Veganly Delicious

Julie-Juliaing one cookbook at a time.

Review of the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur

on October 27, 2012

I think it is a little bit obvious how much I love cookies.

Muffins are okay. Cupcakes are decent. But cookies?

Let’s back up.

When I was growing up, Cookie Monster was like my favourite Sesame  Street Character. My little friend-cousin (You know, your families are so close, you call them ‘auntie-uncle, ergo, their kids technically are your ‘cousins’ but they aren’t? anyway, work with me), had this little Cookie Monster counting game, and it was like this awesome juggling thing… it was cool.
My first thing I ever baked…. (horribly, but the house still smelled great), was the Neiman Marcus cookie scam cookie. You know the one – “I asked them how much it was, and they overcharged me, so here’s the recipe, mauhauauha!… note. if anything in baking asks for 1/2 cup salt, you know the fault is totally you and your handwriting, not the recipe.

As much as I love cookbooks that have meals, and stuff, I kind of geek out at the dessert cookbooks that just dedicate themselves to cookies. (even the non vegan ones. I always wonder, how can I veganize it? I saw one called “Very Merry Christmas Cookie Party” and it was awesome. In my mind i’m just thinking flax seed for most of them, or more oil for the rest….Someone’s really gotta get on that y’all. Vegan Christmas Cookies. The Bible of Vegan Cookies. Something, I’m just shooting out ideas)

Cookies make everything better. I don’t even think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t like a cookie. And if you are one of

In the vegan world there aren’t a lot of books dedicated to just the cookie. Oh sure, some books have whole dedicated sections for just cookies, but an entire cookie book?. No.

This is where I sing praises to Kelly Peloza for taking the plunge and help inspire the market with her book. (the first was Isa & Terry’s Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar Nov. 10th 2009).

And I was very excited when ThomasAllen  (The Canadian Publishing company based in Toronto), gave me a copy of this book to review because I was interviewing Kelly!  (I may or may not have squealed happily). So here we go. My first official review of a book (without doing the whole month cookthrough, but not a quick breeze by either)… I bring to you…..

hmm…. 140 cookies….

The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur
Kelly Peloza
Published Nov. 4th 2010 by Skyhorse Publishing
Hardcover  – 288 Pages – ISBN-13 978-1616081218

This book is a miniature coffee book . Skyhorse Publishing used the same format for Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts and Vegan A La Mode books. So the minute you look at it and the the pages (without even cracking the spine) you know it is going to be rift with pictures. (a little note – did you know that the author does not control if the book has pictures or not? Or how many are used, or the format of them? That’s all publishing.).

It’s a hardcover book, which I like for baking. Don’t ask me why, I just do. Actually a little thing is I like hardcovers for all my cookbooks. They just… have this presentation to it, they tend to lie flat once you crack the spine enough, and if the signatures (sorry, Library term, – the pages), are sewn tightly enough, it lasts you for a good long time.

The fonts is a nice curly-que. (This is used for all headers, and titles). Your basic standing book font is used for the recipes.

There are Thirteen chapters in this book –

  • Introduction
  • How to be a Vegan Connoisseur (no word of a lie – that word gives me fits, I always forget the extra “s”)
  • 11 chapters on the cookie variations themselves. (Eleven chapters. of cookie variations.)
  • Decorating Ideas

Also – Kelly is really sweet. She acknowledges everyone first (I think that’s really awesome. I may or may not bypass it to get to the awesomeness of the cookie – but to have it first shows that the book isn’t possible without those who helped out. I lie, I do always read the names in the acknowledgements. I also stay until the credits are finished rolling).

 

As with all (vegan) cookbooks, we start with your what you needs, what to dos, and why we uses.  Pretty straight forward stuff, what Kelly prefers, product suggestions, frequently used things. Basically if you bake – you most likely have these things, if you don’t, you might want to head to your nearest Wal-Mart or Bed, Bath & Beyond. Also, I am jealous that Kelly has 100+ cookie cutters. I have like 3.

She also has a chocolate melting guide (for both microwave use + a faux double broil method). This was really useful, because honestly, until I read that, I had no clue how to do it. I just thought, pop it in the microwave, toss it in the pot with the water. (or rather – don’t even bother).

Also a question/answer section. (And this is key, because she does knock out a few specific questions, that pertain to the cookies in the book). For example sifted flour. I always sift. (once I figured out it makes baked good awesome). However, some recipes require that you don’t sift. She talks about flours you can/can not (or should not used).  These may seem tired and old, but I always read the Q&A portions of books.

And now. the recipes.
coookies….

Kelly has provided us: Cookies that are inspired by drinks. (So Apple Cider, Lemonade Cookies, White Russian Cookies, Pina Colada Cookie Bars)… Kelly is not afraid to go out of the box, y’all. What I’ve noticed about Kelly’s innovative cooking style, is that it might not be the cookie. It might just be your basic cookie, and it’s the glaze/icing that puts it over the top. I – will be honest. I was never a glazed/icing kind of girl on my cookie. A cookie doesn’t need frosting. (gingerbread, Oreos excluded), it doesn’t need sprinkles, it doesn’t need… stuff.

It just needs to be a cookie.

However, take it from me: if Kelly has a glaze for the cookie – the thing that takes the cookie over the top is the glaze. At least glaze a few. Do a taste test. I won’t mind.

What would be nice here, especially that she addressed the peanut butter usage question in the Q&A, is it were possible to use homemade apple butters, or peanut butters. (To be fair, this was before the big “Make your own!” boon).

Then Kelly goes nuts (Really – 21 cookies based on nuts variations…. and okay she cheats, one is not a cookie. But she has a fudge recipe!). And it’s not all just your basic peanut butter recipe. (This is where, if it were me, I’d run to the store and experiment with Peanut Butter & Co’s peanut butter collection to make these, just to give it an extra punch of flavour. And Kelly gives you tips if your peanut butter isn’t natural, what to do with the salt). She also uses different kinds of butters. Almond butter cookies, Cashew Butter Cookies (Yes, please!)

I made the Cranberry Almond Cookies from this section. (I also stupidly bought the wrong kind of almonds (sliced, not slivered), so my roommate saved the day – to which I had to give her a dozen cookies. So sad. I also made these with the variation of chocolate. (Hello. Cranberry. Almond and Chocolate? It’s like, a necessity).

Then there is the whole “Hi. I am addicted to chocolate and/or It’s that time of month, and I need chocolate before I smack someone” section. (No, Kelly just named it Blissfully Chocolate. Same difference).  My goal is to find some orange extract and make the Orange Chocolate Chunk Cookies. (also. when you read this and see “Puppy Chow Cookies” do not think what I thought, and go “a dog biscuit recipe?” No, it’s for humans. 😀

There is then a small No-Bake  section (this is for the summer time!)

Then Kelly does a DIY version of Massed Produced Cookies. (So yes, Oreos – which are vegan by the way are included – but it would be better, because Oreos make me sick, and I know homemade versions will not. hah!).

Then so you can tell your doctor you do have your daily required amount of fruit (You don’t need to tell them, that it’s served up with a cookie!)- you’ve got 10 cookies based on Fruit. I made from this section Chew Pumpkin Spice Cookies. (Which is a whole another story on its own. Really, it’s an upcoming blog post). Needless to say, it rocked mine + my Omni Besties worlds.

Then we’ve got bar cookies. (You know, I’ve never really had a lot of bar cookies.. That’s going to change: Nanimo Bars are in here! <– though I’ve had a bazillion of those, I don’t count those as a cookie. Those are like heaven in your mouth). And if you were wondering if she has a brownie recipe: yes. yes she does. Caramel Hazelnut Brownie. Hmhm.

Ive now noticed I’ve used the word “then” a lot, so now we go to the Take on Tradition section (so your gingerbread cookie recipe would be here. as well as rumballs, and Mexican Wedding Cookies!).

For those who want to be healthier, there’s a cookie for that too, Seven infact! (and this is the section where you’d want to go first  – page 192 for easy reference if you want to ditch the fat – note: if you ditch the fat in cookies, you aren’t getting cookies. You are making a hand held cake. No really, it becomes cakier. Not … cookie-r. And she even tells you what cookies you can make over).

And how to make a cookie healthier with the grains you use, (how to make gluten free), how to ditch the sugar, and how to bake for vegans with allergies. (or in my case, how to bake for omnivores who happen to be your best friends with allergies).

What’s not stated (and really, since I seem to be the only one in the world – Okay not the only one, but the only one i know of, is that she doesn’t suggest how to substitute coffee. Sigh).

We end the book with the last chapter and where you’d find Kelly’s signature Hypnosis Cookies (the cookie you see on the cover).

Oh wait, I lie. 😀 The decorating chapters has a “Sprinkles Kit” A Buttercream Frosting and a Marzipan recipe.

The Pros:

The pros. A: an entire book on cookies. Thank you Kelly. 😀
Also – the font is really clear.

The recipe breakdown is great. Often (for me), when I read the recipe, I sometimes have to go. “Wait? I have to use that? where does that go? Is that even in the recipe). There are no “out of the blue” instructions. Everything is pretty much how you expect it to be. Each recipe starts off with your first steps (preheat oven). If that’s not there – it’s basically because the cookie is going to be frozen for a bit

The recipe tells you how much cookies to expect. In both cases, I got that. (and you know me – I never get what I’m supposed to). Some end up a bit smaller than I like, But that’s fine.

The pictures are amazing. there’s is pretty much a picture for each and every single recipe. (even if it is a little in-shot). And – as a bonus when you take your cookies out of the oven, it kinda looks the same.

A Lot of these are one bowl babies. One bowl, a few instruments, your baking tray. If you are a dorm room kid, this is great, just crank up your convection toaster oven and away you go. (She has a section about that (a little insert how to do it), no one can ever be without cookies.

The Cons

What I don’t like about the book is that  – if it’s a stepped process, that

A: the ingredients aren’t clearly marked. Specifically, it’s not bolded, or separated by a space. So they all just run together, so read carefully).

B: Some recipes run into the next page. Biggest pet peeve ever. (Well, not the biggest, but I like my recipes on one page). This is minute though, most of the recipes are on one page, and if they do spill over it’s on the next (and I guess to get more recipes in so you really can’t complain about that)

C: Unlike my Isa/Terry cookie doughs which always end up how they are told they are supposed to look – my Kelly doughs are often dry.(ish),  Which results in when my cookies are done, a bit cracky on top. This – minute. It doesn’t bug me perse, but if I were to give them out as gifts, it could ruin a bit of the presentation. This – could be me. (No this is me. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll work it out).

Final Thoughts

This is a great book – my cookie love aside. I love reading my cookies like a novel, reading the little blurbs and insights on what motivated the cookie to begin with. The recipes are innovative. It’s not just standards you know & love, but Kelly is one of those ladies that pushes your baking comfort zone and you thank her for that because then you get people who love you because you made them amazing, and intriguing mouth fulls of yums.

This is is a book that I’d use any time of the year (a lot of them are great for Christmas times, potlucks and birthdays), but a lot of my Christmas baking is going to come from this one here book.

So would I Fry, Buy or Try this book?

Regardless of your kitchen acumen, I would say that the instructions, directions and methods are clear enough that anyone could try any recipe without any sort of failure. (unless you forget to set your kitchen timer, and gab on the phone with all your friends – and forget you are making cookies. Or, you pull a Liv and had 1/2 c of salt instead of 1/2 tsp.). So with all of that in mind, I give this a solid rating of Buy.

 

While the Canadian  publishing rights holder Thomas Allen graciously gave me this book to review, a positive review was not required in trade, so do not worry, if the book had sucked, I would have told you. (Seriously –  all thoughts were my own). 

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