Tricks For The Vegan Baker
In recent years, vegan baking has gained significant popularity due to increased awareness of the environmental, ethical, and moral benefits of a plant-based diet.
Vegan baking has grown in popularity due to increased awareness of the environmental, ethical, and moral advantages of a plant-based diet.
"Vegan" baking strictly avoids animal products like eggs, dairy, and gelatin.
Instead of animal-based ingredients, vegan bakers use suitable substitutes to achieve similar results in their recipes.
Common replacements for butter and heavy cream include plant-based alternatives like margarine and coconut cream.
Vegan baking allows individuals to enjoy delicious treats while aligning with their ethical and dietary preferences.
All fats are not treated equally
When it comes to non-dairy fat sources for baking, there is a variety to choose from, such as coconut oil, vegan butter, and plant oil. However, not all of these fats can be used interchangeably due to their different properties. Liquid oils like olive oil and avocado oil are better suited for stovetop cooking rather than baking since using them in a pie crust, for example, would result in an undesirable puddle of oil after baking. Before adding fat to a recipe, two crucial factors must be considered: the fat's structure and the desired taste of the final product. Coconut oil, similar to lard, has a semi-solid texture at room temperature, while vegan butter resembles traditional dairy stick butter with a firmer structure. For scone recipes, the logical choice would be vegan stick butter, as it maintains its texture when combined with flour, yielding a crumbly and decadent scone. Additionally, nut butter like peanut or almond butter can serve as unconventional alternatives to butter, offering saturated fats and protein but with a dominating flavor profile that may be suitable for a chocolate peanut butter brownie but less appealing for an apple crisp.
Chia seeds can act as a substitute for eggs
During its early days, vegan baking gained popularity by using applesauce and mashed banana as egg replacers. Applesauce, known for its binding properties due to pectin, creates a soft and moist structure by trapping oxygen. While bananas also offer a moist alternative to eggs, they can noticeably affect the taste of the final baked goods.
For a more neutral taste and added nutritional benefits, flax eggs (referred to as "flegg") are an excellent option. Healthline highlights that flax eggs provide protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber. To make flax eggs at home, simply combine 3 tablespoons of finely ground flaxseed with 1 tablespoon of water, allowing the mixture to sit for 10 minutes before adding it to the batter. Chia seeds can also serve as an egg substitute. Bob's Red Mill recommends combining 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of boiling water and letting it sit for five minutes. Alternatively, those seeking to avoid seeds, eggs, and fruits as substitutes can turn to Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer. Preparing it is as simple as mixing 2 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon of powder. This blend contains binding starches like potato starch, tapioca powder, baking soda, and psyllium husk, which effectively maintain the moisture and structure of baked goods. Versatile and accommodating to various dietary needs, this mix is a convenient solution for egg-free baking.
Utilize beet, coconut, or organic sugar
The vegan community is grappling with an ethical dilemma surrounding the vegan status of sugar, and if you find yourself puzzled by this notion, you're not alone. According to Make It Dairy Free, there are three primary types of sugar used in conventional food production: sugarcane, beet sugar, and coconut sugar. In the United States, some sugarcane goes through a filtering process using bone char, derived from cattle or pig bones, to achieve a whiter appearance. While bone char does not remain in the sugar after refining, certain vegans choose to avoid white or brown sugar unless it is certified as vegan, certified organic (where bone char filtration is prohibited), or sourced from beets or coconuts.
To address this ethical quandary, one can simply opt for organic sugar, beet sugar, or coconut sugar. Organic brown sugar or organic powdered sugar is guaranteed to be free from bone char. By choosing these alternatives, vegans can confidently enjoy sweet treats without compromising their ethical beliefs. Use unsweetened plant milk
Unlike dairy milk, consumers today have a plethora of choices when it comes to plant-based milk options. A 2021 Food Manufacturing article highlights soy milk as the most popular globally, while coconut milk shows rapid growth in popularity. Additionally, oat milk, almond milk, and hemp milk are readily available alternatives.
For experienced vegan bakers, flavor plays a vital role in their milk selection for baking purposes. Therefore, opting for unsweetened, neutral-tasting milk that complements the desired texture in baked goods is crucial. Coconut milk offers a distinct and potent flavor, suitable for specific recipes. However, for a more subtle and versatile substitute, almond milk proves to be an excellent choice, working well in both sweet and savory dishes. Likewise, oat milk adds a delightful, creamy sweetness to scones, muffins, and pastries, making it a valuable addition to a baker's repertoire.
Try something unique
Aquafaba, far from a science experiment gone wrong, is the starchy liquid leftover from a can of chickpeas or canned beans. As a versatile vegan meringue replacement, it can be whipped into the frosting, icing, batter, or serve as an egg white substitute.
Avocados, an unconventional vegan baking ingredient, offers a rich and nuanced source of fat to enhance baked goods. Chocolate Covered Katie suggests using avocados to create a luscious chocolate cake, while chef Carla Hall recommends adding them for decadent, fibrous brownies.
In vegan cooking, dates are a common fruit cherished for their high sugar and fiber content, making them perfect for many vegan baked treats. The Baking Explorer's vegan millionaire shortbread, for example, features a crisp biscuit layer topped with maple syrup and date caramel, all coated in melted dark chocolate. Medjool dates shine in a sweet potato chocolate brownie recipe that includes raw hazelnuts, almond butter, almond flour, and sweet potatoes.
Buy in bulk
In certain vegan recipes, unique ingredients like arrowroot starch, psyllium husk, and xanthan gum are required in small quantities. For avid bakers, especially those who bake gluten-free, having bags of these ingredients on hand can be beneficial. However, for a wider range of bakers, sharing small amounts of these ingredients among each other can be a more financially sustainable option.
Another alternative to buying small quantities of ingredients individually is to explore the bulk section of a natural foods grocery store. As GreenMatters suggests, shopping in bulk allows individuals to bring their own containers and purchase only the required amount of food for a specific period, significantly reducing food and plastic waste. To shop in the bulk section, bring clean containers, such as Mason jars, and weigh them on a scale to determine the tare weight (the weight of the container without anything inside). After filling the container with the desired quantity of the ingredient, record the final weight at the register. This approach not only saves money but also contributes to minimizing plastic waste—an eco-friendly choice we can all get behind.
Arrowroot starch is a popular ingredient in vegan cooking, known for its thickening properties in stews, sauces, and gravies, as stated by Bake It With Love. When arrowroot powder is not available, several substitutes can be used, such as all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and sweet rice flour. Sweet rice flour, with its higher starch content, will create a slightly cloudier thickening mixture when combined with water. To achieve the desired consistency, bakers should use a 1-to-½ ratio of arrowroot starch to sweet rice flour in their recipes. On the other hand, tapioca starch, flour, and cornstarch can be substituted at a 1-to-1 ratio without requiring any adjustments.