Tonawanda News

Lifestyle

October 12, 2007

FOOD: Vegan baking today tastes better than it sounds

Not so long ago, most Americans considered vegan desserts an oxymoron.

But thanks to new and better ingredients, as well as improved availability, the last decade has seen a revolution in the world of egg- and dairy-free baking.

"In the old days, you'd think of vegan baking as whole-wheat flour and fruit-based sweeteners and grains, sort of like a reflection of vegan food from the '70s," says Colleen Holland, associate publisher of VegNews magazine.

"Now it's petits fours. It's brownies. It's fudge. And you can't even tell the difference from the mainstream versions."

———

WHAT CHANGED?

For starters, interest. Healthy eating trends have led more people to investigate vegetarian and vegan foods. Vegetarian Times magazine, for example, says half its readers aren't vegetarian.

As a result, vegan bakeries have opened around the country, and vegan cookbooks and Web sites are more prolific, offering a wealth of resources to bakers who prefer to eliminate animal products — including eggs and milk — from their diet for ethical or health reasons.

"Not everything has to taste like wheatgrass now," says Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" and the forthcoming "Veganomicon." ''Veganism has gotten a lot more decadent."

Vegans also have benefited from tremendous growth in the organic and natural foods industry. Organic foods aren't necessarily vegan, but strong interest in them has fostered a marketplace that allowed vegan products to flourish.

Greater attention to food allergies has helped, too. Awareness of egg and dairy sensitivities has prompted many families to seek out alternatives, efforts that sometimes turned into businesses.

As in the case of Divvies, a South Salem, N.Y., bakery and online shop started in 2005 by Lori Sandler, a mom frustrated by the lack of treats available for her son Benjamin, who is allergic to eggs, dairy and nuts.

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