Channel-surfing for a cooking show this morning, I caught Christopher Kimball, the pompous and intensely annoying host of America’s Test Kitchen, deriding vegetarian food and a tofu dessert he ate somewhere.
“It is terrible,” he and another cook went in unison, talking about chocolate mousse made with tofu.
Now maybe the particular mousse these people ate was terrible and warranted that criticism. But is that good enough reason to tar as terrible any dessert made with tofu– or for that matter made without dairy or eggs? No way!
Cooks like Kimball don’t want to admit to the possibility that dairy-free and egg-free desserts can be delicious for the simple reason that doing that would render their own animal-product-filled desserts redundant. After all, as any intelligent person would have to agree, if one can make a great-tasting recipe without using ingredients that hurt animals, it would be a no-brainer to go with it, wouldn’t it?
The problem is, for those among us who look at celebrity cooks like these for guidance, their words become the gospel. For as long as people have been baking cakes and cookies, no one — until fairly recently — thought of questioning the tradition of using eggs and dairy. In fact, I remember when I first started baking all I heard was the importance of butter and cream and eggs in turning out a good baked product or dessert.
Then along came some innovative vegan cooks who showed us that not only is it possible to make wonderful desserts that are vegan but that they taste better too, and, cherry on the icing, they’re better for you. I, for one, am so glad that I dared to try what they had to offer. It changed the way I cooked and baked and I am happier and healthier for it.
What’s more, even Desi who is quite the critic when it comes to his favorite sweets admits that the vegan versions are tastier.
To anyone who still has doubts that making cruelty-free desserts is a breeze, I’d challenge you to try my Apple Cake with a Caramel Pecan Glaze. This cake is moist, delicious, full of flavor, and not only is it vegan but it is whole-wheat and low fat. Best of all, it’s super-easy to make.
This cake would look really pretty baked in a bundt pan, but I don’t have one so I just made it in a tube pan. But if you do have a bundt pan, use it.
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside
In a small bowl mix together:
3 Granny Smith apples, cored, deseeded, then chopped into a fairly small dice
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp molasses (you can use dark brown sugar instead of the regular sugar and skip the molasses. I love the molasses with the apples because it really deepens and enriches the flavor of the fruit)
In a large bowl, whisk together the following wet ingredients:
3 tbsp flax meal + 9 tbsp water
1/2 cup canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup crushed pineapple
Now add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well-blended, but do not overwork.
Add in the apples and mix together so they are evenly distributed through the batter. This is a pretty thick batter so you’ll get a good workout for your hand.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured tube or bundt pan and smooth the top.
Place in a 350-degree oven and bake around 80 minutes or until a toothpick inserted close to the center comes out with moist crumbs sticking to it.
Remove and cool on a rack about 30 minutes before sliding a knife around the edges and then unmolding.
Mix in a saucepan:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp water
Simmer over medium-low heat until the syrup turns brown.
Turn off the heat and very carefully and slowly (because it will splatter), :
1/2 cup of soy milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Now add 1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans and stir (you can chop the pecans if you like)
Pour over the top of the cake and allow the glaze to set before serving.
Looking for more great and fruity vegan dessert options? Try my Peach Upside-Down Cake, my Carrot Cake with a “Cream Cheese” frosting or my Mango Cheesecake. And if you’re still not convinced that dairy-free is the way to go, read more about what goes into making those dairy products here.