Bread of the Month: Venturing into vegan baking

Vegan muffin01
The mystery of baking makes it very appealing to me. Sure, there is science to explain it all away, but I prefer to think of baking as following a code, a pact, if you will. Created by some alchemist, tested, so that you follow it along in faith, assembling this or that, a list of elements. You put them in the oven and end up with something altogether different than any of those original elements. Science, yes. But magic, certainly.

flour01In my experience as a baker, I long held fast to the notion that most baked goods could not in fact, be created to a successful fruition without certain elements — butter, eggs, milk. My dubiousness of straying from these ingredients has since been suspended. By following tested codes of those who have managed to create deliciousness without certain products, my mind is now open to limitless exploration.

By definition, a Vegan is someone who does not consume or use any animals or products made from animals — no meat, butter, eggs, milk. Several years ago, thumbing through a copy of Veggie Life magazine, I came across some reader recipes of baked goods they had created. A certain vegan blueberry muffin looked completely do-able (some of the other recipes contained unusual flours and oils not readily available). So I thought I would give it a try, though my limited experience at the time with this kind of baking still had me doubting. Could a muffin end up the same with no eggs? Having spent much of my formative years in or near a hen house, I was reluctant to leave that notion behind.

ricemilk01The animal product “replacement” ingredients here are rice milk and olive oil. Bananas (and I have also used applesauce in combination) lend more moisture and binding elements. Besides banana, the sweetening agent here is maple syrup.

With whole wheat flour and fresh blueberries, there was never any question that the muffins would be healthy. But how would they taste? I decided to add my own flavor stamp here — some lemon zest. Lemon, paired with blueberry, a natural combination.berriesmix01

If looks were any indication, these muffins — smelling like heaven by the way — were a big success once I pulled them from the oven. The taste? Moist, juicy with blueberries, nutty with whole wheat flour, just sweet enough, but not too much. My touch of lemon added a little lift. muffinspan01I’ve made the muffins a number of times over the years. I feel proud to serve them, knowing they are so healthy, knowing they successfully follow another pact of a sort. I would not ever doubt such a choice. These muffins are a great way to start the day and a great first step into alternative baking!

Banana Blueberry Muffins
From Veggie Life magazine (2005)
Makes 12 muffins

2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup rice milk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup fresh blueberries
Cooking spray or oil, or paper liners

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray or oil 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, stir together bananas, milk, syrup and oil.

In another bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir dry ingredients into banana mixture, just until moistened. Fold in berries.

Divide muffins among prepared muffin cups and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops spring back when touched lightly. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Bloggers note: Add one teaspoon finely grated lemon zest to wet ingredients. If desired, use one banana and one cup applesauce.

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