Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present: Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking

Before You Bake
Demystifying Vegan Baking To someone who’s never done much cooking, baking can seem a bit mysterious, the oven acting as a transformation chamber for unfamiliar doughs or liquids or whatever lumpy thing to a finished product that looks, smells, and tastes like the comforting treats we know well. Since baked treats light up that nostalgic part of our brains, it can seem like messing with traditional methods will make things turn out wrong. I contend that there are some ingredients that we’re better off avoiding completely. They’re not necessary for baking, and they’re especially not necessary for us: milks, creams, eggs, all these heavy products made from animals don’t just harm the animals that are used to produce them, they harm humans with cholesterol, saturated fat, hormones, antibiotics, engineered genes, pesticides, diseases, and even heavy metals. Animal agriculture is the single greatest cause of atmospheric pollution, deforestation, and water contamination on the planet, and it all happens because we humans keep buying products that take incredible amounts of resources, products subsidized with taxpayer money, that we don’t need and are just awful for us. It’s not hard to opt out of all that awfulness, and make our hearts feel sweet. It’s an even sweeter deal for us when there are delicious ways to cook that don’t involve making anyone, human or not, suffer just for our momentary dining pleasure. The Binding Question: Eggs and Egg Alternatives The most common question that comes up with vegan baking is how exactly to account for eggs in items that might usually contain them. The reason people have used eggs in baking is simple: they are used to provide structure and binding when cooked. Let’s think about a cake: The protein in the eggs binds with the flour and other ingredients, and then as the temperature increases while baking, the whole mixture rises. When moisture drops and the internal temperature increases enough, the proteins harden and hold the spongy texture that’s familiar with cake, even after the temperature drops. The important thing to know is, it’s not just eggs that can provide this binding effect. There are plenty of reasons not to use eggs in your baking, not the least of which is that a chicken endures nightmarish conditions to produce each and every egg, even for so-called “free range” or “organic” eggs. There are simple alternatives for just about every baking application. These alternatives cost less than eggs, aren’t unhealthy (and in fact are *very* healthy), and don’t have the environmental impact of chicken eggs. Another benefit you might not notice until you try some baked items without eggs, is that baking with eggs (or butter!) gives foods a smell that can conflict with the intended flavor. Vegan bakeries keep doing great on those Food Network bake-off shows and in a way they have an unfair advantage: non-vegan bakers keep using eggs, just because. It’s traditional to use them, so that’s what they do. Eggs add a tiny bit of sulphur smell and flavor to things (there’s even a spice called “black salt” used in India to make things taste eggy, which is just sulphur-infused salt). A single egg yolk contains 210 milligrams of cholesterol. There are many egg alternatives that work great for different applications. The ones I like to use the most often are flax meal and silken tofu. Sometimes I’ll try a starch mixture, especially if I want something cakey. Super-simple “egg” recipes:
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Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present: Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking Flax: For each egg to replace, add 1 Tbs of golden or regular ground flax meal to 3 Tbs warm water. Stir, and allow it to sit for at least five minutes. It’ll form a soft gel-like mass. Silken tofu: Don’t make the mistake of trying to use regular tofu in your baking! There are some recipes that call for regular tofu for baking (like tofu “ricotta” in lasagna) but usually you’re going to want to use silken tofu. It comes in small sealed cardboard “tetra” boxes. If you find some at a good price and want to stock up, I suggest getting the “extra firm” variety, unless you want to use it mainly for smoothies, in which case go for Firm or softer. ¼ cup of silken tofu should work great. Starches: A mixture of arrowroot powder and tapioca starch can act as a really good binder, 1 tsp arrowroot + 1 Tbs Tapioca starch + water or mashed fruit, like ripe bananas or applesauce. Try experimenting with different combinations of these—a particular method may be best suited to a particular baked item. You’d think from cooks like Paula Deen that butter is an essential nutrient, but there are good reasons to avoid it. Butter is 63 percent saturated fat and 1 tablespoon has 30 milligrams of cholesterol. Cholesterol is ONLY found in animal products, so switching to plant-derived fats and oils will have an immediate and significant positive health impact. It’s very easy to replace in baking—oils like canola or light olive oil or coconut oil cover just about every application. For a few items there are plant-based shortenings specifically made for baking. One popular brand is Earth Balance. Use the same volume of a plant-based oil or shortening as you would butter.

Recipes
Vegan Flaky Pie Crust
Making your own pie crust is time consuming, but a homemade crust tastes about 23 times better than a store-bought one. You can make multiple batches and freeze the rest for later use. Home made pie crust has that irresistible flakiness and gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you made the whole pie. This vegan Flaky Pie Crust recipe can be used for any pastry such as pop tarts, turnovers, English pasties or anything else you'd like to envelop in tender, flaky goodness. In a pie crust the goal is tenderness and flakiness. This is achieved by a high level of fat and a low level of water. The Vegan Butter in this recipe breaks into small pieces, coating the flour and inhibiting gluten from forming. The shortening is cut into larger pieces so it doesn't break down as much when it's cut into the flour. This is so the shortening forms thin layers as the dough is rolled. These thin layers catch evaporating water as the crust bakes which causes the crust to form thin, flaky layers similar to what's found in puff pastry. This pie crust is adapted from Cook's Illustrated's famous vodka pie crust which takes crusts to the next level. The result is a dough that's easier to work with and more tender and flaky than traditional pie crusts. The vodka allows the dough to feel more moist so it's easier to roll, cut and form. The gluten in the flour doesn't bind in the presence of ethanol so the crust ends up
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Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present: Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking being more tender. The alcohol cooks off so don't worry- your pie crust won't taste like alcohol but it will seem extra moist while you're working with it. This is by design. Don't worry about the quality of the vodka you use. 80 proof vodka is 60% water and 40% alcohol. Just remember: don't drink and roll. If you really aren't able to use vodka then change the water content of this recipe to 6 to 8 Tablespoons total. Ingredients: 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour 2 Tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold Regular Vegan Butter or non-hydrogenated stick margarine, cut into ¼ inch cubes ½ cup (1 stick) cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces ¼ cup cold water 3 Tablespoons cold vodka Directions: 1) In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut the Vegan Butter and shortening into the flour until mixture resembles coarse sand. Take extra caution that you don't over mix. 2) Drizzle half of the chilled water and vodka over the mixture then gently toss using your fingers. Drizzle the other half in and toss again. Now use the open palm of your hand to press down the dough to compress it. Break up the dough with your fingers and compress it again. Cut the dough in half inside the bowl with a spatula. 3) Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap, compress it to a 4 inch disc and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. This dough can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months for later use. If you're working in extremely hot weather conditions, don't be afraid to put things in the freezer for a few minutes while you're working. The goal is to have a cool crust go into a hot oven so the crust 'pops' from the pockets of fat and water. This is what makes a flaky crust. 4) Cut two pieces of parchment paper to 12 inch by 12 inch size. Rolls of parchment paper for home use are 12 inches long so you can use the box as a ruler. Unwrap one of the dough disks, place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper and cover it with the other sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out from the center until it goes out to the edges of the parchment paper. Remove the top layer of parchment paper and carefully flip the dough over into a pie plate. Now remove the other piece of parchment paper and form the dough to the pie plate. Gently lift the pie crust with one hand and push it into the plate with the other hand. Don't worry if you have to patch the pie crust; this is normal. It's easily patched and repaired by lightly wetting each part to be joined with water then grafting on an extra piece of dough. Once it comes out of the oven, your repairs won't be too noticeable. When I work with pastry crusts I usually have a pastry brush and a glass of water on hand so I can easily wet the dough with the brush and patch it
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Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present: Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking with pieces of leftover dough when necessary. Using scissors, cut off the dough so that ½ inch of it extends beyond the pie plate. 5) Now go around the perimeter and tuck and fold the outer edge under the crust so that it's uniform with the edge of the pie plate. Flute the dough with your fingers or press the edges down with the end of a fork to shape. Pre-baking your crust Some pie recipes that don't require the pie to be baked for very long will require it to be prebaked, also known as blind-baked. To do this, first preheat your oven to 425F( 218C). Go around the perimeter of your pie crust and tuck and fold the outer edge under the crust so that it's uniform with the edge of the pie plate. Flute the dough with your fingers or press the edges down with the end of a fork to shape. Place your pie crust in the refrigerator until it's firm, about 15 minutes. Poke the bottom of the crust with a fork about 8 to 10 times to create holes for steam to escape. Now line the pie crust with tin foil then place legumes or the pie weight of your choice inside of the crust. The tin foil keeps the walls of the pie crust from sliding down while under heat. Place the pie on a cookie sheet that is on the oven's lowest rack. The cookie sheet will draw extra heat to the pie crust's bottom, allowing it to bake at the same rate as the upper parts of the crust. Bake it for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and pie weights. Rotate the pie 180 degrees and bake it for another 5 to 10 minutes until the crust is golden. You can also use this recipe to make two 9-inch pie shells.

Crustless Pumpkin Pie
This pie is crust-less but still firms up like the real deal so you can cut individual slices without it falling apart. Use Mori-Nu or another silken tofu. Ingredients: ½ cup mori-nu tofu, extra firm 1½ cups non-dairy milk 2 tbsp cornstarch 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 cups canned pure pumpkin ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour 2 tsp baking powder ½ cup brown sugar ¼ tsp salt 1 tsp cinnamon ½ tsp nutmeg ¼ tsp ground cloves
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Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present: Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9” shallow glass pie dish, set aside. In a blender or food processor, blend tofu, non-dairy milk, cornstarch and vanilla until smooth, stopping to scrape sides periodically. Add remaining ingredients and blend for about a minute more, until the mixture is uniform and well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie dish and bake for 1 hour. Allow the pie to cool on the counter, away from the hot oven, until room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Maple Pecan Pie
Ingredients: 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup pure maple syrup 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine 6 oz extra firm silken tofu (1/2 of a tetra pack) 1/4 cup cold unsweetened plain non-dairy milk 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 cups pecan halves Prepared Single Pastry Crust, pressed into a tart pan or pie plate First we’re going to make a caramel. In a 2 quart sauce pan, mix together sugars and maple syrup. Heat over medium heat, stirring often with a whisk. Once small bubbles start rapidly forming, stir pretty constantly for about 10 minutes. The mixture should become thick and syrupy. It shouldn’t be boiling too fiercely, if it starts climbing the walls of the pan in big bubbles then lower the heat a bit. Add the margarine, and stir to melt. Turn the heat off, transfer mixture to a mixing bowl. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the filling, working quickly so that the caramel doesn’t completely set. Crumble the tofu into a blender or food processor, along with the milk, cornstarch and salt. Puree until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender to make sure you get everything. Preheat oven to 350 F. With the caramel still warm in the mixing bowl, add in the tofu mixture and the vanilla, and mix well. Fold in the pecans to incorporate. Transfer to prepared pie crust and bake for 40 minutes. The pie is going to be somewhat jiggly, but it should appear to be set. Let cool for a few hours, slice and serve!
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Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present: Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note: These cookies are vastly lower in fat than most traditional-style cookies recipe out there, but are still delicious. Makes about eighteen 2-inch cookies Ingredients: 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda Dash of fine sea salt 3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar or organic regular sugar 3 tablespoons canola oil 2 tablespoons soymilk or other non-dairy milk 3 tablespoons flaxseed meal, preferably golden 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (This really is the perfect amount. Any more and your cookies wll just unbalanced with so much chocolate) 3 tsp blackstrap molasses Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat silicone baking mats. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar, oil, soymilk, flax meal and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, stirring just until mixed. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, 2-inches apart. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Remove the trays from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely.

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Mike Cross and Huntsville Vegans present: Cruelty-free Holiday Sweets: Vegan Baking Special addendum:

Whipped coconut cream notes
Start with a full-fat can of "coconut milk" (which is quite different from coconut water for drinking). It's okay if it's got guar gum on the ingredients list. If we're planning to use a mechanical means of whipping the cream (mainly if we want to use a whipping can or iSi "whipped cream charger" to inject gas into our cream), we may want to add a tiny bit more guar gum ourselves, but it's not necessary either way, and not if we just want something quick and light for our dessert. Set the can(s) in a spot in your refrigerator where the cans will be both properly chilled and won't get moved around. You want to leave these cans overnight, or chill them a little faster using the freezer (but you definitely don't want them freezing at all, because that will make the next step quite difficult). Once the cans are chilled, remove them from the fridge and carefully open them. Use a spoon to scoop out the firm white stuff that's collected at the top of the can. That's the coconut cream. Put the cream into a separate bowl. If you see liquid, avoid scooping it. Don't just toss it though-- save it to use in smoothies (coconut water is healthy and tasty). Once you've got most of the creamscooped out, break it up using a whisk. It'll become a lot more liquidy. Add 1-2 tablespoons of organic powdered sugar, a tablespoon of maple syrup, and a tiny bit of vanilla extract. You may want to add a little more plain organic sugar to taste. Whip up the mixture as best you can, and then put it back in the fridge/freezer to chill a little more. Whip again vigorously after it has chilled. Your results may vary based on: your original can of coconut milk (for some reason some cans produce really good cream that can hold air, and other cans produce cream that still tastes great but won't whip up), how well you're able to whip your mixture, and how chilled your final mixture is before serving. If you're going to use a whipping charger, you'll should great results from this mixture by itself, or especially if you add a little guar gum (maybe half a teaspoon per can of coconut cream), mix and allow it to dissolve, chill, and then fill your whipping can.

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