Fran Costigan, take a bow! Fran's latest book "More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts," is filled with recipes and tips that will take you from hum drum to "gourmet dessert chef" status with your family and friends.
Fran starts off her book by offering a very valuable and helpful "Getting Started" section that walks you through the essential ingredients for a non-dairy, egg-free dessert kitchen. She covers the wide range of sweeteners that you should (and should NOT) use, as well as fats (and why she does not use margarine), flours, the 3 C's (cocoa, coconut, chocolate), nuts, the usual thickeners, and tofu. She then delves into equipment, tips and techniques for making great desserts and offers - my favorite! - a "Baker's Dozen Secrets to Successful Desserts." This is a seriously enjoyable book for anyone who wants to excel in the dessert department.
I jumped around in the book, making things I had the ingredients for on hand. I'm always on the look out for a healthier version of anything I already make so I started with "I Fixed My Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies." It was a hit with my kids but particularly with me because it cut out a lot of fat content that traditional peanut butter cookies have in them to produce this lighter and delicious version.
I did have to run down to the store to get walnuts because I just had to try the Cinnamon Walnut Un-Coffeecake. This was a signature dish for Fran when she baked at Angelica Kitchen so I just HAD to make it! I am rather simple and straightforward when it comes to making desserts. I'm not big on making fancy stuff. I want simple and straightforward recipes and tend to shy away from those that involve two stages or two separate parts that are to be combined. This recipe was one of those but it was so simple! Combine the wet. Pour in the dry. Whisk till smooth. Bake. That was the cake part. The filling was equally simple once I got the walnuts toasted, cooled and chopped. The end result? A fabulously moist and delicious cake that I will certainly be serving with coffee to my next girlfriends gathering!
Another thing I always look for in a cookbook is potential breakfast dishes and good-for-you lunch box treats—I am very breakfast and lunchbox challenged. Fran did not disappoint me. She's got a Good Granola recipe, a couple of smoothies that everyone in my house enjoyed and "Super Stuffed Baked Apples" that I have decided to make a monthly weekend breakfast dessert! I'm going to try the recommended small scoop of her "Coconut Sorbet" on top next time I make it. There's also Banana Currant Walnut Cornmeal Pancakes, Baking Powder Biscuits, and a few muffin recipes too.
As for lunch box treats the "Oat Sesame Squares," the "Apricot Currant Nut and Oat Bars," and the "No Bake Fruit and Nut Energy Bites" are all easy to make, lightly sweet, and so very good! I've carded all three (see this month's article Meal Planning Made Easy) for our lunch boxers.
Fran wraps up her book with a Bibliography and Reading List and Resources for Ingredients and Equipment that is a great starting point for those of us wanting to get serious about our baking and dessert creating and are having a hard time finding ingredients and utensils (check out the great stuff at Sur La Table). This book is a treasure for experienced cooks and beginners alike.