Vegan Baking Made Easy
What exactly is a vegan diet? Can I still bake some of my favorite dishes and stay vegan? These are some of the questions that most people have when the topic of vegan arises.
Vegan basically means that no animal derived ingredients are used in the food preparation process. This includes butter and, yes, eggs. This is the part that seems to confuse most people when they start to think about vegan baking-no eggs and no butter. Eggs and butter are staples in traditional baking, how can you bake without them?
Turns out that it is quite simple, and tasty, to bake without both eggs or butter. There are plenty of plant based replacements that can perform as replacements for dairy products with the results being healthy and delicious foods. Vegan diets revolve around plant based foods with an emphasis on whole grains and nuts. Creating good tasting foods with these natural ingredients requires you to pay more attention to your kitchen staples as well as adding spices and flavors to your current recipes.
Eggs are used in traditional recipes as a binding agent and to add moisture. With vegan baking you will use mashed fruits or starches to handle those functions. Some recipes will use vegan buttermilk as a dairy replacement, adding a rich cream-like flavor. Oils that can handle a high heat are also used. Obviously vegan baking requires a different set of ingredients and a different set of baking instructions. There are many good recipes online for vegan dishes and most bookstores have large offerings of vegan cookbooks. You will want be selective at first when baking vegan, it does require a different style of cooking. It’s usually better to find a vegan recipe to replace a favorite dish, trying to “veganize” a recipe can be difficult.
Whether you have decided to follow a vegan diet for health or ethical reasons there is no reason to deny yourself the pleasure of good food. Baking should be a fun experience and a vegan diet is not reason for that to change. I really like the PETA site on vegan eating, it has excellent recipe ideas, tips on what foods work well to replace dairy products and articles on how a vegan diet can benefit not only you but the entire world.
Easy Vegan Brownies
2 cups tightly packed pitted dates 1/4 cup warm water 1/2 cup salted peanut butter 2 tbsp melted coconut oil 1/3 cup cacoa or unsweetened cocoa powder 1/3 cup dairy free dark chocolate 1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts (these are optional) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and line a standard loaf pan (or similar size pan) with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Add dates to food processor and blend until small bits or a ball forms. If your food processor has a difficult time processing the dates, ensure there are no pits in the dates and that your dates are fresh and sticky. If too dry they can have a difficult time blending. (It may also be an issue of food processor strength if it has a hard time blending.) I have used the grinder attachment to my stand mixer at times, it works really well when I want to chop up the dates.
- Once blended, separate the dates into chunks using a spoon. Then add hot water and blend until a sticky date paste forms, like a very thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add peanut butter, coconut oil, and cacao powder and pulse your processor until a sticky batter forms. It should be tacky and thick (scrape down sides as needed). Lastly add chocolate chips and walnuts (optional) and pulse to incorporate.
Line A Loaf Pan
- Transfer batter to lined loaf pan and spread into an even layer. For a smooth top, lay some parchment paper on top and use a flat-bottomed object (like a drinking glass) to press into an even layer.
- Bake on the center rack for 15 minutes – the edges should be slightly dry. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then carefully lift out of the pan using the edges of the parchment paper and let cool on a plate or cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing. The longer they cool, the firmer they will become.
Enjoy warm or cooled. Store leftovers covered at room temperature up to 3 days, in the refrigerator up to 5-6 days, or in the freezer up to 1 month (let thaw before enjoying).