When my mother-in-law asked me what I wanted for Christas, I could think of nothing to ask for. In response to her question I simply said, “um…cookbooks?” And a cookbook is what I got. Modern Vegan Baking by Gretchen Price, to be precise. So here we are, with a review of said gifted cookbook! Curious to know whether or not this is a valuable addition to a vegan baker’s book collection? Read on!
I have to say, spend the past couple of weeks coming through this book has been an absolute joy! The only thing that brings me more happiness than baking is baking for people that I care about. What better way to do that than two weeks of baking tests?
Overall, I am pleased with this book, save one big critique that I’ll save for the end of my review.
About The Author
Gretchen Price is the author of Modern Vegan Baking. Admittedly, I did not know much about her before I received this book. And what a shame! Gretchen Price is a CIA trained pastry chef with over 20 years of professional baking experience. Not only did she run her own bakery for many years, but she now currently runs the blog Gretchen’s Vegan Bakery. Personally, I love recipes written by professional chefs, especially those that were trained as non-vegan chefs before they started their vegan journey. They bring with them techniques that a lot of home bakers miss. And it’s that industry insight that sometimes makes for the best recipes. Now that I know about Gretchen, I will certainly be referencing her blog more in the future!
Interested in a different cookbook review? Check out my review on The Homemade Vegan Pantry, by Miyoko Schinner!
Modern Vegan Pantry: The Pros
When I am testing a cookbook, I make sure to choose one recipe from the majority of the sections. I make notes of ease of ingredient access, recipe readability, and of course how the final product tastes.
This book is broken down into the following categories:
- Baking Vegan Today*
- Breakfast Bakes*
- Meringues, Quiches, & Soufflés
- Quick Breads
- Yeast Breads*
- Brownies & Bars*
- Cakes & Cupcakes
- Pies & Tarts
- Shortcakes, Cobblers & Crisps
- Custards, Mousses, Puddings & Cheesecakes
- Frostings, Sauces & Toppings
- Miscellaneous Add-On Recipes
I’ve added asterisks next to the sections from which I was able to test recipes for this review. That being said, my copy of the book is full of sticky notes and dog-eared pages because I have so many others I want to try out!
The Introduction: The “Baking Vegan Today” section is extremely informative for any new or seasoned baker looking to expand one’s knowledge of cooking tools, ingredients, and techniques. Even as someone who already is in possession of a lot of the ingredients mentioned I still feel like I learned a lot of information! I especially the common ingredient weight chart.
Really, any baker that extolls the virtues and importance of working with weight-based measurements instead of volume wins major points in my book.
This is one of the few instances in my cookbook testing where I adored every single recipe that I tried out. Really!
My particular favorites of the ones I tried are the Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake and the Professional Bakery Pan Grease.
The baking pan grease is a simple mixture of flour and vegetable fats, blended together until they resemble frosting. But when brushed into a baking pan it has nonstick releasing powers unlike anything I have ever tried before. I don’t think I will ever make a cake without it!
Especially the coffee cake from this book, baked in a bundt pan. Previously, I avoided bundt cakes like the plague because I always had sticking issues, even when using a nonstick pan. But the cake pictured above slid right out of its pan with no issues whatsoever.
And the coffee cake itself? Holy moly. I’d have it for breakfast every day if I could.
The Big Con: The Index
Beyond recipes and technique, the most important aspect of a cookbook for me is this: are the recipes easy to fine? Is the layout of the book clear? And this, unfortunately, is where this book lost me. I am not a fan of this book’s index.
The index seems to be divided into two separate indexes: a recipe index followed by a more traditional index. And this is where things get complicated.
The best way to illustrate this is with an example: Let’s say you want to find the crepe recipe that is in the book (it was me- I tried to find the crepe recipe in the book.) If you go to the recipe index and look under “C,” you will not find crepes listed.
Okay, that’s fine. So you go to the regular index and look under “c” for crepe. Hm. There are no crepes listed there, either! Now I’m starting to feel frustrated because I know there is a crepe recipe in this book. I saw a picture of it!
So now I am going insane. I know there are crepes in here, but why isn’t the index telling me where I can find them?
Locating A Recipe
The regular index does not list recipes by type (“crepe,” for example), and the recipe index lists the recipes by their exact name. So if I wanted to find crepes within the recipe index I have to know that the recipe is called “Cardamom Crepes With Stuffed With Summer Berries” and then look under cardamom. Not crepe. For a person unfamiliar with the contents of the book and the precise titles of the recipes, this was INFURIATING!
Would I Buy Modern Vegan Baking?
The short answer is yes, I absolutely would purchase this book. The recipes are phenomenal and the introductory section of the book offers great tips for bakers at any level.
Though the index issue is the only con I have with the book– it is a BIG con. It would not dissuade me from purchasing the book or using these recipes (the recipes are truly spectacular), but if cookbook organization is important to you, it is absolutely something to be aware of. While it would not dissuade me, per see, that doesn’t stop me from cursing wholeheartedly when I am searching through the book’s pages.