Finally…..I’ll never have to look at another tub of Pure again! Or any other kind of vegan friendly margarine for that matter. But wait, I hear vegans cry, thanks to these margarines we’ve been able to bake, spread and fry like our non-vegan counterparts, what’s the problem?! I took the step to eliminate vegan margarine from my diet a few years ago when I realised it was impossible in this country to find one that does not contain palm oil (and yes, some of it is sustainable (Biona, Suma) so marginally better, but sustainable still means forest had to be taken away to plant the sustainable crop in the first place). And believe me I have searched for a forest friendly vegan marge! Everywhere! (They seem to have loads of palm oil free ones in Australia, where I guess the palm oil epidemic gets more coverage, but here, zilch). If you want to get to the nitty gritty (the recipe) just scroll down now and ignore the rest (shortbread recipe below butter recipe)………
I simply stopped using it and instead drizzled olive oil or spread nut butter on my toast and tried to find baking that could use oil instead.
As it turns out, I was doing my health a favour at the same time. Many vegan margarines are packed with chemicals and stabilisers and are highly processed. Whilst butter used to be seen as the devil incarnate for health, experts are starting to say this is now better for us than plant based margarine. But obviously we vegans beg to differ – anything that is curdled from food that belongs to a baby animal is obviously not going to float our boat!
So there I was getting along with my olive oil and nut butter…but something was missing. There were certain baking items I longed to make, such as shortbread, but couldn’t without some kind of butter substitute. Finally though, it seems I have cracked it. I have found a recipe for making vegan butter that is scientifically close to the real thing, quick and easy to make and actually works!
The downside: as with many things in life, there are a couple of disadvantages, but then the benefits way outweigh these (vegan butter on tap, no cow cruelty, no orangutan cruelty and good for your health!) The downsides are: it uses coconut oil. Some people don’t like the taste (though if you use the refined version you shouldn’t taste it – I used Biona mild coconut oil cuisine, this has no smell or taste whatsoever), some people are allergic to it, and some find it just too expensive. Er, well that’s it. Oh and you need to buy in a couple of ingredients that you don’t find in the shops easily (I ordered them online), but once you have them they will last forever as you use tiny amounts. I suppose for me having to use soya milk is a slight downside, as I have almost eliminated this from my diet too for the same reasons as palm oil, but you can get rainforest friendly versions and if you don’t want to open and use a whole packet just for the small amount needed here, you can simply freeze the remainder for next time. I haven’t experimented using anything other than coconut oil, and the recipe does call for soya milk as it’s the only one that curdles properly.
The ingredients you don’t find easily in the shops are lecithin and xuantham gum, which help the mixture combine well. As I say, you can find them easily enough online. Lecithin usually comes from soya, but again I was able to find a non-gmo version (and it really is a tiny amount you use).
I really do recommend reading the entire article that I took this recipe from. It actually goes into the science behind how ‘butter’ works and is pretty interesting! https://www.veganbaking.net/recipes/fats/vegan-butters/vegan-butter It also gives you ideas on how to try different flavours of butter.
You will also do well to invest in a couple of silicone cake moulds to set it in (as you can see in my pic) or you could just use empty margarine tubs.
¼ cup + 2 teaspoons soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¼ + ⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (130 grams) refined coconut oil, melted
1 Tablespoon rapeseed oil
2 ¼ teaspoons soy lecithin powder/granules
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum or ½ + ⅛ teaspoon psyllium husk powder
Yield: 1 cup (215 grams)
(I doubled the ingredients but in fact you could treble or quadruple them and make a big batch as it keeps well in the fridge and you simply defrost the stuff an hour before you need to bake or whatever with it).
1) Curdle your soy milk
Place the soy milk, apple cider vinegar and salt in a small cup and whisk together with a fork. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the mixture curdles.
2) Mix your Vegan Butter ingredients
Melt the coconut oil in a microwave so it’s barely melted and as close to room temperature as possible. Measure it and add it and the rapeseed oil to a food processor. Add the soy milk mixture, soy lecithin and xanthan gum to the food processor. Process for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides halfway through the duration.
3) Transfer the Vegan Butter to a mould so it solidifies.
Pour the mixture into a mould and place it in the freezer to solidify. It should be ready to use in about an hour. Store Vegan Butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer for up to 1 year. That’s it!
I didn’t have any refined coconut oil so I used unrefined and it did taste quite strongly of coconut if used as a spread. However when I baked with it it tasted great. I thought the best test for the butter factor was to make shortbread with it and it’s honestly some of the best I’ve ever tried. I even used a ‘standard’ shortbread recipe and just replaced the cow butter with mine. Though I did add chocolate chips to my shortbread because I thought that would hide the coconutty taste a bit, and they were scrummy! My French baking obsessed husband gave it the thumbs up and is now going to use it in all his pastries and pies!
Shortbread recipe (Taken from BBC Good Food) https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/11609/shortbread
- 300g vegan butter, softened
- 140g golden caster sugar, plus 4 tbsp
- 300g plain flour
- 140g rice flour
- handful of chocolate chips (optional)
- Place the butter and 140g sugar in a food processor and whizz until smooth. Tip in both the flours and a pinch of salt, then whizz until mixture comes together.
- Using your hands, roughly spread the mixture out in a 20 x 30 x 4cm baking tray. Cover with cling film and smooth over until there are no wrinkles. Place in the fridge, uncooked, for at least 30 mins and up to 2 days.
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Remove cling film, then lightly mark the shortbread all over with a fork. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar, then bake for 20-25 mins. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into 24 thin slices. Shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.