A few of you might have spotted on Instagram, but in case you missed it, I’ve been doing some baking for Club Mexicana and for something sweeter to serve at Guac & Roll Kitchen events.
Now baking isn’t my default setting in the kitchen, but I’ve actually loved the challenge of having to bake three or four things over a weekend or for a certain occasion. As tricky as vegan baking might sound to a newbie, it’s kind of like starting again with baking, just a different set of rules (okay yeah, that does sound tricky...).
Instead of using your favourite eggs, you need to find an egg replacer (or a few different types) to use for each specific pudding or cake. You’ll also need to find a vegan margarine you like, and learn its pitfalls (a few will give out water when they melt), and how long to leave things like muffins that don’t have eggs or butter in, as they stick to their wrappers much more easily at first… all things that kind of become second nature after a while, but at first can just feel like there’s really no point. But there is. Avocado brownies are the point.
I also love the design element of baking. You can go totally OTT, until you’re literally laughing your head off kiiinda intimidatingly as you finally piece the whole thing together (my favourite setting whilst baking), or keep it really subtle and experiment with flavours or garnishes instead. Other pro: People love being brought sweet things. So if you’re stuck in an office or have housemates that have so far been pretty hostile to your “vegan phase”, I’d recommend whipping up the pecan pie or Oreo cake and leaving some slices out on your desk or communal kitchen table. You’ll be discussing the benefits of VB6 in no time.
As I don’t have any vegan baking books, the recipes I’ve been working from are largely from typing in my ideas into Pinterest and seeing which images look the most do-able- I’d say that’s a great place to start if you’re looking for inspiration for vegan baking. From there I’ve found a few recipes I’ve now tested a couple of times and reckon they’d be great to have in a baking arsenal. I’m just going to share the links here because none of them required any major changes. I think they work well just the way they are and the internet does *not* need any more not-that-different-but-I’ve-written-it-here-anyway posts. Instead I’ll add a few hints and tips beneath each one.
This is made by doubling my brownie recipe and using two big spring-form cake tins (here's one I made earlier). Then I blended half a pack of Oreos into a vegan butter icing (aka buttercream) for the centre (just make regular butter icing with a vegan margarine, but you'll need quite a bit more sugar, sift it, and ALWAYS leave enough time for it to set in the fridge). Then I used a cocoa powder icing for the top and covered in more blended Oreos with cocoa icing piping. If you’re tempted to add pieces of whole Oreo biscuits, just remember the biscuit goes very soggy if left in icing overnight, so they'll be great if it’s getting eaten in one afternoon, but after that the biscuits on top won’t be a nice experience.
Great for: Birthdays, parties, non-vegan friends and surprising new vegans who might not know they can still eat Oreos.
Not ideal for: Keeping for a long time or travelling with a lot.
Salted Caramel Pecan Pie
My Mum and I are both kind of obsessed with Nora Ephron, and watching When Harry Met Sally with my Mum every winter is one of our fave Christmas traditions. We usually add in sherry and something she’s made (she’s the queen of puddings) and shout all our favourite lines at the telly. Especially the PECAN PIE scene. So when she sent me a link to a pecan pie she thought would be easy to veganise, I had to get creative. Pecan pie usually relies on egg to set the mix. I found this great recipe from Post Punk Kitchen which works really well - I’ve made it twice now and each time it’s been perfect. Just use a sweet shortcrust ready-made pastry like the one by Jus-Rol and give yourself plenty of time to make and let this cool down.
Great for: Family baking where it’s best not everyone knows you’ve busted out a vegan delight for the coffee table (yeah, that addition of tofu? No-one can tell)/ Thanksgiving- the maple syrup feels WAY festive / Slicing up over your fave Sunday films for your fam.
Not ideal for: If you’re in a rush or don’t have time to get ahold of all the ingredients, or don’t have the budget for all the pecans.
Okay, this one has brought me to tears twice now, but that’s just the way baking rolls. It can be 2am on a Friday night, your kitchen can be covered in coconut milk and your fridge full of rock-hard toffee that will never become spreadable, but this guy isn’t gonna let up. The trick with this banoffee is to make the components a day before, get up early and construct it, then leave it a few hours in the fridge again to set. It might sound like a faff on but if you think of how un-vegan a standard banoffee pie is, it’s worth it for the creation alone.
I used this recipe from Oh, Lady Cakes for the base and the dulche de leche, and another Oh, Lady Cakes recipe for the whipped coconut milk (for vegetable shortening in the base I used Trex, which is vegan). This recipe should be pretty easy, it’s just one little thing that makes it a trickster...
A NOTE ON SATAN. SORRY, WHIPPED COCONUT MILK
Okay, first up, this gal is not your friend. Sure, we put people on the moon and NOW WE CAN WHIP PLANT STUFF TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE DAIRY STUFF. But it’s not as simple as all that. Just as whipped cream and meringues have got secret fail-safe rules you’re really lucky to have anyone whisper to you from the sidelines of a kitchen apocalypse (it’s my Mum that’s saved me in the past…), whipped coconut milk has a few take-no-prisoners policies. There is plenty written on US sites about the pitfalls, but here’s what I’ve found from UK experience:
1. PLAN AHEAD YOU DOUCHE. Whipped coconut milk is made by separating the fattiest part of the coconut milk in the fridge, removing the watery part, then whipping the fatty part while it is still cool, then adding a little icing sugar and vanilla to it. Simple.
2. It will not be simple if you don’t leave it long enough to cool. Overnight is best, or two nights if you can. Always buy back-up cans incase something goes wrong. You can eat some smug Thai curries for a few days if everything goes right.
3. Yes, all that money people think you are saving by not having to buy milk and eggs, you are about to spend on coconut milk. Coconut milk is the biggest part of my baking budget. Get comfy on the supermarket aisle floor and make sure you’ve got your reading glasses handy. You want to go for a tin that’s got coconut milk as the FIRST ingredient, not water. It wants to be about 80 per cent coconut. Of all the cans you can get ahold of, choose the one with the highest coconut content. A lower content- usually a cheaper or low fat or ‘light’ version- won’t separate, meaning you’ve got a fridge full of shit you don’t need. I use about 4 cans for the banoffee pie, so buy about six cans to be sure.
4. If you are in a PINCH for time (and it better be a good one), try freezing the can for about 90 minutes to two hours. Don’t leave it in for longer, the can will explode.
5. Be patient- it might look like everything is lost, but you can save all the coconut milk that doesn’t work out, and make great smoothies or soups the next week.
When it goes right it goes so right and you can serve banoffee pie to your enemies like none of this ever happened.
Great for: Birthdays/ sleepovers/ weekends at your parents when you can spend 24 hours fussing over a pie.
Not ideal for: People with a low baking pain threshold/ people that take offence easily at ingredients that WON’T DO THEIR JOB/ I think I’ve made my point.
Key Lime Pie
I’ve covered this recipe before, here, but if you want to add whipped coconut milk on top or the side, that works pretty well too. You can also crumble some more Hobnobs and stick them about.
Great for: Anyone that doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth- this is quite a savoury tasting pie and quite tart- it’s great with coffee after dinner, and then you can chat about agar like it’s NBD.
Not ideal for: Hot climates / if you’re in a rush (this dude needs to chill)
Another oldie-but-a-goodie. Recipe here.
Great for: A BFF's birthday you forgot about/ your first vegan baking attempts/ saying ‘Thanks’ to someone when you’re on a budget. Also for sugar kicks and energy
Not ideal for: Blowing people’s socks off. Let’s be real, it’s a lotta oats and sugar...
One of the first things my Mum ever taught us how to make, which in turn, meant it was one of the first things I tried to veganise. Tiffin works best in big, thick chunks that have been left for a good time to chill in the fridge. Use a sharp knife when cutting or you’ll drag bits of the filling out from the slices and it gets messy.
Great for: Taking to work- this travels like a boss.
Not ideal for: Showing off creative prowess… again… kinda just biscuits and chocolate. It tastes great though. Just not a first-date-kinda-bake, you know?
I did have a go-to brownie recipe, but after after a few years I’ve realised it dries up quite easily, making it better as a chocolate cake recipe (as above for Oreos) instead of a fudgey, more-ish, omg-there’s-none-left brownie recipe. So I found this recipe from Gimme Some Oven. I use the coffee-water mix every time, instead of just water, as I think it really adds to the flavour. I also crush down a pack of dark chocolate to use in the filling, and then just use the chocolate drops on top, because they can be more expensive. NB on vegan chocolate drops: stock up when you can, or work out some solid suppliers, because dark chocolate drops sans milk can be tricky to get ahold of, but they look so cute on top of brownies and basically anything sweet. I can’t believe I just said that.
Great for: I mean, when doesn't someone want a brownie? I've made this recipe three times now and each time has been a charm. It's the one.