Monday, 2 August 2010

Veganising - by request!

First of all I'm shocked at my own turpitude in allowing so much time to pass between posts. So I've submitted to a recent request regarding my previous post - in which I commented several times that (cake) recipes required veganising. 'But how?! How do you veganise it?'

Aha! Now I can't claim any kind of credit for these morsels of information: I learned virtually all I know (with the exception of a little trial and error) from Isa Chandra Moskowitz! So to anyone in possession of a copy of Vegan with a Vengeance or the Veganimocon, I'll be preaching to the choir, but for the rest of you, I hope some of it helps!

Ok, so replacing dairy - very straightforward, milk = soya milk, yoghurt = soya yoghurt, butter = dairy-free spread, and so forth. If you don't have any soya yoghurt, apple sauce works quite well. Other non-dairy milks can in certain circumstances be used, unless - and this is very important, I learned the hard way! - your recipe relies on the curdling of said milk, because rice, oat, almond and so forth do not curdle when vinegar or lemon juice are added! Curdled soya milk is also good in the absence of yoghurt, or if the recipe calls for buttermilk, and generally as a binder/moistener for cakes. If you want you can probably get away with using oil instead of spread, but the quantities are more difficult to get right - you need less oil than spread. And it doesn't work in any recipe that requires the creaming of butter and sugar! The best method when using oil instead or marg is the 'mix wet, mix dry and combine' strategy. If you've got a blender, chuck all the wet ingredients in it and whizz it up - the oil emulsifies very nicely.

Now the difficult part!

Eggs. The little buggers... There are several ways to replace them, but one must exercise caution when selecting the appropriate replacement for a recipe!

- the old-fashioned bicarb of soda/baking powder and vinegar method
- flax seed (linseed) powder
- soya yoghurt
- the ubiquitous banana
- silken tofu
- egg replacer (bleurgh)

I won't even mention the last, we can all do better than that and there's really no need for consuming such a vile substance. The first is tried and tested but it can be tricky to get the ratio right - some of Isa's cupcake recipes use 3/4 tsp here, 1/4 tsp there, and so on! I don't have the patience for such experimentation, but a standard cake is less vulnerable than a cupcake so a teaspoon of baking powder plus a bit of soda depending on the acid content of your cake is normally what I do - alongside a cupful or so of soya milk curdled with a teaspoon of vinegar. There's no residual flavour and if you get it right this is the best way to mimic the leavening properties of eggs - it's an old wartime technique actually, when eggs and dairy were scarce (the source of my favourite chocolate cake recipe too!).

Flax/linseed is a good one too, but it has a distinctive flavour, a sort of 'healthy' taste (which I like in general but it's not quite right for Victoria sponge, for example), so use it in strongly flavoured or oaty-type things. One tablespoon of powder mixed with three of water and left too goopify for 5 minutes equals one egg. Then just throw it in with the wet ingredients. If you can't find the powder, you can leave whole linseeds to soak in water overnight - the water will get the same goopy effect.

Soya yoghurt is good when you want a really moist cake, and doesn't leave much taste - about 4 tablespoons for an 'egg' is I think what Isa recommends. A little extra never hurts though... This method doesn't leaven though, so if you want a light, structured end result you need to combine this with the baking powder method.

Ah. bananas, what would we do without you! Those really black and squishy ones that no one else wants are the perfect thing here. I tend to use one small banana per egg. They do a grand job but bear in mind that whatever you use these in (especially if you're using more than one) will, surprise surprise, come out tasting a little banana-y. All you have to do is mash it up really well, and then add it to the wet stuff. Things with banana in also tend to brown a bit quicker so don't panic and think you've overcooked it!

Silken tofu is a slightly expensive and occasionally elusive one, but great if you want extra richness and cakeyness. Blend or mash 3 tablespoons until as smooth as humanly possible for one 'egg', then add the other wet ingredients to it and blend again.

It's always a slightly creative process, you can never be sure if it'll work perfectly, but unless you're hankering after a very specific result the chances are a cake made with any of these egg replacements will be at least servicable! Things to remember are 1) the purpose of the egg and therefore your replacer - sometimes it's just binding, like in a muffin or quick bread (which all of these achieve), sometimes it's leavening too, as in classic cake recipes like the Vicky sponge or lemon drizzle (trickier), and sometimes recipes just stick eggs in where there's clearly no need whatsoever (banana bread and biscuits being the usual culprits). The other factor is the liquid content of the recipe - replacing margarine with oil and eggs with curdled soya milk is going to leave you with a significantly thinner batter, so you might need to add more flour. You can also combine more than one method (often a good idea) if you've got, say, 4 eggs to replace and have doubts about replacing them all with just soya yoghurt or just flax seed goo.

Happy veganising... And I'm no expert but if you have any questions I will do my best to help!

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