We’re delighted to welcome Andrea to the Foodies100 blog today, who has written a guest post for us all about vegan baking. Andrea is a UK-based freelance journalist who has recently developed a passion for vegan baking and food blogging. She doesn’t believe in dieting, but loves to create interesting and imaginative dishes that tempt non-vegans as well as vegans. On Andrea’s blog, www.chocolateandbeyond.co.uk, you will also find her free ebook, ‘Wot, No Eggs?! The Beginner’s Guide To Becoming An Expert Vegan Baker’, packed with tips and advice.
So, you’ve got a vegan coming to tea (or someone with a dairy or egg allergy) and you want to bake sweet treats that everyone can eat? Don’t panic!
There’s no need to give your vegan or lactose-intolerant guest an unimaginative fruit salad, while everyone else tucks into delectable cupcakes with mounds of buttercream frosting. It’s as easy to come up with vegan cupcakes (or whatever else), once you’ve realised that eggs and butter are not needed.
There is no mysterious science to vegan baking. Almost everything you bake, you can make easily with animal-free ingredients instead, and without compromising on taste.
What makes baking vegan?
Basically, vegans avoid all ingredients that are derived from animals (or insects) in any way – eggs, milk, butter, yogurt, cheese (and obviously meat and fish), so vegan baking would not use these.
Insect-derived ingredients include honey (a bee regurgitation), cochineal (ground-up beetle found in red food colouring), and shellac, a glaze – resin secreted by the female lac bug.
Many cake toppers and decorations have egg albumen or milk in them, and should be avoided, as well as gelatine – collagen from pig skin or cow bone, used in fondant icing and sweets like marshmallows.
Why bother learning new tricks?
Well – who doesn’t want a few extra culinary skills under their apron?
You can whip up lovely scones in a jiffy for a vegan friend, or one who cannot tolerate dairy, and when your pantry runs out of eggs, you’ll know how to bind your cake without them.
You may never need buy eggs for baking again, in fact. They are certainly not as cheap as many vegan binding ingredients.
And there is another huge bonus to egg and dairy-free baking – your oven-goodies will be cholesterol-free, since cholesterol doesn’t exist in plant-based products like soya milk or coconut oil, just in animal products.
So baking vegan-style is good for people who want to eat cake without cholesterol.
Don’t be bound by eggs
Why did it ever come about that a hen’s ovum got used in a cake in the first place? I have no idea, especially when there are so many cheaper-to-use and just as effective options out there – as war-time housewives discovered when eggs were rationed and in short supply.
In standard baking, eggs are used to bind, acting as a substance which keeps your cake, muffin or whatever else you’re making together, and helping to retain moisture and determine the crumb texture.
In vegan baking, there are many food stuffs that can be utilised, depending on the type of baked product. These include mashed bananas, apple sauce, soya yogurt, silken tofu, ground flaxseed mixed with water, and vegan buttermilk (soya milk mixed with apple cider vinegar).
Flaxseed (linseed) adds a chewy sort of texture, so is especially good in muffins, breads and brownies. Silken tofu works well for dense cakes and for when the flavour of the binder isn’t required, whereas bananas will strongly flavour your baking – hello banana bread.
As a rough guide, ¼ cup (3-4 tablespoons) of soya yogurt, silken tofu, mashed banana or apple sauce is the equivalent to one egg for replacement in a recipe. Or a tablespoon of ground flaxseed (linseed) mixed with 3 tablespoons of water (to let it go gloopy) per egg can work too.
If you’re trying to ‘veganise’ a traditional recipe, may find a little more liquid is needed to make up the moisture content.
Swapping butter, milk and honey…
You will probably be familiar with recipes that contain oil rather than butter? Generally, oil that can withstand high temperatures and is light in flavour is most suitable.
Rapeseed (canola) oil is the one I frequently bake with, or melted coconut oil when I don’t mind a hint of coconut flavour.
If a recipe calls for butter, and swapping around your fats is a new thang, then doing a direct interchange (same quantities) with a dairy-free margarine works fine. Vitalite and Pure are both readily available from supermarkets.
If a recipe clearly has butter in it for taste, rather than serve its fat role (like shortbread) definitely use vegan margarine, not oil.
If the only vegan alternative in your cupboard is oil, and the recipe wants a solid fat like margarine, then use 1/3 oil to ½ cup butter/margarine. However, this is best for quick breads and cakes, not biscuits.
When it comes to milk, it’s easy peasy to replace dairy milk. Just use plain, unsweetened soya instead. Other non-dairy milks also work well, depending on the recipe (if it’s sweet or not, for example). Rice milk, unsweetened almond milk, and coconut milk (like the Kara brand, rather than the tinned form) can be good choices.
The long-life cartons of non-dairy milks are good to buy in so you have something at hand.
If you need a buttermilk replacement, add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per 250ml of soya milk, and leave to curdle for a few minutes.
In place of honey as a sweetener, try maple syrup, agave nectar, golden syrup or other kinds of liquid sweetener. Date syrup is good for flapjacks – though it has a strong flavour and is dark in colour. Rice syrup I find to be very similar to honey.
Where to look for recipes?
I’ve picked a few recipes from around the web to get you started.
I also took the liberty of including my own ‘buttermilk’ scones, for a vegan twist on a traditional teatime treat! I hope you enjoy your exploration of vegan baking.
Traditional Buttermilk Scones – Veganised! – Chocolate and Beyond
Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes – PPK blog
Lemon Drop Cookies – Nom Nom Nom Blog
Mouthwatering Berry Cheesecake – Mouthwatering Vegan