Portland’s Kris Holechek, who you may know from Squirrel’s Vegan Kitchen, self-published this fun collection of breads, cookies, cakes, and other assorted goodies. The first thing I noticed and loved about The Damn Tasty! Vegan Baking Guide was the "baking basics" section where she expounds on why she just uses the term "milk" throughout the book rather than "soy milk," "non-dairy milk," or some other similar term:
As I refined the content, I truly agonized over the way to write about milk. I’ve seen books that assume soy milk for the milk and I’ve seen books where the word milk is in quotes, calling for "milk." Now just think of coconut milk. No one protests calling that milk. Alternative milks date back hundreds and hundreds of years to different regions of the world, so they aren’t a new invention, they are just newly recognized by western society. Because of my strong views on the linguistics of eating, I chose to simply write the word milk. This is a vegan book, so clearly the use of cow’s or goat’s milk is unacceptable. But people have preferences, allergies and limitations to what is available to them, so the milk you prefer, be it so, almond, rice, it’s up to you. If there is one kind or another that I’ve found works best, it is noted in the recipe.
She also points out that something like Boston Cream Pie isn’t called Boston Cream Pie with Eggs and Cow’s Milk, so a vegan version isn’t any less "real." "Let’s stop playing semantic games and not allow mainstream eating habits to make us feel like our vegan "food" is any less enticing than it is." Well said!
Onto the food.
I still haven’t had a chance to try as many recipes here as I had hoped, but we’ve had good success with the ones we’ve made thus far. The Raspberry-Lime Muffins are every bit as awesome as they sound and the Pumpkin-Cinnamon Zig-Zag Bread is excellent, even when made with whole wheat pastry flour. The simple white icing recipe has become a go-to when making anything that needs a quick icing. The recipe for garlic rolls has a great little side note about a very easy cheesy topping made with raw cashews and nutritional yeast that tastes absolutely perfect on popcorn (go just a smidge lighter on the salt, though). Our recipe queue includes: Polski Apple Crisp, Blueberry Streusel Muffins, Basic Biscuits, and Danish. I look forward to trying each of those in due time.
The only less-than-success I had was with the Baked Chocolate Glazed Donuts, which I made as donut holes instead (dropping the batter into a mini-muffin tin). They tasted OK but were… weird. The consistency was off and they didn’t come out in a very appealing way. I suspect, though, that this may be due to baker error. Baked goods can be hard to review for this reason — they’re generally not as forgiving of mistakes as recipes made on the stovetop.
There’s a lot to like in Damn Tasty. There’s a good variety of recipes (they’re not all sweets) and the voice is conversational and a pleasure to read. Though there’s no food photography, its absence didn’t bother me; the descriptive text was often enough. If baking is your thing, you’ll certainly want to put Kris’ book on your wishlist. Good stuff.