As most of you may know venturing into the world of plant based baking is an overwhelming, and often turbulent, journey. It took me a really long time to become comfortable with basic knowledge on appropriate substitutions as well as just general techniques. As I continue this path of learning how to be a skillful Vegan baker I wanted to share with you some of my own sweet recipes! Hopefully I can throw in a couple tried and true savory snacks as well but for the most part I am very much a “dessert for dinner” kind of gal and therefor that’s where the majority of my ability (and the topics of this blog) lay.
Baking wasn’t something that I ever thought would become my passion, especially after going vegan. It took a lot of time and research to learn how to recreate my favorite baked goods, With the right understanding of ingredients and technique you can make anything!
In this first post I just wanted to talk about some of the basics of vegan baking and a couple “specialty vegan” ingredients that you may want for my recipes, but can be substituted for other things 75% of the time if needed! Granted, I like to always have the basics for impromptu cookie making but never the less, here are a few of my recommendations
- Ground Flax
- Organic Sugars
- Plant Milk
- Vegan Butter
- Vegan Cream Cheese
- Vegan Chocolate Chips
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Lemons for “buttermilk”
- Coconut Cream
- Flaked Salt ( This one may not seem crucial but TRUST me! )
Ground flax and the magic of “Flax Eggs”
There are so many “hacks” to bind your baking recipes without the use of eggs but my favorite by far is the “flax egg”. A flax egg for those who may not know is ground flax seed and water; specifically 1 tbsp flax to 3 tbsp water, that equals the texture and binding abilities of 1 egg. The reason I prefer this 80% of the time as apposed to things like apple sauce or mashed banana is because it keeps the integrity of the baked good while still allowing it to properly rise. I find that when I use something like apple sauce my recipe always ends up too moist and loses the texture I was going for and bananas typically leave my recipes much too dense. There are a few exceptions (mainly in cake recipes where I don’t use flax) and you definitely can sub it out for any other “binder” that you prefer but be warned the end product will probably have a different texture than intended. Therefor, I definitely recommend just going to your local supermarket and picking up a bag; at my store they’re kept in the organic cold sections, it should last a long time and be well worth it.
As I’m sure most of you know, many brands of normal sugar that you get in the baking section of your local grocery store are not in fact vegan. Most of them, unless stated, are processed through bone char in order to make it a “desirable” stark white color. To avoid these sugars I typically stick with organic brands, that I have researched prior, to insure their processing is entirely plant based. You could also use things like coconut sugar, or maple syrup, to sweeten any treat if that’s your preference.
Vegan milks are everywhere now and you can find them made with virtually anything imaginable. My preferences are usually unsweetened Soy and Cashew based milks with the occasional coconut milk mix in but you’re welcome to use any plant milk of your choice in all of my recipes. The variances should typically be small enough to be insignificant to the outcome of the end product, unless stated in the post. I would recommend to stick with the unsweetened variety though.
This one, in my opinion, is important. Yes, you can usually always sub vegan butters for coconut oil or other things but it really will affect the end result of the recipe. I live and die by Earth Balance “Buttery Sticks” so typically that’s always what I’m using when crafting my baked goods. Not only does “butter” give it an extra creamy, saltiness, that coconut oil doesn’t but they also react totally differently when baked and that affects the end result. I want to make “healthier” versions of my favorite treats using coconut oil and no refined sugar eventually but until then, earth balance butter sticks, if you can get them, trust me.
Vegan Chocolate Chips
I always have about 7 bags of different kinds of dairy free chocolate chips in my cupboard because I use them in so many desserts! I’m a big fan of dark chocolate because it adds a bitter flavor note to things that are usually really sweet and most of the time its Vegan. Just make sure to read the ingredients on the package before purchasing and if it helps usually the ones that say “Allergy friendly” don’t contain any animal products. Be careful though for added lactose and the “secret” animal products that aren’t as obvious. One of my favorite brands right now is “Enjoy Life” their mini semi sweet chips are perfect to mix into cookies dough and banana bread!
Vegan Cream Cheese
I use vegan cream cheese in a lot of my icing recipes, specifically in my cinnamon rolls. My favorite by far is Miyoko’s plain cream cheese. We don’t have it at any of my local supermarkets so I have to drive an hour out to Anchorage’s Natural Pantry in order to get it but it is well worth the trek! As far as soft vegan cheese’s go in general, Miyoko’s has my whole heart. I loovvee them! However, you can make your own vegan cream cheese using cashews and a couple other things but that takes a bit more time and I’m still working on my “cheese” making abilities.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This is a really important ingredient in recipes that call for it because typically it’s used as a leavening agent and flavor enhancer. When paired with baking soda it helps to produce the reaction that allows cakes and similar goods to rise and be fluffy. I do recommend buying a bottle of it if you can; typically it’s in the organic health food section of the grocery store, because it lasts a long time and is important. However, there are many recipes out there that don’t need apple cider vinegar to produce their reactions and you usually can replace it with other acids to produce the same outcome just research prior to substituting.
Making vegan buttermilk is pretty much the same as making “regular” buttermilk, you just substitute cow milk for plant milk and boom! Same reaction! The recommended ratio is usually 1 cup to 1 tbsp, so 1 cup of your favorite plant based milk and 1 tbsp of lemon juice, leave it to sit a minute or two and it should start to thicken up. Then it’s ready to use in all of your favorite recipes that ask for buttermilk!
I get my coconut cream from cans of full fat coconut milk, the cream will rise to the top of the can over the course of it sitting on the store shelf so when you buy it its already separated perfectly. Just be careful not to shake the can, open it up and scoop the cream off the top into a separate bowl and you’re good to go! I love using coconut cream in my frosting recipes, to make ganache, and even lemon bars. It gives everything such a nice smooth texture that is hard to get without it.
okay, okay, this isn’t a specialty Vegan baking ingredient but it is so important!! Please buy flaked salt, do you absolutely need it to make the recipe work? No. Does it completely enhance the flavor of recipes with chocolate and make everything taste impossibly delicious? Yes! Using flaked salt in my cookie recipes has honestly made them so much more addicting. You can use regular salt to get a similar affect but I really recommend getting the flaked variety. It’s perfect for baked goods, truffles, pretty much everything.
Thats all for my list of specialty vegan baking ingredients that I highly advise stocking up on to make the best plant based treats ever! Thank you for reading and I’m so excited to show you how I use these ingredients and many more in my own recipes starting this week!