10 Tips for Perfect Baking

Baking is an exact science that may seem a bit daunting to some. The Joy of Vegan Baking provides 10 easy to follow tips that will make your baking experience easier and produce perfect results every time.

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1. FRESH IS BEST

In my cooking classes, I used to always ask my students to raise their hands if they had spices in their cupboard or on a spice rack. Most did. Then I asked them to raise their hands if those little jars had dust all over them. Most did. Even dried herbs, dried spices, baking powder, and yeast have a shelf life, so if you haven’t used something in a year, it’s best to toss it. Buying in bulk can save you time and money in the long run; bulk goods usually cost less pound for pound and will obviously last longer than smaller sizes so you make fewer trips to the grocery store.

2. PRECISE IS NICE

Whereas cooking allows for flexibility, baking is more scientific and calls for accurate measurements. Use the proper measuring spoons and cups, don’t pack dry ingredients into the measuring cups, and always read the liquid amount at eye level.

3. RESIST THE WRIST

Overmixing your batter causes it to become gummy or tough because the protein/gluten in your flour gets overdeveloped. Follow the directions in each recipe and think about the outcome you want: Gluten in pie crust = bad. Gluten in yeast breads = good. Overdeveloped gluten in cakes and cookies = not so good. Lumps tend to work themselves out in the baking process, but if you tend to obsess over lumps, then sift your dry ingredients first.

4. HASTEN YOUR BAKIN’

Once your batter is mixed, put it in a preheated oven immediately, because the leavening process begins as soon as the wet ingredients are combined with the dry. See more about baking soda and baking powder in the appendix.

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5. SCAN YOUR PANS

Dark pans absorb more heat and may speed up the baking process, so I always check my baked goods about 10 minutes before the directions suggest. Lighter pans reflect the heat and may need the full baking time (or even a little longer), but I still set the timer early just to be sure.

6. EVEN STEVEN

For even cooking, place your baked goods, particularly cakes, cookies, muffins, and other quick breads, in the center of the oven where the heat circulates most evenly.

7. BE PREPARED

Read your recipe carefully first, pull out all the necessary ingredients from your cupboards, and place them on the counter. Measure everything out. Take into account nondairy butter that may need to be at room temperature and the oven that will need to be preheated.

8. CEASE THE GREASE

Parchment paper is a wonderful way to eliminate extra fat and calories and makes cleanup a breeze. Though you can buy it at most stores, I prefer the unbleached parchment paper, found in natural food stores and through my website. Parchment paper, unlike waxed paper, is specially designed for use in the oven, so it doesn’t burn. You just lay a sheet down on your cookie pan, and drop your dough directly onto the parchment. No oil, no grease, no mess.

9. LOVIN’ YOUR OVEN

Because every oven is different, it’s important to know yours—intimately. If your oven’s temperature is off by even a few degrees, you could have fatal results. If you’re uncertain of your oven’s temperature relative to what the dial says, invest in an oven thermometer. At least be aware that the temperature and baking time called for in the following recipes (or any recipe!) may not match your oven.

10. THE BEST TEST

To test for doneness in cakes and quick breads, insert a toothpick into the center. The toothpick should come out clean and dry or have only a few crumbs clinging to it. Yeast breads, rolls, and loaves should be golden brown on the top, sides, and bottom, and sound hollow when tapped.

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The Joy of Vegan Baking, Revised and Updated Edition

Baking without eggs or dairy is a joy with this updated version of the vegan classic.

Whether you want to bake dairy- and egg-free for health, ethical, or environmental reasons, this updated edition of The Joy of Vegan Baking lets you have your cake and eat it, too! Featuring familiar favorites — from cakes, cookies, and crepes to pies, puddings, and pastries — this book will show you just how easy, convenient, and delectable baking without eggs and dairy can be. Winner of the VegNews magazine award for Cookbook of the Year in 2008, The Joy of Vegan Baking has been updated, with all new photography and freshly revised recipes that use the latest natural ingredients and techniques.

Learn just how easy it is to enjoy your favorite homespun goodies without compromising your health or values. These treats are free of saturated fat, cholesterol, and lactose, but full of flavor. Recipes include Chocolate Chip Scones, Lemon Cheesecake, Dessert Crepes, Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, Raspberry Sorbet, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Soft Pretzels, Blueberry Cobbler, and Chocolate Almond Brittle.

A seasoned cooking instructor and self-described “joyful vegan,” author Colleen Patrick-Goudreau lays to rest the myth that vegan baking is an inferior alternative to non-vegan baking, putting it in its rightful place as a legitimate contender in the baking arena. More than just a collection of recipes, this informative cookbook is a valuableresource for any baker.