GBBO7: we heart chickpeas

October 10, 2018 10:03 am Published by 2 Comments

It’s Vegan Week – to the delight of some contestants and the dismay of others. Jon has had to carry out ‘internet searches on vegetables’. Paul Hollywood is resolutely unimpressed (‘Is there a Paul Hollywood vegan cookbook?’ ‘No.’). Kim-Joy is radiant. ‘You look like you might know your way round a vegan restaurant’, suggests Noel, a man who looks like he might know his way round my grandmother’s dressing-up box.


Vegan baking means no eggs, no butter and no milk, removing most of the staple elements of standard baking. It also means no honey and, of course, no other ingredients made from animal products. Certain food colourings are out, therefore, and so is cheese, which matters when it comes to savoury bakes.

Within these restrictions, the bakers produced perfect pastries, brilliant biscuits, marvellous meringues and creamy cakes. And they made it look easy. How?

Vegan baking alternatives

They used vegan baking alternatives: there’s an option for everything you can think of! Let’s look at some of the products they chose.

Non-dairy milk: the contestants opted for a range of dairy-free ‘milks’ to make their cakes and creams. Manon used cashew milk, thickened with arrowroot, for a bechamel. The technical challenge called for coconut milk, thickened with cornflour, to create a pastry cream.

Non-dairy cream: Rahul’s coconut creation was adorned with coconut cream – thick and luscious. At Naturally Good Food we also sell oat cream, almond cream and soya cream (including squirty soya cream).

Tofu: Kim-Joy used tofu to make an ‘invisible squirrel’ vegan mascarpone. Something went wrong, because you could actually see the squirrel, but that didn’t seem to lose her any points.

Coconut oil: this was the ingredient that wowed the old cynic, Paul. It works in pastry pretty much like butter, with just a hint of coconut (or, if you use the Biona odourless cuisine version, without any coconut flavour at all). You do need to make sure, however, that your coconut oil is truly vegan and has harmed no animals in its production. Read our blog about the issue here: There’s no monkey business with our coconut oil.

Other plant-based oils: the bakers also used olive and avocado oils in place of dairy fat.

Vegan chocolate: we sell a great range of dairy-free chocolate at NGF, including amazing vegan white chocolate, which is made from cocoa butter and rice syrup powder.

Chickpea water: a special mention must go to this ingredient – aquafaba, the liquid surrounding tinned chickpeas (or the cooking water used for dried chickpeas). Ruby, speaking for the nation, wondered who first thought ‘I’m going to whisk the hell out of some chickpea juice’. Whoever it was, they must have been pleased with the results: it works just like egg whites to produce bright white, sparkly, crunchy, marshmallow-y meringues.

Syrups: if you’re not using honey, but want to add a touch of liquid sweetness, opt for a syrup instead, such as maple syrup, agave syrup or coconut blossom nectar.

Nutritional yeast: this gives a cheesy taste: we’ve got two types, from Marigold.

Bicarbonate of soda mixed with vinegar: the bubbles produced by the combination of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar help a cake to rise, without the need for eggs.

Other vegan alternatives: Naturally Good Food has been selling alternative baking ingredients to vegans for decades. We’ve got the raw ingredients, but also some little vegan ‘cheats’, in the form of powders. So if you’re making a vegan cheese sauce, try Free and Easy’s powder. For vegan scrambled eggs, omelettes and frittatas, we’ve got Orgran Easy Egg. For the general replacement of eggs in baking, our two No-Egg Egg Replacers are fantastic.

Vegan baking techniques

You’ll need to perfect some new techniques, to make the most of your vegan ingredients. If you’re using a mixture of bicarb and vinegar to help your cake rise, you have to get it in the oven quickly before the reaction stops. Overall, you need to balance your ingredients carefully to prevent your cakes becoming overly dense, claggy or rubbery. A good quantity of fat is necessary to make sure your pastry sticks together – and it’s as well to understand ‘tricks’ like adding natural colourings, spices or poppyseeds to make an otherwise pasty pastry look a little healthier.

Is it all a trick?

In the signature round, the bakers were instructed to come up with bakes that the judges wouldn’t be able to tell were vegan. This makes vegan baking sound like a bit of a trick: a sleight of hand, using alternative ingredients and different techniques, to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.

There’s another point of view, however. Vegan baking – and vegan cooking in general – is thought by many to work best when you simply make the most of the ingredients you have, without trying to pretend they’re something else. Rahul’s Indian tarts were a great example of this, layers of spices and well-combined flavours, described by Prue as ‘poetry’. In many parts of the world, of course, eating vegan isn’t a ‘lifestyle choice’, but what people naturally do every day. In these countries, they understand all about the proper use of spices, pulses and grains to cover all the flavour and nutritional bases.

We’re with them. For us at Naturally Good Food, vegan cooking is really about celebrating ingredients in their own right and finding the very best ways to cook with them. Rather than limiting your recipes, eating vegan can free you from the same-old ingredient and flavour combinations, letting you experiment widely – sometimes, with startlingly brilliant results.

Chickpea champion? Garbanzo garbage?

Kim-Joy chose to celebrate Vegan Week by baking a menagerie of animals, including a cake for a friend decorated with foxes (‘his spiritual animal’). She scampered into top spot, as Star Baker.

Jon, pessimistic from the start, went home. ‘The Vegan Gods’ got to him, skewering him on a kebab stick.

There was a group hug: it’s all getting a bit tense now. ‘I have no idea who’s going to win this thing’, asserted Prue, crossing her fingers behind her back and hoping we won’t notice she’s already tweeted it’s Rahul.

Vegan recipe

This recipe for peanut and potato curry is a great example of playing to the strengths of vegan ingredients. It’s full of flavour, quick, easy and cheap to make. Just the kind of thing Rahul might choose to put in a savoury tart.

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne


  • Sharon Taylor-Watson says:

    Very informative! Even to a vegan. Well done – great article.

    • Yzanne says:

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for the appreciative comment! Keep an eye out for the last three blogs as we head into the final stages!

      Yzanne Mackay
      Writer and Editor
      Naturally Good Food

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