Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Baking with Agave Nectar

Um, hey guys, I don't know if you've er, noticed or anything, but I kinda eat a fair amount of sugar. What with all the cupcakes and the blogging and saving the animals the children and the world and such and such it all adds up... You know what I mean, right? Anyway, I have been trying to cut down on my sugar consumption but found that this pretty difficult for a hard-core dessert addict such as myself. "If only I could have my cake and eat it too," I thought. Then I realized, of course I could as long as its baked with agave nectar!

Yes, agave nectar, everyone's favorite unrefined low-glycemic vegan liquid sweetener! Agave nectar, or syrup, is harvested from the same cactus that tequila is made from and is imported from Mexico. It comes in both light and dark (raw) grades and kind of tastes like a mellowed out version of maple syrup. Many vegans know it well as a replacement for honey. Besides not being regurgitated by enslaved little bees (who are having a hard time these days after all!) agave is also safe for diabetics as it won't mess with your blood sugar and it actually has a bit of nutritional value as opposed to refined table sugar. Normally I just use a squirt in my tea or drizzle a bit on toast with almond butter and cinnamon (breakfast of cruelty-free champions), but this month I dove deeper.

Baking with Agave Nectar was my initial inspiration. This cookbook is not 100% vegan, but is still totally worth investing in. There are lots of vegan and easily veganizable recipes in here. Also, all recipes use unrefined flours and many recipes are gluten free. Indeed, several and fairly low fat! If you're looking to health-ify your dessert options this is a great place to start. I anticipate making many more recipes from this book, hopefully gettting around to treats like chocolate peanut butter mousse-filled cupcakes, dairy-free blueberry cheesecake, chocolate silk almond pie, tropical rice pudding, and gingerbread cake with lemon creme topping. NOM.

My first attempt at the recipe for blueberry pie with almond crumb topping from BwAN led to more of a berry crumble type dish, but it was the perfect end to a sweltering city night with friends. It was also a nice start to next day too as breakfast cold from the fridge ;)

Attempt number two at pie, with the same recipe as above, this time with fresh cherries and mangoes, was more successful. I added a bit extra starch and that seemed to do the trick. I think I will make an all-mango pie sometime soon as they worked out so well in this!

Speaking of mangoes, here is a mango raspberry smoothie next to a green tea and chocolate smoothie, both made with fruit sweetened Soy Delicious ice cream which I like a lot because they're not overly sugary but still have a nice texture and awesome range of flavors. Oh, and you can polish off a pint for under 500 calories. Yeah. In the mango raspberry: mango raspberry ice cream, frozen raspberries, mango nectar, agave nectar). In the green tea and chocolate: green tea ice cream, fair trade cocoa powder, soymilk, agave nectar, matcha green tea powder.

Vanilla agave cupcakes fwith not-too-sweet blueberry mousse rom the recipes in my beloved Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Indeed the mousse was not too sweet, so I added a bit more agave than was called for. With tofu-based frosting these were the healthiest cupcakes I've ever made. Jackie and Roommate agreed that the bright blue topping (which tasted a bit like yogurt actually) with a little shredded coconut on top made the cakes look very cartoonish-- sort of like Dr. Seuss food. Better than Green Eggs and Ham anyway, blech!

Vanilla snap cookie from a BwAN recipe. I added chopped dried mango and lime zest and served them with dried kiwis (an exciting new find from the magical land of Bulk Food Bins at Sahadi's), mangoes and cranberries.

Banana date bread (I also added cashews) from BwAN toasted and topped with a scoop of almond-pecan fruit-sweetened Soy Delicious and homemade caramel sauce is comfort food in multiple snuggly layers. Boy (who went vegan on our second date!) agreeded that we probably can't ever break up now that I've made this for him. I guess banana bread sundaes are just that heartwarming :)