Vegan Baking Basics: Baking with Dates

Before eating primarily vegan, I had never even touched a date in my life.  They always seemed like these weird, gross, dried up things that my grandparents might have lurking in the back of their kitchen cupboards (they don’t by the way, my grandparents are pretty awesome).  After I started the transition into vegan baking, I primarily started with substituting pureed bananas in for eggs or butter. Almost every article on vegan baking pointed to the banana as a suitable substitute, but I wasn’t quite buying it.  Depending on the recipe, the hint of banana was left behind and if I want a chocolate chip cookie, I want a straight up cookie. Not something that tastes like it’s been stored with over-ripe bananas for a few days.

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

I also wasn’t a huge fan of using a ton of plant based butter substitute.  Things like Earth Balance and coconut oil definitely have their time and place in sweet and savory treats alike, but I wanted to find a way around buying a large bucket of oil-based vegan butter that was more plant-based.   In part, this was inspired by my dad, who is fully committed to eating a plant-based, no oil diet (diet isn’t really a word I love for this, but you know what I mean, a way of eating!).  I wanted to be able to share the vegan sweets I baked while he didn’t have to pass on. After talking it over with my dad and looking into suitable sub-ins for butter, he came upon date paste.  Hooray! Now, how do we go about making/buying this magical plant-based stuff?

The first option is to buy date paste (in this case, prune paste) pre-made.  While this can be hard to find, the convenience factor makes it worth extra effort.  I haven’t been able to find this or an equal substitute at anywhere like Whole Foods or any other health stores yet, but am always on the lookout. The basic rule of thumb is that the Lighter Bake is substituted in for half the amount of butter that is called for in the recipe.  No, I won’t lie to you and say that the results are just like that of using butter, but, I never seem to get complaints when I bake with it in the right recipes.

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

The second option fur substituting in dates is to make your own paste. This can either be done each time you need a batch of date paste or in bulk and stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  By soaking dates in water and giving them a whirl in a food processor with a bit of water, the result is a thick, but a great substitute for butter in some recipes. This tutorial from The Chalkboard Mag gives a pretty good step by step of how to make the best paste and ensure great results.  I love making a batch and having it around, rather than waiting for the dates to soak each time.

Now, all of that being said, I want to bring up the point that not all recipes are cut out to have date paste used as a sub-in for butter.  I’ve found that the best recipes to use date paste/Lighter Bake in are the ones that have other flavors going on rather than the buttery component. For example, my No-Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies are a great way to use date paste instead of butter, because a number of chocolate chips still gives the cookies a good amount of flavor and sweetness, while still needing the paste as a binder. On the other hand, chocolate croissants or lemon bars aren’t going to do well with date paste in them. But that’s ok! Baking with dates has their time and place, and it isn’t in everything.

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

On the other hand, something that relies on a fat/buttery component needs something on the neutral flavored side to hold up as the main flavor profile, like Sugar Cookies.

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

All that being said, give it a try! I know it seems weird at first, but it’s one of my favorite baking tricks now!  I know this was exhaustive and detailed about little teeny dates, but what can I say, more dates paste=more chocolate chip cookies, so I’m down with it.

Here are more recipes using my beloved date paste:

Pepita and Pecan Pie Pumpkin Bread

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

Chocolate Chip Snickerdoodles

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

Mini Double Chocolate Almond Cakes with Chocolate Glaze

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie Topped with Peanut Butter Walnut Frosting

Date paste is a vegan lifesaver when it comes to baking. From making your own to buying ready-made, it's easier than you might think to bake with dates!

 

Vegan Banana and Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oat Muffins

Vegan Banana and Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oat Muffins

Steel cut oats are the perfect base for a hearty banana vegan steel cut oat muffins studded with dark chocolate chunks! Vegan, GF option

Steel cut oats are the perfect base for a hearty banana vegan steel cut oat muffins studded with dark chocolate chunks! Vegan, GF option

When it comes to recipe testing, my husband can be a hard nut to crack (although sandwich cookies and layer cakes usually get the automatic thumbs up). I always know if he loves something like these steel cut oat muffins or is just on the fence about it, because he will either be quick to exclaim ‘This is really good!’ or just keep quiet and be all ‘oh yeah it’s pretty good…’. Sometimes when he’s just so-so about a (more…)

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Classic vegan oatmeal cookies get a sweet twist, with loads of chocolate chips, crispy edges and no chilling time required!

Classic vegan oatmeal cookies get a sweet twist, with loads of chocolate chips, crispy edges and no chilling time required!

This post is sponsored by One Degree Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this space possible!

Way back in the day, I was one of those Midwest kids who was in 4-H year after year. If you grew up in the Midwest, you probably knew it as the club that all the farm kids were in, the ones who raised chickens and cows and couldn’t hang out because they had animals to tend to and whatnot. But for me, it was more about being part of a club where I was able to do a lot of different things, like build model rockets (my dad loved that one!) and experiment with a microwave muffin recipe (don’t ask for it, trust me you don’t want it). I think a lot of my love for baking started when I joined 4-H, since I almost always chose to enter into at least a few baking projects and loved the heck outta selecting recipes and finding out which ones were winners, but the oatmeal cookies that came out of one project still stick with me to this day.  They were always crisp, chewy and consistently came out just right, without any chilling or waiting necessary (i.e. perfect for an impatient baker like myself). It got to the point where they were my signature cookie and I got requests to bake them for just about everyone we knew.

Classic vegan oatmeal cookies get a sweet twist, with loads of chocolate chips, crispy edges and no chilling time required!

When I set out to make these vegan oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips, I wanted to recreate those famous 4-H cookies, but with a healthy dose of chocolate and none of the eggs and dairy that usually come along with them. Honestly, I am not an oatmeal raisin cookie fan at all and would much rather eat no cookies than a cookie with raisins in it, so oatmeal chocolate chip cookies seemed like the perfect cure! These vegan oatmeal cookies turned out just like the version I used to make and enter into the county fair, with crispy edges, a chewy center and melty chocolate chips that are just warm enough to make them a little bit addictive.  (more…)

2017 Fall +Winter Bucket List

Wondering what to do this winter? I have 7 perfect ideas for making this the best winter yet!

Hiya and welcome to a Sunday post! I’ve been wanting to incorporate a few more different things in around here (natural skincare post coming soon) but I always thought, well does anyone really care? I’m kind of a nosy person myself, so I figure maybe some of you do, but if you’re here for the food, that’s still coming too!  I’m trying to be a lot more intentional with my fun activities every season, as it seems like they fly by in the blink of an eye and I’ve hardly had time to do all the season appropriate things that I was intending on doing. Inspired by my friend Erin I made a fall/winter bucket list for this year so the season doesn’t go by without all the fun stuff. Some of these are things I’ve been wanting to do for a while and others are just ones that I’ve wanted to do ever since we’ve moved to Milwaukee, but just haven’t gotten around to yet.

– Make homemade noodles

  • My late maternal grandmother was somewhat of a noodle master. She was famous for her chicken and noodles, making big batches of her homemade noodles and giving them to us every year. I remember her making a ton of them, all spread out around the kitchen counter and rolling them so thin that they cooked perfectly and were never too doughy. Sadly, I never got the official recipe from her, but my mom says that the recipe was all up in her head anyway. I’m making it my mission this winter to master noodles just like hers and keep them around for soups and all the best winter comfort foods!

– Go hiking in Kettle Moraine State Park

  • This is more local, but I’ve always wanted to see the fall colors at Kettle Moraine here in Milwaukee. The park is only about 40 minutes from where we live, so it’s crazy that we haven’t been more often. I’ve gone with friends once, but it was in the middle of the hot summer heat and more for a ‘let’s hike around a little and then get outta here’ situation. I would love to go when it’s cooler and not as busy as in the summertime.

– Host Friendsgiving

  • We started this last year and I LOVED it. As stressful as it is to host a big meal for several people, having all the friends we love around one table made it totally worth it. We threw this one together in a week last year so it was kind of unplanned, but I’ve already had the menu going in my brain this year to make it even better. A lot of our friends work in the tv news business like my husband, so they are working on the Thanksgiving holiday anyway. Hosting a Friendsgiving at our house lets us get everyone together and gives them the chance to eat all the good foods, even if it’s a week before the actual holiday.

– See The Nutcracker ballet

  • This is one that I’ve done with my parents year over year, planning way in advance to see the production at my local high school that was always my absolute favorite. Even though we live away from my parents now, Milwaukee has an incredible ballet company and they put on a lovely show for The Nutcracker. Seeing the Nutcracker several years ago reignited my love for ballet, so I always have a soft spot for this one specifically.

– Perfect vegan swiss cake roll recipe

  • This vegan swiss cake roll recipe has been one that has been on the ‘to make’ list for over year and I still haven’t quite nailed it. I really want to recreate my absolute favorite Little Debbie snacks, but the results have been less than perfect so far. It’s hard because the cake portion needs to be pliable enough to roll up, but tender and sweet at the same time. I’m going to chip away at this one on those cold winter weekends when it’s acceptable to stay inside all day. I promise after winter is over this recipe will come soon!

– Bake the perfect vegan cinnamon rolls

  • I have a few cinnamon roll recipes on my site, but I still haven’t developed my own solid, plain vegan cinnamon rolls recipe yet. Luckily, I know Oh, Ladycakes has the best recipes around and has posted multiple times about these fluffy, amazing looking rolls. I think a Sunday morning with snow and cinnamon rolls sounds just about perfect to me!

– Winter trip to Door County, WI

  • While I always visit Door County every summer with my parents, I would love to see the area in the winter! A lot of the main businesses are closed and a lot of the peninsula is gone for the fall/winter season, but it feels like a perfect time to book a room with a fireplace and curl up with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate.

There it is! I’m hoping that listing them out will keep me more accountable (never got through my summer bucket list!) and I hope it inspires you to make your own. I’m definitely a ‘cross things off a list’ kind of girl, so this is right up my alley and will keep me from hibernating all winter. Tell me in the comments a few of yours, I would love to hear them!