Friday, December 02, 2022

VEGAN CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT FUDGE CAKE

When it comes to everyday cakes, chocolate fudge cakes are the perfect choice. Usually done very quickly, they can be enjoyed warm, as you would a brownie, with a scoop of ice cream on top; or well chilled, with some plant double cream, and a few frozen berries.
This quick little weekday treat is just marvellous for the afternoon coffee or tea. With a texture between a mud cake and a brownie, and generous swirls of gianduja in every slice, it really leaves no room for wanting more.
Serve it with a cup of strong coffee, for a nice balance; or a glass of cold hazelnut milk, whatever your preference is. And if you want to know a secret, if you have any leftover cake, it can be sliced up and frozen, to resemble a wonderful ice cream cake bar.


Ingredients
For the chocolate fudge cake
180 grams plain flour
150 grams dark brown sugar
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
small pinch of salt
250 millilitres warm water
50 millilitres oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
50 grams gianduja spread, slightly warmed (any vegan chocolate and hazelnut spread)
For the glaze
50 grams extra dark chocolate (95%)
50 grams vegan milk chocolate

Preparation
Take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the sugar and whisk to blend well. Line a small round baking pan (15 cm) with baking parchment, and set it aside. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients; add in the warm water, oil, vanilla, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, add in teaspoons of gianduja, mix them through using a butter knife or a skewer, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 18-20 minutes, or until done. Make sure you check it with a toothpick, so it stays fudgy, and not dry. Remove the cake from the oven, and set it aside.
To make the glaze, melt together both types of chocolate over a double boiler, or in the microwave, and pour it over the hot cake. Shake the pan carefully, because it may still be hot, and once the whole surface of the cake is glazed, leave it to set. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Yields 10 servings.

Friday, November 25, 2022

CHOCOLATE WALNUT CAKE BARS

Cake bars just say family gatherings to me. For as long as I can remember, they were always served, regardless of the occasion; sometimes with freshly made jam, other times with preserved fruit, and during late autumn and winter, always with walnuts and plenty of chocolate.
And if I had to name one cake my entire family loves, it would be a walnut cake. Chocolate glaze is more than likely entirely optional, it is all about the walnuts, freshly toasted, and then ground while still warm.
This is a treat that is welcoming, wholesome, and quite forgiving, as it requires a handful of ingredients, and has a very simple method of preparation. Eggs whipped until light and resembling whipped cream, ground walnuts folded throughout the batter, a creamy vanilla filling, and a gorgeous dark chocolate fudge frosting. Simply a wonderful late autumn treat.
I serve it just as it is, but you can most certainly add some whipped cream on top, or sprinkle some chopped walnuts before the frosting sets, that is entirely to your preference. Serve it in small slices, with freshly brewed coffee, and enjoy.


Ingredients
For the walnut cake
4 medium eggs, at room temperature
100 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
100 grams Greek yoghurt
60 millilitres milk
45 millilitres vegetable oil
80 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100 grams toasted walnuts, ground
60 grams toasted walnuts, chopped
For the vanilla filling
300 millilitres whole milk
45 grams cornflour
30 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
100 grams white chocolate, chopped
75 grams unsalted butter, cubed
100 grams toasted walnuts, ground
pinch of turmeric, optional
For the chocolate frosting
300 millilitres whole milk
40 grams cornflour
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
50 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 grams dark chocolate (80%), chopped
75 grams unsalted butter, cubed

Preparation
Place the eggs into a large bowl, and whip with an electric mixer on high, for about 2 minutes, or until thickened and lighter in colour. Add in the sugar and the vanilla, and continue beating on high, for another 5 minutes, or until voluminous and quite pale. Add in the yoghurt, milk, and the oil, and lightly blend. Sift in the flour and the baking powder, and add in the walnuts, both ground and chopped.
Fold everything through with a large spatula, making sure it is blended, but not deflated. Line a rectangular baking pan (20x30 cm) with baking parchment, pour in the batter, level it, and bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 18-20 minutes, or until done. Check the cake with a toothpick, to make sure it does not overbake and dry out. Remove from the oven, and let it cool down to room temperature.
While the cake is cooling, make the filling and the frosting.
For the vanilla filling, pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sift in the cornflour, and tip in the sugar. Add in the vanilla, whisk well, place the pan over medium-high heat, and let it slowly heat up. As soon as the milk starts to steam, start whisking. Let the mixture come to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until it thickens.
Remove from the heat and let it cool for a minute or so. Add in the turmeric, if using, diced butter, salt, and the chocolate, one piece at a time, whisking constantly, until incorporated. Finally, add in the walnuts, mix through, and cover the top with cling film or a piece of baking parchment. Let the filling cool down to room temperature, as well.
For the chocolate frosting, once again pour the milk into a heavy saucepan, sift in the cornflour and the cocoa powder, and add in the sugar. Add the vanilla, 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, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until it thickens.
Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly, and then add in the butter, salt, and the chocolate, one piece at a time, whisking constantly, until blended. Cover the top, and let it cool down to room temperature.
Once everything is cool to the touch, proceed to assemble the cake. Beat the vanilla filling with an electric mixer on high, for about a minute or two, to make it smoother and easier to spread. Pour it over the cake, level it, and place it into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, just so the surface starts to firm up. Once somewhat firm, whip the chocolate frosting in the same fashion, and gently spread it over the filling. Place everything into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, to firm up. Serve with additional chocolate flakes or chopped walnuts. Yields 12 servings.

Friday, November 18, 2022

VEGAN MINT CHOCOLATE CAKE

Mint and chocolate are one of my favourite dessert combinations. Especially if the chocolate is extra dark, almost bitter. It is just perfect in any form, really, be it ice cream, cookies, or a quick little snack cake.
Its fudgy texture and echoes of mint make for a wonderful pairing, particularly with the chocolate glaze. The plant whipped cream is optional, but incredibly welcome, I give you my word.
As it uses fresh mint, the flavour is not as intense as it would be if an extract was used, so do keep that in mind. If you wish, you can add more mint leaves to the tea, or even add a few drops of the mint extract, to adjust it to your preferences. I grow my own mint, so this is quite handy for me, but if you do not have access to fresh mint, you can brew the tea just using regular tea bags, only add two to three of them, to make the flavour more prominent.
Alternatively, if you prefer, you can serve the cake warm, before the chocolate glaze sets, with a generous scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream, and some fresh mint leaves. And of course, as always, with a tiny cup of strong espresso.


Ingredients
For the mint chocolate cake
180 grams plain flour
150 grams dark brown sugar
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
small pinch of salt
250 millilitres warm water
30 fresh mint leaves
50 millilitres oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons dark rum
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
For the chocolate glaze
100 grams dark chocolate (75%)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil



Preparation
Start by brewing the fresh mint tea. Bring the water to a rapid boil, remove from the heat, and add the fresh mint leaves. Cover with a lid, and let it steep for about 5-7 minutes. Take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the sugar and mix very well. Line a small (15 cm) square baking pan with baking parchment, and set it aside.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients; add in the strained mint tea, oil, vanilla, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15-18 minutes, or until done. Check it with a toothpick, making sure it stays fudgy, and not dry. Let it cool down to room temperature.
Once lukewarm, proceed to make the glaze. Place the chopped chocolate into a double boiler, add in the oil, and melt it slowly until completely blended. Make sure you whisk it well, so the oil does not show up once cooled. Glaze the top of the cake, tap the pan a few times on the counter, so the glaze sets nicely, and place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Decorate with whipped plant double cream, if desired, and serve. Yields 16 servings.

Friday, November 11, 2022

VEGAN MILK AND HONEY CRESCENT ROLLS

One of the first pastries I ever made were crescent rolls. If I remember correctly, they were filled with damson jam, and the majority of them unrolled slightly during baking. Nevertheless, I adored them. They were a little symbol of victory over my self-doubt and fear of trying something new.
Over twenty years and thousands of rolls later, I still love them as much as I did when I was little. I love working with dough in general, but crescent rolls will always have a special place in my heart.
These beauties are made with dandelion honey, to give them just a touch of sweetness, and they are simply divine with any sweet and even savoury spread. Just perfect to slowly unroll and eat layer by layer. Or dip into a glass of warm milk of your choice.
If you like, you can drizzle a bit of dandelion honey all over them as soon as you take them out of the oven, and shake the baking sheet lightly, so they are coated on all sides. They will be slightly messier to serve, but even more delicious, especially while still warm.


Ingredients
500 grams plain flour
150 grams vegan vanilla yoghurt
100 millilitres soy milk, warm
75 millilitres vegetable oil
30 grams fresh yeast
35 grams dandelion honey
1 teaspoon salt

Preparation
Take a medium bowl, crumble in the fresh yeast, add in the warm soy milk, mix well, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the salt, and blend well. Once the yeast is ready, make a little well in the centre of the flour, pour in the yeast, yoghurt, oil, and the honey, and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes, until it becomes smooth. If the dough is sticking too much to your hands, feel free to add a bit more flour, so it is manageable. Place the kneaded dough into a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for about an hour, in a warm spot.
Take the risen dough out of the bowl, knead it gently, and then divide it into two parts, by weight. Roll each of them into a large circle, about 5 millimetres in thickness, and cut into eight triangles. Form the crescent rolls by rolling up each triangle starting at the wider side, arrange them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and let them rise for another 15 minutes.
Just before baking, mist them generously with cold water, and bake, in a preheated oven, at 200˚C, for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately. Yields 16 crescent rolls.

Friday, November 04, 2022

HOMEMADE HONEY PIE

Growing up, this is the type of pie that I considered a true holiday treat, as it was made only a few times per year, unlike the filo pies, which were more frequent on the family table. This treat was often made during chilly autumn days and in early winter, and that is how I still view them; as a wholesome homemade delight.
Despite the long preparation method, it is a very simple dessert. It comes together fairly quickly, and is even filled while the filling is still warm, however, it does require chilling overnight, for the layers to soften. With a dark chocolate glaze, it is truly marvellous, and best served with a hot cup of coffee or caramel brandy, and in good company.


Ingredients
For the pie dough
250 grams plain flour
75 grams granulated sugar
50 grams honey
30 millilitres whole milk
30 grams unsalted butter
1 medium egg (60 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon baking soda
For the filling
250 millilitres whole milk
40 grams cornflour
100 grams unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the chocolate glaze
50 grams dark chocolate (75%)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preparation
Place the milk, honey, and butter into a medium pot, and let them melt slowly, over medium heat. As soon as it starts to bubble, remove it from the heat, and add in the baking soda. Whisk very vigorously, add in the egg, and blend it well. Add in the vanilla, flour, and the sugar, and mix with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
Take a large baking sheet (30x35 cm), line it with baking parchment, and place the dough in the centre. Place another sheet of baking parchment on top of it, and roll it out to about 2-3 millimetres in thickness, covering the whole baking sheet surface. Bake it immediately in a preheated oven, at 190°C, for about 6-7 minutes. As soon as it starts to get some colour on the edges, remove it from the oven, as it will be baked through. While it is still warm, cut it into four equal rectangles, and let them cool completely.
While the pie layers are cooling, make the filling. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sift in the cornflour, and add in the sugar and the vanilla. Whisk very well, place the pan over medium-high heat, and let it slowly heat up. As soon as the milk starts to steam, start whisking. Let the mixture come to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes, until it thickens.
Remove from the heat and let it cool for a minute or so. Add in the butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly, until incorporated. Be patient with this type of filling, it does need some time to blend. Let it cool down for only a few minutes, and proceed to assemble the pie.
Place the first pie layer on the serving platter, close a rectangular cake frame around it, and add a third of the warm filling on top. Level it, and place another pie dough layer. Continue stacking in this fashion until everything is used up. Cover the top of the pie with a piece of cling film, and place it into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Once the pie has firmed up, make the chocolate glaze. Melt the dark chocolate with the oil over very low heat, mixing constantly. Once melted, let it cool down just a few moments, take the pie out of the refrigerator, remove the plastic cover, and pour on the glaze. Spread it all over the top gently, tap the whole platter a few times on the work surface, so the glaze settles nicely, and return it to the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Once ready, cut the whole pie into very small pieces, and serve with strong coffee. Yields 21 individual pieces, or about 10 servings.