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vegan baking workshops

A couple of years ago I moved up to Hepburn Springs onto a beautiful fruit-tree laden property and guest house, known as Hepburn Retreat Centre – or Conti – by the locals.

An old-fashioned guest house from the 1930’s, the property has been lovingly and kookily developed by Zalan Glen over the past 20 odd years, showing his love for South East Asian colour, architecture and lifestyle. Zalan eats a raw-food vegan diet and asks his guests to respect a vegan diet whilst on his property. I wrote more about this back here.

I don’t practice a vegan diet, so this was a huge shock for me – particularly because I’m an avid baker and was accustomed to the traditional use of eggs, butter and milk in my baking. Ever-willing to accept a challenge I started hunting and testing recipes online and was gifted with some lovely vegan (and gluten-free) baking cookbooks that totally transformed by knowledge and palette for baked treats. The most outstanding of these books came from a boutique bakery in Seattle – The Flying Apron Bakery.

vegan and gluten free baking recipesSuddenly I was seeking out chickpea flour and brown rice flour and different types of oils and natural sweeteners; I was discovering how versatile this style of baking was – being able to replace maple syrup with rice syrup or fruit juice – and not using sugar at all. And the flavours were incredible! I would do ‘blind tests’ with friends, not telling them that my treats were both gluten-free and vegan and the reactions were still full of praise and compliment!

Regular vegan cooking and yoga retreats are held at Hepburn Retreat Centre, co-facilitated by yoga teacher, Ostii Ananda and vegan foodie extraordinaire, Alexis Pitsopoulos. After the success of my newfound, flavour-full vegan baking prowess, I was invited to run baking workshops during their 3-day retreats.

Aside from the wonderful baking, the retreat in itself is incredible! Alexis who has been cooking and preparing food with Zalan from the opening days, is a wealth of knowledge and culinary inspiration, and a quiet expert on edible plants. He has been profiled in The Age and on Costa’s Garden Odyssey and runs edible weed walks in Daylesford through the Neighbourhood House. Ostii offers a flowing vinyasa yoga practice that suits all levels of experience and is infamous for his rice and quinoa porridge.

Now back in Melbourne-town, away from any vegan dietary specifications, I still only bake vegan, gluten-free recipes, enjoying the light, nourishing flavour, and happy to know that I’m making another small step towards a more ethical diet.

Here are some photos taken during one of the vegan cooking and yoga retreats by photographer Philip Werner.

Images clockwise from top left – Ostii’s yoga class, cooking with Alexis, happy retreat participants with Alexis and baking with me.

For more information about vegan baking and the vegan cooking and yoga retreat, check out Yoga and Meditation Retreats Victoria.

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