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The ABC’s of Vegan Baking

ABC's - baking - dessert - vegan

Apple Cobbler perfection…

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…and warm chocolate chip cookies.  These are just two of the many magical vegan desserts you can experience at Crossroads.

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I asked the pastry chef, Serafina Magnussen, to share some of her expertise.

What are your recommended butter/egg substitutes?

Eggs are the trickiest ingredient to substitute when baking. What you replace the egg with all depends on the function the egg serves in a recipe: binding, leavening, moisture, for adding flavor or a combination of these functions. There is no single egg replacer that works for everything, either. What I would use for a fluffy, moist cake would be different than a crisp cookie or for a custard. You will have greater success when adapting recipes that have 3 or less eggs in them. More than 3 eggs gets pretty darn tricky.

Flaxseed, finely ground and whipped with water works great in cakes, muffins and other quick bread recipes. I often use golden flaxseed when I don’t want to see the color of the brown seeds in my finished product. The outside of the seeds has a coating that when combined with water, becomes thick and egg like in consistency. Use 1 tablespoon of finely ground flaxseed (a clean coffee or spice grinder works great for this) and whip it with 3 Tablespoons of water to equal 1 egg. Let it sit for a few minutes to thicken. It will have the consistency of a whipped egg. And always grind your seeds fresh as the high fatty acid (with loads of health benefits) go rancid very quickly. I keep my flaxseeds stored in my freezer and grind as I need it.

Ener-G, which is a starch based product available in most health food stores or online, works great for brownies and cookies. Just follow the directions on the box. This is best used for recipes that need binding and leavening, not moisture or fats like you would find in egg yolks. It is versatile, simple to use, and will go a long way.

Depending on the end product, things like applesauce, pureed bananas or squash can be a great egg replacement too. These add moisture and binding, but your recipes will need extra leavening, and of course the flavor of the puree will affect the flavor of your finished product, so that needs to be considered. This is also a great way to reduce a bit of fat and or sugar in a recipe too!

Butter is very easy to replace. Earth Balance is my favorite brand of butter substitute available almost anywhere. They make convenient sticks with tablespoon measures so you just swap out the quantity of butter in a recipe with Earth Balance. Easy peasy. Earth Balance also has products that don’t contain soy, which is great if you are trying to be allergen-free friendly.

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How about milk substitutes?

I pretty much use unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or cashew milk for all my dairy milk replacement. I hate the taste of soy milk and think soy is way overused in vegan cuisine, so I never use soy products. If I need to be allergen-free friendly I will use coconut milk or rice milk depending on the recipe, and if the fat content needs to be considered. Rice milk I rarely use however as it is so thin, and provides no richness to a recipe. For home use, hemp milk can be a fun alternative as some brands (especially the chocolate flavors) are pretty tasty, but they tend to be a bit on the pricey side for restaurant use, so I rarely use them. Cashew and almond milk are versatile, flavor neutral and the fat content is there for that smooth richness you want to be sure to include in your recipes. I absolutely love coconut milk and use it all the time. Surprisingly, the flavor isn’t as prominent as you would expect it to be.

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How do you keep your cobbler filling from getting too liquid-y? 

Just about every apple, or other fruit pie/cobbler/tart/crumble recipe has some sort of starch added to it’s filling to help tighten up the juices that will seep from the fruit due to the sugars, acids and of course cooking that they are exposed to. The type of starch thickener used depends on the acid level of the fruit, whether the end product will be frozen or not, flavor and of course personal preference of whom ever is making the dessert. Cornstarch, arrowroot and tapioca are the most common. My favorite for fruit fillings is arrowroot (which I use in my apple cobbler recipe). It is flavorless, stands up to high heat and acidic ingredients well and will also not be affected negatively by freezing.

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Favorite vegan baking cookbooks?

I don’t really have any favorite vegan baking cookbooks. I would say that the information in regards to substitutions and how to use them in The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is a great resource to get you started with vegan baking. I have a huge bookcase full of hundreds of cookbooks, only about 15 of them are actually vegan books. I get my inspirations from browsing enticing standard recipes and start my experimenting from there, sometimes pulling bits and pieces from recipes that look good and modifying and substituting as I see fit. I’ve been creating vegan pastries and desserts for 7 years now so I have a well stocked substitute arsenal with which to work with. It’s a bit of mad science, but that one of the main reasons why I love what I do so much.

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Any vegan baking tips to share?

More ABC’s <—-click!

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L’Amande French Bakery

bakeries/cafes/dessert places - dessert

Beverly Hills now has its own L’Amande French Bakery!

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I’ve heard lovely things about the original (Torrance) location….

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…particularly their fresh-made croissants, which take 72 hours to make.

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None for me – I actually stopped by for a special Halloween treat…

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…these “Monster Fingers” are made of pure butter shortbread, with powdered sugar, flour, eggs, and raw almonds.

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They’re only available this Thursday/Friday – I brought a sample back to share with our friends Sascha/Erin’s little goblins over the weekend.

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