No more bland vegan pastry: Big flavours abound in plant-based baking
By Jane Dummer
Finding alternative ingredients for vegan baking has opened up options for development and the opportunity to focus on flavours. The biggest challenge in vegan baking is overcoming the loss of eggs’ functionality, as they provide stable emulsions, structure, stability, and texture.
The innovative discovery of ‘aquafaba’, refers to the liquid in a can of chickpeas. This liquid can be beaten into a meringue creating a vegan egg replacement. Now, we are observing the availability of different commercial lines of egg replacers made from pulses and/or seeds. Also, ingredients like tahini (made from ground sesame seeds) and coconut milk are replacing traditional dairy in recipes, giving short textures and rich buttery flavours to classic baked goods like shortbread.
These improvements have now allowed vegan bakers to focus on taste and flavours. Milène Laoun, founder of Sophie Sucrée Vegan Bakery in Montreal agrees, “We’re mostly concerned with recreating pastry classics and traditional recipes in their most delectable vegan version. We are definitely noticing a trend towards offering savoury flavoured baked goods. Our spinach and ‘feta’ puff pastry is a classic revisited. Spanakopita is a traditional Greek spinach pastry that I always remember Sophie, my grandmother and our namesake, would make for us. It simply had to be part of our offering and it’s one of our most popular choices. Mushrooms seem to be even more popular than ever. We recently did a survey to ask our customers which pizza toppings they’d like to see more of and it was mushrooms all the way!”
Sticking to the savoury side of baking, Amanda Huhn, Owner of Edible Flours Vegan and Specialty Bakery in Vancouver, describes why they invented their spinach artichoke roll, “We created this because of the demand for a savoury lunch items. Since our bakery is very small, we don’t have the capacity to make sandwiches and cold items, so we decided to create a savoury roll. It’s perfect for those customers who come in around lunch not wanting something super sweet. We also have a savoury gluten-free chive and Daiya mozzarella (made from cassava and arrowroot) scone that is very popular.”
From savoury to fruit forward flavours, taste trends in vegan baking are similar to those in traditional baking. Huhn identifies her customers crave local seasonal fruit flavours. However, they have been using mango on occasion. “People usually stick with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. During the summer months, our customers love the flavours of local BC fruit and berries like the ones mentioned as well as blackberries and peaches. Though, we’re noticing orange is something that is becoming more popular too.”
Sophie Sucrée Vegan Bakery uses more local produce flavours with their new quick bread recipes including squash. Laoun explains, “We are experimenting with different varieties of beautiful local squash. Seasonal flavours are what guide us in our creation. We often include florals and herbs into our lines at springtime. We may include subtle notes of rosemary or fennel into our baking as the weather gets warmer. I have a weakness for florals including rose, lavender, and bergamot. I love florals and so do our customers.”
Edible Flours Vegan and Specialty Bakery offers matcha flavouring in their cakes and cupcakes because they have quite a large Asian community in Vancouver. Huhn explains, “We wanted to do something that would cater to their tastes. I believe other customers are definitely starting to veer towards more unusual flavours like matcha, even lavender.”
Thanks to the seasonal flavours of good-for-you ingredients like fruits, vegetables, florals and herbs, plus the use of pulses, seeds and nuts, these new and improved vegan baked goods not only taste scrumptious, but they’ll fuel your body with fibre, vitamins and minerals. Perhaps, the time is now to consider this emerging bakery portfolio.
Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.