A Story and A Recipe

A History With Baking

I love baking. I love cooking too but I don’t really have the resources or motivation to cook an amazing meal nowadays so it’s a bit less exciting.

When I was a kid, every summer my sister and I would go to Wales to visit my Grandma. We’d assist her in the kitchen, baking cakes and biscuits and jam tarts and lemon curd tarts (they were my favourite). I always looked forward to using the rolling pin. There was something soothing about flattening out a clump of dough into a sheet as thin as a £1 coin. I also liked how messy and floury the surfaces became, and we were always allowed to lick the spoon and the bowl and taste the uncooked batter. Then when I was 17, I got really into baking cakes and muffins. True to my wannabe-quirkiness, I dabbled and experimented with strange combinations – I made avocado chocolate muffins; strawberry and watermelon cake; pineapple cake (without the upside down); sweet potato cake. I even made broccoli cake which my sister and I ate in one sitting (yes, it was actually pretty good).

Because of my eating disorder at the time, my Grandpa whom I lived with banned me from baking at home pretty much indefinitely. I’ve got to admit, I never really saw the logic behind that decision. Maybe initially it made sense but even when I started getting better, baking was still off limits. It just felt like a potential passion was being stifled.

I’ve only been ‘properly’ vegan for a little over 3 months and have only baked 4 times since. Perhaps you’d think that baking without the dairy would wane my interest but in fact the opposite has happened. Pre-veganism, post-17ism, I lost almost all interest in baking. But now I’m starting to love the idea of baking something that people can eat without realising it’s dairy-free. I guess I’m sneaky like that. I did most of the cooking this Christmas, and also baked double chocolate chip cookies as well as coconut, lime & peanut butter ones. They were yummy as f**k.

Both times I asked my sister, “If you didn’t know they were vegan, would you be able to tell?”. She said ‘no’ but I sought further confirmation, so I asked my mum (who’s notoriously honest and sceptical towards anything vegan) and she agreed, she wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That was all the approval I needed. Pretty much the only frustrating thing about vegan baking is the expense. We’re not yet living in a vegan world, so buying dairy-free alternatives to the usual baking staples (e.g. butter and eggs) can really put a strain on your wallet. Damn you, £10 coconut oil! Not to mention, the more addingredienthere-free you go (gluten-free, soya-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free) the more expensive it gets, which is pretty bloody ironic considering how free it should be.

Carrot & Cranberry Cookies

Last week I tried to bake cranberry and orange cookies but, finding myself in need of kitchen scales, I had the bright idea of using a measuring jug as a substitute… That would work, right? Wrong. Worse cookies ever, at least out of all the ones I’ve ever baked.

So yeah, it turns out that unsurprisingly, correct measurements are fundamental to baking good baked goods. Yet another life lesson learned. I made a mental note of that and used my Amazon Prime membership (free for students, woo!) to order scales, which I used to bake the cookies I made today. Carrot and cranberry cookies! (I ran out of oranges + carrots are orange = basically the exact same thing if you ask me.)

I seldom use baking recipes; usually I come up with my own recipe for whatever it is I’m making about 5 minutes before I start making it. Then, once the concoction is baked and after the all-important taste test, I usually edit the recipe for future reference.

Initial Recipe (edits in italic)

170g/200g plain flour (gluten-free optional)
[My scales got a bit temperamental so I’m unsure whether I used 170g or 200g, I’d recommend 170g]
100g oat flour
150g caster sugar
70g brown sugar
(edit FFR: 60g brown sugar, 1 tbsp maple syrup)
40g chopped dried cranberries
70g grated carrot
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
70g almond milk (or other dairy free milk)
6-8 tbsp coconut oil
(edit FFR: 3 tbsp coconut oil, 3-5 tbsps. dairy free butter)

Step 1: Mix together dry ingredients (Flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, carrots, cranberries)

Step 2: Mix in wet ingredients (coconut oil, almond milk and vanilla)

Step 3: Roll the dough into smallish balls (a little over a tbsp. each)

Step 4: Bake at 200c for 15-20 minutes

Step 5: Remove from oven, wait 5-10 minutes for cookies to cool (or don’t, I never do)

Step 6: Enjoy!

These were obviously dairy-free and also gluten-free. They came out pretty damn tasty. The only criticism is that I would’ve liked them to be a bit more buttery, hence the edit. Of course, you can do the unedited version if you want the real deal photographed below. Bear in mind I haven’t tested out the edited version yet so it mightn’t be better.

(P.S. Yes, I did want to show off my new Triceratops pin. No, I couldn’t think of a more subtle way to do it.)