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Ani's Raw Food Desserts: 85 Easy, Delectable Sweets and Treats

Raw food chef Ani Phyo’s latest cookbook is a creative and diverse collection of no-bake dessert recipes. All of her creations are free of wheat, gluten, dairy, and processed sugar, and rely instead on nuts, seeds, fruit, and natural sweeteners like agave nectar and maple syrup. The hot summer months are a perfect time to explore the world of raw foods, which are mainly prepared using a blender or food processor, although Phyo also includes a chapter on treats requiring a dehydrator. Additionally, the book’s simplest recipes require no appliances at all, just the creative pairing of fruits with herbs (in the “Fruit Simples” chapter) or wine and champagne (in the “Sparkling Desserts” section) for palate-stimulating, party-ready delights.

All of the main dessert food groups are represented here: cakes, cookies, chocolate, ice creams and sorbets, puddings and parfaits, cobblers and crisps, sauces and creams. The book’s gorgeous full-page photographs advertise the recipes well, with sumptuous portraits of Ice Kream Sandwiches, Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake, and Filled Chocolate Truffles sure to inspire the comment, “it doesn’t look raw!” Although cookbook authors throw around the word “easy” all the time, Phyo’s recipes actually are; often, they’re as simple as combining all of the ingredients in the blender or food processor and then forming the mixture into the appropriate shapes. It’s instantly gratifying to blend nuts, fruit, and spices together and have a ready-to-eat cookie in your hand a couple of minutes later.

The sweet fruit sauces, rich nut creams, and hearty cookies I tried sold me on the merits of incorporating healthy raw treats into my diet. The fact that Phyo’s creations are actually good for you makes for a surprisingly positive, guilt-free dessert-eating experience. However, one of my favorite discoveries about raw food is also a drawback: it’s possible to taste all of the individual ingredients. While it’s exciting to actually know exactly what’s in your food and experience the flavor as a true blend of a few well-chosen fresh ingredients, this also means that if your cookie is made of dates and nuts, it’s going to be dense and taste like dates and nuts rather than resembling what you’d normally think of as a cookie. Therefore, it’s necessary to keep an open mind and appreciate the recipes for what they are rather than comparing them with the dessert forms they are based on.

Given Phyo’s focus on the health benefits of raw foods, I was surprised to see that her recipes do not include any nutritional information. It would be useful to see more concrete information about the nutrients in the desserts, as well as the caloric and fat content of each serving, especially given the fact that some recipes call for several cups of nuts in place of flour or a whole cup of coconut oil.

Overall, Ani's Raw Food Desserts is a surprising and satisfying tour of the possibilities of raw dessert preparation. Raw food connoisseurs and novices alike will find new favorite snacks and treats among Phyo’s imaginative creations.

Written by: Kiri Oliver, August 18th 2009

thanks for the review! i'm looking forward to trying this book out.