My Sweet Vegan author, Hannah Kaminsky, answers your baking questions

What a busy time of year! I just realized today how quickly the holidays are approaching. I really can't believe I haven't had the time to notice any of it. One thing I like to do this time of year is enjoy vegan baking.

I recently starting looking through my favorite vegan baking book, My Sweet Vegan, to pick out what recipes I'll be whipping up this year. I'm going to be making her Mocha Devastation Cake, Self-Frosting Peanut Butter Cupcakes, Butterscotch Blondies, and of course Canine Cakes for Luna and Chico!

Vegan baking, or any baking, can be a little scary without a road map. Luckily, Hannah Kaminsky does all the experimenting for us and churns out the most creative and delicious vegan sweets around. You can catch a glimpse of what Hannah's currently confecting by checking out her blog, BitterSweet.

I recently asked my Twitter followers and Facebook friends what questions they had concerning vegan baking. I got a ton of great questions, but had to narrow it down to five because I'm writing a post, not a novel here ;) Hannah agreed to personally answer the following top five questions:

(via Twitter)

What is your favorite binder/egg replacer?

Flax seeds are definitely my go-to egg replacer if I'm trying to veganize a recipe. They just work so beautifully in both savory and sweet applications, and have the additional bonus of having an appealing nutritional profile. The natural fats mimic the fats you would get in an egg, so they more accurately approximate the texture you would get from baking with eggs, in general. My standard ratio is 1 tablespoon of whole flax seeds, ground up in a coffee or spice grinder, and then blended with 2 tablespoons of water.

(via Twitter)

What do you say to vegan baking naysayers who say you use too much sugar?

Ha, I didn't know anyone was saying I use too much sugar! If they are, then I'd like to remind them that dessert is a treat, not something to include after every single meal, every single day. It's all about balance- I eat very healthy meals so I can indulge when I feel the desire to. Besides, if you're concerned about sugar, there are many viable substitutes that can work in just about any recipe. Do some experimentation with agave, stevia, or date sugar, and you may find the results very rewarding.

ataraktos (via Twitter)

Is it possible to make vegan pate au choux, such as for cream puffs? Have you worked with VersaWhip?

Yes, it is possible to make cream puffs! There are a number of recipes on the internet that approximate pate au choux, but still leave a bit to be desired. I've come very close to perfecting a recipe, but haven't had the time to work out all of the kinks. And yes, I have a little pouch of VersaWhip in my pantry. It's a very cool ingredient that has tons of potential, but I don't often use it because I know that not many standard home cooks have access to it or would be interested in a recipe that requires it.

bazu (via Twitter)

My cookies always come out cakey. How do I achieve thin, crisp/chewy cookies?

The key to cookie texture is all about ratios, and basically, fat. The more fat you have in a cookie, the thinner and crispier it will become. As a general rule, I try to never add soymilk to my cookies, or at least minimize it to a tablespoon or so, because excess water causes cakey cookies. That's why cookies that include watery ingredients like pumpkin, applesauce, or tofu are more likely to be cakey as well. I've found that the key to getting chewy cookies is to have at least some amount of the sugar come from a liquid sweetener (ideally brown rice syrup), but not all. Also, the old advice to slightly underbake cookies is still a good practice to go by. If they look done, they'll be overdone by the time they're cool.

Marc Delaney (via Facebook)

I have a recipe that states, "pour cake batter into 9-inch cake pan." I'm totally NEW to baking, and to baking vegan. When I was at Target today, I saw baking pans that were 9x9 and some that were 9x13, etc. If the recipe doesn't specify the pan size other than "9-inch," what size/shape should I use? I saw some 9-inch pans that were round, some square, and some rectangular. Does shape make a difference? Also, does using glass versus metal make a difference in how the cake will turn out?

If the recipe only says a "9-inch pan", they it's typically assumed that this is the measure of the diameter of the pan, which would make it a round pan. Two dimensions implies that it's a square or rectangle. And yes, the shape makes a huge difference! You can actually fit more batter in a square pan than you can in a round one. Ditto the material the pan is made of. I've found that things tend to bake up fluffier/cakier in a glass pan (I discovered this while making blondies, which was not a favorable turn of events). It also changes the bake time, since metal is a better conductor of heat and will allow things to bake faster. Most recipes are written with metal pans in mind, so unless it specifies, plan on baking things longer if you're using a glass pan.

If you don't have it yet, don't forget to pick up a copy of My Sweet Vegan. It's still not too late to get it in time for your holiday baking endeavors. Better yet, buy a copy for a non-vegan; it's great activism!

What are YOU planning on whipping up for the holidays? Share your inspiring ideas!

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