How to 'think vegan' when baking: Top tips for new vegan bakers

How to ‘think vegan’ when baking: Top tips for new vegan bakers

Read Time:   |  22nd June 2020

Many people are daunted by baking when they first go vegan with eggs, butter and milk off the cards! Thankfully once you master the basics you'll discover how enjoyable vegan baking really is!

When you decide to switch to a plant-based lifestyle, it can be overwhelming to start with, especially if you’ve made your decision to change overnight.

You might be thinking ‘what will I eat?’, ‘how will I tell my family?’, ‘where will I get an oat milk latte?’ and ‘will I ever eat my favourite cake again?’.

As someone who gradually transitioned to a plant-based diet, I didn’t experience complete overwhelm. It was in order to avoid that feeling that I took my time.

I’m a mum to two and a wife to one and we needed to figure out how to integrate my new lifestyle choices into our family life and find a balance for everyone.

It took me a long time and a lot of consistent trial and error to make recipes that worked, especially when it came to baking. I failed my way forward with a sweet tooth that never gave up.

My decision to move toward a plant-based diet coincided with my decision to focus on my health, consume mostly whole foods and avoid processed foods. At the same time as attempting to appease my sweet tooth, I was attempting to concoct nutritious and wholesome treats.

The reason I began sharing my journey towards plant-based living was to share recipes with others and to show how it’s possible to continue making delicious treats that are both nutritious and tasty.

I want to reassure you, that if you’ve recently switched to a plant-based lifestyle, your ‘norm’ will soon include thinking about aquafaba, rather than egg white, coconut oil instead of butter and cacao instead of chocolate.

To get you started with satisfying your sweet tooth, here are some of my tips for thinking ‘vegan’ whilst baking.

1. Texture

Something that is really important when baking is the consistency you want to achieve. When I consider a recipe I think about the traditional ingredients first in order to work out what I can swap them for.

For example, if I am thinking about making a cake or treat with a caramel layer, I’ll visualise something that could be similar to caramel (traditionally made with cream, sugar and butter).

Perhaps that could be dates soaked in boiling water and processed with some almond butter. If I am thinking of a cheesecake, which has a creamy texture, I’ll think what could make that smooth creamy consistency? I’d experiment with different types of nuts and coconut cream, coconut oil or yoghurt.

For a cheesecake, cashew nuts soaked in water and blende with a little lemon, coconut oil and flavouring, create a creamy and almost cheesy consistency.

There are a lot of suggestions for swaps online now, way more than there were 5 years ago when I started baking vegan treats. Pinterest is also a great source of inspiration and if you’re stuck you can always ask ‘google’.

2. Sweetener

This is not unique to vegan baking but something that may be a consideration for anyone trying to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet.

Very often a recipe includes a lot more sugar than is really required to make something taste sweet and there are many natural sweeteners that do the same job.

Something to take into consideration with sweetener is texture. For example, if you use a syrup instead of sugar you need to factor in that will add to the wet ingredients in the recipe, as opposed to the dry ingredients.

If you’re looking for a more natural sweetener, I find mashed banana or dates soaked and processed in a food processor or blender, are a good option. With two young children I mainly choose dates or banana as my preferred option when I can.

Alternatively, l use maple syrup or date syrup rather than honey, which would not be a vegan-friendly option.

When it comes to making icing, I’ve found that it’s challenging to create an icing that sets without icing sugar. I have experimented a lot with cashew icing which can be a great alternative to traditional icing.

The Minimalist Baker has a fantastic recipe for cashew icing, which includes coconut milk, maple syrup, cashews and coconut oil.

3. Egg

One of the biggest things people ask me is how do you bake without eggs? I am certainly no baking guru and many of my treats are raw or uncooked but I do bake things like banana bread, chocolate brownies, carrot cake, and gingerbread.

Traditionally these would all be made using butter, eggs and milk but I’ve been told that my cake is delicious without any of these ingredients.

For eggs there are a few options you can consider:

  • Mashed banana
  • Chia seeds
  • Ground flaxmeal
  • Gram flour
  • Egg replacement powder.

Personally, I am not as keen on egg replacement powders. I get better results using flaxmeal or chia seed ‘eggs’. Egg replacement powders are often very processed and I’ve yet to find one that works as well as the alternatives I suggested.

I like to use ‘flaxmeal egg’ in pancakes and for baking cakes, like banana bread. If you mix one dessert spoon of ground flaxmeal with 5-6 dessert spoons of water and set aside for ten minutes it will form a gloopy consistency similar to egg.

For savoury dishes I use gram flour, which is also known as chickpea flour. It’s a great ingredient to make a vegan omelette.

All you need are some veggies, such as onion, peppers, peas and mushrooms and a mixture of gram flour, water and nutritional yeast.

Fry your veggies in a pan and mix ¼ cup gram flour with 1/3 cup water and 1 tbsp nutritional yeast in a bowl. Once the veggies are soft, pour the gram flour batter over the top and allow to cook through before turning over (it’s very similar to a pancake). You can sprinkle some vegan cheese on top too.

For egg whites you can use the ‘juice’ or ‘aquafaba’ from a can of chickpeas. I have yet to attempt a recipe using this method but I have it on good advice that this is a great alternative to egg whites.

4. Butter

Butter is another commonly used baking ingredient and when I first started baking without butter I wasn’t sure what to use. It took me a long time to find a butter alternative that I liked the taste of and even now, I prefer to use nut butter or oil in my baking.

Sometimes neither is required and a flax egg of chia seed egg replacement does the job without a butter or oil. Other times, specifically for things like creating a crunchy cookie, oil or vegan butter is beneficial.

5. Colour

If you like to create colourful cakes and treats there are many ways to do so using natural ingredients.

For example, if you want to make pink pancakes, you can add raspberries or strawberries to the batter and blitz it up in the food processor. Not only will you get some wonderful ‘pink’ pancakes, which are a winner with the kids, you’ll also add more nutrients to your pancakes.

Whenever I want a colourful treat, smoothie or cake, I think about what fruit, vegetable or spice might achieve that. Some ideas include – blueberries or blackberries for purple, raspberries for red, spinach for green, turmeric for yellow, cacao for brown.

I hope this has given you some hope and inspiration on your vegan journey and a little confidence to get your baking hat on and get creative in the kitchen.

Find delicious vegan baking recipes you can try today here

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