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Be it casseroles, pasta, bread, cake, pastries, or other desserts, a range of delicacies require baking, and have been a part of cuisines all over the world for centuries. Baking is quite simply a method that involves the use of heat to cook food. Specifically, it uses ‘dry’ heat, in other words, heat from a source or instrument that doesn’t build up moisture - like an oven - but it can also be done in a more open setting like on hot coals, stones or ashes.
Bread and cake are obviously some of the foods more commonly associated with baking - but many other types of food are baked, both savory and sweet. Broadly, when it comes to the sweeter side, we talk about pastries and other ‘baked goods’ like pies, tarts, quiches, cookies, scones, muffins, doughnuts, crackers, pretzels, pancakes, flapjacks, and souffles.
When it comes to savoury dishes we might think of pizza, casseroles and pasta like lasagne or mac n cheese, baked potatoes, baked apples, baked beans, and more. And while eggs and dairy products are often associated with the baking process, many baked foods are (or can be, with the help of PlantX) completely plant-based!
Since baking works by heating the air around the food, it makes sense to say that’s it's an ‘out-to-in’ method, whereby heat moves from the outside or surface of food (for example, a ball of dough or a layer of batter) towards their centre - in the process transforming these ingredients, often ideally leaving a firmer, ‘crustier’ exterior and a softer, moister inside.
Baking can also be combined with other cooking methods - like boiling, frying, and grilling (think of your favourite pasta bakes, desserts or bread) to create foods with unique textures and consistencies. Who knows, maybe it could become your next at-home cooking obsession.
Top tips on plant-based baking
1. Additional kitchen appliances, utensils and ingredients you may need to enhance your baking experience: baking and cake trays; baking paper for things like pastries, cakes, muffins and more; a deep fryer if you want to get creative (and make things like plant-based doughnuts); a whisk; an oven or dutch-oven; baking soda; a scale; a measuring cup; and a big old bowl.
2. Buy or make your own plant-based and/or gluten-free substitutes for common baking ingredients: flaxseed eggs, chia eggs, and aquafaba are great alternatives so you can do egg-free baking. Then there are a range of dairy-free plant-based milks (oat, almond, soy, rice, coconut and more), butters, chocolates and creams; animal-product free oils; sweeteners (like maple syrup and stevia); and almond and other gluten-free flours. All of these are increasingly available at your fingertips - just check out the PlantX products section!
3. As with most cooking, doing it yourself is likely to be the safest way to ensure you don’t have any ingredients in there you don’t want - but if you have to buy pre-prepared baked goods and want to ensure they’re free from animal products and completely plant-based, there are a bunch of fantastic substitute products out there (ahem, PlantX has got you covered).
The history of baking
It's hard to believe, but there is record of humans making and eating bread as far back as 30,000 years - meaning that technically, the first baking occurred about thirty millennia before you now read this. The earliest bakers - generally understood to be the Indigenous people of Australia - used dry heat from sources like flat hot stones, coals or ashes to bake primitive flatbreads.
Baking as a form of artisanship in modern times emerged during the Roman era, with the first ‘pastry cooks’, around 300 years BCE. While this occupation was mostly concerned with crafting impressive pastries for decadent celebrations, the profession grew and became more accessible and widely available over time.
But baking really took off with modern industrialization, and the production of both leavening agents (like baking soda) and appliances (like industrial ovens). This allowed for the mass-production of bread and other baked goods, which could also be modified to increase their shelf-life, durability and reduce costs.
Smaller-scale and at-home bread baking became less and less popular, as people could access factory-made bread in shops and markets more easily and at cheaper prices. Unfortunately, this is also when a lot of the nasty additives and unhealthy, artificial extra ingredients began being added in the process of baking.
What are the most delicious plant-based recipes to bake?
Many of the wonderful plant-based cakes, bread, pastries, casseroles, pasta and other baked foods out there are surprisingly easy to make! Once you’ve got your base ingredients for bread for example - flour and water - simply knead your dough, add yeast, and you’re pretty much good to go!
On the sweet front, think cakes - chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, whatever you like (there are plant-based possibilities everywhere! Also pies - cherry, pumpkin, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, apple and more - muffins - banana, cornmeal, chocolate, cinnamon, and more - brownies and cookies (chocolate, peanut butter, and more), pancakes, and breads like banana, pear, almond and more.
If you’re feeling more savoury, consider making plant-based pizza, pasta bakes, macaroni and cheese, baked sweet potatoes and peppers, beans, and more.
Just have a browse through our generous selection of baking ingredients here at PlantX. It can cater to any of your needs - gluten-free, wheat-free, vegan - we have it all!