Adopting a vegetarian diet is a challenge. But going hardcore — completely plant-based vegan eating — is an even bigger one.
Think about it. No eggs. No milk. No cheese. No butter. And if you’re trying to adapt your formerly favorite baked sweet treats to your new eating plan, well, it becomes a whole other kettle of tofu to fry.
Oh, and you’re baking while living over 6,000 feet above sea level. Now you’re faced with the culinary equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.
Leave it to JL Fields to do the heavy lifting.
Her latest cookbook, “Vegan Baking for Beginners,” hit bookstores on July 7. It’s the seventh book she has either authored or co-authored. Fields is a vegan chef, health coach and chef consultant to food, health, and wellness brands. She has become the go-to for all things vegan.
But she came to this point from humble culinary beginnings. In the book, she introduces herself as “an unlikely baker. I wasn’t particularly into cooking, and my baking was pretty much limited to boxed cake mixes (which I admittedly loved).”
When it came to things like making bread, she tossed in the towel when she couldn’t even bake a loaf using a bread machine. So, she thought, “Forget it, some people just can’t bake.”
She didn’t pursue any sort of baking until years later, when she happened upon a a packet of sourdough starter in her freezer. With the help of YouTube videos, she learned how to “feed” the starter, and within a week she accomplished what had previously eluded her: She baked a loaf of sourdough bread.
“It looked pretty awful, but oh, it was soft, savory and so much fun to bake that I tried it again,” she wrote. “And it worked.”
Her sourdough project quickly led to other baking successes, including learning how to bake with plant alternatives to eggs, milk, cheese and butter. She writes about her discoveries in her cookbook, subtitled “75 Recipes for Sweet and Savory Treats.”
She starts with a thorough chapter on the basics of vegan baking and points out there are numerous vegan versions of just about any ingredient. For instance, before immersing herself into a baker’s world, her biggest quandary was what to do about eggs.
“After all, in baking, eggs are typically used for everything from binding to leavening to thickening,” she wrote.
She lists store-bought versions of vegan eggs and how to use them in recipes. She also teaches about uses for pantry items like chia seeds and aquafaba (the brine from canned chickpeas, which works like egg whites)
Fields includes recipes for yeast and quick breads, biscuits, cookies, brownies, pies, pastries, crisps, cakes, frostings and more. And as for baking at high altitude, there’s a handy chart for adjusting flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and water for altitudes of 3,000, 5,000, 6,000 and 10,000 feet.
We’ve included Fields’ version of banana- nut bread so you can try some vegan baking for yourself. For more information about her books, classes and more, visit jlgoesvegan.com.
Contact the writer: 636-0271.