J.K. found some great cookbooks this summer at Bruised Books, a used bookstore in Pullman, our favorite of which was The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek. While this little gem was humble in appearance, it contained a world of vegan baked goods that were just as delicious as their more normative counterparts, and just as simple to make, even when J.K. took the recipes a step further and made them gluten-free. (Okay, I’m taking the “simple to make” bit as hearsay, since J.K. did all the baking.)
J.K. made brownies, chocolate cookies, lime coconut bars, blueberry muffins and gingerbread from the recipes in this book. With the exception of the lime coconut bars, which were more unusual, these were all reliably delicious versions of standard fare—which is a good thing, and not something we took for granted. In fact, J.K.’s success with these recipes led to her saying “making things vegan is actually really simple” and concluding that vegan baking is “super easy.”
Since every recipe J.K. made was incredibly good, I have full confidence that the more unusual recipes in this cookbook, of which there are many, would be great, too. (Velvet Elvis Cupcakes, Gas Station Pie, Strawberry Cream Pie Puffs, Pear Chocolate Cream Galette, to name just a few.)
J.K.’s most recent brownie-making experience, for a school bake sale, had not gone well. “I’m making this one very slowly,” she said, “because I’m scared.”
With the previous (non-vegan) brownies, when she took the pan out of the oven, the top was separated from the rest by a layer of floating butter, and when she tried to pour the liquidy butter off, the whole thing ended up in the sink. And that was a non-vegan recipe.
This time, however, the brownies held together and were delicious. We debated whether she should label them as vegan for her team bake sale (she didn’t) and they sold out. Nicely, this cookbook has two brownie recipes, a chewy recipe and a cake-like one. J.K. chose the chewy one, “Oh Joe’s Brownies.”
Next up were the Chewy Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies, though J.K. chose not to add the peppermint icing. We brought them with us with a bunch of other food in a cooler when we went to see the solar eclipse in August. She made them gluten-free for my benefit, and they were so good the first day that when I opened the container the next morning and discovered that melting ice water in the cooler had seeped into the cookie container, rendering the remaining cookies a gloopy mushy mess, for a moment I actually considered grabbing a spoon and eating them that way.
Okay, let’s move on. For the blueberry muffins, J.K. substituted coconut yogurt for soy milk, brown sugar for white sugar and frozen blackberries for blueberries, because that was what we had on hand. Verdict: “That’s a good muffin.”
She made the lime coconut bars for my birthday, and they were amazingly good. The gingerbread was also really good.
We both highly recommend this cookbook, only partly because it demystified something that had previously seemed impenetrable. Holechek suggests a variety of replacements for eggs (J.K.’s go-to’s being pumpkin puree, applesauce and coconut yogurt) and makes clear that using plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk is no big deal. As Holechek says in the introduction, this book will help people “kick some serious butt in the kitchen!”
Holechek has written several other cookbooks, and some of her recipes, including many recipes for vegan baked goods, are available on her blog, nomnomnomblog.com.
Meanwhile, Ollie, our bearded dragon, hadn’t gotten to taste-test any of the baked goods, per usual, so when I asked for her comments, she said only, “I’m keeping my cute little mouth shut and not talking to you people.” Then she titled her chin upward, indicating it was time once again for me to give her water from an eye dropper, the only way she would deign to drink.
Chewy Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup baking cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips melted
- 1/2 cup margarine, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 1/4 cup (vegan) milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Peppermint Icing (Optional—see below)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium blow, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream together melted chocolate chips, margarine and sugar until well-combined. Add ground flaxseed, milk and vanilla and mix for 1 minute with an electric hand mixer on low speed. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in batches until fully incorporated.
Scoop teaspoon-sized balls of dough onto baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are set. If you are baking more than one sheet at a time, rotate the sheets halfway through the baking time. Let cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. While cookies are cooling, prepare the (optional) Peppermint Icing below. When cookies are completely cool, spread a thin layer of icing on top. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
4 teaspoons (vegan) milk
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
In a small bowl combine milk, peppermint extract and powdered sugar and stir until smooth. Depending on how you prefer your icing, you may want it thicker, like a glaze, or thinner, like a spreadable icing. Add small splashes of milk to thin the icing or add additional powdered sugar 2 tablespoons at a time to thicken it to desired consistency.
Recipe printed with permission from the publisher: Holechek, Kris. The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2009.