Rarely does being a vegan feel limiting, despite the [uninformed] majority opinion on everything that might be "lacking" from a plant-based diet. However, even I have to balk when confronted by the idea of a soy-free vegan. That protein-packed little bean seems to sneak into just about everything these days, and can be hard enough to avoid for an omnivore, let alone a traditionally tofu- and soymilk-heavy veggie diet. Politics aside, I agree that we've gone overboard with the soy additives in recent years, and it simply can't hurt to seek out more alternatives when given the option. Well, up until just a few months ago, soy-free, dairy-free folks have been plum out of luck when it comes to finding a suitable buttery spread; Absolutely nothing fit the criteria, always being based on soybean oil with a pinch of soy lecithin thrown in for good measure. Finally, demand has created supply, and Earth Balance has expanded their line of vegan spreads to include a Soy-Free Natural Buttery Spread.
Spreadable right out of the fridge, this tub-based margarine will undoubtedly be the answer to many buttery prayers. Almost indistinguishable in flavor to its predecessors, you won't miss the soy one bit here. I did feel than when used plain to top bread or toast, it could stand a good hit of salt, and was just a tad waxy while still cold, but just a few moments at room temperature will remedy that. It does melt quite quickly, so don't leave this one out on the counter in the middle of a hot summer day- You'll find a tub full of plain oil in no time at all.
Happily, it also proved to be a perfectly acceptable margarine substitute for most baking applications as well. Creamed with sugar, flour, and spices to make a quick batch of ginger snaps, I was thrilled to see that they looked almost exactly the same as when they're made with a solid stick margarine. Although somewhat cakier than usual, owing only to the added water inherent in a spreadable tub-based spread, no one could really complain about the sweet results. Upping the ante a bit, I began to wonder- Would it be possible to make browned butter with this product? Well, why not? And happily, after a moment or two of nervous bubbling and sputtering on the stove, I found myself with a pot full of rich, nutty, amber-colored liquid, looking every bit as good as something dairy-based! Now, what to do with this fragrant fat?
Browned butter vanilla bean cupcakes, anyone?
Yeah, that's what I thought. Made by simply substituting my browned "butter" for the oil called for in my favorite basic vanilla cupcake recipe, this is a grown-up take on the classic that everyone could appreciate. Much more nuanced in flavor than the standard, and oh so rich, I can only imagine how fast they would fly if served instead of plain vanilla at a birthday party. Lest I ignore all of the potential this product holds for savory applications, it seemed only appropriate to try out a nifty technique that I had so far only heard of, and typically applied almost exclusively to seafood: Butter poaching. Having recently stumbled upon butter-poached radishes, I figured that I could try other vegetables as well, and settled on the humble potato for my experiment.
Creating incredibly rich, tender slices of potato, accented with tarragon and a splash of vinegar, this is a side dish that couldn't be easier to whip up, this is a real treat eat. Too morish to make often, but appropriate for occasional splurges, I'll definitely have to try butter-poaching other vegetables now! In case you're looking for a cruelty-free and soy-free alternative to butter, look no further. This simple spread is the first that meets the criteria, and passes the taste test!