Experiment: To commemorate chef/author/food activist Bryant Terry's visit to Washington University, bake a recipe from Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine.
The chosen recipe: Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie.
[To read a Q&A with Terry, click here.]
Hypothesis: Vegan baked goods are always readily identifiable as being vegan.
Materials: Chocolate Pecan Pie
Coconut oil pie crust:
½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp raw cane sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt (or table salt)
7 tbsp coconut oil, solid
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup ice water
Chocolate-pecan pudding filling:
¾ cup unflavored rice milk
¼ cup arrowroot powder
¾ cup chocolate chips (nondairy)
½ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut oil
1 ¼ cup pecans, chopped
½ cup dried unsweetened coconut
1. Combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Add the solid coconut oil to the bowl and rub it into the flour mixer with your fingers until the mixture resembles small pebbles.
2. Add the cider vinegar to the ice water. Drizzle the water into the dough 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in each as you add it. Stop adding water when the dough holds together when squeezed.
3. Transfer to a clean surface. Shape the dough into a ball and flatten into a disc, like a hockey puck. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 45 minutes.
4. In a blender, combine the rice milk and arrowroot and puree for 30 seconds. Add the banana and puree for 15 seconds. Set aside.
5. In the top of a double boiler over simmering water (or in a little saucepan over a larger one with simmering water), melt the chocolate chips. Immediately combine the melted chocolate with the rice milk mixture, maple syrup, vanilla extract, coconut oil, pecans, and dried coconut. Mix well and set aside.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
7. Unwrap the pie dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, quickly roll the dough to a 12-inch circle. Roll the dough onto the pin and unroll it into a 9-inch pie plate. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the plate. Trim the edges with a knife so that they are even but still hanging over the edge of the plate. Make a decorative edge on the crust by pressing a piece of the dough between the forefinger of one hand and the thumb and forefinger of the other. Repeat around the edge of the pie.
8. Wrap the edge of the crust with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork several times. Transfer the crust to the oven and prebake for 5 minutes.
9. Remove the crust from the oven, remove the foil, and scrape the filling into it with a rubber spatula, spreading evenly.
10. Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until the filling is firm.
11. Remove from the oven, cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for at least two hours.
1. Unrefined coconut oil is far less pungent, although it is more expensive. It can be found in health-food stores. Regular coconut oil can be had cheaply from markets with Indian groceries.
2. Arrowroot can be found in the spice aisle. It can also be found at a serious discount in tubs from Jay International Food Co.
Results: "I don't understand how that is vegan."
Conclusion: The hypothesis is rejected. Vegan baked goods can be as good as their animal fat-laden counterparts, if not better...with the possible caveat that some of the ingredients are moderately more difficult to find.
Note: Offers to guests of leftovers from such baked goods are frequently rebuffed, owing to fear of overconsumption and subsequent weight gain. In the eye of this researcher, that unintended consequence is not undesirable, as it leaves more pie for herself.