The Science of Vegan Cooking

[by Naveen]

After recent inspiration (both in terms of running and cooking) by Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, Matt Frazier, and Terry Waters, I've been doing more vegan cooking lately. This has prompted a slew of food science questions, since eggs and dairy play such a diverse range of roles in a whole spectrum of foods. I could write a whole series of posts about this, but for now I'll just give some examples, ranging from the straight-forward to potentially intractable:
  • Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble: My version of this dessert got rave reviews, even by swapping the butter with coconut oil (and the sugar with stevia). However, the crumble probably wasn't too sensitive to the physical properties of the fat (e.g. water content, melting points) and it's hard to make a dessert like this taste bad. Many other pastries depend more critically on the type of fat used, so doing a one-to-one swap might not work.
  • Six-seed Soda Bread: I can replace the buttermilk with 1 cup of non-dairy milk + 1 T acid, but the buttermilk provides more than just acidity to balance the baking soda. Which milk substitute and which acid would go best with the recipe? I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk and apple cider vinegar, since that's what I had in the fridge. I'll want to look more into flavor pairings before going further.
  • Cashew cream: I've come across several recipes that utilize cashews to replace traditional dairy creams, of the both sweet and sour varieties. My own attempt at blending soaked cashews and apple juice was quite palatable, but wouldn't fool anyone in blind taste tests. How can I replicate the complex emulsion of protein-coated fat globules with something from the plant world?
  • Aged vegan cheese: An even more ambitious target would be to find a non-dairy substrate for culturing the rich microbiota that lives in a piece of aged Camembert or Bayley Hazen Blue, for instance. Experiments are scheduled for later this month.
Any other ideas? I know rheologists, microscopists, microbiologists, and mixologists to help find answers.

1 comment:

  1. such delicious experiments

    thought of you:
    "When we decode a cookbook, every one of us is a practicing chemist.
    Cooking is really the oldest, most basic application of physical and
    chemical forces to natural materials."
    -Arthur E. Grosser