My mother's famous shortbread recipe (which I believe she got from a grandmother) consists of:
50/50 mix of butter and margarine
As mentioned in my "ink brayer" thread under "decorating," I made a small test batch using Earth Balance vegan margarine (it seems that the individual who came up with the idea for the project has a strong dairy allergy).
They tasted OK, but the texture came out rather like sweetened piecrust.
Does anybody have any suggestions on how I might adjust the vegan version to restore a more normal texture?
Might need a touch of baking powder. http://emilylevenson.com/recipe-vegan-shortbread-cookies
Not sure how baking powder would help: they came out less dense than normal. What I mean by the "piecrust" texture is that they seem flaky and fragile, and where shortbreads normally have a very smooth upper surface, these came out with the sort of pebbled, almost orange-peel texture I would expect to find in a blind-baked pie shell.
Last night, I baked a test batch of a gingerbread boy recipe, and it's definitely not going to be used for this project.
Hmm. More flour seems like it would make more sense. Any idea how much more? 10% more? 25% more?
Like I said, I'm not familiar with vegan margarine; it might contain a high water content. I would guess not more than 10% additional flour and see what happens. Let us know.
Try a 50-50 mix of vegan margarine and coconut oil. The coconut oil should be the kind that comes in a solid block--Grace brand is a good quality and pure coconut, nothing else. This will take care of the extra water.
And NO it doesn't taste very coconutty. Just a mild taste of fragrant plant, milder than butter, not salty at all, it has NO water.
Well, it could be a higher water content, or it could be that one of the oils in Earth Balance has a low boiling point. Or both.
At any rate, a 10% increase in the flour seems to have been all the flour the dough could hold, and still come together, although I think maybe I can sneak in a bit more when rolling it out.
Still not quite the same consistency as those made with the usual 50/50 mix of real butter and conventional margarine, but given that I will probably only make one single-recipe batch vegan, vs. 3 double-recipe batches regular, I don't think that will be a major issue.
And I'm afraid I don't regard concentrated coconut fat (or coconut anything else, for that matter) as "Good Eats," whether from a health standpoint or a flavor standpoint. (When I reconstructed and reimagined the old Betty Crocker "Vienna Dream Bars" mix [just about the only thing I ever liked with coconut in it] last year as "Innsbruck Dream Bars," I replaced the coconut flakes with a 50/50 mix of almond flakes and long-cooking rolled oats, and I think I ended up with something not only healthier, but better-tasting than the original!)
I suggested the coconut oil because it has NOT been hydrogenated or otherwise altered.
The Earth Balance and similar margarine (Becel and clones in Canada) are made from esterified NOT hydrogenated oils. That's why they are "heart healthy". But those oils are not able to solidify like butter or regular margarine or shortening (yah that's the whole point, and why they are healthier).
If you want to use less than 50/50, that's OK. But try it--and try softening the coconut oil in the microwave before creaming it with the vegan stuff, it does a good job of restoring the water balance.
Adding more flour will give you a tougher cookie, because it does NOT change the balance between water and fat, it just makes the dough stiffer. Cornstarch or oat flour (oatmeal through a food processor) would be better than wheat flour.
Actually, a little bit of toughness helped. One of the problems with the first test batch was that the cookies were way too friable.
At any rate, we've pretty much decided to go ahead with the "wood display type cookies" project, and I've ordered a set of alphabet cookie cutters. More than likely, for the real event, it'll be 3 double-recipe batches of "conventional," and 1 single-recipe batch of "vegan." I'll probably do one last test batch (this one "conventional"), to test a "cookie-paint" concept that would be applied before baking, in place of applying frosting after baking.
Funny thing: a week ago, I did a test batch with the usual 50/50 mix of butter and conventional margarine, and I got the same bumpy surface as with the last vegan test batch. Apparently, that's a function of baking a large slab (to minimize "barrel distortion" of the straight edges from spread) instead of separate cookies. Fascinating. I'm guessing that separate cookies allow moisture to escape better, while the continuous slab traps it.