Thursday, 20 February 2014

Vegan Baking 101

IronCupcake: Leeds are hosting an ALL VEGAN competition next month! YAY!

In honour of this, I've been asked to write a little bit about vegan baking to go up on their blog! So, let's address a few questions...

1. What's your one top tip for vegan baking?

Vegan baking may seem scary but it's really not that hard!
Milk can be substituted for a non-dairy version - I usually find soya milk (the regular stuff not the light stuff) produces the best cakes as it's thicker and creamier than most of the others. However, most varieties will work although you might get different results from other non-dairy milks. There are all sorts of products out there now, such as soya yogurt, cream, and cream cheese. 
Eggs can be substituted by a variety of things, depending on what you're baking. For example: soy milk & cider vinegar; ground flax seed; soy yogurt; silken tofu. There are even a few egg replacement powders available these days, however I prefer the more natural methods. Take a look here and here to see how to use each method. (Please note - although I disagree with a lot of what PETA does, their baking cheat sheet is great and I still keep it in the kitchen just in case!) 
The soya milk & vinegar method isn't listed on either of these websites but it crops up in a lot of recipes. As a rough guide, you want to use 1 cup of soya milk and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar for a batch of 12 cupcakes. This will replace the eggs and usually any liquid in the recipe. Mix the milk and vinegar together, leave it to curdle for about 10 min and then carry on with the recipe. You may need to adjust the amount of milk you use depending on the wetness of the other ingredients. 

2. Where can you find the best vegan recipes?
There are so many vegan recipes on the internet these days, you can find a recipe for pretty much anything you want to make just by googling it. Some good places to start are:
Chocolate Covered Katie
The Vegan Society
There are also tons of great books out there - give me a shout if you'd like any recommendations!

3. What are your star ingredients for vegan baking?
Well, the soya milk & vinegar combo is one I use a lot so I make sure to always have a big bottle of apple cider vinegar in the cupboard!
You'll also want to get a bottle of high quality vanilla extract, as this helps to replace the taste of dairy butter (dairy free doesn't have quite the same taste). Buy the best you can afford and you will be able to taste the difference.
And when it comes to frosting, Trex is great as it keeps the frosting firm - use a mixture of half Trex & half non-dairy margarine in place of the butter and your frosting will taste great and keep it's shape. Just bear in mind that you might have to add a little extra icing sugar to make vegan "buttercream" as firm as it's dairy counterpart. 

4. Why is eating vegan a good idea?
I don't want to sound preachy so please bear in mind that the below is my opinion and is not intended as a judgement of non-vegans. 
Personally speaking, I'm vegan for primarily ethical reasons. By leading a vegan lifestyle, I am reducing the number of animals that suffer for our benefit - be that in the food industry, cosmetic industry, clothing industry, or anywhere else. Being vegan eases my conscious, meaning I no longer feel guilty about what I eat. (Unless I over indulge in junk food but that's only hurting me!) I believe that animals have just as much right as we do to lead healthy, happy lives. There is also a huge environmental impact to eating meat, ranging from deforestation to greenhouse gas production to the carbon footprint transporting livestock/meat. AND did you know that if we used the grain that is fed to cattle worldwide to feed PEOPLE, there would be more than enough to feed the world, and we could eradicate world hunger. If only people would give the grain to those that need it.
By happy coincidence, I also feel a lot healthier eating vegan than I ever did eating animal products. A lot of people turn to a vegan diet for the health benefits but I must admit, it's a happy side effect for me. 
If you're interested in trying this for yourself, there are a number of vegan pledge schemes where you can pledge to be vegan for 30 days and you will receive help and support throughout this time - take a look at The Vegan Society and Viva! for more info.

Please do head on over to the Iron Cupcake: Leeds website and take a look. It would be great to see some fellow vegans at the competition! (Sunday 9th March at The Adelphi in Leeds, put it in your diary!!) All the prizes will be vegan too!

If you'd like to try your hand at some vegan baking, I've listed a couple of my recipes below:

Ursula's Tentacles Devil's Food Cupcakes (these won me my very first Iron Cupcake competition!!)
50s Rock 'n' Roll Coke Float Cupcakes
Fudgey Friday Brownies

Happy baking!