The terms “sweets” and “vegan” are ones that usually don’t mix well in the bowl. We don’t often think of baked goods being under the vegan category, since they’re made pretty much all the time with eggs, butter, and milk. At least the good ones usually are, or so it would seem. But Green Divas love their sweets, and when there’s a will we hope there’s a green way, and with much thanks to Erin McKenna and her BabyCakes NYC bakery, there is!
Last year, I discovered from a friend’s aunt the very healthy and very sumptuous recipes from the BabyCakes NYC cookbook, which are all vegan. Yes, all of the desserts that Erin McKenna, chef and owner of the bakery in New York, makes are vegan, mostly gluten-free, and mostly sugar-free! Before you start running for the hills and back to your Betty Crocker box, you should know that McKenna has spent time perfecting these recipes because of her own food allergies, and they are not only perfectly delicious and health-conscious, but also touted by celebrities who patron her shop in NYC such as Zooey Deschanel, Mary Louise Parker, and Natalie Portman. This woman’s baking means business.
I’ve tried a couple recipes from her book, and when you bite in, the products taste like pure health and heaven in one. The ingredients are somewhat exotic if you’ve never cooked or baked vegan before, but they are nothing that you can’t pick up in a local health food store. Personally, finding recipes for mouth-watering confections that are healthful and mindful of our animal friends – well, that seems occasion enough to me to throw a tea party!
This is especially so when you can pair your vegan treats with fairly-traded teas and coffee like Green Diva Meg has aptly discussed in her Sleeping Naked is Green segment about fair trade tea and fair trade everything! Here she talks about just what it means to be ‘fair-trade’ and why we should buy and consume fair-trade products when possible. ‘Fair-trade’ refers to a socially responsible market-based standard for producing goods that are made in developing countries; in these countries we might find that working conditions and pay may not be regulated and may be considered unfair or unjust to farmers or workers. So buying something that is certified fair-trade means you are supporting better trading conditions in which socioeconomic and environmental sustainability is a priority. Some of these commodities that we should consider buying fair-trade include tea, coffee, cocoa, honey, handcrafts, sugar, flowers, wine, or even bananas! So if you buy fair-trade tea for your get-together you can know that you are supporting the mission to encourage producers to adopt more sustainable practices, which is beneficial to the environment and it’s caretakers’ well-being. Buying and drinking fair-trade tea means your money is going towards a supply chain that rightly supports each person involved in producing that tiny tea bag. For more information on fair-trade tea in particular, you can visit Fair Trade USA’s Make Every Cup Fair webpage.
When you’re ready to have your tea party, don’t stress about where to find fair-trade teas. Most often than not, your local grocery store has a list of fair-trade certified products that they sell and where to find them. So, now, what else to eat with your righteous cup of tea than a delightful vegan delicacy?
Scones are a great accompaniment to tea and one of my favorite desserts for their doughy texture and savory-like-a-biscuit taste. The raspberries in the BabyCakes recipe make the scones even more sweet and satisfying, and some tea will mellow their tangy taste. McKenna makes her scones with spelt flour rather than regular wheat flour, spelt being a “distant cousin to wheat” she says. Another ‘odd’ ingredient here is coconut oil, which McKenna explains is a fat substitute (for butter, presumably) and is apparently healthy for us because of its levels of omega-3 fatty acids and lauric acid, because it stores in our bodies as energy and not fat, and because it supports proper thyroid function, which stimulates the metabolism. Who knew a baked good could do that? Lastly, the BabyCakes chef uses agave nectar for its natural sweetness, its gooey consistency, and its tendency to be absorbed slower into the bloodstream, which means no more blood-sugar spikes or sugar-highs and crashes.
(keep reading for recipes!)
So if you are vegan, or are simply looking to make a treat for yourself and guests that is healthful and happiness-inducing, take this recipe for BabyCakes NYC’s raspberry scones for a cruelty-free, fairly-traded tea party! Honestly, what could be better than that?!
Actually, we can think of one thing. If you’re feeling really earthy after all this fair-trade brewing and vegan baking for your tea party, why not decorate it like this? Credit to Green Diva Meg and her sleuth skills on Pinterest! Now that would be the icing on the (tea)cake for your green tea party. Enjoy!
BabyCakes NYC Raspberry Scones
(Right-click or Ctrl-click the link below to view a .pdf of the recipe from the cookbook)
Ingredients: (makes 8 scones)
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut oil, plus more for brushing
1/3 cup agave nectar, plus more for brushing
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup hot water
1 cup fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the oil, agave nectar, and vanilla and stir together until a thick, slightly dry batter is formed. Pour the hot water into the batter and mix. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the raspberries just until they are marbled throughout the batter. For each scone, scoop 1/3 cup batter onto the prepared baking sheet. Space the scoops 1 inch apart to allow them to spread. Lightly brush the tops with the oil. Bake the scones on the center rack for 14 minutes, rotating the sheet 180 degrees after 7 minutes. The finished scones will be golden and slightly firm. Remove from the oven and brush with agave nectar. Let the scones stand on the sheet for 15 minutes, then carefully slide a spatula under each and transfer it to a wire rack and cool completely. Store the scones in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.