While you read this, picture a big grin on my face: this week’s great news is that I finished college, handing in my last assignment on Monday. This means I’ll soon be a qualified HR professional, and have my spare time back. I’ll be able to look for a better job, at some point in the future – and will have more time to blog, cook, and patiently get through the pile of novels I’ve been hoarding in the past six months.
College ended with the scariest, most exciting of experiences: delivering a twenty-minute training session to my class. The night before, I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep: I’m slowly getting to grips with speaking in front of an audience, and thoroughly enjoy delivering training, but time limits scare the hell out of my clumsy little brain. Then I did it, and it went perfectly. The feedback I received from everyone at the end was so heartfelt that I could have easily burst into tears of joy. The enthusiasm I felt reinforced what I’ve come to realise in the past few months: if I am to continue along this career path, there’s one thing I want to do above all others, and it’s training.
We could build our training on anything we are passionate about, and I chose baking. You obviously can’t have fifteen people actually bake in a classroom, but I had plans of creating recipe cards they could play with, and having a biscuit tasting at the end. It felt like the greatest idea I’d ever had…until I asked if anyone had dietary restrictions. “I’m intolerant to lactose”, said one girl; another one raised her hand and said “I’m vegan”. I panicked: where on earth would I find a recipe that didn’t involve eggs or dairy, and could be explained in less than twenty minutes?
If you ever searched for vegan recipes, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Vegan margarine, egg replacer, Earth Balance shortening: finding the ingredients is a challenge in itself. Easy-looking recipes seem too good to be true: however much I was tempted to make cookies with water instead of milk, I couldn’t not wonder whether the result would be edible at all. By the twentieth recipe I had crossed out, I was desperate to find a balance between convenient and tasty. Then I came across a chocolate chip cookie recipe on The Pastry Affair, and changed my mind again.
“I made a promise to you when I took on this challenge—to use familiar, everyday ingredients and keep the recipes approachable.”
(Kristin Rosenau, The Pastry Affair)
I liked Kristin’s philosophy. It convinced me to try her recipe, and the Vegan Baking Adventure began.
The first stage was shopping for ingredients. I was determined to make no more than one trip to my local supermarket: what obstacles could there be? Well, for one, I hadn’t considered soy milk. My local supermarket only sells one-liter cartons, and I needed about one tenth of that. Ditto with almond milk. That’s when I decided to adapt the recipe, and buy the only thing that came in 200ml packs: rice milk. Having never tasted anything but dairy milk, I had no idea what was in my shopping cart. However, it was vegan. It suited lactose intolerance. That was a deal to me.
After all the hassle of ingredient sourcing, realising that the recipe was as easy and fuss-free as it promised to be was a relief. If you’re ever stuck for an idea to feed vegan friends, I definitely recommend that these cookies: try and judge for yourself!
Vegan Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Makes 30 cookies)
I made two batches of these cookies. The first one was a test, to make sure the cookies I would bring to college were edible: I made them with orange-flavoured chocolate, to use up a spare bar I had at home, and brought them to work the next day. It was the first time I baked for my colleagues, and they went down a storm. However, orange-flavoured chocolate was too strong for my own buds, and drowned the taste of the dough completely, so I settled for plain dark chocolate and pecans for the second batch. I’d happily sign this one off as my final version.
I made these cookies again last week, for the London Depressed Cake Shop. To be suitable for the event, they had to be grey, so I added a few drops of black food colour to the wet ingredients.
- 150g brown sugar
- 70g plain sugar
- 220ml sunflower oil
- 90ml rice milk
- 290g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 50g chopped pecans
- 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Lindt Excellence 85% Dark Chocolate)
Baking Tip: There’s no need to wander from shop to shop in search for vegan chocolate. “Normal” dark chocolate may well be suitable, as long as it’s dairy-free.
- Whisk together the brown sugar, plain sugar, sunflower oil and rice milk, until you obtain a mixture that looks like a smooth caramel sauce.
- Fold in the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Mix in the chopped pecans and chocolate.
- Drop the cookies by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet, keeping them at least 2 inches apart.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°, and bake for 8-9 minutes. Your cookies will be ready when they’re golden on the edges; don’t worry if they’re still soft, as they will set and harden as they cool down.
- Set aside, and serve once completely cold. These cookies will keep very well for about 2 – 3 days, in an airtight container. They may well last more, but three days were all it took for us to wolf them down!