Friday, January 15, 2021

VEGAN CHOCOLATE COFFEE MOUSSE DOUGHNUTS

One of the first confections I have ever tried, next to cakes, were doughnuts. If I recall correctly, they were generously filled with homemade plum jam and ground walnuts, and abundantly sprinkled with granulated sugar. Over the years, my preferences have changed slightly, but my affection for doughnuts remains.
Despite yeast doughnuts usually being prepared by frying, they can very well be baked, too, which is how I prefer them. They are pillowy and light, full of lovely and airy mousse filling, and adorned with the tiniest crunch from the lightly caramelised brown sugar topping.
These beauties are made of my favourite type of dough, utterly soft and abundantly flavourful. The dough itself is not very sweet, but the filling is rich and robust, making each of these doughnuts a true treat.
Speaking of the filling, it does have a strong coffee flavour, as that is what I truly like, but if you want, you can reduce the amount of espresso used, they will still be delicious. That is essentially the beauty of confectionery; every creation is a little work of art on its own.


Ingredients
For the doughnuts
525 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon powdered vanilla
1 ½ teaspoons salt
150 millilitres warm water
30 grams fresh yeast
60 grams Demerara sugar, divided
150 grams soya yoghurt
60 millilitres vegetable oil
5 millilitres apple cider vinegar
For the chocolate and coffee mousse filling
100 grams dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids), chopped finely
15 grams instant espresso powder
10 grams unsweetened dark cocoa powder
250 millilitres plant double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
To make the chocolate coffee mousse, start by placing the chopped chocolate, espresso powder, and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Pour the cream into a saucepan, and place it over medium high heat. Let it almost come to a boil, just until there are wisps of steam along the edges, and immediately remove it from the heat. Pour it over the chocolate, and stir until all of the ingredients are melted together and smooth. Cover the top with cling film, and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, until it is thoroughly chilled. This will make it much easier to whip into a mousse.
To make the doughnuts, sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the vanilla and salt, whisk very well, and set it aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the fresh yeast, 15 grams of brown sugar, and the warm water, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once ready, make a little well in the centre of the flour, pour in the yeast, yoghurt, 45 millilitres of oil, and vinegar, and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and slightly sticky dough forms. It should not stick to your hands, but if it is, add another tablespoon of flour. Place the 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.
Once the dough is ready, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly. Divide it into 12 equal pieces, and shape each of them into a ball. Arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and let them rest and rise, covered, for about 30 minutes more. Just before baking, brush them with the reserved oil, and sprinkle each one with the remaining brown sugar. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the chocolate cream with the vanilla until stiff peaks form, and place it back into the refrigerator.
When they are done, remove them from the oven, and immediately remove them from the baking sheet, to help them cool down more easily. While they are cooling, remove the chilled mousse from the refrigerator, place it into a piping bag, and as soon as the doughnuts are cool enough to be comfortably handled, generously fill them with the mousse, and serve immediately.
Author's note: If the doughnuts are filled while still hot, the mousse will melt due to the residual heat.

Friday, January 08, 2021

CARAMEL SPECULAAS TRUFFLES

Every season has its own charm and brings its own signature flavours, and nothing says winter like the aroma of sugar slowly cooking, becoming caramel. Whether to be lovingly melded with milk, tea, or even brandy, the fragrant caramel is a magnificent flavour base for many desserts and snacks alike.
To me, making caramel is one of life's simple pleasures. The delight of watching all of the little sugar crystals gently melt and turn amber and sticky truly is what making desserts is all about. Comfort and joy in one.
There are a couple of methods of making caramel; however, my preferred one is the dry method. One pan, a bit of sugar, and patience.
Once the caramel is done, the preparation goes rather quickly. Cooking the custard, adding all of the lovely flavourings, chocolate, and Speculaas cookies, and finally, rolling into perfect little truffles.
Speculaas are wonderful little cookies, ever so slightly browned, and abundantly flavoured by cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Such a marvellous little winter cookie that perfectly complements rich caramel custard.
I like truffles soft and tender, and these are just like that; they stay soft at room temperature, but they keep their shape nicely. If you like, you can place them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so, just before serving, and they will be fantastic that way, too.


Ingredients
For the truffles
120 grams granulated sugar
100 millilitres cold water
200 millilitres whole milk
40 grams cornflour
25 grams dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids)
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
small pinch of salt
60 grams unsalted butter
450 grams Speculaas cookie crumbs
For the decoration
50 grams dark chocolate (minimum 50% cocoa solids)
edible glitter


Preparation
Start by making the caramel. Take a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the sugar, and gently shake the pan to distribute it evenly. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and the cornflour, and set it aside. Place the saucepan on medium high heat, and let the sugar melt slowly. Once it starts to brown around the edges, slowly and gently move the melted parts towards the centre. Keep cooking until it starts to turn darker in colour and become very fragrant. Once it becomes a deep amber colour, remove it from the heat, and very carefully, in a slow stream, pour in the cold water, and let it come to a boil. At that point, the caramel will harden, but it will completely melt by the time it starts to boil. As soon as it starts boiling, carefully pour in the cornflour mixture. Mix well, and cook for a minute or two, until it starts resembling a thick custard.
Remove it from the heat and let it cool down for about 30 seconds, and then add in the dark chocolate, vanilla, and the salt. Mix vigorously, and add in the butter. Stir until it completely melds into the custard, and then start adding in the cookie crumbs. Switch to a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula, and turn and fold the mixture until the cookies absorb the liquid, and a thick batter forms. Cover the top with cling film and let the batter cool down to room temperature, and then place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Take out the chilled batter and, using a small cookie scoop, form neat little truffles. Return them to the refrigerator for at least 4 more hours, and then decorate with melted dark chocolate and edible glitter flakes. They are equally delicious served both chilled and at room temperature. Yields 30 truffles.
Author's note: Depending on how much the caramel is cooked, you might need a bit more or a bit less of cookie crumbs to make the batter keep its shape, yet not be sticky, so do adjust accordingly, please.

Friday, January 01, 2021

VEGAN DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CROISSANTS

My love for breakfast pastries is well known. There is something so special and comforting in enjoying warm pastry filled with molten dark chocolate, especially with a cup of coffee.
As I always say, making any viennoiserie is a labour of love. It does require a bit of time and patience, but it rewards with many buttery, flaky layers.
Speaking of layers, this is one of the easiest methods to make laminated dough, as it uses softened butter, which is much easier to spread and work with. However, using it also makes thorough chilling of the dough a necessity.
Another thing to keep in mind is to use block butter, not the spreadable variety, as the latter contains far too much water for it to be successfully used in baking.
On a final note, I love serving these with doppio espresso and a tall glass of icy cold hazelnut milk. They can be further embellished with a chocolate drizzle on top, if you are so inclined, but they are just as beautiful and delicious all on their own.


Ingredients
For the chocolate dough
200 grams plain flour
150 grams strong bread flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
200 millilitres tepid water
50 grams demerara sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon salt
20 grams unsalted vegan block butter
For the lamination
180 grams unsalted vegan block butter, at room temperature
For the filling
200 grams dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids), chopped into shards

Preparation
Sift both types of flour into a large bowl, sift in the cocoa powder and the instant espresso powder, add the salt, and whisk it nicely. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm water, sugar, vanilla, and the yeast. Using a wooden spoon or a sturdy spatula, start mixing the dough in a circular motion, starting from the centre. Once the dough starts to come together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead it by hand for about 2-3 minutes, until it becomes smooth and supple. Because every flour absorbs water differently, you might need to add another tablespoon of plain flour as you knead, if the dough sticks to the surface.
Once the dough is smooth, add the butter, and knead it into the dough. It will take a few minutes for the dough to absorb it fully, so have patience with it. When the dough is ready, cover the top with cling film, and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, divide the softened butter into three equal parts, and prepare it for lamination.
After the dough has rested, roll it out into a rectangle that is about 5 millimetres in thickness, approximately 45x15 centimetres. Spread one third of the softened butter all over the dough, then fold one of the shorter sides a third towards the centre. Fold the remaining dough, on the opposite side, over the folded third, to create a nice little rectangle. Wrap the dough into a large sheet of cling film, and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface, turn it 90 degrees to your right, so the short end is towards you, and roll it out again to about 5 millimetres. Repeat the buttering, folding, and chilling two more times, wrap the dough snugly in cling film, and let it rest and rise overnight in the refrigerator.
When the dough is ready, roll it out in the same fashion as before, into a large rectangle. Using a very sharp knife, cut the dough into eight triangles. Make a small vertical cut in the centre of the wider end of the croissant, place a portion of the dark chocolate, and then roll the croissant towards the narrow end. Let it naturally roll onto the pointed end, and arrange them onto a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. It is important that the croissant is resting on the pointy end, the seam, so it stays nicely rolled while baking. Cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rise for about an hour at room temperature. They will not rise significantly, but they will puff up. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 15-18 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Serve immediately. Yields 8 croissants.

Friday, December 25, 2020

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VERTICAL LAYER CAKE

Chocolate cake is the epitome of traditional desserts. For as long as I remember, there has always been at least one chocolate cake at the very centre of the family table, no matter the occasion or celebration. And with the end of the year and Christmas being so very close, the time is right for a nice chocolate cake.
Silky white chocolate cream filling, tangy strawberry sauce, soft chocolate layers, all draped in a billowy double chocolate ganache, enriched with vanilla and honey. However, this charming little cake is assembled differently, showing that even the most modest-looking cakes can hide a treasure trove of flavours and surprises inside.
When assembling, work gently but swiftly, as the first roll will be the most delicate to form and transfer. With each new layer, it will become firmer and more stable to work with. Just be patient with it, and it will come together beautifully. Even if the first roll starts to crack while rolling, do not give up; simply speed up the rolling and continue, and it will be fine.


Ingredients
For the chocolate cake
125 grams plain flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
100 grams granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
10 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
50 grams extra dark chocolate, finely grated
50 grams strawberry jam, at room temperature
30 millilitres vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
250 millilitres whole milk
For the white chocolate cream filling
250 millilitres whole milk
40 grams cornflour
20 grams plain flour
100 grams granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 grams white chocolate, chopped into pieces
75 grams unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
small pinch of turmeric, optional
For the strawberry sauce
250 grams strawberries
50 grams granulated sugar
20 millilitres lemon juice
For the double chocolate frosting
100 millilitres double cream
75 grams dark chocolate
50 grams milk chocolate
30 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
20 grams honey
small pinch of salt

Preparation
Start by making the strawberry sauce, as it requires some time to cool down and thicken up. Place the strawberries in a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the sugar and lemon juice, and mash them lightly with a fork. Set the stove to medium high heat, and let the fruit come to a light boil. Once it starts boiling, mash it into a purée, leaving some of the smaller pieces of fruit throughout the sauce. Let it slowly bubble for 15 minutes, then remove from the heat, and let it cool down to room temperature.
Next, make the white chocolate cream filling. Pour the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and sift in the cornflour and the plain flour. Whisk well, add in the sugar and vanilla, and whisk again. Place the saucepan over medium high heat, and as soon as it starts to steam, start whisking. From the moment it starts to boil, let it cook for about 2 minutes, or until it starts resembling a smooth, thick pudding. Remove from the heat, whisk in the salt, and let it cool for a minute or two. This will help the chocolate and butter blend more easily into the pudding. Add in the pieces of softened butter, one at a time, alternating with the white chocolate, whisking constantly, until incorporated. Blend in the turmeric, if using. The filling will be glossy and smooth. Cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the chocolate cake layers, sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a large bowl, add in the sugar, salt, and grated chocolate, whisk well, and set it aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the strawberry jam and the oil. They need to be blended very well, so if the jam has pieces of fruit, using an immersion blender can help greatly, as this needs to be as smooth as possible. Once blended, add in the vanilla and milk, and mix again. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients, and whisk until combined. Take a large baking sheet (30x35 cm), and line it with baking parchment. Pour in the batter and level it as much as possible. It is rather thin, so it should distribute itself well. Bake the cake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 7-8 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the very centre comes out clean. The cake will be very thin and soft, so let it cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and then remove it to a wire rack, with the baking parchment still attached, and let it cool to room temperature.
Before starting the assembly, whip the white chocolate filling with an electric mixer on high, until smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. This will make it lighter and much, much easier to spread. When everything is ready, start assembling the cake.
Trim the edges of the chocolate cake, about a centimetre on each of the sides, and then cut it vertically in three equal strips. This is best done by using a kitchen ruler, for easier assembly. When cutting, cut through only to the baking parchment, of course.
Gently and evenly, spread the white chocolate filling onto the cake. Take the time to do this; it does not need to be rushed. Next, take little dollops of the strawberry sauce, and place them all over the white filling. You can be as precise or casual as you like with the sauce.
Very carefully roll up the first strip of the cake, as you would roll up a roulade. Once that strip is nicely formed, place it onto the very beginning of the next strip, making sure the seams match, and roll the second strip in the same fashion. Place that roll onto the beginning of the remaining strip, and very carefully roll it up. At this point, you can roll the entire cake onto a piece of acetate, and use tape to give the cake more firmness, and make it easier to transfer. Place the rolled cake onto the serving platter, and let it firm up for at least an hour in the refrigerator, preferably two. While it is cooling, make the shiny ganache frosting.
Chop both types of chocolate into fine shards, so they melt more easily into the double cream. Place it into a large bowl, add the butter, honey, and the salt, and set aside. Pour the double cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and let it barely come to a boil. Immediately remove it from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Gently mix until it starts to mix and meld. Once combined, cover the top with cling film, and let it cool down and firm up, about an hour. When you are ready to frost the cake, remove it from the refrigerator, and let the cake stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Mix the ganache with a sturdy spatula until loosened up, and then frost the cake as desired. Return it to the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, and serve. Yields 16 servings. © Tina Vesić 2020

Friday, December 18, 2020

CHRISTMAS PUDDING ICE CREAM

To me, nothing says winter and holidays like the scent of cinnamon and the aroma of dried fruit, especially figs. The fragrance of rum and whisky, hot plum brandy, the sound of wood slowly crackling in the stove; the magic of wintertime.
Christmas pudding and all similar desserts fall into the category of nostalgic, almost sentimental, desserts. Whether making memories or remembering, the traditional note that it brings is undeniable.
On the topic of tradition, many classic ice cream recipes start with a silky yolk custard, which indeed makes the ice cream quite lavish and smooth. However, the lush texture and velvety mouthfeel can be achieved even without the custard or an ice cream machine. A few simple ingredients, and a few hours of time is all that is needed. The sweetened condensed milk replaces the cooked base, and when combined with the double cream and the rum, it makes the ice cream soft and silky even after freezing.
Plenty of dried fruit soaked in aromatic rum until soft and supple, fragrant toasted walnuts, many crunchy morsels of toasted almonds, and a healthy sprinkling of warm winter spices make this ice cream so very special and perfect for the holidays. It can be served after only a few hours, or after the full night of freezing, it will be delicious either way. And if you are so inclined, add a few crushed Speculaas cookies just before serving and enjoy.


Ingredients
250 ml double cream
200 grams sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 grams ground toasted walnuts
50 grams toasted almonds, chopped
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
50 grams dried figs
50 grams dried apricots
50 grams prunes
50 grams raisins
50 grams sultanas
30 ml dark rum
50 grams candied peel, optional

Preparation
Start by dicing all of the dried fruit. Pour the rum into a large bowl, add in the fruit, mix well, and let it soak in the rum for at least 4 hours. When the fruit is ready, take a large bowl, and add in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Add in all of the dried fruit, along with any remaining rum, and mix on low speed until blended. Add in the ground walnuts, chopped almonds, as well as the spices, and blend once more. The mixture should be sticky and quite fragrant.
In a separate bowl, whip the chilled double cream until soft peaks form, and then add it to the fruit mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the cream through the fruit, until it is completely blended, and the consistency of whipped cream. Every piece of fruit should be covered with the cream. Cover the top of the bowl with cling film, and place it in the refrigerator to freeze. If you like your ice cream softly served, take it out of the freezer after 4 hours. If you prefer it in scoops, let it freeze for 6 to 8 hours. Yields 6 servings.