Issue #1: Sweet Vegan: A Tasty Interview With Multi-Talented Hannah Kaminsky

By Jodi Truglio — September 10, 2012

Not looking back seems to be a theme for VegNews magazine writer and photographer Hannah Kaminsky. Ever since launching her blog “Bittersweet” six years ago, Kaminsky has made her mark in the hearts of dessert-loving vegans everywhere. Recently, Kaminsky published her third cookbook, Vegan À La Mode. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for Global Looking Glass.

 

Photo courtesy of Hannah Kaminsky

You have published a few vegan cookbooks. Why the emphasis on vegan treats?

I’ve always had a big sweet tooth, and there haven’t always been the most appealing or easily-attainable options for vegan desserts. That’s why I took matters into my own hands and started making exactly what I was craving, when I was craving it. It’s not instant gratification by any means, but so much more satisfying.

Are all the recipes your own? If so, how long does it take you to create a recipe?

Every single recipe is my own, and there’s still no one formula for getting it right. Some recipes are very simple, or are largely rip- offs of existing base recipes I’ve already nailed down, so those are quick and painless to hammer out. Sometimes I can get through two or three new recipes like that each day. More often, though, there’s a lot of trial and error, which means two, three, or four repeat attempts until I’m finally satisfied with the results. Recipes that go to print are always made multiple times though, just to make sure the measurements are correct and that they’ll work in anyone else’s kitchen too.

Do you have a recipe that has a special story or meaning behind it?

Many recipes are derived from childhood treats or experiences, so there are tons of stories behind my baking. What comes to mind first is a recipe that was just published in Vegan À La Mode  – Bitter Orange Sorbet. One of my earliest memories of any frozen dessert comes from Thanksgiving, circa early 1990s. Most wouldn’t associate the fall and winter months with such a chilly treat, but for the first dozen years of my life, Thanksgiving meant orange sorbet. Not just any old wan, over-sweetened orange sorbet, purchased from an icy grocery store freezer, but a strong, bitter, and powerful rendition, made by my grandfather tableside with the oranges he grew himself. The oranges were tiny, mouth-puckering, and technically meant to be purely ornamental, but he would dutifully collect those golf ball-sized spheres for weeks in advance, until there were enough to produce one modest scoop of sorbet for everyone in attendance.

As the final bites of dinner lingered on nearly clean plates, everyone reaching their limits but unable to refuse such a lavish feast, the telltale humming and whirring would sound from the kitchen, forcing everyone to practically shout to the person sitting next to them. An avid gadget fiend, my grandpa had a state-of-the-art, self-freezing ice cream machine, which spun juice into sorbet in mere minutes, but was not exactly compact nor quiet. I’ve since inherited this bulky, noisy, but reliable contraption, and love it dearly for both its power and sweet memories.

Do you have a recipe in your book that was particularly a challenge at the time you were trying to create it, and what kept you from not giving up on it? 

The tuile cookie cones did put up quite a fight. I think it took at least four or five completely different approaches to finally get the recipe right! In my mind, it was critical to include an ice cream cone recipe that didn’t call for any specialized equipment like a pizzelle press. I wanted it to be completely accessible, and as easy for anyone to replicate as possible, no matter their level of experience in the kitchen.

What is the biggest mistake you think people make when it comes to vegan baking?

The biggest mistake I see being perpetuated time and again is simply not trying it. It’s downright shocking when I hear people say that they would “never bake without butter or eggs” without even giving it a chance. With a solid recipe, vegan baked goods should be indistinguishable from any other treats.

Do you have a favorite recipe in your cookbook?

Picking favorites is so difficult, especially after pouring so much love into each one! However, I am a complete marshmallow addict, so the toasted marshmallow ice cream has a special place in my heart.

I read that you took all your own pictures for your new book, which is beautifully done. Was it challenging to accomplish that?

Not at all. For me, taking pictures comes much more naturally than writing. I’m a very visual person, so it can sometimes be difficult to translate the images in my head into actual words. That’s why it’s always critical to include a photo with each recipe. It underscores the point I’m trying to get across, in addition to displaying what you should expect to get out of each group of ingredients.

How does your new cookbook Vegan À La Mode compare to other cookbooks you have written in the past?

Vegan À La Mode is actually my most focused cookbook yet. I previously had taken an “everything goes” sort of approach in my last two books, including all sorts of sweet recipes that run the gamut from granola to cheesecakes. This one is only frozen treats, with toppings and accompaniments on the side, of course. It really allowed me to dive in deep and indulge my inner ice cream addict. Ice cream is one of my favorite treats, so writing the book was truly a joy.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Kaminsky

 

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