Vegan Desserts: the Ultimate Guide to plant-based baking

Vegan Desserts: the Ultimate Guide to plant-based baking

Vegan Desserts: the Ultimate Guide to plant-based baking
21 Jun 2023

From cakes to cookies and everything in between, vegan baking is more popular than ever before! We caught up with Chef Aabhas Jain to talk about the latest trend, how it affects his approach to teaching and the curriculum at École Ducasse India.

Before swapping common ingredients for vegan substitutes, understanding the properties of each element is essential. Since baking originated in Europe and thrived in the Roman Empire, animal-based products feature in most recipes. But replacing eggs, milk or butter with a simple, single ingredient, as many online chefs do, is inaccurate. 

Ousting Eggs

Eggs bring so much to the table when it comes to baking! If they act as emulsifiers in one recipe, they become the binding agent in another, making them tricky to replace. When making a sponge cake, eggs add air and create a light, fluffy structure. In Swiss meringues, egg whites do much more than incorporate air; they stabilize the mixture, form firm peaks, and add a glossy finish once whipped. In a fudgy brownie, they perform a completely different role by hydrating the flour in the batter. Mashed bananas incorporate enough moisture as the same quantity of eggs and make for a healthy substitute too.

Better than Butter

I constantly ask my students at ISH, “What role does this ingredient play in the recipe we are making? In the case of butter, they immediately answer that it adds richness and flavor since it is fat. But a lesser-known fact is that butter can be considered a rising agent for other recipes. To master the art of baking, you must know the science. Understanding the function of each ingredient and how they combine with others to form various mixtures is essential to pastry arts,” says the chef.

As 80% fat, 15% water and 5% milk solids make up butter, you could swap it with applesauce, dairy-free yoghurt, olive oil or bananas. But you need to measure your ingredients wisely since the ratio of fat to water varies in each recipe.

But can everything be replaced?

“Not quite,” says Chef Aabhas. “Some things just cannot be replaced. Like gelatine, for instance! While many use agar-agar instead, it will never give the same flexibility to your Jell-O or any other jelly dessert, for that matter. Made by extracting collagen from the boiled bones of animals, gelatine serves as the thickening agent that gives jelly its distinct wobble. When made with its plant-based substitute, agar-agar, it tends to break when bent and will not jiggle the same either.

Information on the internet often misguides students. While YouTube and Instagram are great for fueling their passion, most online chefs only demonstrate a recipe without explaining the purpose behind the method. At École Ducasse India, we teach students the precise techniques of baking. Instead of mixing butter, sugar and eggs, they learn to combine fat, carbs and protein. This way, they can quickly replace any ingredient and need not reach for their closest cookbook for answers.

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