Baking up vegan delights
Driven by a love of animals, Doron Petersan went vegan more than a decade ago.
But memories of her favorite treats haunted her. But this vegan wasn’t about to let a lack of butter or eggs stop her.
“There was a real lack of decadent and tasty vegan baked goods at the time,” Petersan said. “I realized a lot of the things we were missing could be made vegan, so I started experimenting.”
Friends started asking her to bake for them, too, and a bakery was born. In 2002, she opened Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, the first vegan bakery in Washington, D.C.
Building on 10 years of recipes, she’s been taking on traditional ingredients and showing up the competition on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars,” which airs at 7 p.m. Sundays. Pitting her vegan recipes – no eggs, butter, dairy or animal products of any kind – against traditional favorites, her vegan cupcakes won top honors. Twice.
Now she shares recipes for vegan favorites including sticky buns, cheesecakes, tiramisu and her bakery’s popular Little Devils (inspired by Devil Dogs).
From which flours work best to egg replacers and dairy-free ingredients, Petersan offers solid baking advice in her first cookbook, “Sticky Fingers’ Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes” ($27.50, Avery) available in stores Thursday.
Petersan, 39, lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband and 7-month-old son. When she’s not baking, she competes in bike races with Team Sticky Fingers.
Q.You not only took on traditional cupcakes, but won two challenges on Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”?
A. “Cupcake Wars” influenced how people perceive us. People who thought, “Eww, vegan baking,” they’re inspired to try us.
We won twice against traditional bakers. We’re not just scooting by because we’re the only game in town. Every single bakery and Whole Foods offer vegan bakery, and that’s competition. We enjoy that. Bring it on.
Q. You studied dietetics at the University of Maryland. Why not culinary school?
A. I’d always worked in restaurants growing up. That’s how I made rent money. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was volunteering at shelters as a vet tech. That’s how I became vegetarian, working with all these animals. Then I started learning about what it took to be vegetarian and vegan.
I took a class for dietetics that was mandatory. I was fascinated. Some stuff is more difficult than others, but it’s all about the science. There’s no magic to the egg and dairy.
Q. Any non-vegan options you miss?
A. I’m not going to lie. Of course, there are flavors I crave or want. I wouldn’t say I don’t miss anything. You grow up with certain flavors you love. I re-create it. . . .
I do want my mother’s meatballs or lasagna just the way I remember it. That’s what I did with the bakery. I found a recipe for chocolate cake and found a way to tweak it. . . .
We don’t allow any carob in the bakery. We’re not going to win over non-vegans with just really good carob-covered cookies. You need really rich and delicious flavors to capture the memories.
Q. Anything you haven’t been able to re-create?
A. There are certain recipes that are extremely difficult. For instance, cannoli is absolutely one of the things I grew up eating and love. I have a very specific flavor in mind. My grandmother used to make it, very distinct flavors. It’s difficult to get those flavors up front before you taste soy or cornstarch.
We’ve got the shells or the sauce down, but the filling we haven’t. I’ve tasted a million and one cannoli, vegan and non-vegan, but I still haven’t gotten it.
Q. Your baked goods have playful names like Gilbert Ganachefried and Banana Chimp Bread. How does what you call something play into whether people will try it?
A. So much. We discovered people’s perceptions of how it tastes is going to affect the outcome of what they like. If you call it a “soy-based treat with seitan,” that sounds disgusting. People want caramel gooey stuff and things they relate to delicious.
Q. You’ve spent a decade creating vegan treats. What do you want people to know about this cookbook?
A. These recipes are not some magically different baking recipes. These are recipes that any baker can do. It’s about food science and chemistry. . . . It’s not just for people with food allergies. First and foremost these recipes are delicious. Second, they’re vegan.
Q. Have you seen a change in availability of vegan ingredients?
A. Nonhydrogenated margarines and shortenings are much easier to get now. When we started, you could only get Crisco. We’re able to do more in terms of healthier options.
Q. Most popular item in the bakery?
A. In our store specifically, hands down our most popular flavor is chocolate. No matter what we do or come up with, chocolate is the main flavor.
With “Cupcake Wars,” we’ve been on (Food Network) three times, won twice. We always bring the flavors back to the store and see what sells best. We just had Johnny Cashew, a chocolate cupcake with cashew candies on top. We couldn’t keep them on the shelf. Just for a little extra chocolate, people were going nuts.
Q. Why are cupcakes still so popular?
A. I think the popularity of cupcakes in our store and “Cupcake Wars” helps keep the momentum. But it started long before “Cupcake Wars” was a twinkle in someone’s eyes. Hand-held desserts are always popular. You wouldn’t know there was an economic crisis going on by the amount of cupcakes we sell.
Q. You’ve got a bit of a Bettie Page look going on for the book cover, with the addition of a few tattoos. Any tattoos featuring baked goods or for the new book?
A. As far as tattoos, I can’t help it. I’ve always been fascinated. My grandfather was in the Navy. I do have one from “Cupcake Wars,” a cupcake inside a television. What I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, the tattoos hurt more and more. That, and now I have a baby. I don’t have the disposable income I used to.
Article excerpted from www.jsonline.com
Posted on February 22, 2012, in vegan, Vegan's Delight, vegetarian and tagged Cupcake Wars, Food Network, Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, vegan, vegan bakery, vegan cupcake, vegan cupcakes, vegan delights, vegan ingredients, vegan recipe, vegan recipes, vegan treats. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.