Baking Without Animals
Every time there is a birthday party at school or daycare, one of three situations unfold:
Parents who have the luxury of not thinking about food issues bring whatever they want to celebrate, leaving children who don’t consume animal products (either due to allergies, ethics, or culture) as the odd ones out,
Parents give a warning to the class that they will be bringing in food, and give the opportunity for the parents of effected kids to provide an equivalent option (a not unreasonable solution), or
Parents give a warning and bring in food that does not contain the offending ingredients, allowing the other parents to evaluate the risk.
In my children’s classes, the biggest allergies aside from nuts and peanuts are eggs and dairy. People are already used to the idea of not bringing foods with nuts or peanuts. 20 years ago, this was controversial. Now it is expected behaviour.
But in the list of the most common food allergens, eggs, dairy, and fish/shellfish make the top 5 list, and in increasing number of people are also choosing to eschew those ingredients, for themselves and their children, for ethical and environmental reasons.
Yet it is incredibly common for parents, even knowing that it could seriously injure or kill a child, to bring those ingredients into the classroom. I suspect the major reason for this insistence is due to the lack of awareness of the alternatives, and the ease with which they can be incorporated into everyday recipes.
Alternatives to Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk is incredibly easy to replace under most circumstances. Pretty much every grocery store in Montreal now has a plethora of dairy-free alternatives, including (but not limited to!) soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk. And of those bases, you find options (and sometimes combinations) of sugar free, original flavoured, vanilla flavoured, chocolate flavoured, and more.
In baking, you can usually replace cow’s milk 1:1 with one of these other milks. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, you can stir in a couple of teaspoons of vinegar into 1 cup of milk and let it sit for a few minutes before using it in your recipe.
Things to be careful for when using dairy-free milks are:
Not all of them are suitable for vegans. If the milk is supplemented with D3, then chances are that the D3 is from a cheap source such as sheep’s wool, and not mushrooms. Milk that is suitable for vegans is generally fortified with vitamin D2.
Not all dairy-free milk is allergy friendly. Be careful when selecting if there are nut allergies or soy allergies and use one of the alternatives, such as rice milk or oat milk.
Replacing Cow’s Milk Butter
This has also gotten very easy as there are several commercial non-dairy options that can be found in all major grocery stores. You might be tempted to just grab the closest tub of margarine, but most margarines contain dairy of some type, and others might contain cheap sources of D3.
These 3 types are all suitable for vegans and can be found in most major grocery including Walmart, Sobeys, and Provigo. They replace dairy butter 1:1.
They are listed by my personal preference:
Melt. Described as “Butter 2.0” by the company, this is some seriously good spread.
Earth Balance. This is one of the first commercial dairy-free butters on the market, and still a great option.
Becel Vegan. This spread is closer to soft margarine than it is to butter, but it is very easy to find copared to the other two, and is also certified kosher.
Alternatives to Chicken’s Eggs
Chicken’s eggs can be a bit tougher to replace, as it will depend on the function that the egg serves in the recipe. In the case of most baked goods, such as muffins, cookies, and cake, one of the following substitutions will work perfectly:
My personal favourites are mashed banana, or ground flax seeds.