Cooking With(out) Dairy: Adventures (and Some Tips) in Vegan Baking

21 Jan

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Ever tried vegan baked goods? Until recently, I hadn’t; the thought of baking without milk, eggs, butter or even sugar (which some vegans don’t use; I’ll explain later) seemed, well, half past impossible. And as much as I love me some health food, I didn’t think my taste buds could handle the bait-and-switch. Would the cookies or brownies be, well, edible? Or would they be chewy vitamins disguised as after-dinner goodies? Could I take baking to the next level of nutrition without sacrificing all that’s good about dessert?

But, in an effort to try something new (ah, January. So powerful!), I thought I’d give it a go. Why not? What did I have to lose, other than potentially baking a dozen hockey pucks of oatmeal and flax seed? After research, experiments, and the occasional Google search, I also learned a lot. And made … these!

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These Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are deeeee-licious, and not to mention so good-for-you that you can eat them for breakfast. Yup, cookies for breakfast. #Cookiemonstersfantasy. #myfantasytoo.

Before I give you lovely readers the recipe (and a few links to other AWESOME vegan baked goods — Pinterest is a treasure trove, my friends), though, I want to share some of the tidbits I’ve learned. Whether you’re actually vegan for personal, ethical or dietary reasons, or you’re just exploring for any reason, here are 5 Tidbits for Vegan Baking. Happy animal-free eating!

  1. First, No Eggs — try Flax Eggs instead. Mix 1 Tbsp flax seed with 3 Tbsp water vigorously for a minute or so. Substitute this mixture for one egg. It also adds protein, lignans, and other nutritional goodies, as I highlighted in this post.
  2. Secondly, No Milk. Try nut or soy milks instead. Substitute soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk or other dairy-free milk products part-for-part with regular milk in most recipes. (You may run into trouble if a recipe calls for whole milk, though.) Look for more tips at my favorite vegan blog, Somer’s Vedged Out.
  3. Standard Granulated Sugar is a no-no (animal products / residue are often used in processing plants, according to the research I did). Instead, try using maple syrup, agave nectar, or all-natural turbinado sugar. The jury’s still out for me on Stevia / Truvia, because I haven’t used it yet. (Let me know if you have, though!) See Vegan blogs for tips on substitution rules, but turbinado sugar can likely be used cup-for-cup.
  4. Try using Wheat Flour, Spelt Flour, Sprouted Grain Flour, or even Unbleached All-Purpose over regular, more processed all-purpose flour. (In her Brownie Recipe, Gwyneth Paltrow touts the benefits of Spelt Flour as being easier on the system than regular white flour. Thanks for posting the link, Vegan Spoonful!) I’d advise against using 100% wheat flour in most recipes (its bitterness can overwhelm recipes), but a blend of wheat and oats or wheat and other flours can be great.
  5. No Butter? Yup. Try using veggie or fruit purees instead — especially pumpkin puree. Lower fat and added flavor? Yes, please. For now, I’d recommend cup-for-cup measurements, but you’ll likely end up with very moist baked goods. (For better or for worse? For better!) Experiment a little with amounts before you decide what you like.

Give it a shot, friends. Why not? You don’t have much to lose, other than calories. 🙂 Here’s the recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. (Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.) Let me know how yours turn out!

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You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 Flax egg (or a regular egg, if you’re not going vegan)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup Turbinado sugar (or white sugar if non-vegan)
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (can substitute 1/2 cup Turbinado sugar altogether, or try 1/3 cup maple syrup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice OR ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional; 1 cup raisins is also delicious)

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a baking sheet with cooking spray or parchment paper.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, Flax egg and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk until just combined.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine wheat flour, oats, sugar(s), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice & raisins. Slowly add dry ingredient mix to wet ingredient mix in “batches,” mixing just enough to combine each time. (Overmixing = tough cookies, and these bad boys are already chewy!). If the dough seems a bit too cement-y, add up to 1/4 cup soy milk or nut milk. Optional: Add up to 1/2 tsp salt to season.
  • Using a large spoon or 1/4 cup measurement, drop cookies 2-ish inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten each cookie a bit, as these won’t spread (no butter = they’ll retain their exact shape) during baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are slightly browned. Cool for a few minutes (3-5) on the baking sheet; transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  • Yes, Virginia, you CAN eat these for breakfast, or for dessert with a hefty mug of tea. Yummo!

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(In case your wondering from their telltale appearance in this photo, this batch had 1/2 cup chocolate chips in place of 1/2 cup of the raisins. I have yet to find dairy-free chocolate chips — I’m sure they’re out there! Friends? Internet? Help! — but if you’re just looking for healthy, try Udi’s or other natural food brands.)

For other AWESOME vegan recipes and general tips, try any of these sites:

  1. Chocolate Covered Katie (the granddaddy — grandmomma? — of vegan baking blogs. Wowza.)
  2. Oh She Glows (the photos alone? Drool. On. The. Keyboard.)
  3. Vedged Out (Somer shout-out!)
  4. Gwyneth Paltrow’s
  5. Pinterest — I’ve pinned some vegan baked goods on my Nosh board, but they’re so easy to find! (Just search #veganbaking or #vegan when you’re hunting for desserts. Holy Vegan Cannolli.) 

What are your healthy baking tricks? Do you guys and gals like to stick to more traditional baked goods, or have you ventured into “nutritional” territory with your desserts? Keep me posted!


4 Responses to “Cooking With(out) Dairy: Adventures (and Some Tips) in Vegan Baking”

  1. Sally January 22, 2013 at 6:24 am #

    They look wonderful! I love love love these cookies so much. In fact, I just made them again over the weekend. So glad you love them as well!

    • galleykitchengal January 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks so much, Sally! They’re fabulous. I might go make a batch today … 🙂


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