Plant Power

How going vegan inspired happiness in a baker and her customers

Plant Power

Going vegan took Toronto baker Tori Vaccher in new directions in life, not just her diet. These days, she’s most inspired by helping others enjoy foods they had long written off.

It’s remarkable what can happen when we change one element of our everyday lives.

For Tori Vaccher, switching from a vegetarian to vegan diet didn’t merely change what the Toronto baker put on her plate at mealtime. Eating plant-based whole foods inspired Vaccher to venture down an entirely different path in life—one dedicated to helping all people, no matter their diet, enjoy the simple pleasures, be it a cinnamon bun while sitting in the dappled light of a late summer morning or a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

“Everyone should be able to enjoy these things,” Vaccher, 31, says. “I find it a really good challenge to take a recipe I have and tweak it so that everyone can enjoy it. It’s about being able to accommodate as many people as I can and have them eating quality.”

Turning that altruism into action started 12 years ago when Vaccher, bound to be a theatre set designer after graduating from an arts high school, hit the highway with a friend on one of those proverbial life-changing road trips. Vaccher’s travel partner was vegan, so plant-based everything was on the itinerary, from snacks to reading materials, including the nutrition zeitgeist, The China Study (BenBella Books, 2006).

Her thoughts about food took a U-turn after delving into the best-seller by T. Colin Campbell, which examines the relationship between eating animal products and chronic illness, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Vaccher’s health flourished by going vegan. She loved how good she felt eating plant-based whole foods that there was no going back when the road trip ended.

Her career was a different story. There was no joy in working contract to contract in a competitive industry, but there was in converting her grandmother’s recipes to vegan versions. So Vaccher quit theatre to work in a bakeshop. She also enrolled in a non-vegan baking class at George Brown College to learn the techniques for creating cookies, breads, and cakes. She’d strap the day’s lessons to her bike afterward and deliver them to friends in exchange for feedback.

At home, she applied what she learned to her plant-based creations, and soon the bakeshop where she worked offered to buy her recipes. “I thought if I could sell my recipes, maybe this could be a business.”

She was right. Today, Vaccher runs her busy Tori’s Bakeshop in Toronto’s tony Beach neighbourhood, selling what she describes as accessible vegan food that anyone can enjoy. She’ll be opening another location in the city’s Canary District later this year and has added a wholesale division, turning out orders of made-from-scratch sweet and savoury creations for other retailers.

People’s health and happiness is her muse. Feedback from her customers that they’ve been able to enjoy a treat they haven’t had for years—or ever—because of allergies or dietary restrictions inspires Vaccher to keep creating in the kitchen.

She’s doing more gluten-free baking now. She also won’t use artificial ingredients, so there’s no fake cheese spread on her bagels, for instance. Instead, Vaccher makes her own from nutrient-packed cashews.

Coconuts are used to make rich, creamy yogurt. Even tropical fruit is smoked and stacked on the bakeshop’s signature BLT sandwiches as an alternative to heavily processed faux “bacon.”

“Every day, little things are inspiring me, and how to make things more pure with less junk on top of it. You have to work at it to get the flavour, but to work on it every day in the kitchen is inspiring,” Vaccher explained. “I just want to make everything on par with other bakeries. I want to be on the … list for best bakery, not best vegan bakery.”


Tori’s cashew cheese recipe

Cashew cheese is a simple and versatile nut cheese that anyone can make at home. Once you have this basic cashew cheese recipe mastered, you can go crazy by adding herbs, nutritional yeast, or miso to create different versions. You can also play around with aging, but Vaccher recommends reading up on fermentation related to dairy-free cheesemaking first.

For the rejuvelac starter

Rejuvelac is the starter culture for many fermented foods, including this cashew cheese recipe. It’s a nonalcoholic fermented liquid made from sprouted grains, such as quinoa, rye, buckwheat, or wheat berries.

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) quinoa, soft wheat berries, rye, or buckwheat (see Tip)
  • Water

Place grains in 32 oz (1 L) Mason jar and add enough water until grains are just covered. You only want to get them wet. Cover jar with cheesecloth and soak grains for 24 hours. After 24 hours, little sprout tails should appear on grains. If not, drain the water and replace it twice a day until sprout tails appear.

Once sprout tails appear, fill Mason jar with water, leaving some headspace at the top. Cover with cheesecloth. Leave jar on kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight, for 2 to 3 days. (In the bakeshop, they typically leave it for 2 days.) The water will get cloudy and foamy. This is a good sign.

Taste the liquid rejuvelac. It should be fresh and a bit citrusy. Drain rejuvelac from grains into clean and sterile Mason jar, and there you have it—your rejuvelac.

Store unused rejuvelac in your fridge for up to 3 weeks.

You can reuse the same grains up to three times to make rejuvelac, skipping the rinsing and soaking steps needed to sprout your grains. Typically, grains need to ferment for only one day on second and third use.

Basic Cashew Cheese

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) rejuvelac
  • 2 cups (500 mL) soaked cashews, drained and rinsed (see Tip)

In strong blender, such as a Vitamix, blend soaked cashews with rejuvelac. (At the bakeshop, they blend until the mixture is super smooth because it’s more cheeselike.) Everyone likes a different texture, so blend until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Cashews typically double in size when soaked, so 1 cup (250 mL) cashews soaked for 24 hours should give you 2 cups (500 mL) of soaked cashews for this recipe. To soak cashews, put nuts in a bowl and cover with water. Drain after 24 hours and rinse nuts before use.

Chevre Cheese

This cheese is a staple on bagels and focaccia at the bakeshop.

  • 450 g (1 lb) Basic Cashew Cheese
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp (22 mL) nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt

Put ingredients in bowl and whip with hand mixer until well combined. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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