Mastering the Art of Raw Baking
Raw baking—isn’t that a contradiction? Well, in fact it may be lying a bit in saying that something baked can be raw. I make desserts, but technically speaking, I don’t bake anything. However, you could call my creations something similar to baked goods, since I have become a little bit famous for my raw vegan cakes, pies, tarts and other sweet treats.
Another question: how could a cake be raw? I’m sure you’ve heard of no-bake desserts, where you just throw everything into the fridge or freezer to let it set, instead of baking in the oven. Like that, I use ingredients that can be eaten raw, and some that solidify in cooler temperatures or room temperature so they don’t need to go in the oven to set. I also choose to use ingredients that are wholesome, healthy, nutritious and vegan. Vegan means that none of the ingredients came from animals: no dairy, honey, eggs, gelatin, etc. Why? Because I don’t want anyone getting hurt when I make dessert — and besides, we could all use some more fruits and nuts in our diet!
Fruits and nuts are the main ingredients in my desserts along with coconut, oats, and occasionally nutritional powders known as “superfoods.” Sometimes I think of my recipes as the healthiest granola bars ever, but they taste a thousand time better and look ten-thousand times better. These are the most decadent, guilt-free sweets on the planet, and the best part is you can make them at home! With raw vegan desserts, you can really have your cake and eat it too. Honestly, dig in.
Let’s talk about the equipment you’re going to need: a blender and a food processor. I use blenders when I make something really creamy like raw vegan cheesecake. A good quality blender will be worth the investment. You will be using a food processor to make crusts, doughs, and virtually everything else.
How about the ingredients you’re going to use? Are they obscure, expensive and weird? Nope! These are ingredients you will recognize and probably already have at home:
• dried fruits (dates, figs, raisins, prunes)
• nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts)
• seeds (pumpkin, hemp, flax)
• oats and buckwheat groats (gluten-free!)
• coconut oil (the pure fat of the coconut) and coconut butter (dried, blended coconut meat)
• superfoods (cacao powder, carob powder, maca powder, vanilla powder, spirulina powder)
• natural sweeteners like maple syrup
If you can’t find some or any of the superfoods, don’t worry. They aren’t always necessary and you can make substitutions. You can use cocoa powder instead of cacao or carob, vanilla extract instead of vanilla powder, and for any others, you can just leave the superfood ingredient out. But these ingredients provide an amazing amount of nutrition, and it’s fun to experiment with them!
Dried fruits, sweeteners and coconut oil/butter make up the “wet” (or sticky) part of the recipes, and the nuts, seeds, oats and buckwheat groats make up the “dry” (or flour) part of the recipes. See? It’s a lot like the regular baking you’re already used to.
Let’s talk about techniques. As long as you throw together the right balance of wet and dry ingredients, your recipes will have the perfect texture. If crusts are too crumbly, you need to add some more wet ingredients–a few more dates, a bit of coconut oil, or even some water. If the crust is too mushy, add some dry ingredients–a bit more almond flour, flax seeds or oats.
For creamy recipes like mousses, cheesecakes, and creams, the goal is to have a balance of wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and ingredients that will allow the mixture to set at the desired consistency. At room temperature it should be like thick yogurt, which in the fridge or freezer will solidify to a cheesecake-like texture. In order to achieve this, you need to use thickening ingredients like coconut oil and dates, and not too much water.
Raw baked treats are popular because they are simple, easy, quick, and delicious. You never have to compromise your health to enjoy decadent, rich desserts again! Enjoy!
First published December 2014