Over the past several years, I’ve become increasingly adventurous when it comes to baking: testing the delicate balance of recipe formulation to see just how much sugar I can reduce without the cookie crumbling, what I can add to make something dairy free, egg free or simply more nutritious.
Adjusting baking recipes is challenging, as every ingredient plays a role in the final product — from consistency and texture to taste and colour. Eggs, for example, can provide structure, leavening, richness, colour and flavour to a baked item.
So how do you find a replacement that can provide those same properties, without adding any adverse effect to the final product? Trial and error. While there are several avid bloggers and bakers online who have done the kitchen experiments already and a quick Google search will turn up thousands of gluten-free,
egg-free or vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes, sometimes it’s just not the same as using your own trusted and true recipe.
Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my own kitchen experiments:
“Flax Eggs”: For every egg, whisk 1 tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp water. Let sit 5 minutes and use as directed in recipe. Flax, when whisked with water, becomes thick and gelatinous, similar to an egg. Alternatively, you can use chia seeds in the same ratio as flax and make “chia
eggs.” Flax eggs work well in pancake, waffle, muffin, cookie or snack cake recipes.
Milk: Dairy-based milk is an easy 1:1 swap with any plantbased milk in virtually all baking recipes. Some plant-based milks can contain other allergens, such as nuts or soy, so double check allergies if you’re baking for a large crowd. Pick an unsweetened and unflavoured variety to avoid added sugar or changing the taste of a recipe. Plant milks can also replace buttermilk: simply mix 1 tbsp lemon juice for every 1 cup milk. Some of the most popular plant milks include coconut, soy and almond. Heavy cream, evaporated
milk and butter: These are all really easy 1:1 baking swaps. Coconut cream for heavy cream, canned coconut milk for evaporated milk and dairy-free margarine or coconut oil for butter.
Gluten-Free Baking: Glutenfree flour blends can be challenging, as they don’t have the same density, binding and texture-forming properties as wheat flour. Gluten-free flours react differently in pretty much every recipe, but I suggest making a batch of your own gluten-free all-purpose blend or buying a commercial blend to start, and adjusting recipes as needed. Basic gluten-free flour blend: 4 cups rice flour (brown or white rice), 1 1/3 cups potato starch, 2/3 cups tapioca starch. Blend together and store in a plastic container. For extra binding, add a pinch of xanthan gum (amount will vary depending on the recipe).
You can also try using oat flour in place of regular flour. Simply pulse gluten-free oats in a blender or food processor until a flour forms. Try using half oat flour and half all-purpose gluten-free flour in pancakes, muffin or cookie recipes.
Sugar: In most recipes, you can reduce sugar by 1/3 without any suspicions. If the recipe calls for vanilla extract, cinnamon or nutmeg, increase the quantities slightly to enhance natural sweetness. Another option is to reduce sugar by 3/4 or even remove it altogether and substitute mashed banana (2 large bananas per 1 cup sugar) or applesauce (1:1 ratio).
If you add mashed banana or applesauce, reduce the liquid in a recipe by 2 to 4 tbsp. Dried fruit can also work well in place of sugar: 2/3 cup of dates chopped finely in a food processor can replace 1 cup sugar in a square or brownie.
A 1:1 swap of dairy milk with any plant milk, such as almond milk or coconut milk, is just fine for most baking.