A mouthwatering slice of vegan chocolate in Fran Costigan's new book

Posted: October 18, 2013

CHEMISTRY!

Cooking is an art, sure, but it's also a science - specifically chemistry. Especially in the creation of delicious chocolate desserts that are 100 percent animal-free.

Fran Costigan has been doing the science since the late '90s, and her new book, Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, shows great chemistry, not just in the recipes but between her and Philadelphia publisher Running Press.

The internationally known desserts diva (just back from Paris Vegan Day 2013) will be in Bryn Mawr on Oct. 25 and in Kennett Square the next day to do her first two signings for the book, which comes out Tuesday. She volunteered that working with our local coffee-table legends "has been a joy." Running Press "does extremely beautiful, attractive books, each one unique."

That's certainly true of Vegan Chocolate, right from the cover, showcasing a mouthwatering cake whose slicing imitates the angle of the opened book.

Delve in, and Vegan Chocolate becomes a kind of cake itself, prepared to perfection and dense with flavor. Packed with vibrant photos by Kate Lewis, the book itself appeals sensually in addition to its valuable info.

Costigan has finally gotten the top-of-the-line packaging her work has always deserved. A grad of the New York Restaurant School and the Natural Gourmet Institute who teaches the Vegan Baking Boot Camp Intensive, in New York City, she's won critical raves and devoted fans since her first book, Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally, came out in 2000.

This new, sumptuous book is an appropriate summation of more than a decade of sweet-tooth expertise.

It's likely to earn wide appeal, too, as Costigan includes gluten-free versions, no-oil-added versions, metric measurements (for international readers) and potential substitutions according to taste preference. Still, this is chemistry, so she makes very clear what you can fudge and where you must follow her to the milligram.

Now, no one would pitch chocolate desserts as health food, but Costigan does make them as better-for-you as possible, promoting fair-trade, high-percentage dark chocolate, organic, unrefined sugars and top-quality, whole-food flavors.

And, of course, all the results are naturally cholesterol-free.

Healthful or no, we're not talking about carob muffins or whole-wheat Toll House cookies here. Costigan reveals the secret to vegan chocolate eclairs, truffles ( see recipe here), puddings, moon pies and macaroons, plus chocolate-coconut whipped-cream cake, chocolate Mexican-spiced ice cream and even drinkable chocolate (including my fave, the chocolate peanut butter cup smoothie!), along with more than 100 other exquisite delights.

Costigan, who in person is as sweet and dazzling as her confections, is out to show that vegan deprivation is a myth. "There's an embarrassment of riches in our choices," she assured me, and she notes in the book that when people try her wares unawares, "I enjoy watching the joyous, if somewhat amazed, reactions when I reveal to doubters that the dessert they just devoured is vegan."

As with Philly's own, globally buzz-worthy Vedge restaurant, the intense pleasure and complete satisfaction offered by these adventurous creations shows that, for great-tasting food at the pinnacle of quality and flavor, animal products are unnecessary.

For years, many of us have strived to find the best way to spread the word about how fantastic vegan food and vegan living can be. For Fran Costigan, it's a piece of cake.


Fran Costigan at Main Point Books, in Bryn Mawr, 610-525-1480, Friday, Oct. 25, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Presented by Real Food Works. Please RSVP for this event: rfwwithfrancostigan.eventbrite.com

Fran Costigan at Nourish Juice Bar and Cafe, in Kennett Square, 610-425-2276, Saturday, Oct. 26, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.


 Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, musician and 12-year vegan.   "V for Veg" chronicles plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia. VforVeg@phillynews.com or @V4Veg on Twitter.

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