Plant- Based Baking 101
Today, finally, I will share my SECRETS about plant- based baking. Quite a lot of people think that it requires a certain knowledge, is quite tricky and some even think that it is simply weird. Well, it is NOT! My cakes and cookies are just as moist or crunchy as traditional ones. But they are made of whole grains, whole fruits and plant milks. They are free of refined sugar, refined flour, eggs and dairy products. So you might ask- how can they taste good if they are missing everything that supposedly tastes good?? After all, you can´t bake properly without using eggs, butter and sugar, can you?
At the end of this post, you’ll find some recipes that will prove that we won’t deprive ourselves of brownies, cookies and cakes.
Here are the ingredients that I use instead of traditional products. With this list you can basically transform every “bad” recipe into a “good” healthy plant- based recipe.
Swap oil or butter for unsweetened apple sauce
Traditionally, fat is added to a batter for moisture, flavour and for creaminess. As the fat level in a cake goes up, more eggs are required to emulsify the fat. To understand the process of the fluffiness and how the fat and the eggs work together, I have included a short excerpt:
When fat and sugar are mixed together – the process is called creaming – little bubbles of air are being trapped in the mixture, each one surrounded by a film of fat (which is why the mixture changes colour during creaming as the trapped air creates a foam). It is this air which produces the lightness in the finished cake, but unless beaten egg is added to the mixture the fat would collapse and the air escape during cooking. The egg white conveniently forms a layer around each air bubble, and as the temperature of the cake rises in the heat of the oven this layer coagulates and forms a rigid wall round each bubble, preventing it from bursting and ruining the texture of the cake. During the baking the bubbles of air will expand and the cake will ‘rise’. At the same time the stretchy gluten in the flour – which has formed an elastic network round the air bubbles – will stretch until, at a higher temperature, it loses its elasticity and the shape of the cake becomes fixed.
When using apple sauce instead of fat, the cake/ cookie will still taste great, but will lack some of the fluffiness compared to traditional cakes. The rich flavour of the natural ingredients will make more than up for it.
Swap refined sugars, including molasses, raw sugar, sweeteners etc for simple homemade date paste
- Dates have high levels of soluble fiber, which is essential in promoting healthy bowel movements
- The significant amount of minerals found in dates makes them a super food for strengthening bones and fighting off painful and debilitating diseases like osteoporosis.
- Impressive levels of iron make them a perfect dietary supplement for people suffering from anemia.
- The presence of organic sulfur in dates is a rare occurrence in foods and has a worthwhile amount of health benefits, including the reduction of allergic reactions and seasonal allergies.
- Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Therefore, they are the perfect snack for an immediate burst of energy. Many people around the world use dates for a quick afternoon snack when they are feeling lethargic or sluggish.
- Dates also contain high levels of potassium, which is one of the prime ingredients in promoting a healthy and responsive nervous system, and it also improves the speed and alertness of brain activity.
Although dates carry tremendous nutritional values, great care should be taken in their selection because their surface is very sticky, which often attracts various impurities. Therefore, you should only consume dates that are processed and packaged properly. Also, make sure to wash them thoroughly before you eat them, as this will help remove the impurities present on the surface.
Date paste is very easy to make: add pitted dates (I mostly use dried dates) to a blender jar, cover with hot water (only just cover them) and let them soak for about 5 minutes. Blend until completely smooth, fill in jars and store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.
Swap refined white flour for healthy flours
I use a large variety of flours depending on what I bake and what mood I am in (or what is left in my pantry haha). I grind oats into oat flour, which works really well for cookies and muffins. Often times, I use a 50/50 mixture of whole spelt flour (make sure it is whole spelt, not refined spelt) and whole wheat flour. Quite often I include almond flour and brown rice flour in a recipe.
One of the primary nutritional differences between whole-grain flour and white flour is the food’s fiber content. Studies show that eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases.
Swap eggs with …a lot of things
Replacing eggs is the most challenging aspects of plant- based baking. Eggs bind, they leaven and they give structure to baked goods. However, they can be replaced, and with very pleasing results.
- Flax seeds: 1 tablespoon flax seeds combined with 3 tablespoons water replaces one egg.
This mixture is not only an excellent replacement for eggs, it also contributes vital omega-3 fatty acids. TIP: Always store ground flaxseeds in the freezer because they are highly perishable.
- Bananas: 1/2 banana blended until smooth or mashed well= 1 egg. Bananas work wonders as an egg replacer in baking, which is why many traditional banana bread recipes don’t require eggs. Bananas hold the air bubbles well, make things nice and moist, and impart a nice flavor. TIP: the riper the banana, the better
- Ener-G Egg Replacer: 1 teaspoon mixed with 1 tablespoon water makes 1 egg. Many people swear by this egg replacer. I only use it occasionally and would not recommend substituting more than one egg with it as the texture gets denser. I works really well in baking goods that are supposed to be a little crispy.
- Silken Tofu: 1/4 cup blended silken tofu = 1 egg. Add it together with other wet ingredients to a blender and blend properly.
If a recipe calls for two eggs, usually a combination of two egg replacers (e.g. bananas and flax seeds) works really well. If a recipe calls for more than three eggs, get a different plant- based recipe!
After covering all the science, let’s move on to baking some of the recipes. Here are a few samples that my family loves:
banana cranberry chocolate chip muffins
incredibly moist strawberry cake
plant-based banana bread
soft cranberry chocolate almond cookies
Don’t forget to check out all my other recipes in the dessert section.
Pure guilt free delights!