Cooking

Yes, Ve Gan

How to make baked goods without using animal products
Photo: Meghan Uno/Tasting Table
Avocado Coffee Cake

We're going clean in 2016—and not only because it rhymes. Recharge and renew yourself with our favorite healthy recipes.

We discovered the secret to keeping vegan: Make a cake with avocado instead of butter and call it a salad.

Whether it's out of necessity or you're just trying out a new hobby, learn how to make your baked goods vegan without sacrificing any of their flavor.

Butter
Your first plan of attack can be to switch up the fat and use oil or vegetable shortening instead. (No one said vegan baking has to be synonymous with fat free.) For more healthy options, fruit purées, like applesauce and bananas, work well to keep your baked goods moist while adding a bit of natural sweetness.

Akasha Richmond of AKASHA in L.A. makes coffee cake by substituting puréed avocado for the usual sour cream, another ingredient which, like butter, provides alluring fat to a baked good. She says it's perfect for Christmas morning (and not only for its slightly green tint). So we followed her example and baked one for ourselves in our Test Kitchen (see the photo above). Everyone agreed: Sour cream was out of sight, out of mind in the face of the moist, avocado-drunk Bundt.

But since not even smashed avocado can beat plain old butter on a piece of toast, don't fear the power behind sticks of vegan butter. They look the same, taste essentially the same when eaten plain and are nearly irreplaceable in recipes where butter is a major player.

Eggs
Another reason to stock up on legumes: aquafaba. Yes, that could be the strangest word you read today, but it's just the chickpea brine from canned or home-cooked beans that usually gets poured down the drain. Plant-forward pro Tal Ronnen of L.A.'s Crossroads uses it instead of egg whites to make vegan-friendly meringue and macaroons. There's even an Aquafaba Everything group on Facebook that you can join to geek out about the magical bean liquid with other superfans.

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Or you can be like Mark Bittman and make creamy chocolate pudding using silken tofu. It also works like a dream as an egg replacement in custard pies, and you can use it for savory items like egg-free mayo, creamy dips and more.

You may already be aware of chia seeds' thickening properties, which can make a simple set-and-forget breakfast. But Ronnen takes it one step further by hydrating white chia seeds and then blending them at high speed until they reach the consistency of an egg yolk. Not only does the mixture work in a recipe, but it can also be used as an egg wash. To make your own, use one tablespoon of chia seeds to three tablespoons of water for the equivalent of one egg.

Milk
This one is simple. Milk tree nuts for all they're worth to get coconut, cashew and almond milks. Take your pick from the ever-expanding specialty section in the supermarket or try your hand at a homemade version.

Think of it more as an enhancement rather than a substitution: Use a milk that will complement other flavors in the recipe, like in this all-coconut latte. Making buttermilk is the same as usual; add one tablespoon of acid per cup of milk.

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