The most common question I hear when people learn I am a vegan baker is “How do you bake without eggs or butter?” To this I always say, “It’s easy and I’m happy to show you how!”
There are quite a few helpful lists online that provide good ideas for veganizing recipes. One Green Planet’s dessert substitution guide is an excellent resource and I also find Vegan-Nutritionista.com to be very complete and clearly written.
Eggs are by far, the ingredient that people worry the most about removing. When selecting which substitutes to use in a particular recipe, think about what you are making and what will fit into the recipe and enhance its flavor. For example, bananas can be an effective egg substitute, but using it in cornbread would radically change the flavor. Various flax seed or chia seed blends are also viable options and so are egg substitutes available in stores. However, they do absolutely nothing to enhance your recipe. The fact is that there are very few baked goods where you actually need to literally simulate the binding function of an egg.
The only current Gone Pie recipe that requires a literal replacement of this binding property of eggs is pecan pie. Even in this recipe, I enhance the binding properties with pureed dates to give the pie a more interesting texture and flavor. For most recipes you encounter, you can select a substitute that lets you be a little creative and enhance the flavor, rather than just mimicking an egg.
Let’s take a traditional Buttermilk Cornbread Recipe I found on Allrecipes.com and veganize it.
The best way to accurately adapt a recipe is to stay as close as possible to the proportions of the original recipe. So whatever we omit, we will replace with an equal amount of vegan ingredients. I chose cornbread because it is full of animal derived ingredients we will want to replace, but it is also simple to make.
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2/3 cup white sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 cup cornmeal
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
THE VEGANIZING PROCESS:
1. Replace 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of butter.
The butter is going to add a richness to this recipe as well as oil for moisture. I use 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of light vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of vegan milk to make 1/2 cup. Butter has some water in it, so even oil for butter substitution is too much. Coconut oil tastes like coconut if you use too much, but in moderation, it gives baked goods richness. This blend should make a good butter replacement.
2. Veganize the sugar
This is a simple measure for measure replacement of commercial sugar with vegan sugar.
3. Replace 2 eggs.
2 eggs equal 4 liquid ounces.** I use 4 ounces of vegan sourcream (or yogurt) here. It will serve to bind and moisten our cornbread. Eggs also provide leavening in this recipe, so when I measure my baking soda I am going to add a tiny pinch more baking soda (when I say a pinch, I literally mean using two fingers to add an extra pinch).
4. Replace 1 cup of buttermilk.
Buttermilk is thick and slightly tart. I can either use half vegan sourcream (or yogurt) and half vegan milk or I can make a buttermilk substitute with vegan milk and lemon juice. Since I am using sour cream as my egg substitute, I will use it as my buttermilk substitute as well.
The above recipe produced a delicious cornbread, but a tiny bit sweet for my taste, so I made it again right away. The second time around, I wanted to give it a little more character and cut the sugar. I added 3 tablespoons of maple syrup in place of 2 tablespoons of vegan milk and cut the sugar to 1/4 cup. I also used whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour. Again this is a personal preference. All purpose flour is fine if you like it. This was a SUPER delicious and SUPER fluffy cornbread.
I broke my veganizing rule! I changed the proportions. But if you look at these changes, you see I stayed pretty close to the original recipe. Over time, you develop a comfort with baking and you can make more changes and deviate from the original more confidently.
NEW VEGANIZED BUTTERMILK CORNBREAD RECIPE:
* 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
* 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
* 1/4 – 1/2 cup vegan sugar
* 1 cup vegan sour cream
* 1/2 cup vegan milk
* 1/2+ teaspoon baking soda
* 1 cup cornmeal
* 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine wet ingredients and sugar with whisk until well blended. Combine dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Don’t over mix. Pour batter into a greased 8 inch square pan and bake 35-40 minutes. Cool it for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
Hopefully this exercise has helped demystify vegan baking a bit. I rarely find it necessary to veganize a recipe these days. There are so many amazing vegan baking blogs and cookbooks with so many mouth watering recipes available. But nothing is more persuasive than a sweet treat. So next time someone says I would miss a particular recipe, show them how easy it is to make it vegan.
**The rule of thumb to follow when replacing eggs, is that an egg is 2 ounces and a yolk is about 2 tablespoons.
Image source: How to Make Vegan Cornbread