If you are concerned about eating refined white sugar and white flour, dairy products, and other highly processed ingredients, Sweet and Natural will help you avoid them while enjoying incredible desserts. Author Meredith McCarty explains why these foods cause a host of health problems, from allergies to diabetes. Then, she describes the ingredients for making healthful desserts, starting with unrefined flours and sweeteners. Health and pleasure are of equal concern in this book. For baked goods, McCarty recommends using whole-wheat pastry flour. If you must avoid wheat, she explains how to use other grains and flours. In talking about ingredients, as well as in her recipes, McCarty is meticulously detailed. If you are already familiar with minimally processed ingredients, you will appreciate McCarty's recipes. They produce Martha Stewart-pretty results, as eight pages of color photos demonstrate. Even if you are used to cooking with brown rice syrup and agar (a thickener made from a sea vegetable), the creative ways McCarty uses them offer new possibilities, as in her maple-sweetened Pecan Pie. If this book is your introduction to naturally sweetened, dairy-free desserts, you may enjoy those made with fruit best, particularly the compotes and sorbets, such as Mango Coconut Sorbet. Sweet and Natural offers perhaps the widest range of recipes and most detailed information about techniques and ingredients for making natural desserts. If you want healthy sweets, this charmingly illustrated book is indispensable. --Dana Jacobi
McCarty (Fresh from a Vegetarian Kitchen) contends that "you don't need to desert dessert just because you want to eat healthy" and offers more than tempting delights that prove her point. Replacing milk, eggs, butter, sugar, chocolate, white flour and gelatin with soy milk, tofu, canola oil, brown rice malt syrup, organic unsweetened cocoa powder and agar flakes, McCarty works hard to re-create formerly fattening favorites in a way that's acceptable and appealing to vegans, dieters, the health conscious and those with food allergies. She is especially successful with fruit selections, which make up the first half of her book; Mango Coconut Sorbet and Deep-Dish Apple Pie with Streusel Topping are both richly flavorful. Cakes, breads, cookies and puddings follow, each recipe containing a complete nutritional analysis. McCarty writes an excellently detailed introductory chapter on methods and ingredients and concludes with a much-needed source list. She is a purist, advocating nonaluminum baking powder and homemade pump sprays for cooking oil (no dangerous aerosols!). For the dedicated health food fan, her carefully constructed recipes will be welcome?especially the opportunity to trade in a plain apple for some guilt-free Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake. Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.