Student Life

Grocery list essentials for your vegan baking endeavours

Marri Knadle / McGill Tribune

Whether you’ve got environmentalism and animal ethics on the brain, or you’re contending with food allergies and a vegan relative or ten, there are lots of good reasons to make your baked goods vegan this season. Die-hard bakers of the chemist-gastronomist persuasion may be wary of the substitutes for proven ingredients like milk, eggs, and butter. But bakers have been hard at work testing the best alternatives to animal products in the kitchen for several decades now, with a veritable renaissance of vegan baking accomplishments occurring right under our noses. (The legendary impossible has even been achieved: vegan macarons. See Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts: Sumptuous Sweets for Every Season).

Eggs

Eggs have from six to 20 ‘official’ jobs to do in baking, depending on what’s cooking. Don’t worry—whether you’re vegan, allergic, or health-conscious, you can certainly live without them. In most recipes, like those scrumptious coffee cakes, muffins, or snickerdoodles you’re planning, they serve simply as a binding agent. When making these recipes vegan, a simple off-the-shelf egg replacer will easily do the trick. (I’ve had good results with Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer, a powder sold in 16 oz bags where Bob’s Red Mill products are sold. Try Eden in La Cité, and Couffin Bio on the corner of Sherbrooke and du Parc. Also, look for Ener-G boxed egg replacer). Eggs can also emulsify, foam, and coagulate in recipes like mayonnaise, macarons, and quiches.  For these other recipes, kitchen wizards will recommend something else: when eggs are critical in the recipe, the right firmness of tofu (usually silken) will mimic the texture and substance of egg. Apple sauce or banana can provide moisture content, and some swear by water mixed with ground flax seeds as a healthy replacement with good verisimilitude to eggs in most recipes. 

Milk

Milk provides liquid as well as protein and fat content. There are a plethora of milks from the vegetable kingdom to choose from: rice, soy, and almond are the easiest to find commercially, but hemp and oat-based milks are out there too. The three faux-milk staples come in a variety of flavours, from plain to mango-strawberry. For most baking, a plain or unsweetened choice works the best, or vanilla for sweeter treats without much added sugar in the recipe itself. Rice milk has a slightly more watery mouth-feel than soy or almond milks, so keep this in mind when choosing your milk substitute. I find the nutty flavour of almond milk (which has the richest mouth-feel, in my opinion) blends well into any baking, but some prefer the more flavour-neutral plain soy milk. There are many competing brands with variable flavours and prices, so experiment and discern what works for your taste buds. (I’ve found Earth’s Own Almond Fresh to be the best to bake with as well as simply drink in between battles with my batter).  

Butter

There are many off-the-shelf vegan butters available, but be careful about simply grabbing any old margarine and adding it to your cart. Most of these, unless specifically labelled as vegan, contain milk ingredients and other animal-derived ingredients in addition to their vegetable-based fats. (To be safe, try Becel’s vegan margarine, or Earth Balance’s line of vegan spreads and margarines). If you’re overloaded on vegetable oils, rely on nut butters. While most of us are familiar with peanut butter, the high fat content of most nut species yields a buttery spread that’s good for baking with, especially if you’re looking for the richness of flavour that an almond, cashew, sesame, or hazelnut butter can provide to muffins, bars, and cookies. You can find a variety of nut butters in most stores, or, if you have ready access to some bulk nuts and a little patience, you can make your own with a recipe yanked from the Internet.

Sugar

Be aware that many sugars are not considered strictly vegan, because during the refinement process they’re filtered through animal bone char. Look for sugars labelled vegan, or the following: unrefined cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, beet sugar, turbinado, or raw sugar. You can also find online lists of companies which are confirmed to not use bone char in their sugar-whitening process, so take a gander before hitting the grocery store. Alternatives to sugar like agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup, rice syrup, fruit juice, and molasses are also excellent in most recipes calling for just a little sweetness to brighten things up. 

A little foreknowledge goes a long way in making vegan baking as easy and delicious as the mainstream. And because vegan baked goods often end up cheaper to make and healthier as well, who knows, you may find vegan baking becomes your new normal. 

Share this:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Read the latest issue