I have to be honest. Up until recently, my (misguided) perception of vegan food had led me shy away from any recipes or menu items mentioning the ‘V’ word.
Though I have always respected the principles upon which veganism is based, in my mind, vegan food was a mix of potentially tasteless and hard to find ingredients that couldn’t possibly come together to form something that would rival their non-vegan counterparts.
As neglectful as I had been of the ‘V’ word for all these years, somewhere deep inside I knew that any true foodie should, and would, know more about what vegan food brings to the table. Sorry. I know. So when invited to dinner by a vegan friend not too long ago, I figured the time had finally come for me to educate myself and give vegan cooking a go for the very first time.
I did some reading and finally settled on coconut berry muffins which were very well received – even my non-vegan friend who doesn’t eat sweets started with a quarter “just to taste” and ended up eating the whole thing. They are dense and moist and perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee. They smell great too.
In my research, I also discovered that some cane sugars are not vegan because the purification process involves filtering the sugar through charcoal which may be derived from animal bones (bone char). Eek. Apparently this is becoming less common and I read here that no sugar that is processed in Australia is filtered in this way but it seems it is still done in other places. I have to say this fact came as an unpleasant surprise. One of many no doubt.
My research also opened my eyes in terms of just how many substitutes are available for those following a vegan diet and I especially liked this colourful and creative Vegan Baking Cheat Sheet that I stumbled across.
All in all, my little foray into the vegan world definitely revealed my previous ignorance towards vegan food and I look forward to trying more of the many great vegan recipes available out in the blogosphere. It also encouraged me to learn more about where our food comes from which can’t be a bad thing.
Another bonus is that many vegan recipes, like the one below, are also gluten and dairy free and as I know there are people following this blog that suffer from intolerances to those ingredients I hope that by exploring more vegan recipes I will uncover more recipes they can enjoy too.
Now, about the muffins. The original recipe was very savoury and I was looking for a sweet treat so I added sugar and berries. I also added baking powder so they would rise although I did make some flatter ones (filled the paper liners ¾ full) that I iced and then decorated with a berry or two on top. The more rounded ones I thought looked best without icing, just dusted in icing sugar. If you’re going to ice the muffins, you need to push the berries under the surface before baking. If you don’t there will be little craters on the surface and the icing will sink into them which isn’t a good look!Vegan Coconut Berry Muffins (Makes 14-18)
(adapted from DelishD’s recipe at allrecipes.com)
240g rice flour
3 tsp baking powder
180g desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
1 tsp salt
160g caster sugar (if making for a vegan make sure the sugar is vegan too!)
300g mixed berries (fresh or frozen – I used 100g blueberries and 200g chopped strawberries)
Extra berries and icing sugar to decorate
Pre heat oven to 190°C/375°F.
Pour the coconut milk into a large bowl and sift in the rice flour and baking powder. Add desiccated coconut, salt and sugar and mix well using a whisk. Add the berries and gently stir them into the mixture. If using frozen berries don’t defrost them first.
Place paper or silicon liners in a muffin pan – I tried both and when the muffins first came out of the oven they were impossible to get out of the paper liners but slid out of the silicon liners straight away. They did come out of the paper liners once they had cooled completely though.
Fill the liners ¾ full if you want flatter muffins or to the top if you want more rounded ones. Make sure there is a thin layer of the mixture at the bottom otherwise there will be holes in the base where the berries are and they will look uneven when you take them out of the cases.
Bake in the pre heated oven for 30-35 minutes until they start to go crusty on top and turn slightly golden brown (don’t expect they kind of colour you’d get if you were baking a sponge!)
Allow to cool and top with icing if using. If not, make up a little bit of icing and use it to stick and berry or two in the middle of each muffin. Don’t dust with icing sugar until just before serving as the sugar will be absorbed into the muffins pretty quickly.Pomegranate icing 120g icing sugar
1 ½ tbsp pomegranate juice (or any other red coloured juice)
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the juice a little at a time and stir until you have a firm but spreadable mixture that won’t run down the sides of the muffin when you spread it on. Once cooled a thin shell-like layer will form on top.
Put the kettle on, grab the soya milk and enjoy!