Is That Cupcake Vegan or Just Butter- and Egg-Free?
October 20, 2011 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Vegan bakeries are churning out increasingly tasty treats. Due to the negative connotations associated with veganism, many of these bakeries are forced to keep their vegan identities on the down low.
posted by reenum (111 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Considering the vegans I've met, I'm not at all surprised. That said, I'll let vegan cookies take over my stomach anytime!
posted by jellywerker at 4:07 PM on October 20, 2011


I don't think most meat-eaters really have a problem with vegan baking. Vegan "BBQ" is where a line will be drawn and a last stand made.
posted by Bwithh at 4:09 PM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have had very good vegan pastry.

Wheat-free stuff still generally tastes like it's made out of very fine sand.
posted by everichon at 4:10 PM on October 20, 2011


Vegan bakers—who eschew milk, eggs, butter, and honey...

Honey? There are vegans who include the handiwork of class Insecta among the verboten?

How do they feel about yeast?
posted by gurple at 4:11 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Honey is made by the toiling of bees. Yeast is fungus, not fauna.
posted by Specklet at 4:13 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honey is made by the toiling of bees.

So is just about everything else except pinenuts.
posted by gurple at 4:15 PM on October 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


Vegan food has vastly improved in palatability over the years. Vegan dogma, not so much.
posted by stenseng at 4:18 PM on October 20, 2011 [24 favorites]


Eating standards that break different kinds of food into simplified categories will always have to deal with what falls in the cracks. And what falls in the cracks can be delicious (if you clean off the stuff it picked up in the crack. Ew.)
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2011


Honey? There are vegans who include the handiwork of class Insecta among the verboten?

Honey hurts more than just bees. It hurts egg-laying hens, crammed in battery cages so small they can’t spread their wings. It hurts mother pigs, languishing for months in steel crates so narrow they can’t turn around. And the billions of aquatic animals who, pulled from filthy aquaculture farms, suffocate to death. All because honey hurts our movement.
posted by Bwithh at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


That said, I'll let vegan cookies take over my stomach anytime!

I accidentally bought a vegan chocolate chip cookie at a deli once. It was awful. But, while I have no interest in going vegan, I'd happily be proved wrong about taste.
posted by jonmc at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2011


I am opening my vegan bakery in spring 2012 and my original slogan involved mentioning being vegan, but after meeting with the superawesome owner of Auntie Loo's (Eastern Ontario's only all-vegan bakery), I was advised not to for the very same reasons brought up in that article.

I mean, I get it. Before becoming fully vegan, I was always turned off by my friends who were and how they touted their "hardcore vegan lifestyle" and never turned down the chance to bring up animal cruelty. I mean, I liked the food, but didn't drink the Kool-Aid.

So now I've had to switch gears with marketing because while people who are vegan "get it," as it were, people who aren't feel as though you have an agenda to push. (I like the soft sell, admittedly, so I am okay with this.) And in opening a vegan bakery in very very very Francophone Quebec, where meat isn't just a meal, it's a lifestyle, I gotta tread pretty carefully if I want my business to succeed.

It sucks, yes, but perhaps one day it won't.
posted by Kitteh at 4:19 PM on October 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


Vegan food has vastly improved in palatability over the years. Vegan dogma, not so much.

That's the one with raisins and cinnamon, right? I haven't had a good vegan dogma in years.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:20 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I read "Middle America is turned off by vegans," Ms. Scheinbach says. as "Middle Earth is turned off by vegans", and it took me a good minute to puzzle out why anyone would make such a weird statement.
posted by Zophi at 4:21 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like to think that the vegan bakers have an elaborate handkerchief color key to tout their ingredients.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:22 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Occasionally I get a cupcake from the Hey Cupcake trailer at the (food) trailer park on South Congress. The last time I did this, I got a vegan cupcake because it was lemon-raspberry and YUM. The folks in the trailer asked "you know that's vegan and you're OK with that, right?" like it was inferior, but it was honestly a better product. It was tasty and moist, made in a smaller, more reasonable portion, and the quantity of icing was more reasonable compared to the cupcake (it wasn't a dry cake moistened by tons of icing).

I am not a vegan--in fact, I'm a hardcore carnivore--but I am sold on vegan cupcakes.
posted by immlass at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


That was in response to the OP: "many of these bakeries are forced to keep their vegan identities on the down low."
posted by filthy light thief at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, I have had some wonderful vegan food in my life, but there is also a hell of a lot of gritty brown rice beet sugar bean pasty wet heavy lumpen ugliness that gets handed over by well-meaning people with the beatific Mona Lisa smile of the freshly converted to the tune of "it's just as good as, if not better" when man, oh man, it is not better by a ding-danged long shot. I find the best pleasures in the vegan arena come from those things that are just what they are, not the products of ingenious imitation proffered with the aforementioned ethical glow.

Vegan whoopie pies, though, are successful because they're essentially impersonating a food that was barely within the realm of food to begin with, while vegan lasagna, on the other hand, rarely hits the mark.

That said, I'm always amused by the vegan opposition to honey. My bees, who have all been running roughshod over me all summer, live in a lovely, chemical free handmade top bar home in a place filled with gorgeous, juicy blossoms, they have never, ever been smoked, I don't force them to work on those obnoxious Langstroth plastic foundation combs, I feed them in preparation for the winter, and essentially only ask for a quart or two of honey in return for these ideal accommodations. My friends are disappointed that I don't shower them in honey, but my girls and I have an understanding. I'm hardly a slave-owner.
posted by sonascope at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2011 [26 favorites]


Honey is made by the toiling of bees.

So is just about everything else except pinenuts.


Oh I'm with you, gurple. If I were vegan I would still eat honey. The article Bwithh linked to sums it up.
posted by Specklet at 4:23 PM on October 20, 2011


(I try to eschew honey not because of the toil of the bees but because of all the extra bees that die in industrial honey production. I am not a jerk about it because I recognize that almonds and blueberries, which I eat, are fertilized by mobile bee-keeping operations which also kill a lot of animals. As I've written elsewhere, some vegans feel that animal autonomy is the important thing - no pets, no use of directly-animal-created stuff - while others feel that animal suffering is the main issue. Thus, some vegans would eat eggs if they came from happy pet chickens.

I figure that stealth veganism is a great way to 1. make non-stealth veganism more, er, palatable and 2. reduce total demand for dairy and eggs by normalizing vegan recipes.

Also, you may well know lots of non-asshole vegans. It's just that we don't discuss our dietary habits with you unless it's appropriate.
posted by Frowner at 4:24 PM on October 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


(And you can actually make delicious vegan lasagna - but it's vital that you do not imitate cheese. Think about things like squash-filled ravioli for a starting point. And you can make very good white sauce using an almond milk base, bay, olive oil, nutmeg and a few other seasonings. You top it with white sauce and a sort of deluxe gratin.)
posted by Frowner at 4:26 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I accidentally bought a vegan chocolate chip cookie at a deli once. It was awful. But, while I have no interest in going vegan, I'd happily be proved wrong about taste.

That deli was doing it wrong then, that's a shame because vegan chocolate chip cookies are really easy to make and can be delicious. Come down to Richmond, VA some time and I'll bake you an entire batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies that will knock your socks off.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:26 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Middle America is turned off by vegans

Not soybean farmers! And, lemme tell you, there are A LOT of soybean farmers.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:26 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, I'm neither vegan nor vegetarian, with no plans to become so, but I'd like to state for the record that no vegan I've ever met has been the tiniest bit judgy about my omnivorousness, and any impressions I may have had to the contrary were entirely in my own head.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:27 PM on October 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


As a vegan...yep, sounds about right. Many omnivores don't care about other people's eating habits, many others are mildly prejudiced but keep it polite, but there's a certain minority that froths at the mouth at the syllable "veg." My favorite so far is the woman who cornered my (omnivorous) husband at a party to explain how veganism always traces back to "daddy issues" and someday he would learn some deep, dark secrets about me.

Vegan food, like all food, has both tasty and its not-tasty instances. These cupcakes are better than anything I've had in a professional bakery. Specifically, the tiramisu ones: sugar and kahlua and espresso, oh my! There is no drunkness like cupcake-induced drunkenness.
posted by orangejenny at 4:28 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't get why everybody thinks that vegan food is automatically made entirely of Stereotypical Vegan Ingredients. Plenty of the things that go into food eaten by omnivores are not animal products.

Now I want a vegan cinnamon roll. Did you know cinnamon is vegan?
posted by madcaptenor at 4:29 PM on October 20, 2011


Also, you may well know lots of non-asshole vegans.

I know several, and they don't give me any grief about my carnivorous ways.
posted by jonmc at 4:29 PM on October 20, 2011


I make a lot of vegan gluten-free desserts for various events around town (in case anyone is interested) and seriously, I've never baked a successful gluten-free cake. I know it's possible, but it isn't easy with current baking knowledge and materials. I recommend coconut-based puddings, poached fruit in syrup, and various kinds of nut brittle/coconut brittle, all of which have proved very popular.
posted by Frowner at 4:30 PM on October 20, 2011


Also, I admit that I do love proseletyzing about the deliciousness of many vegan dishes. I will not impugn your pork-eating ways, no, but I will talk your ear off about vegan turnovers.
posted by Frowner at 4:33 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


man is it even possible to make gluten-free zucchini bread i have anxieties about this
posted by beefetish at 4:34 PM on October 20, 2011


Yeah I have to admit i would never risk buying from a vegan bakery. I mean guaranteed delicious bakery vs unknown maybe delicious, maybe god awful, bakery. I risk walking away unhappy with a gross $5 cupcake. And on the rare occasion I shell out for a $5 cupcake that cupcake better rock my world. No room for error in this cupcake equation.
posted by whoaali at 4:34 PM on October 20, 2011


Vegan cupcakes can be good or they can be bad, but all-beef cupcakes are uniformly atrocious.
posted by gurple at 4:38 PM on October 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Vegan cupcakes are a godsend to us lactose intolerant folks. The good ones are exquisite and in no way inferior to regular cupcakes. But the bad ones reach new and hitherto unexplored realms of badness.
posted by elizardbits at 4:39 PM on October 20, 2011


also you know what the best and also sometimes the worst is, is vegan cheesecake.
posted by beefetish at 4:40 PM on October 20, 2011


also you know what the best and also sometimes the worst is, is vegan cheesecake.

You know, I actually had some vegan cheesecake once and it was good. Though I'm a vegan, vegan cheesecake goes against everything I believe about the possibilities inherent in vegan food, so I was very surprised. No idea how they made it.
posted by Frowner at 4:42 PM on October 20, 2011


A bad muffin is still a muffin, but a bad vegan muffin tastes like bean paste and sand. And I'm not a gambling man.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:43 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think one thing I'd love to see is more vegan stuff that isn't junk food. We've got lovely pastries, lovely cupcakes (Well, I hear they're lovely, but I find cupcakes to be an annoying food fad/horrible childhood flashback that just takes me retrograde to the dry moment of recollection I'd always get eating those damn things in the fellowship hall at church), lovely rolls, lovely chocolate, lovely sugar sugar sugar fat fat sugar fat sugary starchy fat-fat. As a lover of savory things, I'd enjoy some convincing from a more robust starting point, because too many of the vegans that run in my circles live off the junk stuff.

In my last long stretch of vegetarianism, I actually perfected a masterful stand-in for my beloved scrapple that used smoked provolone as a secret ingredient, but it was about as marketable a concept as electronic bluegrass or hip Christianity—guaranteed to disappoint all sides. Was good, though, and I'd be curious if there'd be a way to make a vegan rendition, just because I'd find the engineering process interesting.
posted by sonascope at 4:43 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


but there's a certain minority that froths at the mouth at the syllable "veg.

Some do this for "vag", but in a good way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:46 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it odd there are so many vegan bakeries compared to restaurants. Id be far more likely to try the vegan restaurant as a healthy option, but if I'm going to the bakery I'm not trying to be healthy obviously.
posted by whoaali at 4:47 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't eat a lot of vegan baked goods because 99% of the time it tastes terrible, and I've only got like 50, 60 years tops, left to eat things.

I would love to be wrong, I am ready to be wrong, but I haven't ever had a vegan version of something, where the original wouldn't have tasted better. The stuff that does work is, shockingly, the dishes that aren't trying to replicate a recipe that normally calls for non-vegan ingredients.

The world is so ready for some original vegan food, rather than an egg and flour free "cake". We have the technology. We should be making some crazy ass kiwi-celery gel suspension dredged in a rhubarb foam set atop a bed of sponged barley or something.
posted by danny the boy at 4:49 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


A lot of the cookies in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar are AMAZING. And I say this as an omnivore.

I got during a quest to find an actual pumpkin brownie recipe that mixes pumpkin and chocolate (which I thought would be inherent to the concept of pumpkin brownie, but apparently not). I've made the crinkles, the snickerdoodles, the Mexican chocolate cookies, the CITRUS GLITTERS, and other wonderful concoctions, including, of course the pumpkin brownies.

As with any cookbook, some stuff appeals more than others, but the citrus glitters are some of the best cookies I've ever made, particularly when I use local key limes and oranges.

Drat. Now I want to bake cookies.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 4:55 PM on October 20, 2011


Vegan baking is actually really amazing when it's done right. "What do you mean there's no butter in this!? How!?"

Just last week I made a vegan apple crisp/crumble that even jonmc would eat and ask for more, if I didn't eat the whole damn thing myself. I had a lot of apples and oats that needed eating, and not much else. No brainer, that.

And I don't think I've had anyone vegan or vegetarian preach at me since I was in high school. Even when my vegan friends treat me to dinner they never even blink an eye if I order something carnivorous myself, but often I'm eating what they're eating because it's delicious.

Fried tofu in a pad thai is amazing if they know how to properly fry tofu. There's also the Highline Cafe on Broadway here in Seattle that does vegan bar food or junk food. BBQ pork sandwiches, Reubens, even a french dip and a pastrami - all vegan and every last one of them is delicious and leaves you full. (See also Honey Hole on Pike, which does both vegan and carnivore sandwiches.)
posted by loquacious at 4:56 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think one thing I'd love to see is more vegan stuff that isn't junk food.

Honestly, I think that there's so much publicity about vegan junk food for two reasons: First, there is still a perception that food without meat or dairy is necessarily joyless and puritanical; and second, because most vegans (at least all the ones I've ever known) eat really soberly and healthily on a day to day basis. I'm a little bit of a junk-food vegan when I get stressed, and I even I eat lots more vegetables, lower-fat stuff, etc than the American norm. So when I go out on the town, I want biscuits and gravy and hash browns, or deep-fried tofu or something.
posted by Frowner at 4:59 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, good vegan baking is a really great way to demonstrate that vegan food doesn't have to suck. It's a great way to convert people and make them question their assumptions about vegan food.
posted by loquacious at 5:01 PM on October 20, 2011


Let me praise Wildflour Bakery in Providence, RI. Everything I have had there is awesome, and I am a fairly picky pastry person.

As for I don't eat a lot of vegan baked goods because 99% of the time it tastes terrible, 99% of pastries in the US are terrible. I have given up on doughnuts entirely, because, while there are good doughnuts out there, there are vanishingly hard to find. And good luck getting a scone that isn't either bone dry or nasty in some other way. It's tragic, really.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:03 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since my doctor ordered me onto a yeast-free diet I've been exploring a lot of sugar/dairy/gluten/allergen-free food blogs, which have a fair amount of overlap with vegan food blogs. Given that I was pointed towards this recipe by a fellow MeFite, it seems only fair that I pass on this link to a black bean chocolate cake. Sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and as I can personally attest, freaking delicious (if consumed immediately the frosting is a smidge bitter, but after a day or so it mellows and gets both sweeter and more flavorful).

(beefetish, if you're reading this the same blog has a recipe for gluten-free chocolate zucchini bread, though I haven't tried it myself.)
posted by bettafish at 5:11 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've got a GREAT idea for a tv show. We'll get the best examples of vegan and regular pastries, put them side by side and I will EAT THEM. Then I will pick my favorite. Winning bakeries will get a sticker with my smiling face to display proudly in their window, losers will get eaten by my assistant judge.
posted by danny the boy at 5:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


My roommates and I are about the opposite of vegans, but there is this raw vegan bakery in Williamsburg called Rockin Raw that we love. We don't eat there because it's vegan, we eat there because it's delicious and gluten/soy/processed-food-free. The best are the cinnamon rolls. I think they taste almost exactly like the real thing, which is quite incredible since they are made from basically coconut, buckwheat, raisins, and cinnamon.

I also love these raw vegan Hail Merry pies that some Whole Foods stores stock. They are really decadent without being too sugary. I've tried all the flavors and my favorite is the key lime, but the chocolate mint is amazing too.

I was a raw vegan for awhile and definitely didn't quit because things tasted bad. If I could live on Hail Merry pies, I would. I also love the Fine & Raw ice cream sold at the Park Slope coop and some other random places. It's silky and rich.

I'm not a fan of Babycakes though. I find their stuff is cloying and mealy.
posted by melissam at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2011


Vegan baking has been around a long time. There are scads of Depression-era recipes that don't use milk or eggs, because they were expensive. When you start to try to make them healthy is when you run into texture and taste problems, though I don't think it's inevitable.

My favorite commercial vegan cookies are Uncle Eddies. Yum!
posted by annsunny at 5:16 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're not vegans, but we (and by that I mean gingerbeer) make a couple kinds of killer vegan pie. One is chocolate and one is ginger creme. The actual vegans who come to our house for dinner or whatever end up having to fight the omnivores for these pies.
posted by rtha at 5:18 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am the most commited carnivore on the block but damn when Vegan stuff is good it is very very very good. It's just so freakin' clever.
posted by The Whelk at 5:19 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


My local grocery stocks a phenomenally good vegan carrot cake. It's brainmeltingly craveworthy no matter what dietary spectrum you align yourself to.
posted by the painkiller at 5:23 PM on October 20, 2011


melissam: wait... how exactly does one have a raw bakery? Wouldn't the baking make everything, well, cooked?
posted by selenized at 5:32 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think one thing I'd love to see is more vegan stuff that isn't junk food.

I think non-junk food is more likely to be incidentally vegan -- that is, it's vegan because it just happens to have no animal products in it, not because someone deliberately avoided putting animal products in it.

(This is why you don't hear people talking about, say, vegetarian desserts. Most desserts don't include meat.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:41 PM on October 20, 2011


How do they feel about yeast?

I know right? And what about that one time that vegan got angry at an ant? HYPOCRITES!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:56 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm no longer a vegan, and I still think that the Charlie Brown from Sweet Pea is about the best goddamned brownie thing I've ever had. Note: not best vegan brownie thing, best brownie thing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:04 PM on October 20, 2011


I'd really like to know how vegans managed to make so many people think such a powerless minority was Killing The American Way or whatever, because I'd love to turn that technique around on groups that really are hurting the world.

Guess what? People who don't like to eat meat are really the least of the world's problems.
posted by DU at 6:09 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think many of the short tempers surrounding veganism flare because quite a lot of people are introduced to it by people of college age and younger; whether fervidly embracing or angrily rejecting veganism, children aren't often any good at digesting moral issues without seeming didactic and contentious.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:53 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vegan baked goods are an affront to food. And I'm not even really sure why this is. I've had plenty of vegan food that's perfectly good. I've been to vegan restaurants from NYC to SF and had excellent meals. But their baked goods? Feh! It's like when you're a kid and some other kid's hippie mom gives you carob and tells you it's chocolate. Yuck! I mean, I guess if I were vegan, I'd be happy for anything that approximated a baked good. But some of us have higher standards for food, and the fact is that baked goods are god's own perfect food, and anything that falls short of that is a sacrilege. Ew ew ew rough textured no-goodness with vegan earthshit that's never the right flavor YUCK. Vegan baked goods DO. NOT. WANT.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:08 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


For a long time, I've tended to snark that "vegan baker" is an oxymoron...

I think a lot of the flavour/texture failures people have experienced with vegan foods, especially in baked goods, have to do with the attempt to replicate a) the flavour-carrying and textural capacity of butter (i.e., its ability to combine with flour to produce light, airy, fluffy or flaky textures), and b) the elasticity of the proteins in gluten. There just aren't good vegan analogues for these ingredients, ones which can produce the same results easily. My advice to vegan bakers has to be: stop wasting your time trying to imitate that which can't be. Work with what you got.

Butter, while having a somewhat distinct flavour, is nonetheless neutral enough (as compared to the assertive flavour of its closest vegetable analogue, coconut oil, also a saturated oil) to blend well with any of a variety of flavours one chooses to have it carry. (In the refresher (for me) nutrition course I took to fulfill a science requirement for the degree I got recently, the prof repeatedly emphasized that what flavour, or at least any *palatable* flavour, you experience while eating food is carried by lipids, and not by the carbs or amino acids. Thus, any truly 100% lean meat would be tasteless, and we all know what a crime against nature skim milk is. Fortunately, most whole foods contain lipids of some sort, but many are rather short of them and thus need supplementing with oils of some sort to overcome their inherent blandness. Another of the problems with some vegan baking arises from its being attempted without any oils.) It's also very difficult to get a good texture to baked goods using poly- or mono-unsaturated oils (sunflower, safflower, soy, etc. for the former, and canola or olive for the latter.) Only coconut oil, being saturated, has the chemical structure (similar enough, although its chains are quite a bit shorter than butter's or lard's) to blend well with flour and produce the right textures. One can try to use hydrogenated fats, which work almost as well as butter, (i.e. margarine or Crisco*, usually poly-unsaturated fats that have had hydrogen atoms added to their open places), but the drawback there is the frequent creation of trans-fats in the hydrogenation process: lipid chains with molecular groupings at those artificlally-saturated junctions which have been transposed in position from where they're normally found in naturally occurring saturated fats - and we've seen much documentation, as of late, of the health problems that result from eating trans-fats. You might as well eat butter, if you're going to eat hydrogenated fats. (*Here in Montreal there's a Jewish bakery, Cheskie's, beloved of some vegans, which uses Crisco in its goods. I'd tried their wares before I knew that, but then a Quebecois pal hipped me to that unfortunate fact (I did confirm it independently), and basically said, may as well go to any good French patisserie instead, which will of course use butter.)

Gluten's elasticity is impossible to recreate without adding some similar protein (like eggs) of animal origin to the flour; I've yet to hear of any other vegetable protein which has this crucial quality. Thus, gluten-free breads will always tend to be bricks, and all the gluten free pastas I've ever tried have to be cooked very carefully to avoid quickly turning to mush, and they'll never have that al dente springiness and resistance that any good gluten-rich flour (especially a hard durum wheat) gives you.

It's a shame, really, because gluten protein is one of the better sources of protein for vegans, and the current fad of declaring that one is sensitive to gluten (usually a self-diagnosis, I've noticed) is really kind of insulting to the people who really can't eat gluten (celiac disease sufferers), as well as unnecessarily self-limiting. Actual gluten intolerance is far less common than, let's say, lactose intolerance (which is more common because there are large parts of the human genome originating in parts of the world which rarely or never milked their domestic animals, and thus the mutation that allowed some people (i.e., people in the Indo-European cultural areas) to continue to be able to digest milk past early childhood never took hold in those parts of the world.)

One problem lurking behind some of the sometimes too-self-limiting choices that some vegans make, which can lead to a diminished ingredient list for baking among other things, is that they go into veganism with only the most vague knowledge of nutrition.

Thus, they sometimes endanger their health by, for example, saying, oh, there's protein in everything!, not being aware that, while, yes, that's technically true, the useful amounts vary a great deal from food to food, and you need to be aware of things like the 19 (yes, 19; it used to be thought there were 18) essential amino acids and which groups contain which, so you can get the complete mix over the course of a day.

What's ironic is that an omnivore, by eating animal products along with a good mix of fruits and veggies, can get through life with a great deal more ignorance about protein nutrition than can a vegan, since most animal protein sources contain the complete mix of the essential 19. An omnivore doesn't have to think about amino acid balancing; a vegan does.

To be a vegetarian or vegan requires a bit more grounding in science, yet a lot of the kids I see tend to be more of the alt-med, new age-ish "oh, science is just another religion, man!" sort. You can organize your diet around Ayurvedic or yin-yang principles all you want; but if your cells need lysine and you aren't eating it, they will malfunction nonetheless. Veganism is perfectly sound as a dietary philosophy, but it's still subject to the way reality works. I remember the vegetarian basketball player Bill Walton's comment, "There's nothing magical about meat"; absolutely true, in the sense that "magical" means "essential": all the amino acids present in meat can be found from vegetable sources. Soy and quinoa are about the only ones that contain all the essential 19, yet I still run into vegans who aren't aware that that's what's so good about those foods, and whose attitudes in general are rampant with alarmingly magical thinking. You can get away with a lot of abuse of your biochemistry when you're young, your body can get away with cannibalizing its muscle tissues for necessary proteins for a while, but it's not sustainable in the long run. Veganism purports to be a more aware way of dealing with food, and many vegans are admirably aware; what worries me is the number of young vegans I've met who aren't aware enough of the biochemical realities of it.

btw, I make a killer vegan lentil soup; with generous amounts of olive oil and my own idiosyncratic blend of herbs and spices. It only occurred to me years after I'd been making it that it, and much else that I often cook, qualified as vegan.
posted by Philofacts at 7:13 PM on October 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Vegan cupcakes can be good or they can be bad, but all-beef cupcakes are uniformly atrocious - gurple

I have to disagree. The Meatloaf Bakery in Chicago sells...all-beef, cupcake-shaped meatloaf that is very good. They even have a food truck.

My wife and I have given a certain vegan bakery more than a few tries to impress us with their baked goods. They have failed. Each and every time.
posted by photovox at 7:17 PM on October 20, 2011


I've had pretty good luck with the Babycakes cookbook. It's vegan and also mostly gluten-free, which comes in handy when I need such things.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 7:19 PM on October 20, 2011


Philofacts, why is your scrutiny reserved for young vegans? Last time I checked, most young people, vegan or not, know fuck all about nutrition and eat like shit.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:31 PM on October 20, 2011


First of all, it's reserved (only here) for young vegans because veganism is the general subject under discussion here.

Of course most young people eat like shit; the point here is that veganism purports to be (and really is) about NOT eating like shit, among other things, and thus there's an irony there that's not present in non-vegan eating practices. If someone's going to declare themselves vegan, and thus implicitly (and often not-so-implicitly, as we've often seen) claim the moral high ground, then they're voluntarily subjecting themselves to a higher standard by which to be judged.
posted by Philofacts at 7:43 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


(That standard includes standards of scientific rigour, too. Science is veganism's friend, really, but too many young vegans are tragically anti-science.)
posted by Philofacts at 7:46 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Philofacts: gluten is vegan; gluten-free and vegan are unrelated. (Though you do tend to find both in health food stores.)

Seconding the recommendations for, well, basically any cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, Veganomicon, Vegan Brunch, Vegan with a Vengeance). I am not vegan, and she is still my favorite cookbook author.
posted by eviemath at 7:48 PM on October 20, 2011


iven that I was pointed towards this recipe by a fellow MeFite, it seems only fair that I pass on this link to a black bean chocolate cake. Sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free

I was curious to see a sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free cake recipe. First of all it is not vegan (I realize you did not make that claim but we are talking about vegan recipes) because it has eggs. Second it is only dairy-free if you opt to replace the butter with coconut oil. Third it is only sugar-free if you opt to use artificial sweetners. I might try a black bean cake sometime just for fun but I most certainly would not use artificial sweetners and I would use butter.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I don't like cupcakes. I go to bakerys for bread and occasionally cookies. Vegan bread would be fine, but I'll pass on butter-free cookies, so if the bakery is Vegan I wish I was told that fact up front.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:51 PM on October 20, 2011


Also, I agree with GenjiandProust: there are just an awful lot of bad baked goods out there in general.
posted by eviemath at 7:53 PM on October 20, 2011


Philofacts: gluten is vegan; gluten-free and vegan are unrelated.

Yeah, I was quite aware of that, but I guess I didn't phrase my discussion well enough to make it clear that I was. (You'll note I mentioned that it's one of the better sources of protein for vegans.)

The no-gluten thing is a free-rider phenomenon on veganism, for reasons not entirely clear, but probably stems from the same faddish, vague understanding of nutrition I decry above, and since it's so adamantly adhered to by so many vegan bakeries, in some "we want to be as inclusive as possible so we allow for those [mythical] millions of people among vegans who are also allergic to gluten!" way, I'd rather just say to them, "OK, OK, no gluten, then, even though it's vegan, as well as no butter, which of course isn't - but just accept the fact that you're never going to get the same results as conventional bakers without those."

It really is too bad, because they could be making much better breads, at least.

And my advice to all those vegans who are self-diagnosing as "gluten-sensitive" because they read something somewhere, were told by a friend that they might be, or their naturopath or chiropractor recommended they cut out gluten: Jeezis H. Fuckin' Christ! Go to a real doctor and get tested for celiac disease if you really think you have such a condition. Chances are that if you do have it you will already be suffering from severe weight loss (which, yes, could have other causes, too, hence: see a real doctor!), since what happens with gluten-aggravated celiac disease is that your gut's ability to absorb nutrients is severely compromised. The disease damages the lining of your intestines.
posted by Philofacts at 8:14 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


To me veganism is like any other personal lifestyle decision; I don't care about it. You're a babtist? Great. I don't care. You're a furry? I don't care. You've decided to stop masturbating? I don't care. None of those conversations should involve me.

I don't mind whether or not vegan bakeries announce their status. If their products are good enough to stand on their own merits, then kudos to them.

What I think is really cool is the food science and experimentation behind some of the newer generation vegan food. Uses of adzuki beans for fudginess, mimicking the properties of eggs through flax goop, coagulating soy/coconut milk with acids etc. That's cool. Anything that leads to new cooking techniques is ok with me. No reason why non vegan cooks couldn't take these techniques to improve some of their own food. I've used the old applesauce in muffins and cakes trick. It really does make some of of baked goods better.

That being said, I'm with Philofacts on some things. Butter and eggs are really really useful for cooking. You're definitely fighting an uphill battle when you choose the eschew them.
posted by Telf at 8:25 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Telf, the key is that these newer methods are basically using a scientific approach: experiment, test, determine what the desirable qualities you're after are, and what foods or derivations of those foods (flax goop) might have them, work with the known chemical properties of food (baking IS a heat-enable chemical process, after all), and repeat 'til you're satisfied!

I do hold out hope that someone might be able to remove the coconut flavour from the oil and make it more generally (neutrally) useful. No idea if that's at all possible without some undesirable Dupont/Monsanto approach.

Until then, I do find it hard to think of living without any butter in my diet. Flaky crusts... Croissants...

But gluten? Just use it already! (I'm a big fan of the concentrated gluten food known as seitan, btw. I've also made my own veggie burger mix from gluten flour and besan (the Indian grocery name for chickpea flour), a bit of olive oil, plus an ever-changing experimental mix of herbs, spices, & veggies.)
posted by Philofacts at 8:50 PM on October 20, 2011


Count me as another person who eyes vegan baked goods with suspicion. I've had some truly delicious vegan meals, but vegan baked goods...not so much. Some seriously awful textures there, and I agree that vegan (and gluten-free) baking should generally stop trying to replicate non-vegan baking. It only leads to disappointment.

That said, has anyone else tried Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles? They're vegan, and apparently free of the "eight most common allergens," and absolutely delicious. They have a little of that fine sandy texture thing going, but they are so perfectly soft and chewy, I don't care. I'm tempted to try to recreate them myself in case TJ's discontinues them, but the ingredients seem a little too esoteric and potentially expensive to waste on a lot of experimenting.
posted by yasaman at 8:54 PM on October 20, 2011


And my advice to all those vegans who are self-diagnosing as "gluten-sensitive" because they read something somewhere, were told by a friend that they might be, or their naturopath or chiropractor recommended they cut out gluten: Jeezis H. Fuckin' Christ! Go to a real doctor and get tested for celiac disease if you really think you have such a condition. Chances are that if you do have it you will already be suffering from severe weight loss (which, yes, could have other causes, too, hence: see a real doctor!), since what happens with gluten-aggravated celiac disease is that your gut's ability to absorb nutrients is severely compromised. The disease damages the lining of your intestines.

Sorry, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a legitimate medical condition. It is extremely difficult to diagnose. Elimination diets are one of the few ways. There are other gluten-related health problems as well such as eosinophilic esophagitis.

That's why telling people their food sensitivity is a fad is quite well... insensitive. Celiac is very bad and people should indeed be tested, but gluten sensitivity can be quite dangerous as well. I think a lot of vegans realize they are gluten-sensitive because being a vegan requires you to be more aware of your food intake and when I was vegan it made me very aware that gluten screwed up my health.
posted by melissam at 9:03 PM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yup, it's the butter/shortening problem. I've baked with both and even that atrocious "butter flavor" Crisco neither acts or tastes like the real deal. It has a different melt point which is sometimes an advantage in pastry, but better off just keeping your butter super cold while working it.

Crucially, butter contains moisture as well as fat and this lets it do stuff that oil alone could not do. You can't cream oil with sugar to start cookies. You can't get the separation between layers in a true croissant with shortening (that's why only real butter croissants actually flake apart instead of being doughy masses). I LOVE vegan coconut milk ice cream, because it has fabulous texture and taste all on its own and actually improves over most dairy based coconut ice cream. But if it has butter in any great quantity, and it's a baked good, you're probably not fooling me. I might like it anyway, but there is no substitute for butter, full stop.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:19 PM on October 20, 2011


I think one thing I'd love to see is more vegan stuff that isn't junk food. We've got lovely pastries, lovely cupcakes (Well, I hear they're lovely, but I find cupcakes to be an annoying food fad/horrible childhood flashback that just takes me retrograde to the dry moment of recollection I'd always get eating those damn things in the fellowship hall at church), lovely rolls, lovely chocolate, lovely sugar sugar sugar fat fat sugar fat sugary starchy fat-fat. As a lover of savory things, I'd enjoy some convincing from a more robust starting point, because too many of the vegans that run in my circles live off the junk stuff.

Every veg**an I've known has lived off Boca Burgers, fries, bread, faux cheese pizza, pastries etc. I know eating out as a vegetarian, my choices were often a big plate of starches and if I was lucky a half-decent salad. I think the vegan baking thing is because a high carb diet like this makes you crazy for more sugar. It being "vegan" gives it the veneer of health even though it's basically sugar, starch, sugar and more sugar.

But, hey, more power to you if that's what you choose.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 9:41 PM on October 20, 2011


Dear god, I've known so many fat vegans and vegetarians. Not quite sterling exemplars of their ethos.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:47 PM on October 20, 2011


Oh good, so fat vegans and vegetarians get judged more in addition to the judgement and shaming they already get from everyone else? Ok then.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:54 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


No. Okay, so I shouldn't be so blunt on a place like MeFi.

Let me rephrase.

People try to pass off vegetarianism and veganism as healthier lifestyles, when in fact neither one is either. I've known vegetarians with huge beerguts, and vegans who seemingly subsisted off starches and carbs.

Nothing wrong with fat people. I eat meat and plenty of omnivores are fat.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:13 PM on October 20, 2011


I've been vegan for about 20 years now and am what is generally considered a junk-food vegan. Before that I ate meat and was a junk-food meat-eater. I am overweight but not horribly so. I'm guessing that being a junk-food vegan is probably better for you than being a junk-food meat-eater (what with the cholesterol and what have you).

I've never once claimed that being vegan automatically makes one healthier nor have any of my veg*n friends, but again, just by default we might be better off than if we were meat-eaters. Which is not the same thing as saying we're super healthy, just better off given our health habits.

I also do not have any friends who are veg*n for health reasons. I've certainly known plenty of people in that boat but just don't happen to be friends with them. It's obviously two different kinds of people who just happen to have some dietary habits in common.

I certainly eat more vegetables now (strictly meat'n'potatoes before) so that's gotta be worth something.

As for baking, there's plenty of things you can veganize on your own that'll come out just fine (assuming you're not a big foodie). Pancakes have a better texture with eggs but with good toppings a batter made from flour, baking powder, oil, water/non-dairy milk, and a little salt works just fine. Adding a ripe banana helps out the texture and flavor as well as adds the correct color when cooked. Muffins, cakes, cupcakes, etc. can all be made passably good just by leaving stuff out. Not necessarily good enough to sell or serve guests but good enough for my own consumption.

There are plenty of excellent vegan bakeries who do it for the flavor. There are also plenty of vegan bakeries who do it for health reasons. The former tend to be tastier. Health food doesn't have to taste bland but it often does.

I do eat honey because there's absolutely no chance that bees have enough cognitive power to suffer in the same way that mammals do. The same probably holds for fish and reptiles but there's at least a chance for them so erring on the side of caution there seems prudent. (Plus there's a very important social issue involved which details I'll not go into here.)

Veg*ns and their food run the gamut from good to gross to healthy to unhealthy which is probably an apt description of meat-eaters and their food.
posted by bfootdav at 11:16 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Philofacts  And my advice to all those vegans who are self-diagnosing as "gluten-sensitive" because they read something somewhere, were told by a friend that they might be, or their naturopath or chiropractor recommended they cut out gluten: Jeezis H. Fuckin' Christ! Go to a real doctor and get tested for celiac disease if you really think you have such a condition. Chances are that if you do have it you will already be suffering from severe weight loss (which, yes, could have other causes, too, hence: see a real doctor!), since what happens with gluten-aggravated celiac disease is that your gut's ability to absorb nutrients is severely compromised.

Fads annoy a lot of people, but please don't spread misinformation. The majority of adults diagnosed with celiac disease these days do not have significant weight loss. Some have no digestive symptoms at all. Apart from digestive issues, the list of symptoms known to be directly caused by celiac disease is long and includes but is not limited to recurrent miscarriages, hypothyroidism, fatigue, clinical anxiety/depression, iron deficiency, autoimmune disorders, migraine, skin rashes.

As melissam said, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a (real) more common problem with symptoms that overlap with those of true celiac disease. The most reliable test and treatment for it at present is a gluten-free diet. The link between gluten-free products and vegan goods is stronger now because of the obvious market for food sensitivity-inclusive products, but it existed before the current gluten-free fad. Prevalence of multiple true food allergies began rising significantly a few decades ago, and wheat, milk, and egg are among the most common. Parents started trying GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) diets for children with autism/ADHD/psychiatric disorders beginning about twenty years ago. Additionally, some celiac patients are sensitive to dairy.
posted by hat at 11:57 PM on October 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a legitimate medical condition.

Well, reading that link, I see you're right. There's a spectrum of sensitivity apparently, and I apologize.

I've just seen so many people, some of them good friends, who avoid going to doctors at all (yes, here in Canada where it doesn't cost much) and have jumped on what seems to be a growing bandwagon of self-diagnosis and reliance on people who have no business giving diagnoses. If someone's a naturopath and wants to tell someone "you might have a gluten sensitivity", the problem is that their client may very well be one of those people who avoids doctors - that's one reason they might be seeing a naturopath - and unless the naturopath really pushes them to go get tested by a doctor with a lab for that, they probably won't, and will just go home and think, oh, I have a sensitivity. Testing by elimination can be done by oneself, sure, but without a doctor's training in what other factors might be involved, and his or her regular monitoring, it's easy to fool oneself.

I have a very good friend, someone I make music with, who recently announced she was cutting out gluten. I asked if she'd been to a doctor to check this out, and no, it was a Chinese herbalist who had told her to just cut it out of her diet and see if that helped. Well, maybe it might, but how can one be sure that was the reason, or the only reason for her symptoms, or indeed be sure what those symptoms were exactly, without the perspective of someone trained in the possibilities, and how can one be sure one isn't experiencing some variety of placebo effect? Even something seemingly as simple as a process of elimination of possible factors can be very complex when it involves our biological functioning. We're pretty complicated organisms. It helps to have trained outside perspective. An herbalist ain't it.

The journal article you cited mentions that it's about 6% of the population that has some degree of sensitivity (although I can't tell from it how that breaks down into "so mild it only bothers me if I eat a lot of it" vs. "some discomfort every time I eat it" vs. eosinophilic esophagitis or worse.) Not a small percentage, by any means, but it is an order of magnitude lower than the roughly 60% (or more?) of the world's population that is lactose intolerant.

So it does make me wonder why there can't be some vegan baked goods that have gluten in them. I just rarely see any any more. They should be labelled as much as any food to which any percentage of the population is allergic (as with nuts, etc.), but why are so many health food stores stocked as if the percentage of gluten allergies in their customer base were much, much higher than it actually is? I shop regularly in a number of them here (I buy the vast majority of my food in them) and I've noticed a trend. How much of the supply is being driven by a real demand by people like you who have a real need to avoid gluten and how much is just being bought by people who just think they have a problem (the symptoms being the kind that can have other causes, and which should always be properly tested)?

I don't mean to trivalize the reality of actual gluten sufferers, but there is a larger problem in society with self-diagnosis, of which I think this "fad', as I still will call it, with reservations, is a part.
posted by Philofacts at 12:02 AM on October 21, 2011


selenized: how exactly does one have a raw bakery? Wouldn't the baking make everything, well, cooked?

"Bakery / baking" connoting finished products like pies, cakes, cookies, etc., rather than a heat-dependent method of preparation. Raw vegan methods using nut creams can make delicious dairy-free versions of tiramisu and cheesecake.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:20 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bollocks. As a consequence of my time at a pampering hipsterish hi-tech company, I have tasted a lot of expensively prepared vegan and non-vegan baked goods and I have reached the firm conclusion that even the best vegan baking sucks.

Proper baking involves butter, actual butter, not margarine and not "vegan butter" which is a greater crime against humanity than non-dairy creamer.

Only through veganism is it possible to take one of the most delicious things in the world, a chocolate brownie, and make a version that's actually inedible.
posted by w0mbat at 12:23 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


People try to pass off vegetarianism and veganism as healthier lifestyles, when in fact neither one is either. I've known vegetarians with huge beerguts, and vegans who seemingly subsisted off starches and carbs.

"Is cocaine vegan?"
posted by iviken at 3:54 AM on October 21, 2011


Serious question: what's the point of vegan cooking? And what exactly is vegan cooking?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:08 AM on October 21, 2011


The point of vegan cooking is to eat good food without having to eat meat, dairy, eggs, or honey.

Vegan cooking is cooking that does not use meat, dairy, eggs, or honey.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:12 AM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the biggest problem that I have encountered with vegan baking is that the best case scenario is that it tastes as good as something that is cheaper and easier to make with the help of eggs and butter. The worst case scenario, as many have pointed out above, is pretty crappy.

I can see why vegans would be excited about this, but as an omnivore I'm really not. Of course, the problem might be that I've just never been to a good enough vegan bakery, so if anyone knows of any in Boston let me know.

I also sort of expected to see this article (NYT, sorry if it's already been linked) about bakers making gluten free stuff that's as good as regular stuff without advertising that it's gluten free, just like some of these vegan bakers.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:17 AM on October 21, 2011


Leaving out health reasons, why avoid dairy, eggs or honey? Meat I can sort of understand.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:25 AM on October 21, 2011


I'd really resent not knowing I was eating vegan baked goods, in part because seeds and legumes make me very ill and I wouldn't think to look for them in food that doesn't generally contain them unless advertised as vegan. Like, however angry one might be at finding animal products hidden in something, this is that plus the rage of seriously unnecessary gastrointestinal distress.

There are very few scenarios in which I'd torch a bakery. Maybe just one scenario: this one.

(Lifelong vegetarian, former vegan, 100% in the "I don't care, but please shut up" camp.)
posted by carbide at 4:57 AM on October 21, 2011


I've had plenty of really good vegan baked goods. I can understand the down low approach some of these bakeries have taken though. Most omnivores I know won't even bother trying any vegan food, like they are afraid it may poison them or something. I think many of them view anything "alternative" with great suspicion. They seem to focus on what they perceive to be missing ingredients, or get scared off by exotic ingredients. I don't get it.
posted by orme at 5:05 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


BB:

dairy: living conditions for many dairy cows are horrendous
eggs: same for laying hens
honey: this one is not as straightforward, and I believe was covered upthread
posted by ocherdraco at 5:09 AM on October 21, 2011


carbide: "I'd really resent not knowing I was eating vegan baked goods"

Every vegan bakery I've been in (and I've been in quite a few, since my boyfriend is vegan) has been really good about identifying the primary ingredients in its goods. My experience is that they may not say "VEGAN!" on the outside of the store, but the individual items will be labeled in a way that makes it easy to spot allergens.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:11 AM on October 21, 2011


Brandon, are you just being obtuse or do you live under a rock?

There's this great thing we have on the Internet now called wikipedia.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:30 AM on October 21, 2011


Reading the Wiki didn't answer my questions, thought I'd ask people.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:47 AM on October 21, 2011


When the one quart jar I put bacon fat into gets full, I deep fry pancakes in it. So I suppose I count as an omnivore. The only time I look for vegan food is when I'm traveling and have gotten so sick of greasy carb-y restaurant food that I need to eat vegetables NOW.

However, if you're ever in Ann Arbor and doubt that vegan baked goods can be good, please drop me a line and I will direct you to the vegan ding-dongs that will change your mind. It may be the most addictive single baked good I've ever had.
posted by pjaust at 6:00 AM on October 21, 2011


My experience is that they may not say "VEGAN!" on the outside of the store, but the individual items will be labeled in a way that makes it easy to spot allergens.

That's fair and clear, absolutely.

posted by carbide at 6:15 AM on October 21, 2011


Wow, Shepherd said the things said about vegan bakeries on this thread were mostly positive, but it sure has taken a turn towards "Vegan baking sucks! You can't make anything decent with eggs or butter! It's a crime against humanity" blahblahblahcakes.

Listen: no one is forcing you to go to a vegan bakery, much less eating a vegan dessert. I think we all agreed early on that there are some bad eggs (excuse the usage) out there when it comes to vegan desserts, but judging everything about a style of baking based on a bad pastry? You're kidding, right? I find this whole rigamarole about how you cannot produce anything yummy and sweet without butter or eggs just silly. Sure, vegan baking tries to replicate these chemical reactions and Lord knows there are enough brave chefs out there willing to try, but to dismiss them because you had a carob brownie that didn't meet your standards (and I agree about carob, btw, never use the stuff; I prefer dark and bitter chocolate for my stuff)?

Again, you have got to be kidding, right? Because I have eaten plenty of "regular" baked goods that sucked balls but it didn't make run into the arms of vegan baking solely because I didn't like it.
posted by Kitteh at 6:33 AM on October 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Again, you have got to be kidding, right? Because I have eaten plenty of "regular" baked goods that sucked balls but it didn't make run into the arms of vegan baking solely because I didn't like it.

Yeah, but regular or "normal" baked goods get a break, 'cause they're the norm. Things outside that are held to higher standards.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 AM on October 21, 2011


Brandon, you might want to read Eating Animals if you are indeed curious and not just being a troll. The book makes a very compelling argument for why those who care about the welfare of non-human animals are better off eschewing eggs and dairy than flesh.

Having said that, I was an asshole vegetarian, and then I started becoming an asshole vegan. Then I saw the effect it had on people I liked who thought differently than I, and I realized it's my own gig, you know? And I set aside the extremism, and only discuss it with carnists when they are genuinely interested. There is a growing number of vegans who are working to reverse the holier-than-thou perception - Erik Marcus, Lindsey Nixon (The Happy Herbivore), Tess Challis, Carpe Vegan, and many more.

Also, love this.

On preview, "higher standards?" Seriously? Brandon, again, if you're not just being obtuse, I'd recommend you try buying or baking some vegan treats and then form an opinion. It's generally an easier way to go about it.
posted by tr33hggr at 6:53 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every veg**an I've known has lived off Boca Burgers, fries, bread, faux cheese pizza, pastries etc.

Pity you don't know me then. I make some seriously kick ass food at home.
posted by tr33hggr at 6:55 AM on October 21, 2011


On preview, "higher standards?" Seriously?

Yes. I didn't say it was fair or reasonable, nor that it applied only to veganism.

Consider a person eating whatever their native cuisine is. If they try something foreign and it tastes bad, they'll probably be less likely to try said foreign food, because it's the lone example they have.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:59 AM on October 21, 2011


Okay, fair enough, that helps clarify what you meant.
posted by tr33hggr at 7:03 AM on October 21, 2011


Yeah, but regular or "normal" baked goods get a break, 'cause they're the norm. Things outside that are held to higher standards.

Ah yes, normal. Every baked good should be like its precedessors; innovation without the basic building blocks of pastry?

BURN THE WITCHES!
posted by Kitteh at 7:50 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, I will just continue this even though I'm a bit late.

1. I think there is a fad for gluten-free stuff, at least in my circles - there is a perception among a small percentage of hippie/punk/lefty types that gluten itself is bad for you, so cutting it out is good even if you're not actually sensitive to it. I surmise that this stems - perversely enough - from the paleo / green anarchist critique of agriculture/the agricultural diet. Also, there's a school of parenting which seems to be "keep all potential allergens from your child even if they have no symptoms of allergies", so I do know some little kids who are "gluten free" when they don't have any sensitivities.

And because we as a community want to make meals that everyone can eat because life is more fun that way, we tend to make meals with gluten-free options. It's way easier to make polenta and red sauce and garlic pan-fried tempeh and some sauteed vegetables and poached pears for dessert than to juggle around twenty different gluten/non-gluten options. (See? That menu doesn't sound bad at all, does it? If you haven't had pan-fried tempeh, withhold your judgement for the moment - it's much better than you think.)

2. It's difficult to make seriously gluten-free things. As I understand it, someone with actual celiac cannot eat even a tiny bit of gluten or they get sick, so the cross-contamination that takes place in an ordinary kitchen is not okay, even if you're not intentionally adding wheat to something. This leads me to believe that the increase in gluten concerns is prompted by sensitivities and fads rather than celiac.

3. In my own wacky mind, I suspect that a lot of people are sorta-kinda sensitive to gluten, in the "if I eat a lot of it I feel icky" way. This is based on nothing more than the fact that if I eat a lot of gluten I feel icky. So I save all my gluten-consumption for delicious things instead of blowing it on random stuff.

4. There are different vegan/gluten-free cooking cultures, lots of them. My particular set is very food-conscious and tends to prize tastiness - partly because we're kind of a bike culture group so even the fatties (like me) are very active and hungry and like to eat some fat. So we don't usually look to reduce fat or sugar unless it's for flavor reasons. We also cook a lot of legumes and do a lot of curry/chili/soup stuff as daily food - and salads and chutnies and things like that. I personally specialize in cakes although I don't actually like eating cake that much, and I defy anyone who likes coconut to dislike my coconut-yam layer cake (the cake itself is a bit like carrot cake). My set doesn't do as much with tofu/tempeh/wheat gluten, possibly because bulk legumes are cheaper. I use a lot of tofu for home cooking, though.

Anyway, there are lots of different vegan cooking cultures - some are very holistic substitute oriented - lots of agave nectar and alternate grains; some are about making things low-fat; some are about "food is fuel and we're not super-interested in flavor"; some are very into high tech stuff - the fancier new fake cheeses (which are better than the old ones but still devoid of nutrition, unlike real cheese), smoke boxes, dehydrators, etc. Whether you have tasty vegan food depends a lot on a good match between your preferences and the cooking culture.
posted by Frowner at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


From a legal standpoint, I plan on offering gluten-free products but with the very serious caveat that I am not a certified gluten-free kitchen and if you are one of those unlucky people with a serious gluten allergy, allow me to direct you to a local competitor who can best fit your needs.

Honestly, sometimes the challenge I face in my everyday vegan cooking is the standard dinner. I love making soups, curries, and stirfries, but still stumble a bit on just creating the basic "protein, veg, starch" dinner. Even when I have an assload of vegan cookbooks to help overcome that.

Hardwired former omnivore thinking, I believe.
posted by Kitteh at 8:26 AM on October 21, 2011


3. In my own wacky mind, I suspect that a lot of people are sorta-kinda sensitive to gluten, in the "if I eat a lot of it I feel icky" way. This is based on nothing more than the fact that if I eat a lot of gluten I feel icky. So I save all my gluten-consumption for delicious things instead of blowing it on random stuff.

This has been our experience, after many months of doing the low-carb thing. I've definitely noticed that if I eat something really gluten-y - more than a donut or two, say - I feel it. I get all stuffy, and my stomach isn't completely happy with me. It's not a severe reaction by any stretch, but it's noticeable. And so I save my gluten-eating for Really Delicious Things, like the avocado toasts and the duck breast with farro that I had last night for dinner. And the occasional donut, of course.
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2011


BURN THE WITCHES!

Broiling is better, more juicy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:08 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its off the topic of baking, but this vegan cheese dip recipe using cashews will change your mind about a few things. I, myself, am a proud omnivore who frequently cooks for a vegan. And my next projects most definately are going to involve vegan pastries.
posted by jake1 at 10:27 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I regularly make a curry with coconut milk, peanut butter (the bulk kind with no sugar added), deep-fried tofu, green beans, onions and red curry paste.

I eat it because it's delicious. It didn't even occur to me that it was vegan until just this year.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:29 AM on October 21, 2011


Vegan baked goods are delicious. Even the Joy of Cooking/Baking has cake recipes that don't call for eggs, so I'm not sure why there are comments about how baked goods without eggs are disgusting. I would happily consume vegan baked goods even before I found out I was allergic to eggs and intolerant of lactose. Cooking vegan is very easy and just as delicious as foods with animal products in them. If you think otherwise, you haven't had the right food (or else you are one of those people who 'can't live without meat').

Gluten-free is absolutely not related to being vegan. Additionally, people who are doing it as a fad make it more difficult for those who actually have celiac disease to be taken seriously. However, it isn't hard to make gluten free meals at all. Many foods are naturally gluten-free: most indian, most japanese, most korean, most mexican, most thai...

Regardless of whether or not you enjoy animal products, you really shouldn't be eating lots of them. A mostly vegan diet with lots of plants and whole grains is the way to go for optimum health (add fish and eggs sometimes if you're ok with that).
posted by 200burritos at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most of the vegan and vegetarian folks I know have been so either for animal rights reasons or for environmental sustainability reasons (such as myself), or both. The conscious omnivore types that I know tend to be much more concerned with eating healthily than the vegans and vegetarians that I know. But, I don't hang out with anyone like the "Skinny Bitch" authors , so I guess ymmv.
posted by eviemath at 1:23 PM on October 21, 2011


Yeah, I have perused the Skinny Bitch books and I had to pass. Their angle irritates me. I don't feel empowered; I feel like you're the girl in high school that I had murderous thoughts about.
posted by Kitteh at 2:16 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


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