Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cashew Creme Pear Tart from My Sweet Vegan

This past week I had the pleasure of going through one of the first copies of Hannah Kaminsky's new cookbook My Sweet Vegan and it really is impressive. I knew there would be great recipes in it but what surprised me was how complete of a cookbook it is. This book not only had a large number of different recipes but it is a good information source for cooking vegan (and allergy-free, gluten-free, etc.), especially for someone new to vegan cooking such as myself.

My Sweet Vegan starts with a brief introduction into Hannah's journey into vegan baking and then an overview of some of the special ingredients and tools she uses. I found the ingredient guide helpful because some of the recipes called for ingredients I'd never used or purchased before. It also helped me look at the ingredients from a vegan's perspective. Case in point, margarine. I thought margarine was non-dairy. Not true, brands like Imperial and Land O Lakes contain whey and buttermilk respectively. I only looked based on Hannah's advice.

My Sweet Vegan is broken into five chapters: Sweet Starts, Cookies and Bars, Cakes and Cupcakes, Pies and Tarts, and Miscellaneous Morsals and Desserts. The majority of recipes fall into the Cookies and Bars and Cakes and Cupcakes chapters. Each recipe has a little caption where Hannah talks about the item in the recipe and a large, full-color photo. As far as cookbooks go, I'm more likely to pick a new recipe if there is a picture because either the picture will appeal to me or the picture gives me an idea of how the recipe should turn out. I was also impressed by the large variety of recipes. Some books give you a chapter on something like pies and then give you basically the same pie with different fillings. The recipes presented by My Sweet Vegan varied quite a bit. Old standards like banana nut muffins, black & white cookies, Whoopie pies, and pumpkin pecan pie share the pages with pink lemonade tartlets, root beer float cupcakes, graham flour fig scones, and green tea tiramisu.

My Sweet Vegan ends with a food allergy index and an ingredient index. The food allergy index is a brilliant idea, making it very easy choose a recipe for my food allergy challenged friends without having to go through the ingredients list of each recipe.

The first recipe I tried was the Cashew Creme Pear Tart, which I selected mainly because of the picture. I was able to find almost all of the ingredients in my local supermarket, which isn't very fancy and definitely not the source for hard to find items. The only thing I couldn't find there was the brown rice syrup, hence the use of corn syrup as a substitute. I also made 6 (should have been 7) small tarts out of this recipe instead of one big one. As you can see below, the instructions were straightforward and simple to follow and this tart was a breeze to make, especially if you use the cashew butter like I did. I really like how the pear and the cashew creme tasted together and the crust was very similar to a sugar cookie. This definitely would be a good sweet ending to any meal.

Overall, I really like My Sweet Vegan and even though I'm not vegan, I can see making recipes out of this book for a long time to come.

Cashew Creme Pear Tart
from page 136-137 of the My Sweet Vegan: passionate about dessert

Makes 12-14 servings

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup margarine
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup (I substituted corn syrup)

Cashew Creme:
1 1/2 cup whole, raw cashews or 1 cup cashew butter
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pear Topping:
2 firm, medium-sized pears
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sliced almonds for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 °F (160 °C).

Combine the sugar, almond meal, and brown rice flour in a medium bowl. Melt the margarine and pour it in, along with the brown rice syrup. Stir to coat all of the dry ingredients thoroughly, and press this mixture firmly into the bottom of a 9 inch round springform pan. Bring the crust about 1 inch up the sides of the pan, and set aside.

If using whole cashews, begin by grinding them down in your food processor. It may take 5 to 10 minutes for the cashews to begin releasing their natural oils and turn into a smooth paste, but don't stop short, as it is important that there are no lumps. Add your freshly processed cashew butter, or a store bought version (available in many natural food stores), to your blender or food processor along with the water, maple syrup, and vanilla. Process to combine. Smooth the resulting creme into your crust and set aside again.

To core and slice your pears, cut them in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into slices of about 1/8 inch thickness. There is no need to peel the pears, as the skins add extra flavor, texture, and fiber. Toss the slices with the sugar and cinnamon, and arrange them on top of your cashew creme. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pears soften. Let cool and sprinkle with sliced almonds before serving.

Recipe used on Cookies, Et Cetera with permission of Hannah Kaminsky and publisher Fleming Ink as owners of the copyright. All other uses must be permitted by the author and the copyright holders.

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