Like most intelligent Americans, Moses and I get an awful lot of our important, informative information via Netflix “Watch Now.” (The other half comes from the Colbert Report, South Park and occasionally Jon Stewart…you know you’re lopsided when Jon Stewart seems too “straight-laced” to watch frequently…) Regardless, after Moses subjected me to a documentary advocating a lack of meat and dairy in a diet = healthier, less-cancer-prone and heart-disease-ridden people (he stopped watching half-way through, about the time they said bacon cheese burgers might be a bad idea) I had to admit, even taking all the un-said things into consideration, as long as it doesn’t KILL you, it’s hard to see the down-side of it (because meat and dairy in abundance certain DO seem to kill you…I can say that. I believe that).
So anyway, while not vegan, because I want to always love food and be able to experience new parts of it (aside from the things I’d like to snuggle with more than eat, which was a hard choice to make), I am having a lot of fun baking vegan lately. It’s something I never thought I’d do because, well, frankly, butter is one of the most marvelous things on earth in terms of baking. Where there was once a solid-ish blob there is now slightly salty pockets of air–a la puff pastry. Crunchy, crispy, browned and lightly bubbling pockets of butter–yum.
But, I like vegan baking in a way I’ve never liked regular baking. In “typical” baking you have butter. In vegan baking you have a vacuum. So what do I put in it? In this case, BANANA! AND man it was good.
The key, (I think) is complimentary flavors. Since I knew banana was my bonding agent sans egg, best to use flavors I LIKED with banana. I chose chocolate (duh) and peanut butter (double duh, since I’d probably like peanut butter on a rubber shoe sole).
I also opt for coconut milk instead of soy or something thinner because I like the thick, luxuriousness of something cream-like. The baseness, which so frustrates me in cooking without a curry spice, is great for baking.
I also did a few Thanksgiving experiments. When I was baking professionally this cranberry caramel pumpkin upside down cake was a hit. Using vegan Earth Balance it’s equally good, though the “caramel” is slightly less thick, but seriously, a room full of meat eaters went nuts for this upside down cake.
2 Bananas (ripe)
2 table spoons Earth Balance vegan butter
2 1/2 table spoons peanut butter (Peanut Butter & Co. Smooth Operator works best!)
1 cup vegan, raw chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup brown sugar (or 1/2 cup maple syrup and combine with bananas–since they’re SO sweet already)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 to 1 1/2 cup flour (until the batter is “shaggy”)
Combine vegan “butter”, sugar/bananas/maple syrup, banana and coconut milk in a stand mixer or mix by hand until banana is pureed and smooth and looks like typical “batter”.
Add salt, baking powder (with a sifter, if you want to avoid lumps) followed by your flour. Make sure the batter is very moist looking, yet solid.
Add in chocolate chips, careful not to use stand mixer once they’ve been included (the force will break them apart into chunks. They’re way more fun in chip forms so they make chocolatey pools).
In a mini loaf pan, muffin pan or cake pan (if using 9″ cake pan make sure to grease sides with vegan butter or oil and use parchment paper cut to size) scoop batter into equal parts. Cut remaining half banana and put in 3s as garnish to top along with a peanut or 2.
Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes to see if tooth pick comes out clean. Let sit 10 minutes before inverting on plate and turning right-side-up. Because there’s no “real” bonding agent, the sides will pull away and the middle may fall away from the banana a bit…that makes it taste better.
*The pumpkin, caramel, pecan upside down cake was SO easy too–just use vegan butter instead of real butter, for slightly oily, but super delicious caramel:
8 oz. vegan butter
1 cup pecans
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 tablespoons veggie oil
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar (brown or white)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine “butter” and sugar over low heat and stir constantly until caramel forms. Pour into pie pan and arrange pecans and cranberries, then mix remaining ingredients into batter and smooth carefully over caramel pecan mixture, bake at 350 for 40 minutes or so until the “top” of the pumpkin mixture is solid and caramel bubbles up around solids.