Easy Vegan Baking Hacks to Shrink Your Sweet Tooth’s Footprint
Adapt all your favorite recipes with a little substitution savvy
BY KATIE O’REILLY | DEC 20 2019
Reducing the animal products in your diet is a surefire way to shrink your environmental footprint. But plant-based baking is intimidating, whether you’re a longtime vegan or you’re flirting with flexitarianism. In hopes of whipping up decadent treats this winter, we sought the substitution savvy of Meggan Leal, the creator of Cooking on Caffeine, a plant-based food blog. Her key tip for adapting your favorite recipe? Embrace the trial-and-error nature of food science. “Don’t get discouraged if you don’t nail that original taste right off the bat,” Leal says. “One single ingredient usually does a lot of different things, so be prepared for some misses before you land on the perfect, delicious dessert.”
Master the Basics of Plant-Based Swappage
“Eggs are used to lift, bind, and moisten, so you’ll have to figure out your egg substitute’s precise role,” Leal says. You can create binding flax “eggs” by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water and letting that mixture sit for 10 minutes. Depending on a recipe’s flavor profile, pureed avocado, squash, pumpkin, banana, zucchini, or sweet potato can do eggs’ binding duties too.
For moisture, and for a solid whipped-egg-white substitute (required in meringue and mousse recipes), try aquafaba, the liquid from cooked beans or other legumes. “I usually use garbanzo beans’ aquafaba because it’s pretty neutral-tasting,” says Leal, who uses 3 tablespoons of it to replace an egg and 2 tablespoons to replace an egg white.
For cake and bread recipes, eggs typically serve as a raising agent, so in place of each egg, Leal combines 1 tablespoon of vinegar (typically white distilled or apple cider) with 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
Butter and Cream
Solid coconut oil makes for a great one-for-one substitute for butter, and many vegans swap olive oil for butter in muffin and cookie recipes. Plus, Earth Balance, Country Crock, and Miyoko’s make popular vegan butters. Leal, who prefers oil-based Country Crock Plant Butter (it comes in baking-friendly stick form), says to use the same amount of butter called for in traditional recipes. For baking, avocado can replace cream (but not whipped cream) and “pairs especially well with chocolate,” Leal says.
Just about any plant-based milk on the market can be substituted for dairy milk. Leal prefers the consistency of soy milk and says that adding vinegar (1 teaspoon per cup) creates a great buttermilk substitution. She recommends oat milk as a replacement for whole milk.
Instead of baking with gelatin—which is made from boiled cow bones and used to create cake-decorating flourishes, no-bake desserts like cheesecake and flan, and, of course, Jell-O concoctions—Leal turns to agar powder (derived from red algae) and food-grade carrageenan (made from seaweed).
Many food manufacturers rely on processed sweeteners to maintain flavor in vegan baked goods. Not Leal. She uses Zulka, a Mexican brand of sugars that are minimally processed, with no bone char or whitening agents. Looking to avoid cane sugar altogether? “Unprocessed coconut sugar goes great in cookies and pies, providing a nice, molasses-like taste,” Leal says. To skip sugar completely, try powdered stevia mixed with maltodextrin, isomalt (diabetic-friendly and made from beets), or monk fruit, a zero-carb, natural sweetener.
This article appeared in the January/February 2020 edition ©2020 Sierra Club with the headline “Substitute Teachings”
The content of this article was reproduced from a Sierra Club website https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2020-1-january-february/taste-test/easy-vegan-baking-hacks-shrink-your-sweet-tooths-footprint#.XitahRmjDBk.email with permission of the ©2020 Sierra Club. All Rights Reserved.