Autumn marks the time for crisp blue skies, golden leaves, Halloween, and best of all, Great British Bake Off!
This year Great British Bake Off lovers are in for an extra treat…Great British Bake Off is finally going ‘full vegan’. But we’re over half way in and haven’t seen sprinkling of chia seeds or any mention of aquafaba, so when is vegan week happening? Well, for those who managed to catch this week’s episode, you’ll already know that the announcement has finally been made…vegan baking commences next week. But what we’re wondering is: why has vegan week has been pushed further and further toward the final? Does this suggest plant-based baking is a challenge only the most adept home bakers would dare to face? Well we’re here to change that! Vegan baking gets a bad rap for being tricky, tasteless and less indulgent than homemade non-vegan treats, but that’s not true at all. Like any baking method, all you need are a few quick tricks, some simple, foolproof recipes and just a sprinkling of confidence.
Confidence is key
It might be outside the ‘norm’ but supplementing animal-based products, such as butter and eggs, for cruelty-free alternatives really doesn’t take that much effort. If you’re not sure on where to start, try a simple dish such as a fruit crumble, pie or tart — it only requires one quick switch to use dairy-free butter in the crumble top or shortcrust pastry, and the rest remains the same. Once you’ve built up your confidence with simple sweet treats, you can move onto more technical projects like plant-based profiteroles and dairy-free chocolate fondant.
How I did it
Personally, vegan baking came as a shock. I was so used to a certain set of recipes that I could easily adapt to any occasion, that after transitioning to a vegan diet, I was reluctant to go beyond the bounds of the one plant-based recipe I knew (yes, you read that right – one recipe – one cake – no variety). I assumed that because I was now vegan there was no way I could use my old recipes; veganizing my favourite bakes would be impossible, right? No! Since learning a few quick alternatives for things like cream and eggs, I found I could easily tweak my original recipes to suit my new lifestyle. And if I ever need a little extra inspiration, I just pop open the PlantBased website and take a scroll through – even to just pick something with my eyes shut; there’s hundreds of vegan recipes on here and I can guarantee they’re all delicious!
I’m enjoying baking now more than I ever have (and being a big Great British Bake Off fan, that’s saying something). I find experimenting is half the fun – admittedly, things don’t always go perfectly first time, and your final batch of caramel cupcakes might have been sprinkled with more swear words than chocolate shavings, but don’t give up! My one piece of advice is: photograph everything – your failures, your successes and everything in between. It’ll mean that come the time when you perfect a four tier, ganache-glazed cake sensation, you can look back at when you burnt flapjacks and see how far you’ve come – it’s a great confidence boost and will help you learn from your mistakes.
Need a little more help? Check out our top tips…
Top tips for vegan baking
- Blind baking: No one wants to suffer the school boy error of a soggy-bottomed tart. Blind baking your pastry first can help put an end to that.
- Bread and bath: Adding a water bath to the bottom of the oven during baking can help give your bread a crisp crust.
- Don’t rush rising: Be sure to prove your doughs (sweet or savoury) for long enough; a good test can be to leave it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
- Don’t over-whip: Aquafaba makes a great base for meringues, but be careful not to over-whip the mixture as, once in stiff peaks, if you continue to mix it can easily turn into a sloppy mess. Watch our top tip video
There’s plenty more where that came from – simply subscribe to the mag to receive over 75 unique plant-based recipes every month, alongside literally hundreds of tip and tricks, to ace your bakes.
What to swap
Milk: Milk doesn’t have to mean dairy, you can get plant-based milks made from a huge variety of different ingredients; from almonds to rice, soya and even flavoured varieties such as pistachio, banana and matcha. For baking, consider the consistency and flavour you want from your milk. To complement light and fruity flavours, try using a coconut milk, which can give it a tasty, tropical twist; while, for thick sauces and rich puddings, why not try oat milk? It’s got a luxuriously creamy texture (it goes great with coffee too).
Eggs: There are literally dozens of different egg replacements. You’ll want to use either a ‘binder’ or ‘riser’ replacement. For light, fluffy cakes or sweet treats, such as choux buns, choose a baking powder and liquid mix. While, for binding, try a flavoursome egg replacement, like mashed banana, apple sauce or peanut butter. For more, check out our essential guide to egg replacements.
Honey: Though only technically a sweetener, your honey replacement should do far more than sugar does; the integral element of honey is its natural floral notes, so try to choose a replacement which mimics these. Agave nectar (another naturally-derived sweetener) boasts its own selection of floral notes, but is über sweet, so be careful on the quantities. Fairly new on the plant-based market is vegan honey; there are a variety of recipes for making your own vegan honey and plenty of store-bought options too. However, only a few follow the same natural flavour notes of honey, so be sure to try before you buy.
Want more ideas? Don’t wait for the next series of Great British Bake Off, get our Bake Vegan special with the September issue, here — it’s packed full of delicious plant-based recipes, top tips and more!