Over the Winter break, I gave a good friend of mine, Anthea Cheng, a ring to chat about winter-season vegan baking. Ok, so she lives in Australia…currently experiencing a particularly hot and dry summer. However, she loves baking with the same warming spices and ingredients we can’t get enough of. Anthea is the creator of Rainbow Nourishments, and has mastered vegan baking through years of practice. Having prepared with her and decorated the yummiest “cheesecake” I’ve had the pleasure to smash in one sitting during my time down under, I’ve asked Anthea to share some top tips for successful vegan baking that will blow the socks off your guests next time you host a dinner party, or are in charge of bringing the dessert (or, more likely, are simply looking to treat yo-self)! Pssst! Of course, I’ve included links to two of Anthea’s sweet treats I suggest you get to baking. Right. Now.
What are some of the most difficult techniques to get right in vegan baking?
“Initially, it was very difficult to get moist and fluffy sponge cakes without using any animal products or vegan butters. Now that I’ve figured that out, I’m finding it challenging to develop recipes for those who are allergic or sensitive to gluten and nuts. It takes a lot of trial and error!”
If this is you, check out Anthea’s blog and/or IG for some nut-free, gluten-free treats that are also free of unhealthy vegan butters. She’s done the hard work for us and created some killer recipes that respect the trickiest of dietary restrictions.
Could you share tips on overcoming these vegan baking challenges?
“For getting vegan cakes moist and fluffy, unfortunately there is no single ingredient or fail-proof trick! Most of my recipes have a combination of wholefood egg replacers, fats and raising agents. (Again, Anthea’s done the work for us!) You need to be patient – it helps to research the science behind baking! (It’ll help you understand what makes a cake rise, what makes it flop, what keeps it moist and what dries it out) For gluten-free baked goods, it’s all about finding the right combination of flours depending on the texture and consistency you desire: something fluffy or crunchy? Something that will and complement the main flavours.”
What are a few pantry staples essential to whipping up quick healthy treats when craving goodies?
“For healthy baked treats, my essentials are organic wheat flour, rice flour and coconut sugar. For raw goodies, I’d recommend having dates on hand, as well as any type of nut or seed and either rice malt or maple syrup.”
With these three staple ingredients, you can easily make some bliss balls or protein bars, which are a great snack to take along with you on a busy day!
What are the best Winter flavours and ingredients to bake with?
“I love wintery flavours! Gingerbread spices are my favourite during the holiday season, as they are warming (although Christmas is in Summer in Australia). For winter days, it’s a perfect spice. I’ve been using a lot of almond meal recently as it gives baked treats a wonderful crumbly texture. I love fresh cherries, cinnamon and rosemary, but probably not all together.”
How would you overcome the challenge of bringing a vegan dessert to a group gathering?
“I usually don’t put a label on my desserts by calling them vegan! Generally, people don’t know a treat is vegan simply by tasting the desserts I bring to parties. However, if I am asked about the ingredients, I’ll mention that it’s vegan. All of my friends are ethically-inclined so I never have to sell myself to them. However, I’ve had a few acquaintances question my vegan ethics so I try to assess whether they’d have the environment, their personal health or animal ethics more at heart, and gently introduce them to my motives for going vegan. I pick my battles and don’t discuss it freely with everyone.”
So there you have it guys! Whether you are vegan for a day or for life, choosing to take a healthier and possibly even yummier dessert to a dinner party may prove surprisingly successful. Why not have a little fun with it and get your guests to guess what’s in your goodies!
What are some of the ways you like to share your passion for baking with others?
“I just love baking with whatever ingredients are in the pantry, or with leftovers, then sharing them with friends and family. My partner’s younger cousins are at an age where they can start learning simple cooking techniques, so I’d love to start a festive baking tradition with them, like making gingerbread houses!”
Could you provide one tip to absolutely nail each of the following recipes?
“Keep an eye on the cake when it’s in the oven. If it’s browning too quickly, lightly cover the cake tin with aluminium foil or a small tray as this will trap the steam in the cake tin and force the inside to cook without burning the outside.”
“Use vegetable shortening or coconut oil, otherwise the caramel won’t set.” In this instance, substitutes just won’t cut it, sorry!
I recommend you check out Rainbow Nourishments for a plethora of healthy savoury and sweet recipes. Now, time to roll up your sleeves and get baking!
Article by Olivia St-Laurent