Vegan Desserts in Jars – Cookbook Review and Pumpkin Cream Brûlée Recipe

A few weeks before Thanksgiving I received the cookbook, Vegan Desserts in Jars, Adorably Delicious Pies, Cakes, Puddings and Much More by Kris Holechek Peters.  I was very excited flipping through the book since we would be going to my parents for Thanksgiving dinner, sharing dinner with my sister and brother in law (the vegans) and in charge of making dessert.


I realized the best thing about this book is inspiration for making dessert to go.  I know the jars are trendy in some restaurants however they are quite practical.  Since we had quite a drive for Thanksgiving, a pie may not have traveled as well, however these little jars with lids on were super easy to transport.  I’m going to keep this in mind for other potluck and school occasions.


The other thing I like about desserts in jars is the individual servings.  There is no bickering between my kids about the size of the slice or dollop or dessert.  Your jar is your jar.  You can experiment too with various size jars and vessels. Though many of the recipes are for 4 oz. canning jars which means you can reuse and try a variety of individual pies, cakes and puddings.  Canning jars can be found easily online and even at the hardware store.  Mine are from The Container Store which has a variety of styles and sizes in stock now for the holiday.  There is a section of the book that talks about jars and options.


I skipped the brûlée part mostly because there were so many things vying for space in my mom’s ovens.  So we made the suggested coconut cream.  I’ll be using that for all kinds of dessert toppings (or eat right out of the bowl).  I must warn you my sister, the vegan did not eat the pumpkin brûlées and that’s because she doesn’t like pumpkin pie and the consistency.  I somehow forgot.  However everyone else loved them.  My mom seemed disappointed at first because there was no traditional pie.  However we bought one from the Whole Foods bakery last minute to please the traditionalists and non traditionalists.  However it seemed the brûlées went faster.  Even though I’m not expecting any vegan guests, I’m already flipping through to see what to make for the next holiday dinner,…perhaps S’mores in a Jar or Rustic Rhubarb Cakes or Raw Pecan Pie or all of them!

Book Review:

Pros: variety of flavors and textures from pies, to breads, to custards etc.  Most of them are quick to make and convenient to transport. Great for vegans as well as those with dairy allergies.

Cons: powdered sugar wasn’t specified as “vegan”, which many vegans do not eat (see blog about bone char) . May have to invest in canning jars.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée (page 74, Vegan Desserts in Jars)

Creamy, spiced pumpkin with a crisp sugar crust is as elegant as it is comforting.


¾ cup non-dairy milk of choice

½ cup raw cashews

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar, divided

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie mix)

¼ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1∕8 teaspoon salt

Makes 6 crème brûlées


Set aside six 4-ounce canning jars.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and cashews. Let them soak for about 30 minutes. Place the milk and cashews in a food processor or blender container. Purée until creamy. Add ½ cup of the sugar and the remaining ingredients, and blend until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed, about 2 minutes.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes. Fill each jar to just under the brim, leaving about ¼ inch of space. Refrigerate the jars until ready the serve.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar over the top of each jar. There are two options for brûléeing the desserts: using a propane brûlée torch or by broiling the tops of the desserts. If using a torch, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If broiling, place the jars on a rimmed baking sheet and turn the broiler on high. Place the jars under the broiler, with about 2 inches of space between the jars and the element. Keeping a watchful eye (the sugar burns quickly), heat the jars until the sugar caramelizes and becomes brown, 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the heat intensity.

Note: Don’t feel like messing with the brûlée part of crème brûlée? This recipe is just as delicious as a lovely custard. Dollop some Coconut Whipped Cream (page 111) on top and call it good.

Coconut Whipped Cream (page 111)

This coconut whipped cream is deceptively simple and will change your life.Be sure that you use good old canned coconut milk, rather than the boxed coconut milk beverage, so the fat content is correct.


1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (not low-fat)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ to ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted

Makes 2 cups


Refrigerate the coconut milk for at least 3 hours, overnight if possible. Open the can and scoop out only the hard, white coconut cream, leaving the watery part in the can. Place the coconut cream in a large bowl. Add the vanilla and ¼ cup powdered sugar. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, whip the cream until fluffy. Add more powdered sugar, if necessary, to your desired sweetness.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. Store the coconut cream covered, in the fridge, for up to 4 days.





Thanksgiving Lessons…

So I survived Thanksgiving.  But I must say it was more stressful than I would’ve liked.  First, I kind of burned myself out with all the school actvities (see “feast” post) and recipe testing the week prior.  Yes, I loved seeing the school kids eat my little sandwiches,  muffins, etc., but sometimes I wish I was the parent who doesn’t cook and can just bring something premade (gasp!).  No, of course I would never.  However I notice the parents who pick up something lovely at a bakery or restaurant often look much more rested and happy at some of these functions than I do after baking until midnight.

I was a bit worried about my sister’s new diet too (see post about “A Vegan”) .  I’m not the person that could serve someone a plate of crudite veggies and call it Thanksgiving dinner.  So I welcomed the challenge and did lots of recipe testing (and pie eating) prior.  Thankfully the dishes turned out pretty well and everyone (especially my sister) was very appreciative.  I adapted the dressing and sweet potatoes to vegan by using the vegan sticks instead of butter.  (Thankfully wine and brown sugar come in handy).  My sister made a really good butternut squash rissotto (see recipe here on and last minute (I ran out of time) a saute of brussels sprouts in thyme and white wine.   The apple cranberry pie recipe came from the cookbook I gave my sister.  It was tart but tasty.  Although it didn’t totally set up like other apple pies I’ve made in the past.  I question the use of tapioca over flour for the apple filling.  Flour isn’t an animal product. 

Greens with Persimmon and Pecans
Greens with Persimmon and Pecans
Butternut Risotto
Butternut Risotto
Walnut, Crestnut, Sausage, Sage Stuffing
Walnut, Crestnut, Sausage, Sage Stuffing
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Ginger
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange and Ginger
Apple Cranberry Pie
Apple Cranberry Pie

 Of course we roasted chestnuts and peeled them.  This started as a tradition at my house growing up.  My mom would roast chestnuts to make her mother’s stuffing on Thanksgiving morning.  Then my mom, sister and I would peel them.  Of course it’s easiest to do when they’re hot, so we’d be peeling and scalding our fingers, and complaining.  But somehow that became the tradition.  Later when I was an adult hosting Thanksgiving I bought preroasted chestnuts for chestnut soup.  The soup was great, but it seemed a little sacreligious not to peel them ourselves.  So this year my kids wanted to peel too.  My mom was proud to have “three generations peeling together”.  My recipe adds water to the chestnuts in the oven which steams them and makes them easier to open.  But some of them are still tough to do – especially if cooled.

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Very A-peeling
Very A-peeling

So you may be wondering about the turkey.  We almost didn’t have one and went completely vegan.  Not because I didn’t order (2 weeks prior) or pick one up (fighting the crowds at Whole Foods at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning), but because it wasn’t thawed to cook.  I ordered a “fresh” Diestel organic turkey, so I was surprised when I picked up my bird and it seemed hard and frozen.  I was assured that it was just “flash” frozen and simply has a thin crust of ice so that it could be transported and would be ready for cooking or brining in the morning.  Huh?  I took it home and  put it in the fridge.  Thanksgiving morning I made my brine (this was a first for me) and then unwrapped the turkey and it was still rock hard.  Yikes!  I was mad.  What now?  This seemed a big set-back to me.  (What are we going to eat with the two kinds of cranberry sauce/relish with?)

Luckily my mom and sister were calm and said to take it back to Whole Foods.  I figured they’d say too bad or run water on it for the next 4 hours.  I was wrong.  Going to the store on Thanksgiving at 8 a.m. is much more civilized than going the day before.  The people at the store couldn’t have been nicer.  The customer service was worried and perplexed at first, and called the butcher.   The butcher came out with 3 thawed turkeys (cancelled orders) which I could choose from.  Hooray!   So the bird was brined and quite moist and flavorful.

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 All and all, the meal and visit with my family was a success.   Whew!  

You can cook all day, and days before, but it all really comes down to the last half hour.  This is the time when everyone is busy, helping and more than ready to eat.  It was pretty fun.   My mom and kids were decorating the table (we had been using it for board and dice games much of the day) with final touches such as fancy folded napkins and handmade placecards.  My sister and brother-in-law were stirring risotto.  I was carving the turkey and heating gravy.  My husband was using a new video camera to capture it all and interview all the guests/family.

Aside from the visiting and food, another highlight of the day was leaving the kitchen and everyone taking a walk on Richardson Bay.  The weather was sunny and brisk and I especially needed some fresh air.  I waivered about going, as the turkey would go in late, but I gave myself a reprive from getting the dinner out on time (we had established 4 p.m.).  Dinner at 5:30 was just fine.