tempering chocolate, and tips for decorating with chocolate. Fran also shares instructions for measuring dry ingredients (the "whisk, dips, and sweep" technique for the best results), roasting nuts, and gives you the rundown on all of the equipment you will need to make fabulous chocolate desserts.
Then there's the exquisite recipes.
There is an entire section on truffles. I love the truffle tutorial! There's lemon olive oil truffles, spicy ginger truffles, chai-spiced truffles, espresso truffles, and I just love these bittersweet cashew-cream truffle squares. Mine didn't look quite as beautiful as Fran's, so I'm use the gorgeous photo from the book. Kate Lewis.
The cake section of the book is absolutely fantastic. The Cake Troubleshooting page and frosting tips page are so helpful. I will be referring to these pages every time I make a cake. Do not missing making the white and dark chocolate cheesecake. Oh my....
The cookies chapter has similar great tips for troubleshooting your own recipes like what to do for dry cookies and under-baked cookies. The gluten-free brownie bites, gluten-free chocolate chunk cookies, and chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons are delicious.
In the pies and tarts chapter I tried the gluten-free raw nut crust, and made the chocolate pecan pie with a gluten-free crust. Yum! I also learnt to slow-roast pecans for 35 minutes at 275/140 C for a more concentrated pecan flavor. There are great tips like this throughout the book. I also made a gluten-free version of the bittersweet chocolate and lemon tartlets.
But, the creams and puddings section was my favorite because there were so many gluten-free options. The chocolate panna cotta was superb, the almost-instant chocolate pudding was super easy and scrumptious, the coconut milk black rice pudding, warm chocolate cashew cream pudding, and magic chocolate mousse, white chocolate and matcha mousse pudding, mocha creme brulee, and chocolate "jello" shots were all so good I am contemplating death by chocolate!
Don't miss the frozen desserts section with recipes for chocolate espresso gelato, peanut butter and jam fudge-swirled ice cream, chocolate Mexican-spiced ice cream, chocolate margarita ice cream, and watermelon granita with chocolate seeds.
There's also great recipes for confections and drinks, such as no mallow rice crispie treats, chocolate peanut butter cups, mendiants, Mexican hot chocolate, peanut butter cup smoothie, chocolate horchata, and chocolate vodka.
I really found the master recipes section helpful. This section of staple recipes is reason enough to get this book. There recipes for different chocolate glazes, frostings, syrups, sauces, creams and fillings, and sauces to use in your own creations. There's also a comprehensive resources section to get all of your supplies.
Here are some notes from Fran about making these chocolates:
This three-ingredient, one pot, luxuriously creamy chocolate truffle is incredibly quick and easy. However, unlike truffles made with other nondairy milks, the Basic Thick Cashew Cream used in this recipe must first be warmed gently over low heat with very finely chopped chocolate or, better yet, chocolate that has been powdered in a food processor. Smaller particles ensure that the chocolate will melt quickly into the warm liquid, resulting in a smooth ganache with minimal stirring.
For the Basic Thick Cashew Cream: Cashew Cream is a valuable base ingredient that stands in for dairy cream in a variety of ways, and is used both uncooked and cooked. Refrigerate Cashew Cream for up to two days, or freeze it in ice cube trays so that the right amount is always available for quick defrosting. To make the smoothest and best-tasting cashew cream, start with soaked whole raw cashews. If you want to speed the soaking process, use boiling water. The cashews will be soft enough to blend in one hour. If using a high-speed blender, the Cashew Cream will be thick and smooth in minutes. If using a standard blender, blend the nuts in batches, processing longer. Stop the blender a few times to clean the sides of the container. The small amount of guar gum added is highly recommended to make the richest tasting cream, and one that does not separate.
Tempering Chocolate: Tempering is simply melting chocolate in a controlled way so the fat crystals are stable. The chocolate bars that you purchase are already tempered. However, when chocolate is melted that changes, and the chocolate must be tempered again. The traditional manner of tempering chocolate is labor intensive. Professionals use tempering machines. I make small batches of tempered chocolate as needed using the easy-to-master seed method. And when I do not wish to temper chocolate for truffles, I dip truffle centers in melted (untempered) chocolate, and dust with cocoa or another dry coating. I call this the hybrid method of coating I store chocolate-coated cookies, cakes, and transfer sheet chocolate shapes in the freezer, where the sheen stays pristine.
I really love this book, and have purchases four extra copies to put under the tree this Christmas.
Get your copy of Vegan Chocolate and learn more about Fran Costigan.