Friday, April 09, 2021

VEGAN ORANGE WALNUT CAROB TRUFFLES

When I think of one-bite desserts and party favours, truffles always come to my mind. I often call them the perfect party treat, as they are very versatile, low-effort, and there is plenty to share. They also give a great freedom when it comes to shaping and decorating, and they can be made to fit any occasion.
These little beauties are a fantastic way to satisfy your sweet tooth. They are completely chocolate and cocoa free, as they use roasted carob powder. Naturally lightly sweet, it pairs perfectly with tangy oranges, cinnamon, and earthy walnuts. They stay wonderfully soft and smooth at room temperature, but they do not lose their shape.
They also freeze quite well, and if you do freeze them, make sure you freeze undecorated and always take them out about 30 minutes before serving, to give them a chance to thaw nicely.
One closing seasoned advice I have is always to have some additional biscuit crumbs or even walnuts on hand when making truffles of this sort. Depending on the jam you use, or even marmalade that is looser, you may need to add more crumbs to make the truffles come together and hold their shape. Not every biscuit is the same, either, some absorb better than others do, which is one more reason always to have a bit more of them.


Ingredients
For the truffles
250 grams orange jam
50 grams roasted carob powder
15 grams vegan butter
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
100 grams vegan vanilla biscuit crumbs
100 grams ground toasted walnuts
For the decoration
100 grams vegan milk chocolate
50 grams toasted walnuts, chopped

Preparation
Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until they become fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring them often. Remove from heat, let them cool down completely, and grind finely. Grind or finely crush the vanilla biscuit crumbs, and set them aside.
Place the orange jam in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and let it soften up. Add in the roasted carob powder, vegan butter, cinnamon, and vanilla, and mix constantly until all is blended. By heating up the jam, the texture becomes somewhat softer and looser, making it easier to blend with the rest of the ingredients.
Remove from heat and let it cool down only slightly, and then add in the biscuit crumbs and the walnuts. Start folding the ingredients until a thick batter forms, then either mix it vigorously with a wooden spoon or with your hand until it all comes together. Depending on the jam you used, you might have to add a tablespoon or two more of either crushed biscuits or the ground walnuts.
Cover the batter with cling film and place it into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. It will be enough for it to firm up enough to be rolled. Take out heaping teaspoons of the batter, and form each one into a truffle. Arrange them on a large baking sheet or a platter, and place them back into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, so the flavours meld.
To decorate, melt the vegan milk chocolate over low heat or in the microwave, and drizzle all over the truffles. Before the chocolate sets, abundantly sprinkle them with the chopped walnuts. Serve as soon as the chocolate sets. Yields 25 truffles.

Friday, April 02, 2021

VEGAN CINNAMON WALNUT CAKE

Growing up, I was always slightly wary of syrupy cakes, as I perceived them as overly sweet and even soggy. To this day, I am not the greatest fan of overly saturated desserts. However, ever since I have learnt to bake, I have realised that it is possible to create desserts that will be exactly what I prefer, with just the right amounts of sugar and syrup.
And this little beauty is everything I love in desserts - walnuts, cinnamon, vanilla, camomile; the perfect flavour combination for a tender coffee cake. Furthermore, just like all olden desserts, this one, too, gives a great freedom when it comes to preferences.
Walnuts can be ground slightly coarsely to give more of a crunch, more cinnamon can be sprinkled in, or even a few more camomile flowers added while the tea is steeping. Old-fashioned desserts are the epitome of humble, everyday sweet treats that take very little time to prepare, but are so very versatile and rewarding.
My advice is to make it in the evening, let it cool down to room temperature, lightly cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let all the flavours blend together overnight. The next day, all that it needs is a dusting of icing sugar, and it can be served. If you do feel like it, however, generously drizzle it with dark chocolate and chopped toasted walnuts, for a truly indulgent treat.


Ingredients
For the cinnamon walnut cake
150 grams plain flour
150 grams semolina
150 grams light brown sugar
120 grams toasted walnuts, ground
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
300 millilitres boiling water
4 tablespoons camomile flowers
For the vanilla syrup
100 grams light brown sugar
150 millilitres cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For serving
150 grams dark chocolate (60% cocoa solids)
75 grams toasted walnuts, chopped


Preparation
Start by toasting the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until they become fragrant, about 5 minutes, stirring them often. Remove from heat, let them cool down completely, and grind. They do not have to be finely ground. Add the semolina into a large bowl, and sift in the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Add in the walnuts, and whisk everything together.
Place the camomile flowers into a pot, and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, pour it over the flowers, cover, and let it steep for 5-6 minutes, then let cool. Add the vanilla to the prepared tea, add in the sugar, and mix it well, so the sugar starts to melt slowly. Pour the tea over the dry ingredients, and whisk until combined. Let the batter sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, then pour it into a small rectangle cake pan (18x18 cm), lined with baking parchment. Bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 25 minutes. Check the cake for doneness with a toothpick, to make sure it is baked through, but not dry.
While the cake is baking, make the vanilla syrup, as it will be poured hot onto the just baked cake. Pour the sugar into a medium saucepan, add the water, shake the pan gently, and place it over medium heat. Let the syrup come to a boil, and cook, uncovered and without stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sugar fully melts. Remove from heat, and whisk in the vanilla.
Once the cake is baked and still hot, slowly pour the hot syrup all over the cake, one spoonful at a time, until all of it is used. Let the cake sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Just before serving, melt the dark chocolate and drizzle it all over the cake, generously sprinkle with chopped toasted walnuts, and serve. Yields 8 servings.

Friday, March 26, 2021

VEGAN MUSHROOM RAGÙ FILO PIE

When I think of pies, I think of layers of thin filo pastry, abundant filling, and a crispy topping. Filo pies are delightfully easy to make, which is why they are one of the go-to meals of the busy home cooks, and possibly one of the first recipes many learn to prepare. No wonder, they are always a hit, especially when served piping hot, while the layers are still so very brittle from the hot oven.
Rich, golden, crispy, and wonderfully hearty, this beauty is full of sautéed mushrooms, walnuts, as well as abundance of freshly grated vegan cheese. It comes together rather quickly, which is what makes it perfect for a busy weekday meal, or even as a picnic item, depending on the layering style.
And speaking of the layering, that is where the magic of filo pastry really shines through. Ruffling the pastry sheets gives the pie a unique, billowy texture, and the filling and cheese a chance to find their way to all the newly created pockets.
On the topic of cheese, make sure you taste both the filling and the cheese before the final seasoning, to make sure they fit your preference, as some of the cheeses can be quite salty.
As all flaky pies, it is best served piping hot, preferably with a glass of cold yoghurt or even a dash of hot sauce.


Ingredients
For the pie filling
500 grams filo pastry, 16 sheets
400 grams white button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
100 grams ground walnuts
20 grams tomato paste
250 grams vegan cheese, shredded
60 millilitres vegetable oil
For the oil dressing
200 millilitres water
100 millilitres vegetable oil
½ teaspoon granulated sugar

Preparation
Take a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil and let it heat up. Once ready, add in the minced onion and sauté until fragrant and translucent. Add in the chopped mushrooms, and cook until all of the liquid evaporates, stirring often. It should take around 10 minutes of slow cooking. Add in the spices, ground walnuts, and the tomato paste, and mix until incorporated. Let it cook for a minute; taste and adjust the seasoning, remove from the heat, and reserve.
For the dressing, add the water, sugar, and the oil into a saucepan, and place it over high heat. Let it come to a rolling boil, and remove from the heat.
To assemble the pie, start by brushing the bottom and sides of a rectangular baking pan (20x30 cm or similar) with the oil and water dressing. This will prevent the pie from sticking to the pan. Count the filo sheets and divide them into four parts. Place a quarter of the filo sheets in a cross manner onto the baking pan, covering the bottom completely, and letting the top half of the sheets hang over the sides of the pan. They will be used to cover the top of the pie.
Mix the dressing well, as the oil tends to settle on the bottom, and generously drizzle it all over the filo sheets, or brush it on using a pastry brush. Spread a quarter of the mushroom ragù, and top it with a quarter of the shredded vegan cheese.
Take another quarter of the filo sheets and either tear them up with your hands or chop them up roughly with a sharp knife, and add the pieces on top of the cheese. Try to ruffle them as much as possible as you place them onto the cheese, to give the pie more texture. One again, mix the dressing and generously drizzle it all over the filo pieces. Place another quarter of the mushroom filling, followed by a quarter of the cheese.
Repeat this two more times, until all of the pastry and filling is used up. The final layer should be the cheese. Very gently fold over the pastry that was hanging from the sides of the pan, to completely cover the filling, and then generously brush it with the dressing. Bake the pie immediately, in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 25-30 minutes, or until baked through and crispy. Remove from the oven and let it cool down slightly, then slice into eight pieces, and serve immediately. Yields 8 servings.

Friday, March 19, 2021

VEGAN CHOCOLATE ORANGE CAKE

Cakes that can be made while another meal is bubbling away on the stove have always had my heart. I firmly believe that everyday cakes should not be overly complicated or take forever to be assembled. There is such an endearing notion behind effortless cakes that are modest and hearty.
When it comes to cake making, I am quite a simple person - thin cake layers, scrumptious filling, and not too much frosting. The balance is what makes a cake good. The texture plays a significant part, as well, which is why I prefer to keep my cakes soft and melty on each bite.
This beauty is a great example of a lavish everyday cake that is simple, rewarding, and abundant. Sticky and soft chocolate cake, tangy and flavourful orange filling, and a thin layer of cream, to adorn it all. If desired, a few mandarin segments can be arranged on the top, for a little additional burst of flavour once the cake is served.


Ingredients
For the chocolate cake layers
120 grams plain flour
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
100 grams granulated sugar
100 grams Demerara sugar
60 millilitres vegetable oil
5 millilitres apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
250 millilitres boiling water
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
For the orange cream filling
450 millilitres orange juice
100 grams granulated sugar
80 grams cornflour
120 grams vegan block butter, diced
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 drops vegan orange food colouring, optional
For the decoration
120 millilitres vegan double cream
15 grams icing sugar, sifted
10 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon orange blossom water
100 grams mandarin segments, optional


Preparation
Start by making the orange cream filling, as it needs time to cool down. Pour the orange juice into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sift in the cornflour, and tip in the granulated sugar. Whisk well, place the pan over medium-high heat, and let it slowly heat up. As soon as it starts to steam, start whisking. Let it come to a boil, and cook for about 2 minutes, until it starts resembling a smooth, 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 vanilla and the orange blossom water, cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
While the filling is cooling down, make the cake layers. Take a large bowl, and sift in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Add in the salt, and mix very well. Add in both types of sugar, and mix well again. This will ensure that all of the flour is aerated enough for the layers to be light and soft. Bring the water to a rolling boil, remove from heat, and add in the coffee. Briefly mix, and set it aside for just a few moments. Line four small round baking pans (15 cm) with baking parchment, and set them aside.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients; add in the oil, vanilla, and the vinegar, and then the hot water. Whisk until incorporated and divide the batter between the prepared pans. This is best done by weight. Immediately bake the cakes in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 8-10 minutes, or until done. Check the cakes for doneness with a toothpick, making sure they do not overbake. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then turn them onto a large wire rack and let them cool down to room temperature.
When the filling is cool to the touch, mix it with an electric mixer on high, until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add in the food colouring, if using, and mix for a minute or two more, to make the filling lighter and easier to spread. When 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.
When the cake is ready, whip the vegan double cream with the cocoa powder, icing sugar, and the orange blossom water. Spread it evenly all over the cake, top with mandarin segments, if desired, and serve. Yields 20 servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2021

Friday, March 12, 2021

HOMEMADE MILK CHOCOLATE ORANGE PUDDING

The very first dessert I have ever made was the humble vanilla pudding. Fresh milk, tiny sachets of vanilla sugar, cornflour I was eager to sift; such dear memories. I remember being so proud of my creation and how silky it was, and that little victorious moment I still cherish deeply.
To me, there is something so satisfying in watching a swirling medley of ingredients transform into a velvety, glossy dessert. I love the combination of chocolate and oranges, and this is just the type of pudding I enjoy – satiny, rich, and full of delicate milk chocolate flavour, with just a pleasant hint of orange.
I find puddings quite nostalgic and very much enjoy making them. They are simple to make, require a handful of ingredients, and can be served both warm and cold. Personally, this one I prefer to serve ever so slightly warm, with plenty of extra milk chocolate shavings. It also freezes incredibly nicely, and it is marvellous when frozen as individual little ice cream snacks.


Ingredients
600 millilitres whole milk
25 grams cornflour
10 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon orange zest, freshly grated
200 grams milk chocolate, divided
50 millilitres chocolate cream liqueur, optional


Preparation
Pour 400 millilitres of milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the vanilla and the orange zest, and place it over medium-high heat. Pour the rest of the milk into a small bowl, sift in the cornflour and the cocoa powder, and whisk very well. Once the milk starts to gently boil, pour in the cornflour and cocoa mixture, and cook it, while stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until it thickens. It will resemble a soft custard.
Once thickened, remove it from the heat, and immediately add in 150 grams of the milk chocolate. Let it stand for a minute, so the chocolate starts to melt, and then whisk vigorously until completely melted. Finally, mix in chocolate cream liqueur, if using. Divide the pudding between four serving bowls, let it cool down completely, and serve with plenty of milk chocolate shavings on top. Yields 4 rich servings.