Vegan Baking Tips (a Guide)
This is the start of my guide on how to improve your vegan baking and adapt your favourite recipes to be vegan. Always with #NoPalmOil. Feel free to email me with your vegan advice to add to this list (firstname.lastname@example.org) – if you have discovered something wonderful that works I’d love to hear from you. Vegan baking is a whole new approach to baking with new things being discovered everyday. I’ll keep updating this list as I experiment and learn more.
This is the dark-arts mystical potion holy grail of vegan baking. Having been used in Indian baking for centuries, it was only discovered for its egg-replacing properties as recently as 2014: aquafaba is the liquid drained from cooking pulses such as chickpeas, which, it turns out, does a pretty good job of mimicking the proteins in egg white’s ability to trap air and form foams, emulsify, thicken and bind.
Use in vegan meringues, mousses, flourless cakes, nougat, fudge, ice cream, buttercream and brownies.
To understand which egg replacement to use you need to understand a bit about the role of eggs in baking.
An egg’s role in baking is little to do with flavour, rather, they perform the following 4 roles:
- They give structure: Egg coagulates and sets during baking and this helps hold the other ingredients in place
- They trap air: When you beat egg whites, the stress causes the proteins in the whites to unfold, loosening their bonds – they then come into contact with other unwound bonds and form a new bond with them, catching air as they go, in a flexible little pocket that forms the basis of your meringue for example, or aerates your flourless chocolate cake.
- They can acting as a leavening ingredient: Beaten eggs incorporate air into a batter, which expands in the oven causing the cake to rise.
- They provide moisture and richness: Largely from the yolks, which add tenderness and a creamy texture.
There isn’t a single vegan alternative we know of yet that can do everything that an egg does in baking. But there are some ingenious substitutes which, when balanced right can produce all of the above effects and help to to bake a cake or brownie/meringue that has the right texture.
This means it’s generally best to use a vegan recipe that has been tried and tested by someone who can be bothered (e.g.. me or any of countless vegan bakers posting recipes online), but if you fancy experimenting, or even just to understand better whats happening when you make a switch – here is a guide to substitutes.
Soak 1 tbsp flax meal with 3 Tbsp of hot water (per egg you want to replace), leave to sit for 10 mins, then use in place of the egg. Note: This is great for binding, and giving your bakes structure, but won’t trap air or leaven a cake the way egg whites will. Used best in cakes, though you will have a denser cake than your classic sponge as well as a slight flavour and colour from the flax. If that doesn’t put you off the texture can be really quite nice.
Aquafaba (see above)
To replace whole eggs in fudgy/ chewy baked goods like brownies, use one ripe mashed banana for every egg the recipe calls for. Check out my simple hack to ripening bananas here
As a general rule, one tablespoon of applesauce can replace one egg in most cake, cookie or muffin recipes.
Use 90ml olive oil for every 225g of butter in a recipe. You can use it to grease pans as well, you need just a very light coating. I use Olive Oil in my pomegranate and black tea cake recipe here
This is a great vegan option as its solid at room temperature, you can use it as a pretty good swap for butter in things like icings, cookies and cakes, as well as a base for pastries or cheesecakes.
This is the stuff that separates from the liquid in your can of coconut milk when its left in the fridge overnight. Use in icings and curds.
I try to avoid using Palm Oil, and on principle avoid it as a vegan substitute as it’s harmful to the environment and unhealthy – which counters two of the really good reasons for being vegan as far as I can tell (I’m not saying there aren’t more, but these are up there) – although plenty of people do, and it appears in a lot of vegan products. If you want to understand more about the issues surrounding palm oil read here.
You can make beautiful vegan ganache using the solids from separated coconut milk combined with dark chocolate (set the can in the fridge overnight, open and spoon off the solid part that has risen to the top, add gradually to get a consistency you like), or a simple icing of water or pureed fruit/coulis combined with icing sugar to drizzle over your cakes. Have a look at my vegan gin and raspberry jam icing on these tea cakes.
A lot of store bought pastry is actually vegan friendly, although this means it is largely made with Palm Oil. You can make a decent vegan pie crust for cheese cakes or tarts using this recipe