New Ways of Baking. Cakes for Vegan

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cake_cIf you're a vegan, there are lots of ways you can create dairy and egg-free treats that taste so good that even non-vegans will be tempted.

 

Sponge cakes

Making a good dairy-free sponge cake without eggs is one of the most difficult vegan cakes to master. The role of egg in a sponge recipe is to bind the ingredients together, and it needs to be replaced to stop your sponge from turning into a tough inedible disaster. Tony Bishop Weston from the Vegan Society recommends a number of ingredients that can be used as egg replacements. He says, "Cocoa butter, xantham gum, agar agar, arrowroot, locust bean gum, carob, vegetarian gelatine, vegan egg replacer, soya flour, banana, potato flour or chocolate all work well".

Carole Thurlbeck is a chef at St Donats Castle restaurant in Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales who has experimented with baking for vegans for several years. She explains the secret behind getting a vegan cake to rise. "I replace the butter with a good soya margarine, then, to help the cake rise, I add an extra teaspoon of baking powder. To replace the eggs, I use a variety of ingredients, from an egg replacer - which you can easily get from health food shops - to a mashed-up banana or silken tofu," she says.

The trick to getting a sponge cake to rise is to mix the wet ingredients before gently folding in the dry ingredients to keep air in the mixture. This recipe for macadamia nut sponge cake uses this technique, and, once it's cooked and chilled, will keep for a few days in the fridge. You can buy soya cream cheese in tubs from most health food shops and some large supermarkets.

Macadamia nut and coconut sponge cake with lime cream cheese topping:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

Ingredients:
For the cake
* 170g/6oz self-raising flour
* 170g/6oz caster sugar
* salt
* 2 tbsp grated creamed coconut
* 5 tbsp melted soya fat, plus extra for greasing
* 225ml/8fl oz cold water
* 85g/3oz macadamia nuts, cut in half
For the topping
* 200g/71¼oz icing sugar
* 100g/31½oz soya cream cheese (available in health food shops)
* 1 lime, grated zest and juice only
To serve
* icing sugar, to dust
* strawberries

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Grease and flour a 20cm/8in square cake tin with a little of the soya fat.
3. Sift the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the grated coconut and mix thoroughly.
4. Pour the melted soya fat and cold water into the mixture, and carefully fold it into the mixture until it is all combined.
5. Gently fold in the macadamia nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Allow the cake to cool for five minutes before turning out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
8. Meanwhile, for the topping, beat the icing sugar with the soya cream cheese, and add the lime zest and juice. Beat until it's smooth.
9. When the cake is completley cold spread the topping on top. Refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
10. Cut into nine squares and serve with fresh strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar.

This delicious chocolate cake uses the silken tofu method to bind the ingredients:

 

Moist chocolate crumb cake:

Preparation time over 2 hours
Cooking time 30 mins to 1 hour

Ingredients:
* 12 vegan digestives, gingernuts, bourbons or oat biscuits
* 25g/1oz coconut oil
* 25ml/1fl oz soya milk
* 250g/8oz silken tofu
* 2 tsp arrowroot
* 1 banana
* 4 tbsp cocoa powder
* 150ml/1¼ pint maple syrup
* 2 tbsp tahini
* 2 tbsp raisins
* 1 tbsp lime juice
* 3 tbsp orange juice
* 2 tsp vanilla essence
* pinch of salt
To decorate
* crystallized ginger
* nasturtium leaves (optional)

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Crush the biscuits, then pour them into a small saucepan and heat gently with the coconut oil and soya milk for a few minutes, stirring, until well combined.
2. Using the back of a spoon, press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 30cm/12in flan dish or into eight 8cm/31¼in ramekins.
3. Place all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and combine with a hand-held mixer or blender.
4. Pour the tofu mixture on top of the biscuit base, then bake for 45 minutes. Allow to cool for two hours before serving.
5. Decorate with crystallized ginger and nasturtium leaves, then serve with a spoonful of vegan ice cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Chocolate

If you think of vegan chocolate cake you probably think of carob, which is generally used to give a creamy flavour. But good quality cocoa powder and most 70% cocoa solids dark chocolates are vegan too, and will give your baking that unmistakably naughty chocolate flavour.

These brownies are deceptively simple - just pack the mix into one tin and bake. The recipe is also incredibly versatile; either bake the brownies as they are, or add your own special ingredients, such as chunks of good quality dark chocolate, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts or glac cherries. If you want to make a chocolate fudge cake, simply make two lots of the brownie mixture and sandwich them together with a dollop of fudgy chocolate icing. Spread the remaining icing on top of the cake, and finish with curls of dark chocolate.

Chocolate brownies:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

Ingredients:
* 170g/6oz self-raising flour
* salt
* 2 tbsp cocoa powder
* 170g/6oz caster sugar
* 5 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
* 230ml/8fl oz sweetened soya milk
* 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Grease and flour a 20cm/8in square cake tin with some of the sunflower oil.
3. In a bowl sift together the flour, salt, cocoa powder and sugar.
4. Add the oil, soya milk and vanilla extract, and mix carefully together until completely mixed.
5. Pour into the tin, and bake for about 25 minutes, until the brownies spring back when gently pressed.
6. Leave to cool for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

 

Chocolate fudge icing:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time no cooking required

Ingredients:
* 55g/2oz soya margarine
* 3 tbsp soya milk
* 200g/7oz icing sugar
* 30g/1oz cocoa powder

Method
1. Place the soya margarine, soya milk, icing sugar and cocoa in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
2. Stir well until the icing is smooth and glossy.
3. Remove it from the heat and let it cool completely, then use to ice your cake.

If you want something extra special, perhaps for a birthday cake, try this Black Forest gteau which is as light as air. You can substitute the carob powder for cocoa powder if you wish.

Black Forest chocolate cake:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins
You don't need eggs to make a light-as-air sponge cake. This dairy-free version of a classic gateau shows you how.

Ingredients:
For the cake
* 250g/8oz self-raising wholemeal flour
* 250g/8oz soft brown sugar
* 2 tbsp cocoa powder
* 2 heaped tsp carob powder
* 125ml/4fl oz rapeseed oil
* 150ml/¼ pint soya milk
* 1 tbsp vegan yogurt, bean curd or coconut cream
* 1 dessertspoon cider vinegar
* pinch of salt
* 25g/1oz dairy-free dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)
* fresh cherries or berries, to decorate
For the filling
* 4 tbsp Vegan cream cheese
* 1 tsp lime rind
* 4 tbsp morello cherry or blackberry jam

Method
1. Oil two 20cm/8in circular sponge tins and line them with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Place all the cake ingredients, except the chocolate and cherries, in a food processor and beat together thoroughly.
3. Coarsely grate or chop the chocolate and add to the cake mixture. Divide the mixture between the sponge tins and level the tops with a spatula.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of each sponge comes out clean. Allow to cool a little, then turn out on to a wire rack until completely cold.
5. Place the vegan cream cheese in a bowl and stir in the lime rind. Spread one side of a cold sponge with the lime cream cheese, and spread the other sponge with jam. Sandwich together and place on a serving plate.
6 Decorate the cake with fresh cherries or berries and serve.

Cookies and flapjacks

Cookies, biscuits and flapjacks are virtually foolproof, as they don't require eggs and the butter can easily be substituted with soya fat.

Try these healthy seed cookies, made with with soya fat, wholemeal flour and seeds high in omega-3. They're a delicious addition to any lunchbox or perfect for munching at work.

Seed cookies:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins
You can buy seed and nut mixes from your local health food shop or supermarket. You can use whatever combination you like. Dried fruit also works well.

Ingredients:
* 55g/2oz self-raising flour
* 55g/2oz golden caster sugar
* 30g/1oz rolled oats
* 55g/2oz soya margarine, plus extra for greasing
* 55g/2oz seed and nut mix

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
2. Rub together the flour, caster sugar, oats and margarine until it begins to come together as a dough. Add a little bit more flour if the mix seems too wet.
3. Mix in the seed and nut mixture.
4. Roll the dough out into a long sausage shape on a board, and cut into rounds about 1cm/½in wide. Because of the seeds and nuts in the mixture it may be quite crumbly.
5. Grease and flour a non-stick baking tray. Place each round on the tray and gently press each down. Place a few seeds on top of each cookie.
6. Bake at the top of the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool for at least ten minutes before placing on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

These deliciously soft cookies are stuffed with dark chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts. You can substitute the chocolate and nuts for anything you fancy, but make sure the mixture isn't too wet, otherwise you will end up with one enormous flat biscuit.

Chocolate and macadamia nut cookies:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

Ingredients:
* 100g/3oz self-raising flour
* 55g/2oz golden caster sugar
* 55g/2oz soya margarine
* 50g/1¾oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up into small chunks
* 50g/1¾oz macadamia nuts, halved

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
1. Rub together the flour, caster sugar and margarine until it begins to come together as a dough. Add a little bit more flour if the mix seems too wet.
2. Mix in the chocolate chunks and nuts.
3. Shape the dough out into a long sausage shape on a board, and cut into rounds about 1cm/1½in wide. Because of the chocolate and nuts in the mixture it may be quite crumbly.
4. Grease and flour a non-stick baking tray. Place each round on the tray and gently press each down with the back of a fork.
5. Bake at the top of the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool for at least ten minutes before putting on a wire rack.

You can buy the carob powder used in these cookies in a good health food shop, but you can also substitute it with quality cocoa powder. They're temptingly soft and it's impossible to eat only one.

Chocolate chip cookies:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

Ingredients:
* coconut oil, for greasing
* 125g/4oz self-raising wholemeal flour or plain flour, plus 1 tsp baking powder
* 50g/2oz soft brown sugar
* 1 tsp cinnamon
* 4 tsp carob powder
* pinch of salt
* 50g/2oz finely chopped dates
* 100ml/31½fl oz sweetened soya milk
* 75ml/3fl oz rapeseed oil
* 1 tsp vanilla essence
* 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
* 25g/1oz dairy-free chocolate or carob, coarsely grated or chopped

Method
1. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and grease with coconut oil. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, carob powder, salt and dates in a bowl and mix well. Add the soya milk, oil and vanilla essence and beat with an electric mixer or fork. Stir in the orange rind and grated chocolate.
3. Place 12 dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and smooth the tops with a wet knife.
4. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container until needed.

These are the easiest of all vegan baking, you simply melt the margarine and add oats and sugar. Just make sure you don't over-cook them, as they will rapidly go brown around the edges. Cut them into squares in the tin as soon as they're out of the oven.

Vegan flapjacks:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

Ingredients:
* 170g/6oz soya margarine
* 170g/6oz caster sugar
* 225g/8oz porridge oats

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. In a saucepan melt the soya margarine. Turn off the heat, and add the sugar and oats, mixing thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
3. Line with greaseproof paper a deep 20cm/9in square or rectangle baking tin.
4. Pour the mixture into the tin, and flatten with the back of the wooden spoon.
5. Bake near the top of the oven for about 25 minutes. The flapjacks should be golden brown.
6. Cut immediately into squares, and leave to cool before turning out. Store in an airtight container.

 

Scones

Scones are incredibly easy to make without dairy ingredients as they don't require any eggs. To get that perfect shiny finish on your scone, simply brush some soya milk over the top. You can add extra ingredients to these scones - two handfuls of sultanas are a traditional favourite, but you can also try walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, glacé cherries or chunks of dark chocolate. Chocolate scones are delicious warmed in the oven and then smeared with soya margarine; the chocolate melts and it feels very decadent. For a healthier scone, swap some of the plain white flour for plain wholemeal, according to taste.

Vegan scones:

Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

Ingredients:
* 8oz self-raising flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1½oz soya margarine, plus extra for greasing
* 2 tbsp caster sugar
* 150ml/4¼fl oz soya milk, plus extra for glazing
To serve
* strawberry jam

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and rub in the soya margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Add the sugar and mix together thoroughly.
4. Make a well in the middle of the mixture, and slowly pour in the soya milk, stirring with a metal spoon. Bring the mixture together until it forms a dough.
5. Generously flour a large board and knead the dough for five minutes. Roll it out to a thickness of about 2.5cm/1in and, using a fluted 9cm/3in cutter, cut rounds from the dough.
6. Place the rounds on a greased and floured non-stick baking tray, and glaze the top using the extra soya milk.
7. Cook in the top of the oven for about 15 minutes, until a deep golden brown colour.
8. Leave to cool.
9. Serve with strawberry jam.

Pastry

It's very easy to make simple sweet shortcrust pastry without using butter, just substitute soya margarine. This recipe can be used as soon as it's made, or kept in the fridge for up to a day wrapped in clingfilm. The addition of icing sugar will help the pastry roll out smoothly, without breaking up. The texture is exactly the same as an all-butter pastry, it should be light and will cut easily.

Basic vegan sweet shortcrust pastry:

Preparation time less than 30 mins

Ingredients:
* 125g/4½oz plain flour
* 55g/2oz icing sugar
* 55g/2oz soya margarine

Method
1. Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl and add the soya margarine.
2. Use your fingertips to rub the fat into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs with no large lumps of margarine remaining. Try to work quickly so that it doesn't become greasy.
3. Bring the mixture together to form a dough, adding extra flour if the mixture is too wet, or some water if too dry, a teaspoon at a time.
4. Wrap the dough in cling-film and chill for 10-15 minutes before using.



Tips for successful baking

* Butter gives cakes flavour, so remember that you will need to replace this with an alternative flavour source. Try extracts such as vanilla, almond or caramel, all available from your local supermarket. Tony Bishop Weston recommends adding lemon or lime zest to give your baking a fantastic tangy taste.

* You can experiment with all sorts of baking recipes. If a recipe calls for yoghurt or milk, substitute it with a soya or rice yoghurt - the texture of the cake will be slightly heavier and more fudgy.

* Carole Thurlbeck suggests adding a carton of a soya dessert to your cake batter to give your cakes extra flavour. It will also help it bind together. Experiment with all sorts of soya desserts from your local health food shop.

* Tony Bishop Weston advises against making the mistake of adding too much baking powder in order to get your cakes to rise - it will end up giving a nasty taste and will stick to your teeth!

* Try using oils instead of soya fat to create a moister cake, but remember olive oil has a very dominant flavour.

* If you add soya milk to a recipe use one that has been sweetened, and add a pinch of salt. Cow's milk has a higher sugar and sodium content than dairy-free alternatives. The salt will give the flavour of your baking some depth.

* Carole Thurlbeck says her top tip is to start experimenting. "Even if you don't get it right the first time and it doesn't rise, it'll still taste fantastic. You don't have to be a vegan or be dairy-intolerant to enjoy the different tastes you can create by using alternative ingredients."


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