What “vegan” means in baking
Not surprisingly, I have come to be known as the vegan baker among my family, friends and coworkers. Yet, there are still many people in my life who don’t actually know what that means. I am often questioned about what ingredients I use to make my desserts so delicious—without eggs, butter or cow’s milk, it may seem unconventional or even incomprehensible.
The truth is, there is a whole world of plant-based ingredients that can be used to satisfy your sweet tooth without harming your health, the environment or the animals. In fact, vegan baking can open up your mind to new ideas, techniques and foods you may have never thought to try before.
For me, vegan baking is about inspiring others to think differently about what they eat, so I’d like to share what “vegan” means in my own baking.
When a recipe calls for eggs it might mean: flaxmeal, mashed banana, applesauce, silken tofu, vinegar and baking soda, or sometimes Ener-G powder. Eggs perform various functions in baking, from binding and leavening to adding moisture and richness, so learning how to replicate those particular functions with healthful, plant-based ingredients can be a fun experiment.
When I want to use a fat in my baking for tenderness, texture or flavour, I might use: nut butter, seed butter, avocado, coconut oil, coconut cream, sunflower oil, olive oil or sometimes Earth Balance buttery sticks.
When I want to include flour in my recipe, I might mean: spelt, kamut, whole-grain wheat, almond, oat, buckwheat, brown rice, coconut, quinoa or chickpea. For some of these, I tend to purchase the whole food form and blend it up in my spice grinder or food processor. This way, I know it is unrefined and fresh.
When a recipe calls for sugar, my natural approach might involve using: dates, ripe bananas, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar, coconut nectar, lucuma powder or unrefined cane sugar (Sucanat). (Please note that many brands of refined white sugar are not vegan-friendly.)
When milk is involved, it might mean: almond, rice, soy, hemp, oat, quinoa or coconut. For my raw dessert recipes, I make my own by blending a base flavour such as raw soaked almonds with water (I generally use a ratio of 1:4) and strain it through a nut milk bag. This is a great way to consume milk sans the unnecessary preservatives.
Have you tried a new vegan ingredient lately?