Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Desserts Can Be Practical!

I had the pleasure of spending much of my free time at Vida Vegan Con in 2011 with Ms. Amber Shea Crawley and her husband Matt. This was before she was cookbook famous! Now Amber is pumping out raw cookbooks, like, every year!

Okay, well, for at least the last two years. Amber's sophomore follow-up to last year's Practically Raw is all about the sweet stuff. That's right, Practically Raw Desserts is finally here! And every page boasts a full-color, mouth-watering photo of healthy desserts (many of which look deceptively sinful!).

There are chapters for cookies, brownies and bars, cakes and cupcakes, pie, puddings and ice creams, and even candies, truffles, and fudge. But everything is totally healthy because the desserts are raw and made with wholesome ingredients. The beautifully frosted Devil's Food Cupcakes are made with applesauce, almond flour, cacao, powder, and maple syrup! And the Coco-Nana Cream Pie is made with coconut, almonds, bananas, and coconut butter!

For many recipes, Amber includes a baked version. So those recipes can be totally raw or not at all, depending on your preference. She also includes substitutions and variations for nearly every recipe. For example, if you don't have coconut nectar to make the Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart with Macaroon Crust, Amber lists other things you can use instead: maple syrup, agave nectar, or other liquid sweeteners.

While I really wanted to try some cake (the Enlightened Carrot Cake with Tangy Cream Cheese Icing was calling my name), I don't have access to coconut flour, and Amber says it cannot be substituted. In fact, most of the cakes and some brownies call for coconut flour. Rest assured: Most of the ingredients in the book are easy to come by. As far as I can tell, coconut flour is the one thing I cannot get my hands on locally. Amber actually includes instructions for making your own flours from almonds and cashews, as well as recipes for homemade nut milks. But coconut flour must be purchased.

I'm sure I can order some online, and I very well may. But since I didn't have any on-hand, I decided to try something with ingredients I can easily find in Memphis. I needed some more bars for pre-run snacks, so I picked the Goji Berry Granola Bars:

I went with the baked variation instead of making them raw in a dehydrator as the book suggests. I have an awesome dehydrator, and I love any excuse to use it. But I started these last night, and there just wasn't time for them to dehydrate for 6 to 8 hours before I would wake up to run and need to eat one.

Anyway, these baked bars were out of this world good! The perfect blend of chewy, soft, mapley sweet goodness. They're made from oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, and goji berries blended with a delicious maple-tahini sauce. After baking for about 20 minutes, these little guys were toasty and bound together. They held up wonderfully when I sliced the bars for storage.

I also tried the Cocoa Crunch Clusters, because Amber's publisher released this recipe to share with blog readers on her cookbook tour:

These are so simple! Just three ingredients — raisins, coconut, and cacao nibs. That's it. They're sweet and chocolatey. A perfect snack for a light to moderate workout.

Here's that recipe, as promised.

Cocoa Crunch Clusters
Reprinted with permission from Practically Raw Desserts

1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1/2 cup cacao nibs
Big pinch of sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is sticky and well-combined. Rolls into balls of any size and refrigerate until firm.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, bring them to room temperature before serving.

Raisins: dried cherries, golden raisins, or 1 1/4 cups pitted dates


Unknown said...

I am looking for a new dessert.. I am doing this one now.. but I need something else... can you help??

what do you think of this one?
any ideas for me>> thanks!! love your blog !

xvavaveganx said...

I love love love Amber's books! I got Practically Raw Desserts and I seriously can't wait to try these amazing recipes!! I think I'm going to try those turtle bites first ;) Yum!!

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of coconut at all. Can you taste the coconut when using coconut flour? How much is coconut listed as an ingredient through out the book?

Hannah said...

Reading all of these reviews of Amber's amazing work makes me so ridiculously proud of my soulsister, and almost as deliriously excited for VVC this year as I am proud. Go Amber! Go VVC! All the good things!

VeganLinda said...

I don't know about all recipes, but I used coconut flour this weekend for my son's birthday cake. We had gluten free friends attending so we made our first gkuten free cakes. They were a hit and no coconut taste.

Cadry's Kitchen said...

I can't wait to get my hands on this one! I just love Amber's Practically Raw. It's really appealing that she gives both cooked and raw options, depending on your needs and capabilities.