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Vegan Cookbook Club: Strawberry desserts new and old

Bonnie Ambrosi1 / 3
Fresh strawberries covered in fair-trade chocolate are sweet in every way. Courtesy of Emma Ambrosi2 / 3
Strawberry shortcake with vegan cream is a plant-based version of an old-fashioned dessert. Courtesy of Emma Ambrosi3 / 3

In June, at the height of strawberry season, I eat strawberries almost every day. My favorite way to enjoy strawberries is plain. That’s one of the things I love about fruit — you just wash it and eat it.

Recently, however, I was inspired to be a bit more creative with my strawberries and discovered two easy ways — one modern and one old-fashioned — to make these delightful berries even more scrumptious.

Chocolate-covered strawberries strike me as very trendy and chic — the antithesis of my personal style. But chocolate-covered strawberries are also quick, easy and healthful, which is exactly what I am into. You can make a batch of these beauties in 10 minutes.

I tested three different batches of chocolate-covered strawberries. (That was a very good day!) The first recipe calls for raw cacao powder. Cacao powder is simply ground-up raw cacao beans. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is made from cacao that has been roasted at a high temperature and is usually treated with alkali. As you would expect, raw cacao retains more nutrients than cocoa, but you can use either one.

The cacao powder recipe creates a silky chocolatey coating that does not get brittle when it sets, so it doesn’t crack and fall apart when you bite into it. The taste is a nice combination of cocoa, coconut and nut butter. I used crunchy almond butter and liked the effect of little bits of almond in the chocolate glaze.

For my second and third batches, I used semisweet and bittersweet vegan chocolate chips. These created a thicker coating that set up harder, and the taste was pure chocolate. All of these recipes are easily doubled or tripled if you’re making enough for a party or just want to keep a bunch in your fridge.

If chocolate strawbs are stylish and impressive, strawberry shortcake is old-fashioned, homely, and comforting. Nowadays, you might spoon sliced strawberries over yellow sponge cake or a slice of angel food cake, but I consulted our copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 1965 edition (the original was published in 1896 by Fannie Merritt Farmer) and it says: “Old-fashioned shortcake is made with biscuit dough, not cake, and is served with unsweetened heavy cream, not whipped cream.” This old-timey dessert, easily veganized, won the complete approval of my teenage taste-tester and photographer, Emma. We fudged a bit and used sweetened coconut creamer. You can use unsweetened plant-based creamer or plant milk if you prefer.

Chocolate-covered Strawberries

Slightly adapted from “Oh She Glows” by Angela Liddon

Makes about 25 strawberries

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons raw cacao or cocoa powder

1 tablespoon nut or seed butter (I used crunchy almond butter)

Fresh, ripe strawberries

Wash strawberries, pat dry and set aside. Melt coconut oil in a small pan. Stir in cacao powder and nut butter and remove from heat. Dip each strawberry, rolling to cover most of the berry, then place on a parchment-covered tray. Chill briefly in the fridge to set the chocolate.

Chocolate-covered Strawberries using vegan chocolate chips

Makes about 10 strawberries

¼ cup vegan chocolate chips, semisweet or bittersweet (I used Equal Exchange brand)

Fresh, ripe strawberries

Optional: fine sea salt, shredded coconut

Wash strawberries, pat dry and set aside. Melt chocolate chips in a small pan over low heat, or in the microwave in a safe bowl. Using the back of a spoon, spread the melted chocolate onto each strawberry and place it on a parchment-covered tray. If desired, sprinkle on sea salt or shredded coconut. Chill in the fridge to set the chocolate.

Old-fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

Makes four 3-inch round biscuits

1 cup flour (I used spelt flour)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread

About ½ cup plant milk (I used flax milk)

Fresh, ripe strawberries

Optional: 1 teaspoon sugar for strawberries

Plant-based creamer, such as SoDelicious Coconut Milk Creamer, or any plant milk

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Add Earth Balance and use a fork or pastry cutter to crumble it into the flour mixture.

Add plant milk and stir just until combined and dough forms a ball that holds together and is soft but not sticky.

On a floured cutting board, pat out dough ½ to ¾ inch thick.

Cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter.

Place rounds on a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

Wash and slice a bowl of fresh strawberries, crush slightly and sprinkle with a little sugar if desired. Set aside.

To serve, slice each biscuit in half and place in a bowl. Cover with sliced strawberries and pour on a little plant-based creamer.

About chocolate

When buying chocolate in any form, whether vegan or nonvegan, look for brands that are fairly traded and ethically produced. Fairly-traded chocolate allows cacao farmers to make a decent living. Ethical production ensures that the cacao was not harvested and processed by slave labor or children. Cheap chocolate comes at a high human cost. The top five chocolate companies that use child and slave labor, according to TheOdysseyOnline, are Hershey, Fowler’s, Nestle, Godiva and Mars.

According to SlaveFreeChocolate.org, “Organic and Fair Trade chocolate is almost always ethically sourced. Cocoa from outside West Africa is almost always ethically grown. Very often the label will spell that out and tell you the source.” Check out a list of ethical, mission-driven chocolate companies at slavefreechocolate.org, and look for their products locally or online.

Did you know?

Fair Trade Certification promotes a variety of causes, including fairer prices for farmers, education for farmers’ children and no child slavery. As Anthony Marek, director of external communications for Fair Trade Certified, says, “The grocery cart is the most important vehicle for social change.”

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