Do Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies Taste Better?

I have recently become interested in vegan baking.  While not a vegan myself, I have had vegan dinner guests and preparing a dairy-free, eggless dessert has presented an exciting challenge.

How do you mimic the behavior of an egg in a baked product?  Eggs have magical scientific properties that make cakes rise and fluff, cookies moisten, and bread shine.  Leave an egg out of a recipe inadvertently (as I did once) and you’ll know it right away.  Can you imagine a soufflé without eggs?

 Vegan baked goods use a variety of ingredients to replace eggs, milk, and butter.  One vegan brownie recipe I tried used soymilk and canned pumpkin.  Some vegans will use applesauce.  Tofu is another common substitute, as is a flaxseed paste.  Several people online recommend Earth Balance brand margarine. Commercial bakeries use ingredients like brown rice syrup or evaporated cane juice as sweeteners.

 But how does all of this taste?  I can vouch for the cupcakes at the vegan Sticky Fingers Bakery in the D.C. neighborhood of Columbia Heights.  Their cupcakes are some of the best I’ve ever tasted—vegan or not.  You would truly never know they were unconventional.

 Having determined that there are good vegan cupcakes out there, I decided to compare another bakery staple—chocolate chip cookies.  I purchased cookies from Sticky Fingers and one of my D.C-area favorite traditional bakeries, Buzz.  Cookies from only two bakeries are admittedly a small sample, but I was limited in time and budget.  I gathered a scientific panel (my boyfriend’s family) and conducted a blind taste test.

 The Buzz cookies were fairly large, and used chocolate disks rather than chips.  The cookie itself had a nice brown sugar taste, but some complained that there were too many bites without chocolate.

 The Sticky Fingers cookies were moister, with smaller chips.  One tester immediately tasted an odd spice, something like nutmeg.

 When asked which cookie was vegan, all the testers immediately identified the Sticky Fingers cookie.  However, they agreed that it wasn’t that they disliked it, more just that something seemed “off” which made them suspect it was the vegan one.

 I enjoy the vegan chocolate chip cookies at Whole Foods more than their traditional ones.  The Whole Foods cookies are more chewy, and you can break them into pieces with one hand (which is convenient when eating them at your desk like I do).  I find the dough to have a more balanced taste.  Both the vegan and traditional cookies are available as single cookies (perfect for lunch) and they are the same price.  Whole Foods has also started carrying selected items from Sticky Fingers.

 While I don’t plan to make a habit of eating vegan desserts, I do enjoy investigating them and will be happy to share any tasty ones that come along.

Photo courtesy of joyofbaking.com