Ending the semester on a sweet note
So, I don’t know about you, but I procrastibake. No, that wasn’t a typo, it’s a genuine word that people have now coined to talk about using baking as a means of shirking other responsibilities. And I have been guilty of procrastibaking quite frequently during senior year. It’s like my brain just doesn’t want me to work so instead, I bake.
I’ve made everything from box cakes to brownies to (semi-vegan) homemade mini cheesecakes. I’ve also learned how you can turn marshmallows into icing (because I forgot to buy icing), cooking oil and almond milk to make heavy cream (because I forgot to buy heavy cream) and flax seed and water for eggs (because I wanted the cupcakes to specifically be vegan). From there, I just kind of stumbled into the world of vegan baking.
Vegan baking is an art form. Taking recipes like cheesecake and brownies and cupcakes and turning them vegan is extremely difficult to do well, and I’ve had my fair share of duds (the mini cheesecakes weren’t sweet enough). To preface this, I’m not vegan. I don’t mind eating eggs or using honey as sweetener. However, I am vegetarian and am lactose-intolerant, so that really pushed me towards making more vegan recipes when I cook in general. Vegan baking was just an extension of that.
I’ve been watching several vegan YouTubers ever since I went vegetarian and when I found out my body didn’t produce the enzyme lactase, so I’ve been learning about vegan cooking from watching their wonderful videos. Caitlin Shoemaker, Cheap Lazy Vegan and Liv B all make great content and great food. I’ve tried a couple of their recipes and not only are they delicious, they’re easy to make. So, as I began cooking with a more vegan mindset and a whole slew of vegan recipes at my fingertips, vegan baking became part of my lifestyle.
I’m not saying you should become a vegan, but I do think that it never hurts anyone to try and eat less meat and dairy products. Even if you only commit to #MeatlessMonday, you’re not only doing your health a favor, but you’re helping the planet as well. When I first started eating vegetarian, I hated tofu and the amount of different meat alternatives I tried (from powdered “meatballs” to canned “tuna”) was astounding. Now, in place of meat alternatives, I up the amount of veggies I cook with. Cauliflower has been my go-to, and I love making Sriracha cauliflower tacos (delish) or no-carb cauliflower mashed potatoes (a little time-consuming but worth it). So, if you’re just starting out eating vegetarian, try meat alternative products from Morning Star (I recommend their spicy buffalo chik’n patties) or No Evil Foods (a company from my hometown of Asheville ~ love local). They won’t have 100% the same meaty flavor you’re used to, but you have to start somewhere.
So anyway, vegan baking has kind of become my ish over the last year, and I’m working on learning new and tastier alternatives to items such as cream cheese, half and half, whipped cream (aquafaba is a favorite substitute) and heavy cream — all things that are in almost every single dessert I love. From silken tofu to dates to raw cashews, the amount of alternatives for each of these dairy-laden products is astounding. The creativity and genius behind these recipes are apparent, too — vegan baking may be an art form, but it is also a food science.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from vegan baking experience is that making food is a labor of love. Even when I’m only baking because I want to procrastinate, I still feel like I’m getting stuff done. And when its all finished, I have a delicious dessert to eat! I enjoy sharing the food that I make with my friends, especially when I can fool them into believing that the food they’re eating isn’t vegan!
Cooking and baking for myself has really given me a better appreciation for my mother, who never failed to have dinner on the table to satisfy three hungry — and sometimes picky — daughters. Although I was raised in a white household, I understand that in a lot of my Asian American friends’ homes, their mothers and fathers cooking for them and asking them if they’ve eaten is a way of expressing, “I love you, and I care for you.” Each time I cook or bake and can share that with someone else, I want them to know it’s because my cooking and baking is an extension of my love for them. So, try out vegan baking sometime — the results might just surprise you.