Q&A: Isa Chandra Moskowitz

15 Nov

I was thrilled to receive Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s newest vegan cookbook, Vegan Pie in the Sky, in the mail a few weeks ago. I’m not the most talented of bakers — in fact, I have more baking failures than successes under my belt — but Isa’s book makes me want to give it a new try. She makes it all sound so easy! She was kind enough to answer some of my questions about pie crust, her new book, baking in Nebraska and other stuff. See all that below.

Isa will be teaching a class on Vegan Holiday cooking at Whole Foods Omaha on Dec. 17. In the Omaha Creative Institute workshop, Isa will show cooks how to make a vegan holiday dinner that includes Latkes with applesauce, chickpea cutlets with mushroom gravy and gingerbread cookies. She’ll also show how to prepare seasonal veggies, like kale and squash. Click the link above for more information.

SBH: So baking is really intimidating for me, especially the idea of vegan baking and pies, but your new book makes it sound easy. Even after all my baking disasters, I want to make almost everything in your book. Tell me about your approach.

ICM: We just try to be as clear as possible in our recipes. I suppose rule number one is to follow the directions! Make sure you have all your ingredients out and all of your counters cleared. You’ll need plenty of elbow room. Carefully read through the directions first and then prepare the recipe. Pie crust is an art, so if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time, it will come out better the second time, and even better the third. But be patient, be passionate, and you’ll get there. It’s worth it!

SBH: I have a gluten-free mom and a gluten-free close friend. I love the idea of a nut crust. Any ideas for making any of the more traditional crusts GF?

ICM: This isn’t an incredibly creative answer, but any gluten-free mix with just a pinch of xanthan gum seemed to do the trick for me. Our one gluten-free crust in the book is an almond press-in crust, but that wouldn’t work as a buttery pastry crust.

SBH: I read on your blog that you’ve served the Maple Pecan Pie (pictured at right) to Nebraska farmers who loved it – I’m so curious to hear the whole story!

ICM: We’ve served pie at several bake sales in the area and it’s usually feedback we get from someone’s parents. “My dad eats steak 3 times a day and can’t live without half in half but he had NO IDEA your pie had tofu in it!”

SBH: If you were to recommend one or two of the pies/desserts in the book that vegans could bring to their holiday table and impress all the non-vegans what would those be?

ICM: I’d go traditional: The Voluptuous Pumpkin Pie for sure, the Cosmos Apple Pie with Olive Oil Crust and the Maple Pecan Pie.

SBH: Tell me more about the miracle that is cashew. I’ve read about cashew cream online and haven’t ever made it. What does it add to the recipes? Is it as simple to make as it sounds?

ICM: It most definitely is simple! Pureed cashews become thick and creamy, similar to heavy cream. It adds richness to many of our cheesecakes and mousses.

SBH: The book includes some really elegant desserts – the pear frangipane tart (pictured above) you featured on your blog is lovely and the salted chocolate caramel tart sounds divine as well. Do you think people are surprised that such beautiful and tasty-sounding desserts are also vegan?

ICM: I don’t know, if they are surprised, they shouldn’t be! So many ingredients in traditional baked goods are vegan, like chocolate, nuts, fruit and so on.

All images courtesy of The Post Punk Kitchen.

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