K (lumiereauteur) wrote in vegancooking,

Vegan Baking... in India?

Hi all,

So, here's the deal. I'm living in India for the next half a year. It's been two months since I arrived, and already I'm craving things like crazy - sushi, grapefruit, agave nectar, etc. Though I get amazing delicious incredible South Indian food every day, I have to say, I really miss certain things - particularly baked goods.

Luckily, however, my roommate and I procured a small, round, crazy-space-ship-looking oven, big enough to bake one small loaf of bread, a tray of cookies or a pie in. We've managed to find both baking powder and soda at the grocery stores, as well as soy milk (yay!), good white and whole wheat flour, and spices.

My roommate isn't a vegan, so she's all set baking with butter and eggs. I, however, am having a bit of a dilemma coming up with quality ingredients for good vegan substitutions. I have some ideas and wanted to throw them out there for feedback, as well as get any suggestions for binder-replacers to use.

First of all: oil. The only 'vegetable' oils available here are groundnut (peanut), gingelly (sesame), and sunflower. No wonderful canola oil, and no wonderful vegetable margarine. Sunflower oil seems to be the most neutral, but I've never baked with it before and I don't know if it's going to impart a strange taste or consistency. Instead of oil I was considering buying some apples to make my own sauce with and use that instead, but that's a lot of extra effort. Thoughts on the sunflower oil?

Next: sweeteners. Normal white sugar is available, of course, but brown sugar - nope. Molasses - nope. What I've got instead are vellum, AKA jaggery, AKA big chunky yellow balls of cooked-down sugarcane sap. It looks like this:

Now, it's DELICIOUS. However, people usually don't bake with it, they melt it down to use in traditional Indian sweets. It's considered 'brown sugar' here. For molasses, there's palm jaggery (on the right), which is darker in color and more robust in flavor. I'm not sure if either jaggery or palm jaggery are available in the States - does anyone know? I kind of hope they are, I'm kind of addicted to it now. Anyway, I'm going to try using it as a substitute in baking - hopefully with decent results.

Finally: egg replacers. Luckily most vegan baking dishes don't need much in the way of egg replacers, but I don't have convenient products like fig paste, applesauce, etc. Again, I could make a fig or date paste myself, or even use mashed bananas - does anyone else have any ideas?

I'd really love some recipes for good, simple spice cakes, gingerbreads, simple fruit tarts/pies with oat or graham cracker crusts (as oats are available, and I'm going to make my own graham crackers soon), and any good dessert recipes with pomegranates, bananas, pineapples, or limes.

Thanks all! Vannakam, nandri!

- Kassia
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