The Basics Of Vegan Baking


12 min read
21 Jul
21Jul

 

There was a time when I thought cutting out all animal products would mean cutting out all baked goodies from my life. Cookies without butter? Cakes without eggs? Perhaps possible, but good? I was skeptical to say the least. If you’ve ever visited a really good vegan bakery, or just had someone who knew what they were doing bake up something plant-based for you, you know that vegan baking can be not only good, but it can give conventional baking a run for its money. That’s not to say that vegan baking can’t be tricky. It is rather tricky, but the tricks can be learned, and there are a lot of tips for baking - and once you’ve got them down you’ll be baking up vegan deliciousness in no time. As you might have guessed, the tricks I’m talking about revolve around replacing those normally non-vegan ingredients normally required for baking.


Many bakers who are just getting started have questions about phrases commonly used in recipes. If you weren't lucky enough to grow up with Grandma in the kitchen, where these things were lovingly explained, you may have questions about what we mean when we say, "cream butter and sugar," "scrape down the bowl," or "cut fat into the flour mixture." Even if you're familiar with this baking vocabulary, it can be helpful to know why these techniques are important. What follows is a guide to common baking terms and phrases, arranged alphabetically, for bakers of all skill levels to use as a reference.


Bring out your baking tins! It’s time to pre-heat the oven, pop on your mitts and get things going in the kitchen. There are lots of great vegan recipes out there, but it can sometimes be a bit bewildering if you’re not au fait with chef speak. Instead, this handy blog gives you an overview of vegan baking to help you to sift out batters from buns and raisins from raising agents.




The Basics Of Baking


Starting out can be a bit bewildering as there are so many different recipes and cooking methods. However, baking relies on some fairly simple principles about what ingredients you are using, how you combine them and how you cook them. Once you have those in your mind, you will be well on the way to British Bake Off. Here are some useful baking tips to help you get the most out of recipes:


  • Weigh your ingredients properly, and use the same units of measurements for everything, don’t switch from grams to ounces. Get a set of American-style cups – a lot of vegan recipes come from the US and a set of cups will help you accurately measure out your ingredients.


  • For best results, follow the recipe exactly. One small variation in ingredients or technique can produce a vastly different cake. Weighing ingredients is the most accurate way to measure. A good scale is relatively inexpensive; I highly recommend you use one. Temperature counts. For ingredients, oven, cake layers, frosting — everything. Measure your pans. Is the top inside diameter really 8" (or 9")? Are they a good 2" deep? Anything smaller may produce a spill-over. Light-colored pans are gentler on cake batter, producing a more tender crust. Save black or very dark pans for another use. For best release, spray your pan, line with parchment, and spray again. For bundt-style cakes, spray the pan thoroughly and sprinkle lightly with flour — or use a flour-based pan spray.


  •  Follow the recipe. If it says “sift the dry ingredients” then sift them, if it says “use a wooden spoon” use a wooden spoon. Learn how to cream, rub-in-fat, whisk, and fold. Good technique can really improve your finished product. Sifted flour has been passed through a strainer or screen to aerate it, sometimes in concert with other dry ingredients. Sifted flour is usually folded in with wet ingredients, in recipes where the desired result is a light, spongy texture.


  • In almost all situations you should be adding wet ingredients to dry rather than the other way around. This helps you blend more effectively and results in a better texture. When you need to combine a lot of different dry ingredients do that into a separate bowl, and the same for wet ingredients, then combine the two


  •  I think that most kitchen gadgets are a bit of a waste of time and money: however, an electric whisk is a great budget item that doesn’t take up a lot of space, is easy to clean and will help you whip up cakes and batters really quickly.


  • Use the right size pan or dish and always make sure you grease it well so the finished product will actually come out of the pan.


  • Check your oven temperature by setting it to 180 degrees and then after 10 minutes measure the actual heat using a thermometer. This will help you know whether your oven runs a bit hotter or cooler and so you can adjust baking times and temperatures accordingly. Always pre-heat your oven so items go in at the right temperature.  


  • Preparing your baking pan properly before filling it can save a lot of heartbreak. I strongly recommend using a non-stick pan spray, for quick, effective coverage, but a thin coat of vegetable shortening also does the trick.


  • Certain recipes call for ingredients like  plant-based yogurt, vegan butter, and plant – based milk to be at room temperature but many people ignore this step. No! Don’t! Room temperature isn’t listed next to ingredients for fun. Recipe authors aren’t trying to make your life difficult. There’s science and legitimate reason behind the importance of temperature. Which brings me to my number one baking rule -  if a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, use room temperature ingredients. There is no way around this and if you use, say, cold butter or cold milk when they should be room temperature– your recipe won’t live up to its potential. And it most certainly won’t taste the way it should. When at room temperature milk, butter, and other ingredients form an emulsion which traps air. While baking in the oven, that trapped air expands and produces a fluffy baked good





  Dairy


Dairy would be the (seemingly) easiest class of ingredients to replace in vegan baking. Milk, for the most part, is a cinch. There are plenty of plant-based milks available, and most of them work in most recipes. Soy, nut, rice and oat milk are, for the most part, interchangeable, and can be substituted for dairy milk using a one to one ratio. Some plant milks are a bit richer and more closely resemble dairy milk than others, but for the most part these differences won’t be detectable in your baked goods.


In recent years, plant-based milk alternatives have become incredibly popular. Being a vegan and consuming plant-based milk on daily bases is as normal for us Vegans as it is for non-vegans. There are several plant-based milk options available on the supermarkets. Which vegan milks are out there and what are their benefits? Plant milk refers to manufactured, nondairy beverages made from a water-based plant extract for flavoring and aroma. Plant milks are vegan beverages consumed as plant-based alternatives to dairy milk, and often provide a creamy mouthfeel. Plant-based milk variations out there are almond, coconut, oat, soy, quinoa, cashew, macadamia, hemp and rice milk. The quality of plant-based milks varies greatly when it comes to nutrients. For example, many almond milks are much lower in protein than cow's milk. If you are going to switch to a plant-based milk, be certain to read the label and find a product that contains good amounts of protein, vitamin D, iron, and calcium. 


Watch out though, because many plant milks that you’ll find in stores contain added flavors. This can be okay, if the flavor goes well with what you happen to be baking, but that’s not always the case. Vanilla almond milk may add just the right flavor to some cupcakes, but you probably don’t want it in your sandwich bread.  Even unflavored plant milks often contain sweeteners. Check the ingredients list, or look for products specifically labeled as unsweetened. If you’ve only got a sweetened milk on hand, go ahead and use it in any baked sweets recipes, but maybe cut back a tad when you add your sugar to the recipe. When in doubt, taste test, as the ability to do so safely is one of the advantages of egg-free baking.


The one plant milk that deserves some special discussion is coconut milk, and by coconut milk, I mean the variety you find in cans; the stuff in cartons is typically a blend of other plant milks with a bit of coconut added. Canned coconut milk is a bit different, because it’s way higher in fat than most other vegan milks, so it usually doesn’t work as a direct substitute for dairy milk. While it’s possible to use coconut milk as a substitute for both the milk and fat (which we’ll talk about below) in a recipe, even that can get tricky. If you’re interested in baking with coconut milk, your best bet is to seek out a recipe that specifically calls for coconut milk. Finally, if you’re got a recipe that calls for a very small amount of milk, water will work in a pinch. 


For more in detail about plant - based milks have a look at my blog post on the link here https://www.siggyblog.ae/blog-eng/plant-based-milk-what-kind-of-milks-are-out-their-what-are-their-differences  





 Fats & Oils


Fat might not be an issue at all, if you’ve got a recipe that calls for vegetable oil in liquid form. Solid animal-based fats like butter and lard, on the other hand can be a bit more of a challenge. Fortunately, there are vegan versions of normally animal-based solid fats. Vegan margarine or vegan butter works as a substitute for butter in most recipes, while vegetable shortening can stand in for lard. Lots of bakers may take issue with the fact that these ingredients are hydrogenated, and therefore maybe not the healthiest choices.


Liquid oils can sometimes work in place of solid fats, though your end product might be a bit oiler. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, though a bit more solid than butter or shortening, so you might not get that flaky texture in, for example, a pastry recipe. For the adventurous, you can experiment a bit with naturally fatty ingredients like avocados and nut butters. You can even try your hand at some homemade vegan butter, which, though it’s a project and requires some hunting down of ingredients, does tend to perform better than vegan margarine.


If you've ever dabbled in a vegan diet or needed a dairy-free butter substitute, you know the wonders of vegan butter. It looks like butter, smells like butter, and even behaves like butter in most recipes, but vegan butter is definitely not butter. So what is vegan butter? It turns out that vegan butter is actually a type of margarine, the imitation butter spread that your grandmother might've used. While butter is made from churning cream from a cow, margarine is made by mixing vegetable oils with water, salt, and emulsifiers until it's got the consistency of butter. Pure fat, regardless of source and whether it’s animal or plant-derived, has 9 calories per gram. Since vegan butter and real butter have roughly the same composition of fat and moisture, their calorie count is the same at roughly 100 per tablespoon. The health benefit of vegan butter like Earth Balance is that it’s cholesterol-free. Only animals produce cholesterol, so there’s zero in plant-based foods.


Not all margarine is vegan, though. According to the US Department of Agriculture, in the United States, margarine must be at least 80 percent fat—but it can also include some milk and still be called margarine. Vegan butter therefore is a type of dairy-free margarine that's got all of the fat with none of the milk. One of the most popular brands of vegan butter is Earth Balance, which says it's vegan right on the packaging. But there are some brands of margarine that are dairy-free and therefore vegan without explicitly labeling themselves as such; Smart Balance Original Buttery Spread, for instance, is dairy-free albeit not marked vegan. The best way to tell what if the margarine you're buying is dairy-free or not is to read the label, and because each type of vegan butter has a slightly different blend of vegetable oils, some are better for baking than others. That'll be noted on the label, too. Vegan butter is healthier than real butter since it doesn’t contain cholesterol. Depending on the brand and oils used, it may also contain a healthier fatty acid profile. That being said, it’s still not healthy for you in abundance. 


For more detailed information about oils and fats,

 have a look at my previous blog about different oil types on this link

 https://www.siggyblog.ae/blog-eng/best-oils-for-baking-cooking-which-oils-are-good-for-us-and-which-are-the-ones-we-should-avoid 




Egg Substitutes 



Eggs have a few functions in baking. They may leaven, or help your baked goods to rise. For the most part, you can leave it up to other leavening agents in a recipe, like baking powder or baking soda, to take care of this. The trickier action to replicate is binding, but this can be done with a few vegan ingredients. Commercial egg replacements are available, and a great way for beginners to get started on egg-free baking. These products are typically a mixture of leavening and gelling agents that, when mixed with water and baked up, act quite a bit like eggs. No egg substitute works 100% of the time though, so it’s still a good idea to get familiar with other potential egg replacers.


Flax and chia eggs are my go-to egg substitutes for baking, and they usually do a great job. Mix 1 tablespoon of ground chia or flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of water, let it sit for ten minutes, and you’ll end up with something slimy, gelly, and not too far in texture from an egg white. You can use this formula to replace one egg in most recipes. Easy, and that, along with their neutral flavor the fact that it’s easy to keep flax and/or chia seeds on hand, is why they’re my favorite egg substitutes.


Fruit and veggie purees work well too, but unlike chia and flax seeds, they aren’t neutral in flavor and may not be as easy to keep on hand. If you’re baking up something that jives with the taste of mashed bananas, apple sauce, pumpkin or sweet potato, and you happen to have some available, it may be worth experimenting with replacing eggs with any of these ingredients. I like to freeze overripe bananas and excess ingredients like pumpkin puree just for this purpose. About a quarter cup per egg should do the trick, but don’t overdo it! More than two or three eggs replaced with fruit or veggie puree can result a product that’s a bit mushy.


There are a bunch of other ingredients that work as egg replacers. Think about the texture of an egg and what plant-based ingredients have similar textures. There’s a good chance you can work them into some of your recipes. Silken tofu, vegan yogurt, and sometimes even just a bit of cornstarch mixed with water or vegan milk can do the job. Whatever you go with, use about a quarter cup. With lots of the substitutions I’ve mentioned you can only get away with replacing two, perhaps three eggs, and a year ago I probably would’ve told you not to bother trying for more. That all changed when chickpea brine, a.k.a, aquafaba, became the latest craze in the vegan food world. It’s slimy and even somewhat resembles egg whites, so it’s not all that surprising that that this stuff can be whipped up to replicate even the eggy likes of meringue, and there isn’t much that’s eggier than meringue.


For more in detail about egg substitutes for vegan baking, have a look at my blog post about it here https://www.siggyblog.ae/blog-eng/egg-substitutes-for-vegan-baking-what-when-to-use-in-baking 





Flour


Flour is suitable for vegans. All flour. Including white flour. There was some debate a while ago about whether flour is bleached using bone char (similar to sugar) however this is unfounded. There are flourless recipes, and I’ve included a section on gluten-free later on. There are many different types of flour, all of which have an impact on how the final product will cook as well as its nutritional content. It’s very important to pay attention to whether your flour has raising agents in it: these give extra height and lightness to your baking, meaning they are great for cakes and scones but not pastry and the like. Always use the right flour for your recipe.


The primary difference between each type of flour is the protein content. Flour made from high-protein wheat varieties (which have 10 to 14 percent protein content) is called “hard wheat.” Flour made from low-protein wheat varieties (which have 5 to 10 percent protein content) is called “soft wheat.” More protein means more gluten, and more gluten means more strength. When it comes to baking, the amount of gluten is what determines the structure and texture of a baked good. Now that we’ve had our science lesson for the day, let’s break it down a little further into the difference between the most popular types of flour. Navigating the baking aisle just got a whole lot easier


You might choose to use a different type of flour to bake with in order to improve the health benefits of your food. For example, bread made from whole wheat flour provides better nutrition than bread made from refined grains. But not all flour is interchangeable. It's important to know how you are going to use your flour before you make a swap.


  • Cake flour has a very fine texture and is often used in light baked goods like cookies and cakes. It is higher in starch and lower in protein. According to the Wheat Foods Council, one cup of cake flour can be made by measuring 1 cup all-purpose flour, removing 2 tablespoons of flour, and replacing that with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.


  • All-purpose, enriched white flour is is made from a combination of hard and soft wheat and is the easiest to use because it is refined to have a softer texture than whole wheat flour. Self-rising flour is also all-purpose flour that has had a leavening agent added. Even though all-purpose flour is easy to use, it is an enriched grain. Health experts recommend that we replace enriched grains with whole grains as often as possible to increase our fiber intake.


  • Semolina is made from durum or hard wheat that has a higher protein and gluten content than other varieties. Semolina is commonly used to make different types of pasta and couscous. This is not a good flour to use in bread making.


  • Whole wheat flour is made from the entire wheat kernel. It produces bread that is often heavier, but higher in fiber and nutrition than bread made from enriched flour. While some healthy eaters don't like the texture of baked goods made with this heavier flour it provides greater health benefits than the refined and softer varieties.


  • Almond flour is made from blanched whole almonds and is often used for low carb and gluten-free cooking. This flour is a helpful substitute for low carb dieters and people who maintain a gluten-free diet but it is very high in fat.


To understand more about which flours to use in your baking, have a read at my blog post about different typse of flours at the below link  

https://www.siggyblog.ae/blog-eng/different-flour-types-their-differences-how-to-storage-them 




Sugar


This union of sugar and water affects the texture of baked goods in two important ways. It keeps baked goods soft and moist. The bond between sugar and water allows sugar to lock in moisture so that items such as cakes, muffins, brownies, and frostings don't dry out too quickly. It creates tenderness. We all know that sugar is essential for baking—after all, it’s what makes sweets taste sweet. But thanks to its unique chemical nature, sugar also performs many other essential functions in cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. Just to be clear, I’m talking about the kind of sugar we use most in baking: the dry, crystalline sugars that are collectively referred to as table sugar. (It comes in several forms, such as granulated, brown, powdered, and turbinado.) When you understand how this ingredient behaves in recipes, you’ll be on your way to becoming a better baker, because many baking disasters can be traced to one little mistake: tinkering with sugar. Using less (or more) sugar than a recipe calls for (or even substituting honey for table sugar) can really affect your results.


Baked goods get their shape and structure from proteins and starches, which firm up during baking and transform soupy batters and soft doughs into lofty muffins and well-formed cookies. But because they build structure, proteins and starches can potentially make baked goods tough, too. The sugar in a batter or dough snatches water away from proteins and starches, which helps control the amount of structure-building they can do. The result? A more tender treat.


Now the vast majority of sugar in the world is not bleached with bone char so most of the big brands are fine. However, you might want to use unbleached sugar to be on the safe side if you are not sure where the sugar comes from. Most baking calls for caster sugar, which is more finely ground than standard table sugar and gives a fine delicate sponge. If you need a liquid sugar, you can swap golden syrup, agave or maple syrup for honey. Not all recipes call for sugar and there are plenty that use a range of fruit sweeteners such as dates or other dried fruit or date paste, including some excellent raw recipes which are well worth a try (yes, it took me a while to get my head around raw baking but once I’d eaten a few I was really sold).


Is Sugar Vegan? This is one of the most asked questions in the vegan community. What makes sugar NOT vegan-friendly and how do we find vegan sugar? The answer is yes, but not always. Because it’s complicated, and not necessarily something you can figure out easily, I decided it was time to put together a comprehensive guide that answers the question once and for all. When we are talking about whether sugar is vegan or not, we are specifically talking about refined sugar, aka, table sugar. That is the sugar we most commonly used in baking. White, brown, and powdered sugar all can classify as refined sugar. Refined sugar comes from two sources: sugarcane and beets. While the two sugars are very similar in taste and texture, the refining process from these sources is very different. The good news is that beet sugar is always vegan. The process of making sugar from beets simply does not require the same level of processing.


Sugar that comes from sugar beets is considered vegan; the process does not involve bone char. Beet sugar has virtually the same taste and texture as cane sugar; the difference between the two is negligible. If you want to stick with cane sugar, sometimes you’ll find brands that will actually say vegan but most are not certified vegan and therefore, cannot advertise that. Beet sugar is always vegan. Cane sugar, when labeled organic, natural, raw, or unrefined is also vegan. Avoid granulated refined sugars that do not mention any of the above adjectives. When avoiding refined sugar altogether, there are many sugar alternatives.


To read more in detail about different types of sugars have a look at this link 

https://www.siggyblog.ae/blog-eng/sugar-types-explained-a-beginner-s-guide-to-vegan-sugars 




" I truly hope that the above information will help you with your future baking and that it was a informative read  "


- SiggyBlog -




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