As vegan and gluten free baking becomes more and more in demand the market has become squished with offerings that fit the bill. Unfortunately many bakers take shortcuts with the sweets they create and those of us who have limited options are left not feeling satisfied. Here’s a few common mistakes I’ve noticed many bakers and manufacturers make when trying to make that dough and a few tips to up their baking game.

The “just add more sugar” approach.

erin mckenna

Photo by Jenny Georgieva

When experimenting with gluten free, vegan baking, most new bakers head for the sugar shortcut to get the mouth-feel they want. It’s true that sugar is a quick fix to most texture challenges because it give that delicious crunch and keeps products moist but when over-used the result is a baked good that tastes too sweet and out of balance. Patience in the kitchen is key to get that magic texture. Use just enough sugar to get a nice crust, then add some fruit puree like applesauce or pumpkin to get a soft crumb.

A cookie cannot replace your salad.

erin mckenna

Photo by Meredith Ross

Going overboard on the “healthy” ingredients is another common mistake many well-meaning people make. When a baker tries to knead in every health ingredient of the moment to make the sweet virtuous, the finished product can taste dense, and too (dare I say) healthy.

I’m a huge fan of slipping meaningful ingredients into your cookie batch. It’s a great way to get those used to the not-so-good for you things on board with your mission. Use just a few power ingredients like coconut oil which is high in lauric acid and boosts metabolism and high fiber flour like oat or bean and then make it business as usual with traditional ingredients like chocolate chips, excellent vanilla and don’t forget the salt!

Just because it walks like a cake and talks like a cake, doesn’t mean it’s a cake.

erin mckenna

Photo by Justin Shannin

So often I see products on the market that seem to say “I Give Up.” It’s as if the baker threw his/her hands up and said, “Well, it doesn’t have eggs, dairy, soy, or gluten. What do you want from me?!” It takes a lot of dedication and patience to finesse the batter in such a way that respects all the nuances of a traditionally decadent treat that makes you feel elated.

It’s the crunch when you bite into it followed by that soft pillowy texture, the way it melts on your tongue and then that crunch again… the sweetness followed by a touch of salt that gets your mouth watering for more. There is so much possibility and promise in your pantry. Find the inspiration and work from there. Or you can buy my books, I’ve already done the dirty work.