Friday, February 16, 2024

BRAIDED VEGAN BRIOCHE APPLE STRUDEL

Sweet dough desserts are among my top favourites, and that includes my dear strudels, in all forms and flavours. I do admit I have a soft spot for apple strudels, but I am definitely not very exclusive when it comes to other fruit, as well.
Beautifully enriched vegan brioche dough, lovingly rolled up and braided into one wonderful parcel, full of fragrant apples and robust, earthy walnuts. And a few almonds, for good measure.
The dough itself is simply marvellous to work with, and it can hold quite a bit of filling, if I do say so myself. And speaking of fillings, choose the apple variety you love the most, regardless of whether it is a cooking apple or an eating apple; always go for the ones you would enjoy on their own.
On a final note; this amount of sugar makes the strudel just pleasantly sweet, which is perfectly to my liking, but if you like your strudels on the sweeter side, do increase the sugar to your preference or glaze the freshly baked strudel with some apple honey.


Ingredients
For the vegan brioche dough
230 grams plain flour
120 grams strong bread flour
120 millilitres warm water
20 grams light brown sugar
20 grams fresh yeast
100 grams apple sauce
20 millilitres sunflower oil
10 grams salt
50 grams vegan block butter, cold
For the apple filling
300 grams apples, peeled, cored, and grated
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
75 grams light brown sugar
20 grams cornflour
50 grams toasted walnuts, chopped
30 grams flaked almonds

Preparation
Start by making the vegan brioche dough. Pour the warm water into a large bowl, add in the sugar and fresh yeast, mix briefly, and then let it dissolve and activate. When the yeast becomes bubbly and fragrant, add in the apple sauce and oil, and mix well. Sift in the flours and salt, and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms. It should not be overly sticky, but if it is, add another tablespoon of plain flour and mix it in well. Once a dough forms, add in the vegan block butter, and knead it into the dough. It may seem a tad too sticky at first, but be persistent, and the dough will absorb it. Place it into a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Grate the apples and strain them well. Add them to a saucepan, and add in the lemon juice, sugar, and the cornflour. Mix well, and let it come to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as you see the first wisps of steam, start stirring, so the filling doesn’t catch on the bottom or burn. As it starts to boil, whisk more vigorously for a few minutes, until it becomes glossy and thick. Remove from the heat and add in the walnuts and the flaked almonds. Set it aside to cool down.
Once the brioche dough is ready, transfer it to a nicely floured surface and roll it out into a large rectangle about 5 millimetres thick. Whisk the cooled filling vigorously to loosen it up, Divide the rolled dough into three strips, and place one-third of the cooled filling onto each one. Spread the filling nicely and evenly, making sure one of the edges of the dough strip is left plain, so it can be sealed.
Roll each dough piece into a roll, seal it well, and braid the three rolls into one long braid. Tuck the ends underneath it, and place it into a lined loaf pan. Cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rest and rise for another 20-30 minutes. Turn the oven to preheat to 200˚C. As soon as the oven is ready, generously mist the strudel with cold water, and bake it for about 25-30 minutes at 200˚C, or until browned nicely. Let it cool down to your preference, and serve. Yields 9 rich servings.

Friday, February 09, 2024

VEGAN CHERRY WALNUT CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE

My love of the combination of dark chocolate and sour cherries predates this blog and any baking attempts of my own, but it is truly one of my dearest ones. And fudge chocolate layers, glorious vegan crème mousseline, and tangy and fragrant sour cherry jelly make for a wonderful flavour symphony.
This is one of my tried-and-tested recipes that I have made numerous times over the years and I do love the reliability it offers. The cake layers always turn out supremely soft and fudgy, the filling is billowy, yet sturdy enough to carry the weight of the layers, and the jelly is simply divine, even on its own. Just the perfect balance between tart and sweet.
If you do not feel like making little jelly hearts or you do not have the adequate moulds, there is another way, of course. Right after blending, pour the cooked jelly out into two 15-centimetre cake forms lined with baking parchment, and let them freeze into disks. The next day, simply place the frozen jelly onto the cake layer, top with frosting, and continue stacking. Perhaps slightly less cute and eye-catching, but equally delicious.


Ingredients
For the fudge chocolate layers
220 grams plain flour
100 grams granulated sugar
100 grams light brown sugar
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
300 millilitres boiling water
60 millilitres sunflower oil
15 millilitres apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the cherry jelly
120 grams sour cherries, fresh or defrosted
30 millilitres water
75 grams light brown sugar
40 grams cornflour
30 grams vegan block butter, diced
For the walnut crème mousseline
500 millilitres soy milk, cold
80 grams cornflour
75 grams granulated sugar
200 grams vegan block butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200 grams ground walnuts, toasted

Preparation
Start by making the sour cherry jelly, as it needs to be frozen beforehand. Blend the sour cherries with the water and sugar until completely puréed, add in the cornflour, and blend well once again. Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and let it come to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it starts to boil, cook until thickened, about a minute or two, stirring vigorously and constantly.
As soon as it is done, remove it from the heat and add in the diced vegan block butter. Using an immersion blender, blend everything together, and transfer it to a disposable piping bag. Let it cool down slightly, and then fill four heart-shaped moulds. The ones I used were 5x5 centimetres and could hold around 50 grams of jelly each. Place them in the freezer overnight.
The next day, start by making the walnut filling. Let the oven preheat to 180°C. Pour the cold soy milk into a large saucepan, add in the cornflour and sugar, blend well, and place it over medium-high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, start stirring vigorously, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it cooks into a glossy custard. Once done, remove it from the heat, cover the top with a piece of baking parchment or cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the chocolate cake layers, take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, instant espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in the sugars and mix very well. Line three small (15 cm) round baking pans with baking parchment, and set them aside.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the boiling water, oil, vanilla, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 10-12 minutes, or until done. Check each of them with a toothpick, making sure they stay fudgy, and not dry. Let them cool in the pans completely.
Once everything is ready, proceed to assemble the cake.
Whip the cooled custard with an electric mixer on high until light and creamy, and set it aside. Take a large bowl and beat the vegan block butter with the vanilla until lighter in colour and fluffy. Add the walnuts to the whipped custard, and blend them together well. Finally, add in the whipped butter, and beat until completely creamy and smooth. Divide it into two parts, making sure one of them is slightly larger, to be used as frosting. Weigh and divide the smaller portion into two equal parts.
Level the cakes, if necessary, and place the first one on the serving platter. Spread on the first portion of the filling, take out the frozen cherry hearts, and arrange them on the first layer, making sure they are pressed and embedded into the frosting, and partially into the first cake layer, so they stay upright. Take the time to arrange them nicely, so there is a bit of cherry jelly in each slice of cake.
Carve a bit of the next cake layer so it fits well on the hearts, add it on top of them, press down lightly, and top with the remaining filling portion. Place the final cake layer on top, and frost the entire cake, using the reserved frosting. The cake is firm enough to be frosted immediately. Decorate the top with any remaining frosting, and place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Serve well-chilled, with strong coffee. Yields 16 rich servings.

Friday, February 02, 2024

HOMEMADE VEGAN SPELT BREAD LOAF

There is nothing I love more than baking bread early in the morning. The soothing comfort of silence, the smell of wonderfully fermented dough, and the pleasant warmth coming from the oven. I cherish those moments greatly, every single time.
This loaf quickly became one of my favourites, mainly because of the spelt flour and its rich and nutty flavours, but also because it is incredibly simple and straightforward to make. One bowl, one sturdy wooden spoon, and a bit of patience; perfect for busy days and novice bakers.
Although you can prepare it and let it rise in the pan or pot you plan to use for baking, however I generally let it rise in a separate bowl, and then place it on the baking sheet or in a heavy pot, similar to a Dutch oven, right before baking. That is, however, completely up to you and your preferences.
Same goes for the seed topping - feel free to use any and all seeds and seed combinations you like. I find the blend of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, a bit of crushed pumpkin seeds, and some caraway delightful, but you can also use crushed almonds or hazelnuts, especially if you plan on serving it with sweet spreads.
On a final note, if you like, you can brush it with oil before adding the seeds and nuts; it will add a bit of richness, make the crust a bit browner, and help the seeds stick much better. All that is left is to bake it to your liking, wait until it is cool enough for you to handle, break it by hand, and serve.


Ingredients
250 grams plain flour
100 grams spelt flour
2 teaspoons salt
30 grams granulated sugar
25 grams fresh yeast
250 millilitres warm water
50 millilitres vegetable oil
4 tablespoons toasted seeds of choice


Preparation
Crumble the fresh yeast into a bowl, and add in the the sugar and the warm water. Whisk well, and leave the bowl in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes, so the yeast can activate. Sift the flours and salt twice onto a large sheet of baking parchment, and set it aside briefly. Add the oil to the activated yeas, mix well, and add in the flour mixture.
Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until bread dough starts to form and almost pull away from the sides. It will look somewhat wet, but that is fine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let it sit in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
Once ready, deflate the dough. You can press it down to deflate it, tap the bowl on the counter, or mix it again well with a wooden spoon, to help it shape into somewhat of a boule. Prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with a sheet of baking parchment and turn the oven on to preheat to 220°C. Turn out the dough onto the baking sheet, generously mist it with cold water, and add all of the toasted seeds on top. Lightly press them down wiht your hand so they stick to the loaf.
Let the dough rise for another 20-30 minutes in a warm spot, on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, while the oven is preheating. Bake the loaf in a nicely preheated oven, at 220°C, for about 25-30 minutes, or slightly longer, depending on how you prefer your bread. Once baked, remove it from the oven, mist it lightly with cold water, let it cool down just a little bit, and serve. Yields one bread loaf.

Friday, January 26, 2024

VEGAN MINI CHOCOLATE WALNUT CAKE

Growing up, I didn’t really comprehend the excitement around walnut cakes, mainly because there was only one chocolate walnut cake being made for every occasion, and I didn’t really enjoy it. Only later, when I started baking, did I understand how delicious a walnut cake can be.
Toasted walnuts, plenty of cocoa powder, and just a hint of coffee truly make for an amazing cake pairing. And combined with thin and soft cake layers and lots of dark and milk chocolate shavings, it is a dessert lover's dream in a miniature cake form. A really lovely everyday little vegan cake that is a great compliment to any brunch or an after-lunch treat.
I chose to peel walnuts to make the filling lighter in colour, but you do not have to, the cake will be perfectly delicious either way. Serve it with freshly brewed coffee and enjoy!


Ingredients
For the soft chocolate layers
150 grams plain flour
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon instant coffee granules
120 grams granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
45 millilitres vegetable oil
200 millilitres carbonated water
For the walnut filling
300 grams cold soy milk
40 grams cornflour
90 grams light brown sugar
1 teaspoon dark rum
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
120 grams vegan block butter
300 grams ground toasted walnuts

Preparation
Start by making the custard for the filling. Pour the soy milk into a large saucepan, add in the cornflour, sugar, rum, and vanilla, blend well, and place it over medium-high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, start stirring vigorously, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it cooks into a glossy custard. Remove from the heat, pour it into a large bowl, and add in the cubed vegan block butter. Let it stand for a minute, and then whip it well using an electric mixer on high. Mix until everything blends together, cover the top with a piece of cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the cake layers, start by turning the oven to preheat to 180°C. Take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, and the baking powder. Whisk them together, and then add in the sugar and blend well. Pour the carbonated water, oil, and vanilla over the dry ingredients and quickly whisk until just blended. Prepare a square baking pan (18x18 cm) by lining the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap lightly on the counter, and bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for 12-15 minutes, checking for doneness early, so it remains soft as possible. As soon as a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean, it is done. Remove it from the oven and let it cool in the cake pan completely.
Once the custard and the cake are cool to the touch, whip the custard with an electric mixer on high, so it becomes smooth and spreadable. Add in the ground walnuts and blend very well. Place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Level the cake, if needed, and gently slice it in half crosswise and lengthwise, to create four thin rectangular layers. Take the chilled filling out of the refrigerator and set aside about a quarter of it, to frost the cake. Divide the remaining filling into three equal parts.
Place the first cake layer on the serving platter, add a third of the walnut filling, top with another layer and repeat until everything is used up. Cover the top and the sides with the reserved filling, and place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Serve well chilled with strong coffee. Yields 10 rich servings.

Friday, January 19, 2024

VEGAN BISCOFF CHOCOLATE BROWNIE CAKE

Ever since I first tried Biscoff, I fell in love. The crunch, the spice blend, the caramel undertones... Simply a gorgeous biscuit that is wonderful on its own, even better with a cup of coffee, and simply sublime combined with chocolate.
I love this type of filling because it combines the tangy flavour and creaminess of cream cheese frosting, without adding all the icing sugar usually necessary to keep it firm to frost. It is lovely and light, and preserves that beautiful Biscoff flavour so well.
The best way I found to make the filling is by hand, with a spatula or a wooden spoon. Some brands of vegan cream cheese and the soured cream alternative can start to weep after being blended with icing sugar using an electric mixer, even on the lowest setting, so my recommendation is to simply use a spatula and blend by folding. And, of course, it is always a good idea to have a few extra Biscoff biscuits on hand, in case the filling is too soft for your liking.
I like serving this type of cake with strong coffee, to balance the richness, but it is also wonderful with a tall glass of cold milk of your choice. It is really best to serve it in thin slices, but if the slice in the photograph is still too much, feel free to divide it in half, and serve it that way.


Ingredients
For the chocolate brownie cake layers
250 grams plain flour
40 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
200 grams granulated sugar
100 grams light brown sugar
420 millilitres boiling hot water
80 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
For the Biscoff filling
200 grams vegan cream cheese
100 grams vegan soured cream alternative
250 grams Biscoff (Lotus) cookies, finely ground
75 grams icing sugar, sifted
100 grams extra dark chocolate (85% cocoa solids), roughly grated

Preparation
Start by making the chocolate brownie layers. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Sift the flour into a large bowl, then sift in the cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix briefly, and then add in the sugars and mix very well. Line a rectangular cake pan (20x30 cm) with baking parchment, bottom and sides, and set it aside. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients; pour in the water, oil, vanilla, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. It is imperative not to overbake the cake, so it would be wise to check it early on. Let it cool in the pan completely.
To make the Biscoff filling, place the vegan cream cheese and vegan soured cream alternative into a large bowl, sift in the icing sugar, and blend them together with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Add in the ground or crushed Biscoff cookies and the grated chocolate, and fold it through until combined. The filling will be somewhat soft, but manageable. If you feel it is too soft to work with, add a bit more of ground Biscoff cookies.
Once everything is ready, proceed to assemble the cake. Level the cake, if necessary, and slice it in half crosswise and lengthwise, to create four thin rectangular layers. Take a spoonful or two of the filling, to use as frosting, and divide the rest into three equal parts.
Place the first cake layer onto the serving platter, close a cake form around it, line it with a strip of acetate, and spread on a portion of the filling. Continue stacking until everything is used up, and spread the reserved filling on the very top of the cake. Place it into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
When ready to serve, remove the cake from and the acetate strip, decorate further if you like, and slice with a thin knife dipped in hot water and patted dry. Yields 9 rich servings.