Pax (funcrunch) wrote,

VeganMofo 5: Oil-free baking

Vegan brownies

I love the fact that going vegan did not mean giving up baked goods. Recipes abound for muffins, cookies, cakes, and brownies, all free of animal products. However, many of these yummy treats contain a lot of fat. While I don't mind eating some richer foods when I'm away from home, when I do the cooking, I do not use any oil or margarine. (Except on really special occasions like Thanksgiving.)

My cooking is oil-free, but not fat-free. I get more than enough fat from nuts, seeds, avocados, and soybeans, in addition to the smaller amounts of fat found in nearly all whole plant foods. These foods contain fiber and nutrients that are stripped away in the process of extracting oil. You can read more about why I choose to avoid oil on Dr. John McDougall's site. If you question the wisdom of his advice - and questioning is a very good thing, I never would have become vegan without it - please contact him directly, or post to the forum of Jeff Novick, RD (or his Facebook page) as he also advises avoiding oil, and is very responsive to questions. They're both much better equipped to handle questions and criticism than I am; I have no credentials whatsoever in medicine, nutrition, or cooking, and am simply sharing what works for me.

So, back to oil-free baking! My life changed when we found out about silicone bakeware. This stuff is a miracle; nothing sticks to it, and you don't have to add a drop of oil. (Those "zero-calorie" cooking sprays are a big fat scam; see Jeff Novick's hilarious video on that subject.) We've replaced all of our so-called nonstick bakeware (which rarely was truly nonstick without adding oil) with silicone. We've ordered mostly online; at Amazon you can get muffin tins, cake pans, baking sheets, and more. (I kept two metal baking sheets for putting underneath the silicone ones in the oven.)

If you can't or don't want to buy silicone, lining pans and baking sheets with parchment paper also works pretty well. We used this method before finding out about silicone.

So with the need to grease the bakeware eliminated, the next step is to eliminate the oil and margarine from the recipe. I've found that for recipes calling for up to about 1/3 cup of fat, using an equal amount of applesauce, mashed banana, mashed sweet potato, or soy yogurt provides the appropriate texture. There are also various fat replacers on the market, such as Sunsweet Lighter Bake (which is listed in a number of recent McDougall recipes), but I've had trouble finding these in stores. ETA 10/8: Forgot to mention that canned or cooked and mashed pumpkin, and pureed prunes also work well.

If a recipe calls for a lot of oil and/or margarine, I just move on to something else. Hundreds of oil-free recipes are available online for free, on the sites I mentioned in my VeganMoFo intro post: the McDougall Newsletter, Happy Herbivore, and Fat Free Vegan, with hundreds more available in the McDougall and Happy Herbivore books, amongst others. So there's no shortage of recipes to choose from!

The recipe pictured at the top of this post, lowfat vegan okara brownies, I found just yesterday when searching for recipes using the okara that is a byproduct of making my own soymilk. That recipe did call for two tablespoons of oil, which I replaced by increasing the amount of soy yogurt. The brownies came out absolutely delicious. They do include high-fat chocolate chips, which I try to use sparingly. I reduce fat content in chocolate recipes even further by using Wonderslim cocoa, which is the only "diet" product I buy on a regular basis, solely because I love chocolate so much. (I've found one store that carries it locally.)

Yay for oil-free vegan baking! I'll share recipes for muffins and other baked goods in future posts.
Tags: veganmofo2012

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