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your best dairy-free dessert recipes, please

A group of friends and I get together every so often for dinner; some of the group keep kosher. I am the baker of the bunch, and am often asked to bring a dairy-free (parve) dessert. I've managed to make about a dozen desserts without the aid of butter, but am starting to run out of ideas. It's much easier in the summer, when there's an abundance of fresh local fruit, but this time of year, in Toronto, the pickings are very slim indeed.

So, if you have any killer recipes for dairy-free desserts (eggs are ok, but no milk or milk products) that you wouldn't mind sharing, I'd be very grateful.


p.s. if you have experience with what kinds of recipes can best stand substituting veggie shortening or oil for butter, I'd love to learn about that, as well.

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  1. fruit salads

    Poached pears/apples

    Baked apples (butter,oatmeal, flour and cinnamon)

    Many cakes can be made with eggs and oil in place of butter

    angel food cake only has egg whites

    Can you substitute soy milk for dairy?

    1. I'm going to reprise my suggestion from a recent thread: Armenian Christmas pudding, which is a thick pudding of barley or wheat, cooked with dried fruit, honey, and toasted almonds. Very dense and rich; easy to make; keeps well; and no dairy! Pretty healthy for a dessert, too.

      Here's the recipe I use: http://www.recipelink.com/mf/31/16179

      There are lots more online if you do a recipe search.

      1. Sweetened polenta, marbled with lightly cooked berries (may be from frozen), topped with more pureed berries.

        3 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          That sounds delicious. I have a friend who can't eat dairy or gluten, and that would be great for her!

          1. re: jlafler

            The proportions (from B Kafka, Microwave Gourmet) are
            3/4 c cornmeal, 4c water, 2/3c sugar, lemon zest
            She cooks it in the microwave (in an 8c glass measuring cup), but stove top would work fine as well.
            1 pint of raspberries, zapped with 1/4c sugar. I've been using a frozen berry mix.
            When the polenta is done, stir in vanilla (1 tsp), and gentle fold in 1c of the berry mix. Chill in a mold (any qt plastic storage container works).
            Blend the remaining berries, adding water to make a thin sauce to serve over the polenta.


        2. Olive Oil chocolate mousse for Passover

          Adapted from "Dulce lo Vivas," by Ana Bensadón (Ediciones Martínez Roca)

          Time: 30 minutes plus 24 hours’ refrigeration
          11 ounces bittersweet (60 percent cacao) chocolate
          8 large eggs, separated
          3/4 cup sugar
          1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
          2 tablespoons kosher for Passover brandy.
          1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate over low heat. Cool slightly. Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until light. Whisk in olive oil, brandy and melted chocolate.
          2. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, whisking until stiff but not dry.
          3. Fold whites into chocolate mixture so that no white streaks remain. Spoon into an 8- or 10-cup serving bowl or divide among 8 or 10 dessert cups or glasses. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Adrienne

            this looks so good I saved it to my passover file

            1. re: doc_k55

              It's really delicious. Getting rid of the cream doesn't make the texture less creamy, it just makes the flavor more chocolatey.

          2. Just remembered another good one: Marcella Hazan's almond cake. Ingredients are almonds, sugar, egg whites, lemon peel, salt, and flour. It calls for butter to grease the pan, but you could easily substitute another fat. If you have "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking," it's in there. Or I can post the recipe if you want it.

            5 Replies
            1. re: jlafler

              That sounds great - I love baking with almonds. I don't have the book, so if you don't mind posting it, that would be very helpful. Thanks!

              1. re: chloe103

                Almond Cake (Marcella Hazan)

                10 oz., shelled, unpeeled almonds, about 2 cups
                1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
                8 egg whites
                zest of one lemon
                6 tablespoons flour
                8 or 9-inch springform pan
                butter or oil for greasing the pan

                1. Preheat oven to 350F.
                2. Put almonds and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse to grind to a fine consistency.
                3. Beat the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks.
                4. Add the ground almonds and the grated lemon peel to the egg whites, a little bit at a time, folding them in gently but thoroughly. The whites may deflate a bit, but if you mix carefully there should be no significant loss of volume.
                5. Add the flour, shaking a little of it at a time through a strainer and again, mixing gently.
                6. Grease the pan generously, and pour the batter into the pan, shaking/tapping the pan to level it off. Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour. Before taking it out of the oven, test the center of the cake by piercing it with a toothpick. If it comes out dry, the cake is done. If it does not, bake a little longer.
                7. When done, unlock the pan and remove the hoop. When it is lukewarm, loosen it from the bottom of the pan. Serve when completely cold. This keeps for a while if stored in a cookie tin.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Thanks for saving me the trouble of typing that all in. :-)

                1. You'll have to pardon my ignorance but does kosher exclude alcohol? I have a great terrine dessert that looks divine, is killer easy to make and tastes fantastic. Of course, it does have white wine in it so....let me know and i'll post the recipe.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: aussiewonder

                    kosher does NOT exclude alcohol -- kosher wines are availabe which may not be 100% equivalent though.

                    1. re: Adrienne

                      Kosher wines have also come a long way from the mogen david days - there ares ome very good kosher varietals from the world that compete very well against non-kosher vintages

                      1. re: weinstein5

                        baron herzog has been putting out some excellent kosher u.s.wines, and there are several israeli wineries with great offerings as well.

                    2. re: aussiewonder

                      Alcohol is definitely acceptable. Thanks for offering!

                    3. How about this chocolate tofu pie? It is really good. If you can't find a butterless crust you can just turn it into individual "puddings". Oh, now I'm having second thoughts: is there always dairy in chocolate?
                      Anyway, here's the URL

                      1. What about chocolate sorbet with some meringues or macaroons on the side?

                        1. Olive oil orange cake. The recipe I've used called for milk, but here's one I've found that doesn't.
                          (Just note that I haven't tried this exact recipe.)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: littlegreenpea

                            Olive oil cake! Brilliant. Why didn't I think of that?

                          2. Almond thumbprint cookies (made with Solo almond paste), filled with seedless raspberry jam, drizzled with white chocolate.

                            Warm winter fruit compote with a scoop of Tofutti.

                            Home-made marshmallows, some dipped half-way in chocolate, some plain.

                            I don't think phyllo (filo) dough by definition has any dairy in it. Perhaps you could layer up a few sheets with oil and sugar in between, cut into squares, bake, use to make a stacked fruit Napoleon. Or make little cups in a muffin tin for a dap of Kosher vanilla pudding, a plop of chopped, poached peaches or pineapple, a dab of Cool-Whip, crushed macadamians.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: nemo

                              I really like the idea of phyllo - I've only ever tried doing it with butter, but I could certainly try to make phyllo pasties with oil or melted veggie shortening.

                              Almond cookies are definitely great - I've made those in previous gatherings.

                              And marshmallows are another good idea, not to mention something I've never made before, which is always fun. (I'd have to track down kosher gelatin, which might take some doing. Fish-derived gelatin is considered kosher, but meat-derived gelatin is not.)

                              1. re: chloe103

                                Health food stores usually have agar, which is from seaweed. I think that's what vegans use instead of Knox. Never used it, so I'm not sure how it will perform. Home-made marshmallows are so different from and so much better than store bought. Sometimes you almost need a spoon to eat them, they're so soft and oozy! In which case, serve the melted chocolate on the side for private drizzling.

                                Which makes me wonder, could you make a chocolate fondue with soy milk and chocolate? Lots of dipper possibilities, especially fruit.

                                1. re: chloe103

                                  kosher gelatin isn't too hard to find, or, as nemo said, you can use agar. i say go for it...make the marshmallows, and bring dark chocolate & graham crackers for s'mores.

                                1. re: Marge

                                  This is totally up my ally; I'm a huge fan of baking with almonds.

                                2. One of my daughters is a vegan and she LOVES to cook. She has discovered the site Post Punk Kitchen (http://theppk.com/) and we have tried out many of the desserts. All of the ones we have attempted have been outstanding. (And I love traditional desserts with the usual ingredients, including sugar, heavy cream, butter and eggs.) There's a rich chocolate cake that is SO good, but lots of choices will tempt you.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: mvi

                                    Seconding Isa and Terry's excellent website, and their cookbooks (Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Veganomicon). The carrot, coconut, macadamia cake from VWAV is incredible -- I've made it many times! For a real stunner, you can cover it with frosting made from Tofutti and powdered sugar, then sprinkle more coconut on top . . .

                                    1. re: operagirl

                                      We have all of those cook books now (as of Christmas!) and they are totally great. I am not a vegan but have been really drawn into the concept through these books and my daughter's brilliant cooking skills. Start with the web site and take a look at the books- really interesting.

                                    2. re: mvi

                                      Thanks for the tip - I do love having whole new recipes archives to browse.

                                    3. i'm not sure what the parameters of kosher are, but i like to substitute butter with a mixture of peanut butter and eggs for cookies and cakes. and then you get that yummy nutty flavor. :o)

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: soypower

                                        I think that should fit well into kashrut (that's the noun of it... like "Kosherism"). Some people who keep kosher will only eat foods stamped as being certified kosher and only those cooked in an all-kosher kitchen but it sounds like the OP's crowd eat only kosher-style. This means no shellfish or pork whatsoever, and no mixing milk and meat -- even at the same meal. So if her friends want to make meat as the main course, dessert cannot have milk or milk derivatives in it. Eggs count as neither milk nor meat in kashrut, so your suggestion of peanut butter and eggs is a great one so long as it's a peanut butter that doesn't contain any milk products (casein, whey etc).

                                        1. re: Adrienne

                                          Adrienne - have you met my friends? That is exactly, entirely right.

                                          I've never heard of subbing an egg/pb combo for butter. What are the guiding principles? Is it a 50/50 split of eggs and pb, or do I use more of one than the other? Do I sub by weight or volume?

                                          1. re: chloe103

                                            unfortunately, i'm not great at measuring when i cook, but i usually mix about a 1/2 cup of peanut butter with one large egg. i would probably substitute by volume for butter.

                                            1. re: soypower

                                              ooooo---how would that work for brownies? m-m-m-m.

                                              1. re: toodie jane

                                                not sure...have only used it for cookies, but i'm sure you could. :o)

                                      2. Here's a recipe from the 1800s that I adapted for Passover. If it's not Passover, you can use flour, rather than matzo meal.

                                        Coconut Lemon Sponge Pudding
                                        · 3 Tablespoons of matzo cake meal
                                        · 3/4 cup white sugar
                                        · 1/3 cup lemon juice
                                        · 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
                                        · 1 cup canned coconut milk
                                        · 3 egg yolks
                                        · 3 egg whites, stiffly beaten.

                                        Mix flour and sugar.
                                        Add coconut milk and egg yolks and beat thoroughly. Add lemon zest and juice. Stir well.
                                        Fold in the egg whites.
                                        Place in a lightly sprayed (or oiled) 1&1/2 quart souffle dish. Place dish in a pan of water in the oven and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to one hour, or until browned on top.
                                        The pudding separates out while it's cooking, making a sponge layer on top and a creamy, rich pudding sauce underneath. Serve by scooping it out of the dish with a spoon and add fresh berries to individual bowls.
                                        This recipe serves 4-6

                                        1. i recommed it often - Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread on Epicurious (I do it in 2 loaf pans) - made in advance to meld, then those that desire could top it heated w/ vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche.


                                          1. Of course, an obvious alternative is to have a vegan main meal and do a buttery/dairy something for dessert. There are tons of vegetable curries, hearty minestrone soups, pasta/rice/couscous dishes that the host could choose from. That would let you indulge in a buttery/dairy dessert once in a while, right?

                                            1. Wacky Cake!
                                              Great for vegan diet, too (no eggs).

                                              2 1/4 cups flour
                                              1 1/2 cups sugar
                                              3 1/2 Tbsp cocoa
                                              1 3/4 tsp soda
                                              3/4 tsp salt
                                              1 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
                                              9 Tbsp vegetable oil
                                              1 1/2 tsp vanilla
                                              1 3/4 cups cold water

                                              Mix wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix well. Pour into 13" rectangular pan. Tap pan a few times to bring air bubbles to the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

                                              You can mix this up right in the pan, too. The bowl works better to eliminate getting dry mix left in the corners. It's usually served right from the pan, but if you bake it in smaller cake pans, you could layer and frost them.

                                              I like this with a chocolate glaze poured over when it's still warm. Actually, the best way to serve it are hot, with butter. Sinful, but not the best when keeping dairy-free.

                                              1. I was lactose intolerant for awhile. It finally went away, but I learned a few tricks.

                                                If you have a natural foods store around or a grocery store with a natural foods department look for earthbalance. It comes packaged like the crisco sticks only without all the nasty trans fats. It works well for a substitute for butter and can be used for frostings.

                                                Here is a vegan cake recipe I use a lot from the Moosewood Cookbook. I usually make it into cupcakes. It contains no eggs or dairy and no one really knows the difference:

                                                Serves 8
                                                Preparation time for cake: 6 minutes
                                                Baking time: 30 minutes
                                                Preparation time for glaze: 15 minutes
                                                Chilling time (if using glaze) 30 minutes
                                                Equipment: 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan, 2-cup measuring cup, double boiler

                                                Cake Ingredients
                                                1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
                                                ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
                                                1 teaspoon baking soda
                                                ½ teaspoon salt
                                                1 cup sugar
                                                ½ cup vegetable oil
                                                1 cup cold water or coffee
                                                2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
                                                2 tablespoons cider vinegar

                                                Chocolate Glaze
                                                ½ pound semi-sweet chocolate
                                                ¾ cup hot water
                                                ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

                                                Preheat the oven to 375º.

                                                Sift together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan. In the measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

                                                Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

                                                To make the optional glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave oven, or reset the oven to 300º and melt the chocolate in the oven for about 15 minutes in a small ovenproof bowl or heavy skillet. Stir the hot water and vanilla into the melted chocolate until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Refrigerate the glazed cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.

                                                Reprinted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts , Copyright © 1997 by Moosewood, Inc. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. New York, publisher.

                                                Soymilk can also be substituted for regular milk. Silk original works as a good replacement for regular milk in baking.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                  Thanks for that - the info (with specific brands, rather than just 'soy milk', or whatnot) about making good substitutions was exactly what I was looking for.

                                                2. This is my Vegan Rice Pudding rec...so tasty...

                                                  Coconut Rice Pudding

                                                  *dairy free! These proportions make a good sized batch that you might take to a party, so portion accordingly.

                                                  3 cups plain white rice (or jasmine rice)
                                                  4 ½ cups water (1 ½ cups per cup rice)
                                                  ½ tsp salt

                                                  3 cans Coconut milk (regular or lite)
                                                  1 cup dark rum
                                                  1 cup sugar (raw sugar works nicely here)
                                                  2 tbsp Vanilla
                                                  Shredded or flaked coconut
                                                  *you could also substitute with Malibu coconut rum, or eliminate the rum and use coconut flavoring, sugar and water or more C milk

                                                  Cook your rice: Add to a large pot, your rice, water, and sugar, bring to a boil. Boil for a minute, stir once, and then turn down to medium heat. Allow to simmer for just about 15 minutes, until the water is just about absorbed and everything is still pretty moist.

                                                  Begin to stir in 1/3 of your coconut milk, slowly, stirring as you go and letting the milk start to get absorbed. Cover and let it absorb for a few minutes on med-low heat.

                                                  Uncover and add 2nd 1/3 of the milk, and the flavor ingredients. Stir constantly to prevent it from sticking, and to allow all the starches to release and get creamy. Let this absorb a bit.

                                                  Add the last of your milk until you feel like its at the right consistency for you, it’ll get a bit thicker as it cools. Taste and adjust the flavors as necessary. The alcohol will have cooked away, but you should have a rum flavor.

                                                  1. BEST dairy free desserts? For that, you must get this cookbook - My Sweet Vegan - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0979... !!!

                                                    I am still swooning over the Bananas Foster Cake and the Triple Threat Chocolate "Cheesecake"

                                                    Also, a very good assortment of dairy-free desserts here - http://www.godairyfree.org/Table/Reci...

                                                    1. Dear Chloe,

                                                      Since my kids cannot have daiy products I have become a bit creative. I am able to use Earth's Balance, sold in the US at Trader Joe's and Henry's, as a substitute for butter. I have an incredible banana bread recipe that calls for a little butter and 1/2 cup of cream. I use the Earth's Balance butter and believe it or not, plain soda water. I tried to replace the cream with everything, rice milk, almond milk, oat milk, soy sour cream, coconut milk yogurt and finally coconut milk. None were as good as the soda water because they did not give the bread a lightness and a delicacy that the cream did. The most balanced substitute hands down was the soda water. Good luck with your dairy free creations. Saundra