Monday, June 13, 2011

Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale: More Than 150 Sweet and Savoury Vegan Treats Perfect for Sharing

Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale: More Than 150 Sweet and Savoury Vegan Treats Perfect for Sharing
Author: Carla Kelly
Publisher: The Experiment (2011)

Bake sales are one of the most well-received fundraising techniques around. It’s hard to pass up a table or two laden with grab-and-go treats like cookies, muffins or wrapped slices of banana bread, especially when it’s for a good cause. Though the school year (prime time for the events) is briskly drawing to a close, portable snacks are still in hot demand with the camp-kid set and the BBQ potluck crowds. With the popularity and obvious economic benefits of selling batches of sweet treats piecemeal, there is always the worry of alienating those with restricted diets or worse – causing an allergic reaction due to the ingredients that commonly fill these foods. Luckily, vegan treats eliminate the need for the eggs and dairy concern – but can be rife with nuts. Carla Kelly addresses all of these concerns, and more, with her decadent new book Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale: More Than 150 Sweet and Savoury Vegan Treats Perfect for Sharing.

Kelly pens this cookbook with a witty, approachable tone – confidently declaring in her introduction that she is “not a dietician, a nutritionist, or a professional chef” (p. xii) and adding that the recipes are ideas for both special occasions and everyday treats as well as saleable fare. Adaptation and substitution are even encouraged with helpful sections on those topics in the introduction as well as blank “Remember” boxes for your own notes. Kelly also writes a primer on bake sales and sharing, covering everything from the economics of it all to location and marketing – a must read for any potential host. Newbie chefs and bakers used to using a box mix will appreciate her exposé of the equipment, ingredients, and basic “how-to’s” for the bakeshop, although experienced cooks and most harried parents will skip these parts along with the somewhat inconsequential “history” section.

The recipes in Vegan Bake Sale are tantalizing, well written and varied – covering not only the “traditional” bars, quick-breads, cupcakes with frosting, cookies, muffins and pie, but also yeasted and savoury treats that will appeal to almost anyone. Whether you’re on the hook for two dozen vanilla cupcakes for the next Girl Guides meeting or just want to make a killer lunch entree on the weekends, one of the titles will fit your bill. For those with allergy concerns, Kelly declares nuts, soy, peanuts, and wheat at the top of each recipe, and again at the back of the book (in a piece titled Allergy and Suitability Information (p. 253) along with a refined sugar-free and child-friendly recipe listing. Regardless of what recipe you opt for first, the ease of making it and the excellent taste will bring you back for more. Your waistline may not appreciate you (another point she admits) but those around you surely will!

I opted to test one of her more “coffee-break”, adult-friendly quick-breads: Chai Chocolate Mini Loaves (p. 78). Taking her approval of substitutions to heart, I chose to use half whole-wheat flour and some of our chai tea in the batter instead of the black and the other spices (except an additional dash of cinnamon). Even with using the specific tea, there was a distinct lack of flavour “oomph” in the batter, but upon doubling the amount of tea the rest was smooth sailing. The scent coming from the oven was enough to cause even non-chai lovers’ mouths to water! I followed Kelly’s preparation instructions easily, and took advantage of her handy “muffin” variation – which, as proscribed, made exactly 12. There was no discernable “weight” or taste from the whole grain flour, and the little pops of chocolate (I used miniature chips instead of a grated bar) were the perfect addition to the not-too-sweet concoction. My taster group loved that an oil-free muffin or quick-bread batter was so light, moist and flavourful, while the non-vegans never knew that they were egg and dairy free too. Once my rhubarb plant takes a bit firmer stand in it’s growing season, page 67’s Rhubarb Squares are on my list!

With so many delicious recipes and clever tips, it’s a shame that Vegan Bake Sale doesn’t include more pictures in it’s pages. Given that Kelly is herself a blogger at Vegan Year and takes fantastic photos, it should go without saying that her recipes be peppered with eye candy to ensnare those who just “flip though” cookbooks for inspiration. Granted, there are 8 pages of colour photographs positioned between the “Ingredients” and “How to Bake” sections, but it is impractical for most visual chefs to constantly flip back and forth. Thankfully the food speaks for itself once it’s in the process of being made, and if nothing else – it’s a bake sale! Make the treats as ornate or rustic as you please to suit the potential clientele!

Whether you’re a steak and cheese fanatic or have been animal-free for years, it’s hard to go wrong with recipes as consistently rewarding as those in Vegan Bake Sale. The simplicity, approachability and practicality of the treats in this book speak volumes about the author’s love for sharing good food, and might just inspire you to do the same.

Available on Amazon

No comments: