Today, I want to share with you some of my favorite kitchen tools for baking. Whether you’re looking to improve your own baking or you’re still looking for the perfect holiday gift for a baker you know, I hope this list will be helpful!
Oven Thermometer. All ovens are different, and in my experience, most ovens run at least a little hot or cold relative to the temperature on the display. An oven thermometer is indispensable for making sure you are baking at the correct temperature, so that you end up with a product that is neither burnt nor underdone! Oven thermometers are relatively inexpensive, and you may even be able to find one in the kitchen tools section of your local grocery store.
Cookie Scoops. You may be able to get by with a couple of spoons, but cookie scoops make life so much easier if you bake a lot of cookies or (with larger sizes) muffins! Scooping out cookies or muffin batter is fast and all the cookies or muffins come out in a uniform size, making for more consistent baking.
Yeast Spoon. A lot of bread recipes call for yeast measured in packets of 2 ¼ teaspoons. That’s an awkward amount to measure. If you bake a lot of bread, you may appreciate having a way to measure a packet’s worth of yeast all in one go.
Cake Tester. Toothpicks have their limits. If you want to be able to test doneness all the way into a thick loaf of quick bread or cake, a longer tool is crucial. Cake testers can be found for only a dollar or so at your local kitchen supply store.
Baking Thermometer. Continuing on the theme of doneness, a baking thermometer can be a useful objective measure for testing bread loaves. You can stick it into the bottom of the loaf to avoid holes in the top crust. This is one of my favorite baking tools because it takes a lot of angst out of figuring out whether a loaf of bread is done! Refer to the recipe or a reliable baking reference to find the correct internal temperature for your particular loaf.
Dough Scraper. I don’t use my dough scraper as much as the other tools on this list, but it is still a really useful tool for bread baking. When you need to divide bread dough into pieces (like for my cardamom braid), a metal scraper like this one provides a clean, even cut. It is also useful for scraping bits of flour and dough off your work surface when you’re done.
Do you have traditional family recipes that you would like to veganize? Have you seen a delicious-looking recipe online or in a cookbook that you would like to make, but think you can’t because it’s not vegan? Here are my tips on vegan substitutions for eggs, dairy, and chocolate in your baking recipes. Many recipes will veganize well, so do some experimenting and have fun!
Follow Your Heart may have just hatched a vegan egg, but you don’t have to order online or go to a specialty foods store to find good vegan substitutes for eggs in baking! The functions of eggs in baking include binding ingredients together, adding structure, and leavening. The binding function of eggs is easiest to replicate with vegan ingredients. The trick with vegan egg replacements is to know which substitutes to use in which kinds of baked goods.
Substitution: 1/4 cup applesauce = 1 egg
Best in: Muffins, Quickbreads, Yeast Breads
Not recommended for: Cookies with high fat content (they may come out too soft)
Notes: You can also use other types of pureed fruit, such as banana or pear, as long as you’re aware of how these fruits’ flavors might influence the flavor of your final product. Mashed banana can be an awesome addition to a batch of chocolate chip muffins!
Notes: Ground flaxseed is easy to find in the baking aisle of mainstream grocery stores and keeps well in the freezer. Most recipes say to let this mixture sit for a few minutes before combining with other ingredients in the recipe, but I usually skip this step and haven’t noticed any ill effects. 🙂
Notes: I don’t use chia seed often, but I think it works great for those situations when flaxseed may not be a strong enough binder. If you let the chia-water mixture sit for a couple of minutes, you will see it form a thick, sticky gel.
Substitution: 1/4 cup pureed silken tofu = 1 egg
Best in: Dense items like puddings or fudgy brownies
Not recommended for: Muffins, Quickbreads, Breads, Cakes
Notes: Silken tofu has a relatively narrow range of uses for egg replacement, but for those uses, it is indispensable. Pureed silken tofu can imitate the creamy texture of a custard or a cream pie that would normally come partly from eggs. However, it will weigh down lighter baked goods, so stick to using it for products that are intended to be dense.
Other substitutes: I have never used commercial egg replacers, so I can’t comment on how they work in comparison to the egg substitutes listed above. One other new egg substitute that intrigues me is chickpea liquid. If you’ve tried using it, let me know what you thought in the comments!
There are a number of widely-available vegan alternatives to dairy, and you can generally substitute them for dairy products in a 1:1 ratio.
Substitutes for Dairy Milk: My go-to vegan milk is almond milk because it has a similar consistency to dairy milk and can be purchased unsweetened so that it doesn’t alter the sweetness of your final product. The other most common non-dairy milks are soy, rice, and coconut (in a carton, not a can). Soymilk is usually sweetened, so I tend to avoid it. However, soymilk has more protein than other non-dairy milks, so for recipes that rely on milk protein to enhance structure, it would be worthwhile to hunt down some unsweetened soymilk. Rice milk has a thinner consistency than dairy milk. Coconut milk may add some coconut flavor to your baked goods, which is a fabulous choice for some items and a much less fabulous choice for others. 😉
Substitutes for Buttermilk: To make 1 cup of buttermilk, I simply pour 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar (cider or white) into a 1-cup measure and add enough non-dairy milk to make a full cup of liquid (this ratio can also be used to make buttermilk from dairy milk). You want to let this mixture sit until it curdles or splits. For almond milk, this seems to happen almost instantly. Again, if the protein in the buttermilk is important to the recipe (e.g., to give structure to buttermilk biscuits), unsweetened soymilk will be the best choice for the non-dairy milk component of the buttermilk mixture.
Substitutes for Cream: I like canned coconut milk as a substitute for cream. It is thick and rich, but it may impart some coconut flavor to your baked goods if there aren’t other strong flavors to mask it. Commercial alternatives also exist.
Substitutes for Butter: My go-to substitute for butter is Earth Balance buttery spread, which is typically available in mainstream grocery stores. Earth Balance also makes buttery sticks which add convenience for measurement, but the spread works quite well for baking. I also use canola oil as a substitute for butter in some baked goods. Because of the differences in chemistry between oil and butter, I don’t recommend using oil if a product is supposed to have a flaky texture or if the recipe calls for working with the dough or fat when it is cold (e.g., biscuits, scones, pie crusts, and some cookies). However, I find oil to be a perfectly adequate substitute for butter in muffins, quick breads, and lower-fat drop cookies.
Substitutes for Sour Cream/Yogurt: Pureed silken tofu can be quickly transformed into a good substitute for sour cream (puree a couple tablespoons of lemon juice with a carton of tofu) or yogurt (just add non-dairy milk as needed to achieve a yogurt-like consistency). I have had trouble finding unsweetened non-dairy yogurt even at specialty grocery stores, so I prefer making a tofu substitute over having to mess around with the other sweeteners in a recipe to compensate for using sweetened yogurt.
Now for what I consider the best baking ingredient of all: chocolate! We all could guess that milk chocolate is not vegan; unfortunately, many brands of dark and semi-sweet chocolate also contain some milk products, so make sure to check the label! My favorite brands of vegan chocolate chips are Costco’s Kirkland brand and Trader Joe’s brand. Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips are also commonly available in supermarkets and are free of many common allergens. I haven’t tried them, as the first two brands mentioned tend to be considerably less expensive.
If you’re baking with cocoa powder or 100% baking chocolate, then no worries! These products are always vegan.
Thanks for sticking with me through all that! I hope these tips have been useful. Happy baking! 🙂