That time of year is here again. That obnoxious time, that I secretly love, where anything and everything is pumpkin spice flavored. And I hear both sides of the coin all the time. There are the people that are totally into it. All out pumpkin eeeeeverything. And they tweet and instagram and facebook it all. “First pumpkin spice latte of the season ya’ll!” You know the kind. Maybe you are the kind. I’m not judging. But then there are those that mock that side. They’re all, “Why is everything pumpkin flavored? Pumpkin sucks!” And you guys are right. Pumpkin completely on it’s own isn’t really all that exciting flavor wise. But pumpkin hating peeps, here is the deal: It really isn’t about the actual pumpkin flavor. It’s about the spice! The cinnamon, the nutmeg, the allspice, the ginger. All of those things that go into pumpkin pie spice is what we associate with the flavor of pumpkin. And I secretly love it because those spices scream that Fall is coming and things are about to get a whole lot more cozy.
After writing all that, I feel like I just became an advocate for pumpkin season. That really wasn’t my intention. But since we’re going that way, pumpkin is actually pretty awesome especially as a substitution in baking. Similar to mashed banana, pumpkin can often be used as a substitution for eggs or oil in baked goods. For instance, a scone recipe typically calls for one egg. But since I am making pumpkin scones, I don’t even need a replacement for the egg. The pumpkin will do the trick in binding the scones together. And pumpkin works similarly in this pumpkin pecan bread, these pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and pumpkin chocolate coffee cake.
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind when adapting or writing recipes for alternative baking methods is what the purpose of each ingredient is that you are substituting. In a traditional scone recipe there are typically three components that need to be adapted for a vegan version.
The Egg: Because of the amount of other leaveners in a scone recipe (baking powder and baking soda), the egg is mostly used for binding the scone together and for a bit of moisture. The pumpkin in this recipe replaces both. Other options could be banana, non-dairy yogurt, chia egg, or flax egg.
The Fat: Often cold butter is the fat in a scone recipe, though shortening is seen at times. The fat gives richness to the scone but also serves as an important part of the rising process. The fat needs to be cold so that when it heats up in the oven the water will start to evaporate and the steam helps the scone to rise. This cold solid fat is easily replaced with vegan butter, or vegetable shortening. I prefer the flavor, or lack there of, and texture that vegetable shortening brings to the party.
The Milk or Buttermilk: Plain milk or cream in a recipe mostly serves the purpose of moisture and richness and can be easily replaced with non-dairy milk. Buttermilk, on the other hand, is acidic and brings some tang into the batter and usually serves an additional purpose of activating the baking soda. (Because as we know, if you’ve read my science of baking soda and baking powder article, baking soda needs something acidic to balance it’s alkalinity in order to serve the purpose of leavening the batter.) So non-dairy milk on it’s own will not be a good substitute. We need to add some acidity, and vinegar (or lemon juice) will do the trick.
And now, I leave you to gawk at the scones. The lovely orange colored, and beautifully earthy flavored, scones. Not to toot my own horn, but the idea of the spicy cherry jam to pair with these was a pretty damn good idea. In fact the jam all on it’s own is a pretty amazing idea. Toot, toot.
Welcome to Fall. Welcome to pumpkin spice season. Here we go!