Vegan Baking Roundtable

Dale's demo at Vegan Baking Roundtable

Dale’s demo at the Vegan Baking Roundtable

There was pie; there was cake; there were cookies; there was even spanakopita. It was a Vegan Baking Roundtable and it was a blast. The event brought together enthusiasts who were eager to learn baking and decorating tips. As one of the presenters, I offered advice and explanations on baking at high altitude (as I have written about in Why does high altitude affect baking? and Dazzled by Science). I also prepared my Easy Chocolate Cake-Pan Cake which seemed to satisfy the attendees as they nibbled on samples.

The demonstration panel showed everyone how to make vegan baked preparations simple. The class taught us how to (finally) make a good pie crust, how to keep high altitude cakes from deflating, how to wow guests with an easy Greek appetizer, and how to be a kid again in the guise of cake decorating. Failed recipes were discussed with ideas brainstormed on how to fix them. We also ate a. lot. of. sugar. But it all tasted oh-so-good.

This event came about through the generosity of Dale Ball, who has worked with Lynn Halpern of Bleating Hearts Sanctuary on the annual Vegan Dairy Fair. (I have been to these fairs, and next year’s gathering should prove to be as exciting and yummy as those past.) Bakers that day also included members of the Boulder and Beyond Vegan Meetup. This was a group hungry for vegan camaraderie, vegan recipes, and vegan snacks. The roundtable gave us all that, and more.

Baking Bread at High Altitude

breadYeast scares me. When a recipe includes yeast it also includes hours of time until you actually get to eat. Instant gratification is much better. I can go from gathering ingredients for cookies to eating them in less than 1/2 hour. But I understand that many people love the meditative qualities and joy of baking bread. In order to help those bakers out, I have delved into the science of bread baking at high altitude.

According to Taste of Home, “High altitude (over 3,000 feet) affects bread baking because the lower air pressure allows the yeast to rise 25 to 50 percent faster, and the drier air makes the flour drier. If the dough over-rises, the results might be a heavy, dry loaf or misshapen or collapsed loaf.” The lower air pressure and dryness affects all baking but may have a more drastic effect on bread. I would eat a dry chocolate cookie, but dry, leaden bread … never!

Cultures for Health includes other specifics that affect high altitude bread baking, including adjustments to time. Increasing baking time is important. “The amount of extra time depends on the exact elevation. The easiest way to judge when a loaf of bread is finished baking is to use a thin-tipped instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom of the loaf. A temperature of 195°F is a good goal, but temperatures all the way up to 205°F should be fine.”

They mention that proofing time should also be changed. “Rising time decreases as altitude increases. Keep in mind that the longer the rise time, the more complex the flavors will be, usually a desirable goal. Try rising at cooler temperatures and giving the dough a second rise. When the dough has doubled, punch it down and let it double again.”

These all seem like good tips to ensure a beautiful loaf of bread. I’ll stick with quick breads for now, but I’m hoping my favorite taste tester can use these recipes to create his perfect cinnamon roll. I look forward to being his taste tester.

A Love of Baking and Science

baking loveThe other day I was talking to a friend about my favorite past-time – baking. She had heard that baking was very relaxing, almost meditative. She apparently hasn’t watched me bake. I have heard that activities like kneading bread can be very zen-like, but baking vegan at high altitude is very rational and involves lots of math. My friend said she wouldn’t enjoy it, but I reassured her that I do all the hard work and all a reader has to do is follow recipes. She liked that.

This conversation reinforced why I have my blog. I am fascinated with the science of baking and, trust me, baking with multiple substitutions is scientific. But, others are not as intrigued as I am and just want to bake something that looks and tastes good. I get that, but half of the fun for me is the challenge. I. Will. Make. This. Recipe. Work.

There is also the sense of accomplishment when I peek through the oven window and see a baked creation that I fussed over come to life. Sometimes that fussing takes multiple tries, so it is even more rewarding when I finally succeed. And it’s always good to know I haven’t wasted a pile of expensive baking ingredients. (Have you seen the cost of coconut sugar?)

And then there is the look on my husband’s face when he asks for more, especially when it is a recipe that I am not sure will tantalize his taste buds. Like last week’s zucchini bread, for instance. My husband’s idea of dessert is half a tray of brownies. Zucchini bread seemed far too healthy, even though I added chocolate chips for a chocolate fix. Much to my surprise, he was disappointed when I ate the last piece and there was none left for him. So, happily, I go back into the kitchen to make more … all in the name of science and love.