Resolution to Try Baking Healthier

Healthy Baking Resolution

Image courtesy of Carol VanHook at flickr.com

As the year comes to an end, people think about things they should do to improve next year. I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions because they are usually so absolute and stringent – I will exercise every day; I will be nice to people; I will write a best-selling novel. The pressure is incredible and often leads to disappointment. So, instead of making a black-or-white statement, my vow to myself (and to you) is that I will TRY to make healthier food.

When I tell others that I am a vegan baker, they usually respond with, “So it’s healthy, right?” My answer is not what they expect. “Even if it’s vegan it’s still a cupcake.” A cupcake, or cookie, or cake is still a baked treat and not health food. I have tasted healthy baked goods that reminded me more of dog treats, but I know that you can still have a bit of decadence that is somewhat healthier.

In the coming year I will attempt to make baked treats that are healthier. I will look at healthier fats or fat stand-ins when tweaking recipes. I will also include more whole grains, when feasible, and use less refined forms of sugar. And, I will occasionally throw in a veggie or two.

There, I said it. But I consider it a suggestion, not a steadfast rule. And that works for me.

Have a great New Year, and happy baking!

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Chocolate Phyllo Crispies

chocolate phyllo crispiesWhen I first spotted vegan phyllo dough at the market I was very excited. The odd thing is that I’ve never made anything with phyllo or had a desire to use it. My mom made baklava when I was a kid and it seemed way too labor intensive. But, I do love a good vegan baking challenge so I bought a package. After scouring recipes using phyllo, I chose one that sounded relatively simple and looked like a nice snack.

For this recipe I didn’t need to veganize or high altitude it. I figured the experimenting would be the phyllo dough itself as the difficulty would be the correct and quick handling of the dough. The most important thing I learned was to have a partner handy to brush the sheets with oil while you assemble the dish. The dough is finicky and dries out quickly, but having help made it go more smoothly. It also made preparation more fun.

The treat is messy to eat because the phyllo wants to crumble when you take a bite. The best part of this experiment was watching my husband take an entire piece and shove it in his mouth in order to be neater. I wish the illustrating photo could have been of that moment but I was too busy laughing.

Chocolate Phyllo Crispies adapted from Native Foods Celebration Cookbook
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups almonds, roasted and ground
zest of 1/2 an orange
1/4 cup canola oil
12 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted per package directions
Preheat oven to 350F. Chop chocolate into 1/2” pieces and mix in blender with sugar. Combine chocolate mixture in a bowl with almonds and orange zest. Brush bottom of a 9×13” pan with oil. Cut phyllo sheets to fit the pan.
Place a sheet of phyllo brushed with oil in the pan. Sprinkle chocolate-almond mixture lightly over top. Alternate phyllo sheet (with brushed oil), then chocolate, until all phyllo and mixture are used. Cut into squares or triangles with a sharp knife. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Until next time, happy baking!

What the Heck is Aquafaba?

Chickpeas for Aquafaba

Image courtesy of pedrik at flickr.com

Months ago, while searching online for vegan baking inspirations, I stumbled across a reference to Aquafaba. It said that the brine from cooked chickpeas could work as a vegan substitute for eggs. My initial response was, “Huh?” Then followed, “Who even thought that this made sense in the first place?” I realized I needed to explore this idea further and here is what I found.

Joël Roessel, through the testing of various vegetable foams, discovered that the liquid from cooked chickpeas can be whipped into a foam in the same way as flax mucilage. Flax mucilage is an egg substitute of flaxmeal whipped with water, but he found it had limited uses. So, one year ago, Joel posted his discoveries on his blog. Soon after, Goose Wohlt saw a video in which the creators used a whipped chickpea liquid to make chocolate mousse. The recipe was complicated so Goose experimented and found that he could make a vegan meringue with just sugar and the chickpea brine.

The brine, renamed by Goose as Aquafaba, is considered “the liquid drained off a can (or pot) of chickpeas, or other legumes. (Loosely, Latin for water = aqua, bean = faba.)” The word got out on this momentous vegan discovery and a Facebook page, now with almost 33,000 members, was born so that those using the product could share their experiences with it. That is the web page I discovered earlier this year that sent me down the rabbit hole. Most people were trying the product out on meringue because that was Joël’s original use, but I wanted to make cakes. I watched as foodists played with it and I read their recipes and soon Aquafaba took off.

There is now a website dedicated to the stuff. It has been talked about throughout the internet and been showcased in magazines such as Veg News and Vegan Life. As a vegan baker looking for higher protein egg substitutes to work at high altitude, I knew I had to jump on that bandwagon and test it for myself. My last post is about my Candy Cane Chocolate Cake made with Aquafaba. I enjoyed making and eating it but it seemed a tad dense, a problem I suspect was due to the brine. I know that I need to discover new uses for Aquafaba and perfect the old ones when used at high altitude. This will definitely not be my last word on the subject.

Candy Cane Chocolate Cake

candy cane chocolate cakeI have been craving the combination of chocolate and peppermint for weeks. I have also been dying to try baking with the vegan egg substitute called Aquafaba (more on that in a few days). There was a recipe I found a few months ago that used Aquafaba in a chocolate cake. I offered to high altitude it to get my sweets fix, but I swapped out a peppermint frosting to make the lovely holiday pairing of peppermint and chocolate.

The original recipe was gluten-free, but I thought I’d tackle Aquafaba solo in order to test how it works. Maybe I’ll try the cake gluten-free when I feel like wrestling that type of baking. Besides changing the flour, I added flour and liquids for high altitude. The interesting thing I discovered was that the batter seemed thicker like a traditional batter with eggs. The cake was moist and tasty and fantastic with the frosting.

The fire was roaring as I completed the cake so I thought it would be a nice setting for a picture. I learned that fire and frosting don’t play well together. Melted or not, it still tasted great.

The Coconut Sugar and Cacao Powder were provided to me by Navitas Naturals to test in my kitchen. I am not paid to use their products or endorse them.

Candy Cane Chocolate Cake adapted from the Plant Strong Vegan
Cake
6 TBS chickpea liquid (Aquafaba)
2 TBS ground flaxseeds
¾ cup + 1 TBS soymilk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 cup Navitas Naturals Coconut Sugar
⅓ cup Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
Frosting
8 oz. vegan cream cheese
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
crushed candy canes for garnish
Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease and dust with cacao powder a 8×8” pan. In a bowl whisk together Aquafaba and ground flaxseeds. Let sit for 10 minutes. In another bowl whisk together soymilk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cacao powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk until well combined. Add wet ingredients (coconut oil, vanilla extract, milk + apple cider vinegar, Aquafaba + flax) into dry and whisk until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake on center rack for 40 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean with sides of the cake pulling away from pan. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
While cake is cooling, prepare frosting by stirring all ingredients together until smooth. Let chill until needed. Turn cooled cake out onto a cake plate. Frost and garnish. Store leftovers in an air-tight container, in fridge, for up to 4 days.

Until next time, happy baking!