Grab your rolling pin and get ready to blow everyone’s minds with a variety of delicious, nutritious, fully vegan cookies this Christmas. Yes, it’s possible, and no, it’s not hard. Cookies are a great introduction to vegan baking, and you’ll learn tips and tricks for replacing eggs, dairy and butter in traditional recipes. Gluten-free or processed-sugar-free options available on demand, just write a note in the comments when signing up. And no, we won’t only have cookies for lunch 😉
We covered a lot of ground in the workshop, and didn’t even manage to demo the processed-sugar-free cookie recipe that we sampled, but I am including it below. Happy baking and wonderful, relaxing holidays to everyone!
Flour is a a fundamental part of baking, and there is a whole spectrum to play around with — with gluten or without, rustic whole-grain or fine white… Play around! Spelt is a good place to start, as it can usually be substituted directly for wheat flour. Try a mix of half-white, half-whole grain flours to retain structure but bring in nutrition, flavour and character to your baking.
Baking with gluten-free flours such as buckwheat, millet, rice (brown and white), oat (from gluten-free oats) or corn is tricky because they lack gluten, the protein which binds doughs. Therefore, we need to add some more binding material to keep everything together. Starch is a good addition; I usually use corn — Maizena — or potato starch, as they are cheap and easily available around here. Some of the binders in the “Substituting Eggs” section below are also necessary. And finally, thick syrups such a rice syrup also help with binding; I have tried it in cookies where fluffy texture isn’t a requirement. In cakes or muffins I think it might make the dough a bit too heavy.
This is the trickiest part of vegan baking, as eggs play different roles in baked goods. They most often act as a binder, but they can also serve as a raising agent (like whipped egg whites) or bring moisture. Once you have an idea of which of these factors is most important in a recipe, you can substitute accordingly. In some standard muffin or cake recipes, an egg replacement may even not be necessary, for example in this chocolate chip muffin recipe from Tier Im Fokus. When you do substitute, you will often use a combination of a binder and something for moisture — for example, one a “flex egg” for binding, and a bit of soy yoghurt or apple sauce for moisture. In cookies, you mostly care about binding, so you will often just use some flax eggs.
I guess I should mention that there are a lot of vegan egg replacement products out there, but somehow I’ve never used them much. I like to play around with “natural” ingredients that have similar properties. But I hear they work well, so that’s always an option to consider!
Ground flax seeds (Leinsamen in German) / psyllium husk (Flohsamenschalen in German) / chia seeds: 1 tablespoon + 3 tablespoons water for 1 egg.
Starch: corn, potato, arrowroot: 2 tablespoons per egg
Chickpea / soy flour: 4 tablespoons flour + 4 tablespoons liquid (water or non-dairy milk) per egg. Also brings lighter texture and yellow colour to the dough.
Baking soda + acid (lemon juice or vinegar): 1/2 teaspoon baking soda + 1 tablespoon acid for one egg. Do not substitute for several eggs with this technique, up to 1 teaspoon in a recipe is plenty, else you will get the unpleasant soda taste in your baked goods.
Aqua Faba: who knew the water from cooked chickpeas can be whipped up into something very much resembling egg whites? I usually use it to substitute for egg whites, that’s why it’s in the Lift category, but it’s quite versatile. Read more about it here or try this 2-ingredient chocolate mousse.
Silken tofu: blend with an immersion blender to get a smooth consistency which you can whisk into the wet ingredients. Good for denser baked goods like brownies or sweet breads. 60g per egg. I actually mostly use silken tofu to make this really lush and silky chocolate mousse.
Apple sauce (Apfelmark in German) / banana: 60g apple sauce / 0.5-1 banana. Like a cosy, classic banana bread.
Other grated fruit or vegetable like grated carrots / pumpkin / zucchini also work well as moisture, plus bring in some nutrients.
Butter is a fat that is solid at room temperature, and this is a necessary property in things like pie crusts or cookies. Vegan fats that also have this property are margarine or coconut oil. I have been using the Kokos Margarine from Migros for baking recently, and am really happy with the results. It is bio, does not contain palm fat or other weird additives or preservatives, and does not smell like coconut because it relies on refined coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil melts at around 24°C, so it may not even be solid in summer 🙂 And it is softer and generally a bit more finnicky to work with. But I have seen recipes where butter was successfully substituted only by coconut oil, so I’ll share those here:
Margarine: especially for cookies or pie crusts, substitute directly for butter
Coconut oil: also for cookies or pie crusts. The Oh Ladycakes blog has a long article about making pie crust with coconut oil. Enjoy 😉
Vegetable shortening: I don’t have much experience with this, so I’ll just leave you with a note that it is another option of solid fat.
In a lot of regular recipes for cakes or muffins, one does not need solid fat at all, and liquid oils work just as well. I usually use one of these two oils because they are the ones I most have around, but your favourite oil will probably work well.
Olive oil: I love olive oil cakes, and one of my all-time favourites is this one from Kim Boyce. Leave out the eggs entirely, then the cake is a bit crumblier but still delicious. Or add 120g of soy yoghurt and 1/2 tsp baking soda + 1 tablespoon lemon juice instead.
This one is pretty easy, as you can directly substitute plant-based milk or cream for dairy. I don’t use rice, quinoa or other grain milks for baking, as they tend to be runnier and already have a sweet flavour. I usually use oat or soy milk, because that’s what I have on hand. Almond and coconut milk are also great, especially for baked goods that need a rich, creamy liquid.
In some instances where the recipe calls for cream, I usually use oat or soy cream.
There’s a wide range of sweeteners out there, with different texture and flavour properties. Traditional sugar can be made from different sources (sugar cane, beet, palm…) and can be refined as in white sugar, or unrefined like thick, black molasses. Which one you choose to use will affect not only the taste but texture as well — finer-grain sugar melts more easily into the dough, and is good for soft, delicate confections. Larger grains are nice for sprinkling on top, for example.
Liquid sweeteners such as agave / date / coconut sugar / rice syrup, pear or apple concentrate (Birnendicksaft or Birnel in German), barley malt and molasses are also great in baking, but tend to make the texture a bit more dense, so work especially well in things like sweet breads, brownies and cookies.
Lastly, dried fruit are a good sweetener: dates are the most popular choice, being more than half sugar, but I also like figs, prunes, raisins and berries. The cookies in the recipe below are entirely sweetened with dates, for example. They have a caramel-y flavour which I love, and I think goes particularly well with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel, like I did when I made these indulgent peanut butter date “cookies” (substituting 1 flax egg).
I call these “cake-ies” rather than cookies because of their soft, cake-like texture. I actually thought while making the dough that if I reduced the flour a bit, they could be a great muffin or cake. They are sweetened only with dates, and made with my gluten-free flour blend of millet, brown rice and Maizena. Another gluten-free flour blend would also work, as would regular wheat flour — you might have to play around a little with the quantities though.
250g chopped dates (or mixture with other dried fruit like prunes, raisins, aronia berries)
60g margarine or coconut oil or 45g olive oil
2 tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 tablespoons water and left for 5 minutes until a gel forms.