Day 19: Adventures in low-fat vegan baking

There will never come a time during the 28-day Engine 2 challenge where I say, "Yeah, but I just wish I could spend more time cooking." Within the past couple of days, though, I have found myself really missing baking, which had been one of my favorite hobbies throughout the winter and spring. I was getting close to mastering my pie crust and had just started to figure out cakes. So I decided to jump in and try a few low-fat vegan baking recipes and see what shook out. I started out braving the recipe entitled "Blueberry Dumpster Cobbler" from the Engine 2 cookbook. The book provides an explanation about the name, something to do with a dumpster fire being the fastest kind to put out and this is a quick and easy recipe. Still, it's an unfortunate choice for the name, especially since I can think of a host of other reasons to call it a dumpster cobbler.

I should have known better when I checked the list of ingredients - whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, vanilla, soy milk, agave and blueberries. I thought, "Really? Can that add up to something that actually tastes good?"

And the answer is no. No, it cannot.

The cobbler part was dense and flat and had a strange chemical taste to it. Perhaps it was just the weird flavor combination of the soy milk and wheat flour. Maybe it was the taste of impending death. Who's to say? Either way, I'm not sure the reason we eat baked goods is because we want to invest a good amount of time trying to get used to the taste.

(It should be noted, however - and expected, by anyone who knows my husband well - that he ate the entire cobbler anyway. In which case, I think he becomes the "dumpster" in the cobbler name.)

Undaunted - or daunted, but eager to get that taste out of my mouth - I moved on to the Low Fat Vegan Black Bean Brownies featured on the Happy Herbivore site. I've heard good things about using black beans in regular brownies but, my expectations dashed by the Great Dumpster Cobbler Disaster of Aught-Twelve, I didn't have the highest expectations for these.

Which was probably fair, given that even the photo on the website isn't fooling anyone that these are going to taste like your regular ol' brownies. And they don't. They use bananas to help retain moisture, so the result is a slightly cocoa-y, banana-y, fudgy...thing. It's like a brownie's less-fun cousin, the one who sits in the corner at the wedding and no one asks her to dance because she's just a little weird even though she means really, really well.

But I'm trying to remember that my palate has already changed a lot in the last couple of weeks. I'm genuinely enjoying foods I wasn't thrilled about before. It's possible that I could become a person who craves these low-fat vegan brownies. It's also possible I could become a supermodel.

In case you miss my point, what I'm saying is: not likely.

Next up was another Happy Herbivore recipe: the Blueberry Breakfast Cake recipe. Now, if you think I was drawn to this recipe simply because it has the word "cake" in it, like a toddler with no self-control, you'd be 100% right. It's actually more like a coffee cake or a breakfast quick-bread and it benefits, I think, from a wider range of ingredients to give it a pretty nice texture. The flavor wasn't outstanding, but I think the fact that I didn't use great blueberries deserved a lot of the blame.

Dense and moist - absent the fluff eggs would bring to the equations - no one's gonna mistake this for a regular coffee cake. But that isn't really the point, is it? It'll still taste outstanding with a ton of butter spread on it! Kidding!

Except, you know, that it would.

Here's what I think: incredibly low-fat vegan baking is not going to be amazing. Also, I'm probably the last person on earth to realize that. I'm curious to see what happens when I'm ready to play fast and loose with the fat grams. Maybe I'll discover that there's just no substitute for butter. But there's probably an acceptable compromise.

Or perhaps it's better to save up for an occasion to land face-down in one of Big City Small World Bakery's amaaaaazing vegan ding dongs, which could go head-to-head with any non-vegan chocolate cake any day of the week.

Although - and I was so fixated on results that I almost completely failed to notice this part - I still really, really enjoyed the act of baking again. Yes, even when it should have gone right in the dumpster.