Vegan baking may seem impossible, especially if you are someone who has been subjected to some awful vegan baked goods. But it’s not veganism making them bad. Think of how many conventional baked goods you have had that were lackluster or downright gross. Dry, crumbly cake, hard cookies, soggy pies, we’ve all eaten them. And let’s be honest.. if it was your first time eating a vegan baked good don’t you think you might have been expecting something to taste different, and so it did? It’s not about what’s in it (or what’s not for that matter), it about technique and having a well-written recipe to work from.
But back to vegan baking. No eggs? No butter? Ah, but there is so much to be sampled and tasted on the food spectrum that not only is vegan baking possible, it’s cholesterol-free, tastes delicious and can be as challenging or as simple as you want it to be. You don’t need to invest in obscure, hard-to-find ingredients, you can bake delectable creations with many ingredients you have on hard or are available at your local grocery store.
But first, a vegan baking primer.
Sugars– Sugar cane is refined using animal bone charcoal filters. While the bone isn’t actually processed into the sugar, it is a by-product that many vegans tend to avoid. This is not normally true for beet sugar and also can vary, so do some online investigating or contact the company to be sure. There are many alternative sugars out there, so keep an eye out and don’t be afraid to experiment. Sucanat, organic sugars, evaporated cane juice, turbinado, the list goes on and on. And then there are the liquid sweeteners such as agave and maple syrup. I tend to use organic cane or evaporated cane juice most frequently. I find my best deals on organic cane at Costco, believe it or not! Your local health-food store or co-op usually have great deals on sugar when you buy in bulk.
Butter– Clearly not vegan. Oil is a great, less processed alternative that works with many recipes. If you do use oil, however, you will have to adjust your other liquids, so it can take some perfecting when veganizing a family favorite. There are several vegan margarines out there, including Earth Balance (which recently changed it’s packaging so make sure you are getting the vegan one and not a butter blend), Willow’s Run and Spectrum. You can use it stick for stick in replacing butter, and it bakes like a charm.
I realize, however, that not everyone has access to stores that stock explicitly vegan margarine. Or even if you do, they can be pricey and, by-golly, you want to make cookies! There is hope! They aren’t as healthy, but there are accidentally vegan margarines out there. I have experimented with several of them to see how well they bake and have yet to encounter a problem. One that I can find readily in the Pac NW is Nucoa. Accidentally vegan and great for baking. Do some label reading to see what’s available in your neighborhood. Vegan shortening is also available, so no worries there either.
Milk– How now, vegan cow? Well, there is always soy milk, which is becoming so commonplace that I have even seen it at gas stations! But don’t stop there, try almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, hazelnut milk. A different milk for each day of the week and they are all yummy and moo-free. For baking purposes, I tend to use soy when I want a higher fat content, for example with making a cake or a cream filling. I also use almond milk and oat milk regularly with great results.
Eggs– Replacing eggs in baked goods seems like a daunting task when you first take the plunge into vegan baking, but it turns out that it’s simple, tasty and effective. Some egg replacers, or binders, work better than others, so if at first you don’t succeed… well, it’ll still taste good, so stuff your face!
To replace 1 egg try:
1/4 cup mashed banana
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup pureed silken tofu
1 tbsp ground flaxseed, whipped up with 3 tbsp water (let it sit for a few minutes after mixing to thicken)
1/4 cup soy yogurt
1/4 cup sour milk– nut or grain milk of your choice with a little bit of lemon juice or vinegar to sour. (Be sure to add a little baking soda to the recipe if there isn’t any already to ensure the desired chemical reaction.)
Egg replacer, prepared according to box instructions
Some work better for certain things than others. I find flaxseed works best for things that are chewy or in yeasted baked goods. Applesauce works best in cookies or quick breads, and you’ll never be able to taste it. Yogurt, tofu and sour milk work wonders in cakes. I tend to avoid the boxed egg replacer. It’s essentially a mix of different starches. It can dry out some baked goods. In some cases where all I need is a little starch, I will use a bit of corn or tapioca starch. As a rule of thumb, use more liquidy binders in more liquidy baked goods. For example, I would never use sour milk in cookie dough because the dough would not hold together. Sour milk is best used in items that are in a self-contained pan like quick breads or a cake.
Some people might think it’s weird to use some of these things in their baked goods. Applesauce? Flaxseed? But why aren’t eggs weird? Because you are used to it. Because it’s conventional. Because, frankly, it’s habit. I have played with countless family recipes that on my first round of veganizing all I did was omit the eggs and I’ll be darned– it didn’t change a thing. Don’t be afraid to try and play.
Omnivores have one option: eggs. With all of these options, and countless more (pumpkin puree, shredded pears, zucchini, cooked oatmeal) there are boundless textures to be refined, taking each baked good to it’s full potential as individual treats, without a blanket use of ingredients just ’cause it’s always been done that way.
Squirrel’s Vegan KitchenGo back in time to my original blog: Squirrel’s Vegan Kitchen!
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