GoEco Explains: How to Bake Vegan

Veganuary is in full swing; how are you finding it? Are you craving a bar of Dairy Milk, scrambled eggs and a juicy steak? Or have you found yourself expectedly enthused by the possibilities of veganism, and are enjoying exploring new recipes?

Baking has taken off in recent years as a hobby; providing quality family time, a creative outlet and lots of tasty treats. The popularity of home baking has only increased with the cult reality show the Great British Bake Off, which has made stars of contestants like Nadiya Hussain and Kim-Joy Hewlett. 

Baking can be a great opportunity for quality time with family or a creative outlet; with tasty treats to drool over too!

But can you combine a love of baking with a new-found passion for veganism? There appear to be unavoidable elements of baking – eggs, butter and milk – that are definitely not vegan-friendly. However, with a little bit of help from GoEco you can be on your way to some delicious vegan goodies. All it takes is a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking… 

Vegan Baking: Tips to Get You Started

Before diving into ingredients, we wanted to cover a few important tips:

  • Buy a set of US-style measuring cups. Many vegan recipes come from the US and will use cups to measure rather than grams or ounces. 
  • A good rule  of thumb when it comes to baking is to always add wet ingredients to dry. If you’re mixing different dry ingredients, do this in a separate bowl. 
  • As will become obvious below, you’ll need to rethink your pantry-stocking habits. If you’re serious about pursuing vegan baking, you’ll need a regular stock of flax seeds and chickpeas. 
  • Remember that honey is not vegan! Strict vegans don’t eat honey as it is technically an animal product. If there is honey in the recipe, replace it with golden or maple syrup. 
  • Ingredients like flour and sugar should ideally be fairtrade-certified. Although our focus in this piece is veganism, we always want you to be mindful of the source of your products. 

The Riddle of Egg Replacements 

Mashed banana, flax seeds and aquafaba make excellent replacements for eggs.

When baking, eggs provide structure, colour and flavour to food as well as acting as a binding agent for dry and wet ingredients. But what do we use when it’s time to ditch the animal products? 

Mashed banana – this substitute is fantastic for chewy, gooey baked goods like chocolate brownies and blondies. Simply use one ripe, mashed banana per egg in the recipe (extra points if those bananas are fairtrade). 

Flax seeds – there’s a special something in the coating of flax seeds that becomes gummy when used in baking, and will help your food retain it’s structure as eggs usually would. Flax seeds have an earthy, nutty flavour so they’re the perfect egg-replacement for complementary recipes like carrot cake or anything including dates. The seeds can be a bit fiddly to use at first but easy to master once you get the hang of it. Simply grind a tablespoon of flax seeds into a powder, then whisk in three tablespoons of water until it reaches a jelly-like consistency. Complete this process per egg in the recipe. 

Aquafaba – this term refers to any liquid which has been used to cook beans or legumes. During this process carbohydrates and proteins are leaked into the water, making it rich in nutrients. For baking, you’ll want aquafaba from chickpeas. This magic ingredient is a strong emulsifier, gelatinising and also acts as a binding agent. Use three tablespoons of aquafaba per egg and whisk slightly before adding to your mixture. You can also substitute egg whites in recipes like meringues by whipping it up with an electric whisk (or a hand whisk if you’re tough enough).

I can’t Believe it’s Not Butter

Whilst margarine can be substituted for butter, olive and coconut oil offer more heart-healthy alternatives.

The obvious substitute for butter is margarine, which is readily available in every supermarket. However, margarine is often made from hydrogenated oils and not particularly heart-healthy. Here we have a couple of suggestions which are better for you and hopefully won’t cost the planet. 

Olive oil – a healthy fat packed full of goodness, olive oil can be used as a substitute for butter in baking recipes. Olive oil is appropriate for recipes which call for melted butter, but not ones which require you to cream butter with sugar. Simply replace a quarter cup of butter with three tablespoons of olive oil; you may even find this less hassle than melting butter in the first place!

Coconut oil – in many ways a miracle product, coconut oil has a wide variety of uses. Due to its solid state at room temperature, when it comes to baking it is perfect for beating or creaming into sugar. Coconut oil is also a godsend for greasing baking trays and dishes. In all recipes it can be substituted for butter on a 1:1 ratio.

Milking It – Plant-Based Style

When it comes to plant-based milks, soy or coconut are the best way to go in vegan bakes.

If a recipe calls for milk, plant-based is the only way to go. We know there’s a lot of the market, but when it comes to baking it’s pretty clear which milks are in and which are out, making this section easy to understand (for some guidance on the most sustainable brands, head over to our article.)

Soy milk – this is the best plant-based milk to use for baking due to it’s untraceable flavour and high-protein content. Almond or oat will work ok, but the protein in soy makes it the closest to doing the job of dairy. 

Coconut milk – this is best used for replacing heavy cream as it has the same consistency. Make sure you buy tinned coconut milk (not in the refrigerator aisle) and once opened you will find a creamy layer on top. Mix this in with the liquid underneath for the perfect cream substitute.

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