Hope you’ve had beautiful weekends so far. New York is balmy and mild today, and I’m enjoying the mellow breeze through my apartment windows right now.
Last week, when I wrote about my spelt cornbread, I mentioned that I’m not a born baker. A true statement, but the last week or two would seem to contradict it. I’ve been making vegan muffins, you see, and while I’m hardly an Ange or a Mama Pea, I think I’ve done a pretty good job! Many readers have written me in the last year and a half, asking for recipes for vegan baked goods, and I’ve never once obliged, so let this be a watershed CR moment: my first baked good recipe. All vegan, naturally, and as healthy as I could make it without sacrificing taste.
That last bit is important: I’m not into overwhelming baking substitution. As a vegan, I already substitute a bunch of stuff: eggs, milk, butter. I also always opt to use healthier flours (spelt, whole grain pastry flour) and sweeteners (brown rice syrup, agave, maple syrup). But I’m not into using stevia in baking; I just don’t like the taste, and moreover, I eat sweets rarely, so when I do eat them I’m happy to enjoy the natural sweeteners that go into them. Therefore, any of you who feel like leaving me nasties in the comments section about how evil agave or brown rice syrup is, try to restrain yourself. Eat sugar moderately, and sanely, and you’ll eat it without remorse.
I’m also happy to bake with oils and Earth Balance; I’m not on a diet, and neither are the special people I enjoy baking for, so the notion of making muffins with only 1.6 grams of fat per serving isn’t important to me. If you are on a diet, keep in mind that most recipes will work if you substitute prune purée or applesauce for about half of the oil – try it, and see what happens!
I was not born a vegan baker. No one is – like any other kind of specialized cooking, vegan baking takes a bit of practice. It’s good to have a mentor, which is why I’m grateful that Isa Chandra Moskowitz exists; it was her cookbooks that first taught me how to make flax eggs, substitute for animal fats, and generally whip up the most amazing vegan baked stuff EVER. Her muffin and scone recipes are illegally good, and if you’re looking for a primer in vegan baking, or just some inspiration, I’d definitely recommend checking out Vegan with a Vengeance. The recipe below—carrot raisin bran muffins—were inspired by the bran muffins and carrot muffins, both from that book; I simply made a few tweaks and combined the recipes into one. The result? Major morning deliciousness, cruelty free.
Carrot Raisin Bran Muffins (makes 12)
1 1/2 cups spelt flour (whole wheat pastry or all purpose will do, too)
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps cinnamon
2 tsps powdered ginger
3/4 cup oat bran
1 cup rice milk
1/3 cup safflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup raisins
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Sift dry ingredients together, and set aside.
3) Mix wet ingredients together, and add to the dry ingredients. Mix till just combined (there should still be little pockets of flour), then add the carrots and raisins and incorporate.
4) Bake for 18-20 minutes (check your oven earlier if it runs hot) in a lined muffin tin. Let cool for as long as you can stand it, and serve!
These are among my favorite muffins ever. They’re sweet, soft, and although they feel definitively treat-like, they also taste and look pretty darn healthy. See?
They’d be a good way to impose orange veggies on kids who don’t like them, too!
I served mine for breakfast at the office this week with a fresh Braeburn apple (new favorite variety!).
…and it was a pair made in heaven. I especially liked putting a little smear of raw almond butter on the muffin!
I enjoyed making these muffins not only because they were tasty, or because it was fun, or because a certain someone enjoyed them as much as I did, but also because it reminded me that old dogs can always learn new kitchen tricks. I may think of myself more as an uncook than cook, and more of a cook than a baker, but that doesn’t mean I shy away from mastering any part of vegan food preparation. Who knows what new skills I’ll have up my sleeve in a year or two?
Do you think of yourself as a baker, or a cook, or both? What’s your favorite kind of cooking, and why do you prefer it? And when’s the last time you went out of your kitchen comfort zone?
See you tomorrow, all. Have a restful Sunday.