Friday, October 22, 2021

VEGAN PUMPKIN HOT CHOCOLATE

When I think of pumpkins, I always think of them as a sweet treat, simply because that is how I grew up having them; as a lovely dessert after the Christmas Eve dinner, roasted and topped with a bit of cinnamon. It has always been one of my comfort foods, especially around the holidays.
It is the very earthiness of the pumpkin combined with the warm spices that just spells autumn and winter comfort. And when it comes to colder weather desserts, hot chocolate immediately springs to mind. It is one of the most adaptable and uncomplicated delights, which is why it has always been such a beloved comfort food for so many people.
I prepare my hot chocolate thick and silky, sometimes even with a consistency of custard; that is what I love the most. And even though I do love strong and bitter chocolate, for this recipe I recommend using a bar with no more than 50% cocoa solids, as I find that it can overpower the flavour and almost diminish the pumpkin and spices that should shine through.
Serve this lovely autumn delight with plenty of freshly whipped ice-cold plant double cream, and some additional melted chocolate, and enjoy.


Ingredients
For the hot chocolate
600 millilitres soy milk
50 grams pumpkin purée
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
15 grams cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
small pinch of ground cloves
100 grams dark chocolate (50% cocoa solids)
For serving
50 grams dark chocolate, melted
50 millilitres plant double cream


Preparation
Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the pumpkin purée, cocoa powder, cornflour, vanilla, and the spices, and whisk very well. This needs to be very smooth, so it can be blended with an immersion blender or a small blender, if needed. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and let it heat up gradually and slowly.
As soon it starts to steam, start whisking. Let it come to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes, until it starts to resemble a somewhat thin custard. Remove from the heat, let it cool down for a minute, and then add in the dark chocolate. Whisk until it is completely melted, divide into two serving glasses, and serve immediately. Whip up some plant double cream and top the hot chocolate; and then drizzle with some additional melted dark chocolate. Yields 2 rich servings.

Friday, October 15, 2021

VEGAN PUMPKIN MUD CAKE

Cakes have always been a fascination of mine, ever since I was a child. I very vividly remember how happy I was when I was called to help in making a cake, by holding a mixer to blend the ingredients together. Many, many years have passed since that moment, but I still absolutely adore the sound of a hand-held mixer.
The charm and joy of cake baking are not measured by how complicated it is or how intricate the decoration might be; the charm lies in being involved in the process, seeing the ingredients come together, seeing the transformation from a liquid batter to a baked cake, ready to be frosted. And still, just like all those years ago, to me, there is nothing quite like baking a cake.
This little pumpkin mud cake is what I consider essential for autumn baking. Dense, fudgy, rich, and perfect for a cup of coffee or tea. And nothing really says cold weather comfort food like the combination of pumpkin purée, warm spices, and white chocolate. The dark chocolate glaze not only makes the cake stand out with its contrasting colour, but it balances the flavour so very beautifully.
I do need to emphasise, though, for this charming little vegan cake to be fudgy and moist, it has to be monitored closely while baking. Every oven is different, and I do recommend checking for doneness before the time written in the recipe. If a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it, the cake is done, no matter what the timer says. If there is still wet batter on it, bake it for a few minutes more, and test again. That way, the baked cake will always be soft and tender, perfectly welcoming for a cosy afternoon treat.


Ingredients
For the white chocolate pumpkin mud cake
120 grams vegan block butter
100 grams vegan white chocolate
120 millilitres water
100 grams light brown sugar
100 grams pumpkin purée
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
150 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
For the double chocolate frosting
50 grams vegan white chocolate
50 grams dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
30 grams vegan block butter
50 millilitres soy milk
bronze vegan food colouring, optional


Preparation
To make the pumpkin mud cake, take a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the vegan block butter, chocolate, water, sugar, pumpkin purée, and the vanilla, and place it over medium heat. Softly stir until everything is melted and blended. Remove it from the heat, and let it cool down slightly. Sift in the flour and the baking powder, and gently whisk until only incorporated.


Line a small round baking pan (16 cm) and line it with baking parchment, bottom and sides. Pour in the batter and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the very centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let the cake cool down to room temperature, and then place it in the refrigerator.
To make the double chocolate frosting, melt together the chocolates, vegan butter, and soy milk over low heat or in the microwave. Add in the food colouring, if using. As soon as everything is melted together, remove from the heat, and stir for a few moments, until it starts to thicken. Take the cake out of the refrigerator, glaze it generously, and return it to the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Yields 8 rich servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2021

Friday, October 08, 2021

VEGAN WHITE WINE PUMPKIN CUSTARD DOUGHNUTS

I have written before about how impressive baking is, and always has been to me; how fascinating I find all of the creative freedom it gives, and how many different things it can craft by using the same ingredients. A tiny cake of fresh yeast, a handful of flour, and a splash of water can create so much.
That is why I firmly believe that everyone should try their hand at baking, even on the most elementary of levels. Just to feel the dough under the fingertips and be able to shape it into any form desired. To experience the absolute bliss of millions of tiny bubbles bursting as the dough is kneaded.
Few things bring as much comfort and cosiness as homemade pastries do, especially in the colder periods of the year. And simply because I love my traditions, chillier days, especially in early autumn, will always be reserved for baking.
These doughnuts are made of my trusty yoghurt dough. In all my years of baking, it has remained one of my favourites, simply because it is supremely soft and airy, and the doughnuts stay soft even the next day.
Combined with a luxurious white wine and pumpkin filling, these are the epitome of the season. I flavoured them lightly with cinnamon and cloves, as I love how they pair with pumpkin; however, adding a bit of freshly grated orange zest could only make the filling brighter in flavour.
The topping is optional, but I do recommend adding it; that tiny crunch of the sugar crystals adds so much to the overall enjoyment of eating the doughnut.
As always, I serve them with freshly brewed strong coffee, but a mug of hot chocolate would be just as lovely.


Ingredients
For the dough
550 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
75 grams light brown sugar
150 millilitres warm water
30 grams fresh yeast
150 grams vegan vanilla yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
45 millilitres vegetable oil, divided
For the white wine pumpkin custard filling
250 millilitres unfined white wine
150 grams pumpkin purée
100 grams light brown sugar
40 grams cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
small pinch of ground cloves
For the topping
50 grams vegan block butter, melted
75 grams light brown sugar
10 grams ground cinnamon

Preparation
Start by making the white wine pumpkin custard, as it needs a bit of time to cool down. Take about 100 millilitres of the wine and set it aside. Pour the rest of the wine into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the pumpkin purée, vanilla, and the spices, and mix very well. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and let it slowly heat up. Take the reserved wine and whisk it together with the cornflour and the sugar. As soon as the white wine mixture starts to steam, start whisking. Let it come to a boil, pour in the cornflour mix, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes, until it starts resembling a glossy pudding. Remove from the heat, cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the doughnuts, sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the salt, whisk very well, and set it aside. Crumble the fresh yeast into a separate bowl, add in the brown sugar and the warm water, and set it aside for about 10-15 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once it is bubbly and ready, make a well in the centre of the flour, add in the yeast, yoghurt, vanilla, and the oil, and vigorously mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms. It should not stick to your hands, but if it does, let it rest for about 15 minutes, and then knead it again. This way, the dough, and the baked doughnuts, will be fantastically soft. Place the kneaded dough into a large clean bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour, or until doubled.
When the dough is ready, transfer it to a lightly floured surface, and knead it briefly. Divide it into 16 equal pieces, shape each of them into a ball, and arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Let them rest and rise, covered, for about 30 minutes more. Just before baking, brush them with the reserved oil, and bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 12-15 minutes. Make sure they do not overbake, and they stay soft. Once baked and done, remove them from the oven, and let them cool down a bit, as you prepare the topping.
Melt the vegan butter over low heat or in the microwave, and let it cool down slightly. Take each of the doughnuts, brush them evenly, and immediately roll them in the mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Be generous, as there is plenty of topping. Set each coated doughnut on a wire rack to cool down just a tad more, and as they are cooling, vigorously whisk the custard filling so it becomes smooth, place it into a piping bag fitted with a large doughnut nozzle, fill each doughnut generously, and serve immediately. Yields 16 servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2021

Friday, October 01, 2021

VEGAN PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE SNACK CAKE

When it comes to cakes, even the humble snack cakes, one of the things I value the most is the texture. While there is a time and place for crumbly cakes, especially with an abundant streusel topping, snack cakes should never be dry.
This lovely vegan treat is one of my favourites. A good, reliable recipe for a classic homemade cake, with a beautiful tender crumb and luscious glaze. And as it is frosted while the frosting is still warm, it will absorb some of it, creating a magical, fudge-like layer between the two.
It truly is the epitome of the quick, mid-week dessert. Made with ingredients that are already in the autumnal cupboard, it is the perfect choice for a simple, yet rewarding delight. The pumpkin purée helps keep the cake moist, and the gorgeous warm spices pair perfectly with the unsweetened cocoa and the chocolate frosting.
Because every oven is different, do keep an eye on it as it bakes, and check it even before the time indicated in the recipe. If the centre is set, the cake springs back when lightly touched, and the toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it, it is done.
On a final note, I like to add chocolate flakes or shards for some additional texture, but anything that you find pairs well with chocolate and pumpkin will be a marvellous topping, be it walnuts, pistachios, or even a teaspoon of finely minced candied orange.


Ingredients
For the cake
150 grams plain flour
75 grams light brown sugar
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
small pinch of salt
100 grams pumpkin purée
125 millilitres soy milk, warm
35 millilitres vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the frosting
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
30 grams vegan block butter
45 millilitres soy milk


Preparation
To make the cake, take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, spices, and salt. Add in the sugar and mix very well. Line a small (18 cm) rectangular baking pan with baking parchment, and set it aside. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients; add in the warm milk, oil, vanilla, and the pumpkin purée, and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 20 minutes, or until done. Because every oven is different, check it with a toothpick even before the time is up, making sure it stays fudgy, and not dry. Without removing it from the pan, let it cool to room temperature.
To make the soft chocolate frosting, melt together the chocolate, vegan butter, and soy milk over low heat or in the microwave. As soon as everything is melted together, pour it over the cooled cake. The frosting will be quite runny when hot, but that is fine, as it will set up on the cake. Once the frosting has set, slice and serve. Yields 9 rich servings.

Friday, September 24, 2021

VEGAN WHITE WINE APPLE CAKE

Autumn has arrived in the Northern hemisphere, the days are becoming colder already, and nothing really warms the soul like a sliver of a good homemade cake and a cup of coffee. The season truly brings so much ripe fruit that it is only natural to use it in as many recipes as possible; and the humble apple offers countless ways of enjoying it. Vastly versatile and perfect for a variety of dishes, apples are particularly rewarding in autumnal treats.
I am a great admirer of desserts that have a good balance between the sweetness and tartness, and this cake is a perfect combination of both worlds; with applesauce, vanilla, and white wine. A little bit sweet, a little bit tart, and with a delightful crunch from the white chocolate glaze. Autumn on a plate.
I used my homemade Applesauce, but any applesauce is fine, really, as long as it is smooth. That way, not only will it give the cake a wonderful apple flavour and plenty of moisture, but it will also make the cake layers easier to slice and serve.


Ingredients
For the applesauce cake layers
400 grams plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
200 grams light brown sugar
120 grams vegan block butter
200 grams unsweetened applesauce
350 millilitres unsweetened apple juice
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the white wine cream filling
800 millilitres unfined white wine
100 grams granulated sugar
80 grams cornflour
120 grams vegan block butter, diced
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the white chocolate decoration
100 grams vegan white chocolate
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
150 millilitres plant double cream


Preparation
Start by making the white wine cream filling, as it needs time to cool down. Take about 100 millilitres of the wine and set it aside, as it will be needed for mixing with the cornflour. Pour the rest of the wine into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place it over medium heat, and slowly let it cook down to about half of the initial volume. This will make the wine flavour more prominent. Take the reserved wine and whisk it together with the cornflour and the sugar. Pour this mixture into the bubbling wine and let it slowly heat up. As soon as it starts to steam, start whisking. Let it come to a gentle boil, and cook for about 2 minutes, until it starts resembling a glossy pudding. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two. Add in the butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly, until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla, cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
While the filling is cooling down, make the cake layers. Sif the flour, cornflour, baking powder, and baking soda into a large bowl. Add in the light brown sugar, mix very well, and set it aside.
Melt the vegan butter over low heat or in the microwave, and let it cool down slightly. In another bowl, whisk together the applesauce, apple juice, and the vanilla bean paste. Once the butter is lukewarm, add it to the applesauce mixture, and blend very well.
Pour all of it into the sifted dry ingredients, and mix gently until combined, and no dry patches of flour are visible. Line four small round cake pans (15 cm in diameter), with baking parchment. Divide the batter equally among them, and bake, in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15-20 minutes.
They need to remain light in colour, but do check with a toothpick, to make sure they are baked, and not dry. Do keep in mind that, depending on your oven, they might bake a little longer, so checking frequently is the key. Once baked, let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, and then turn them out to a large wire rack to continue cooling.
When the filling is cool to the touch, mix it with an electric mixer on high, until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Divide it into three equal parts by weight, and set aside. Once everything is ready, start assembling the cake.
Level the cake layers if needed, and place the first one on the cake platter. Be additionally careful with them, because they will be quite soft and perhaps lightly sticky. Place a cake ring around the first layer, line it with a tall sheet of acetate, and tighten the ring so it stays in place. Add a third of the filling over the cake, level it gently, and place another cake layer on top. Continue stacking the cake in this fashion, until all of the layers and filling are used up. Cover the top with cling film, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Just before serving, melt together the vegan white chocolate with the vegetable oil, either over very low heat or in the microwave. Let it cool down for a few moments, glaze the entire cake, and place it back into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or so. If desired, whip some plant double cream, and decorate the cake further. Serve well chilled. Yields 20 servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2021