Friday, May 13, 2022

VEGAN CREAM OF SPINACH SOUP

There is something so comforting in a bowl of soup; not only in enjoying, but in preparation, as well. Seeing an abundance of vegetables ready to go into a large cooking pot truly warms my heart.
One other thing that I really love about soups, and even vegetable stews, is how versatile and forgiving they are. The base of the soup is like a blank canvas, allowing the cook to adjust it completely to their wants and needs.
This is a very humble creamy soup, but full of spring onions, spinach, and spices. I find that spring onions, especially sautéed, pair perfectly with spinach, so I always add one extra; if you like a milder flavour, you can even add only four of them.
Some additional cream is nice on top of each serving, but it can be omitted, of course, as well as the red pepper flakes. Although I do love spicy food, I find they can be a tad too strong for this soup.
On a final note, if you like carrots along with your spinach, like I do, feel free to add a medium carrot along with the potatoes, but keep in mind that it will change the colour of the soup.


Ingredients
500 grams fresh spinach, chopped
5-6 spring onions, finely chopped
150 grams potatoes (1 medium), peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
50 millilitres light olive oil
450 millilitres vegetable stock
500 millilitres soy milk
100 millilitres unsweetened plant double cream, for serving

Preparation
Take a large saucepan, pour in the olive oil, and let it gently heat up. Add in the chopped spring onions and sauté them for about 5-6 minutes, until they become soft and fragrant. Add in the diced potato, minced garlic, and the spices, and sauté for only a mere minute.
Pour in all of the vegetable stock, cover the pot, and let the vegetables cook for about 10 minutes, until the potato pieces start to become soft. This will largely depend on how big or small the pieces are. Once they become somewhat soft, add in the milk and the spinach, cover the pot again, and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes, until all of the vegetables are cooked through.
Remove the soup from the stove and, using an immersion blender, blend it to your preferred consistency. If using a regular blender, allow the soup to cool down slightly, and then blend in batches, little by little, because it will still be very hot. As soon as the soup is blended, taste and adjust the seasoning, divide it into serving bowls, top with plant cream, and serve. Yields 4 generous servings.

Friday, May 06, 2022

VEGAN APPLE PIE BREAKFAST ROLLS

I have spoken before about how I feel about comfort food. It really is not about lavishness, at least for me, but all about those familiar flavours and textures that bring back or evoke a sense of comfort and even safety. Those aromas that offer a moment of peace, quiet, and enjoyment.
Apple pies are one of those familiar desserts that most of us cherish since childhood. Be it with flaky pie dough, filo, or just a humble sponge as a base, the combination of apples and cinnamon will always evoke a sense of comfort. I like to cook them down slowly, with plenty of vanilla and just a touch of sugar, until they are soft but not mushy, because they will be cooked further in the oven.
These little beauties can be served as a wholesome dessert, with a scoop of vegan vanilla bean ice cream, or a good dollop of whipped plant double cream. However, I love them just as they are. To slowly unroll layer by layer and enjoy the soft, fluff dough, and that signature melty apple flavour. Such a bliss with a cup of tea.


Ingredients
For the soft dough
200 millilitres water
1 heaping teaspoon loose-leaf camomile tea
30 millilitres vegetable oil
50 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
25 grams fresh yeast
350 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the apple pie filling
300 grams apples, peeled and cored
50 grams granulated sugar
50 millilitres water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
20 grams vegan block butter

Preparation
Start by brewing the camomile tea. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat, remove it from the stove, and add in the loose-leaf tea. Cover, and let it steep for about 3-4 minutes. Strain it well, and let it cool down slightly. Once ready, pour it into a large bowl, crumble in the fresh yeast, and add in the sugar and the oil. Mix well so the yeast dissolves, and then let it stand until bubbly and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
When the yeast is ready, add in the vanilla, and mix well. Sift in half of the flour and the salt, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Sift in the rest of the flour, and proceed to knead with your hands, for about 5 minutes more, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest and rise for about an hour.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Chop the apples into small pieces, so they cook down nicely, and almost start to melt into the sugar. Add them to a heavy-bottomed saucepan, along with the water, cinnamon, sugar, and the vanilla, and place the pan over medium-high heat. Let them simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid evaporates, and they start to resemble a thick pie filling, about 15 minutes or so. If you want a firmer filling, cook them a bit longer, of course. Remove from heat, stir in the butter, and let the filling cool down.
Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to about 5 millimetres in thickness. Generously spread the filling, making sure one edge is left free so the roll can seal. Roll the dough towards the free edge, pinch the seam well, and slice the roll into 8 equal pieces. Arrange them in a baking pan (20x30 cm or similar) lined with baking parchment. Cover, and let them rise for a second time, for about 30 minutes.
As soon as the oven is ready, if desired, brush the rolls generously with melted butter, and bake immediately, in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 15 minutes. When they are nice and golden, take them out of the oven, and either generously mist them with cold water, or brush with more melted vegan butter, and serve them as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Yields 8 large servings.

Friday, April 29, 2022

DECORATIVE FLAKY VEGAN BREAD

Despite my focus being on sweets for quite some time now, my first love, when it comes to baking, was bread. The wholesome loaf, the heart and centre of every family meal.
Fancy breads, such as this one, were a mystery for me when I was just starting out my baking journey. I understood the concept, but the intricate layering and folding was something that was even intimidating at times. So now, when I can and I know how, I like to share my knowledge and experience with others, perhaps even novice bakers with fancy bread dreams.
The only fiddly part of the preparation is the actual slicing of the segments. To make things very simple, you cut the dough in the same fashion you would if you were making crescent rolls, only leave a little circle of dough in the very centre intact.
It truly is one of my favourites; wonderfully buttery and soft, with beautifully crispy edges, almost melting on every bite.
Honestly, it is perfect just on its own, but if you like, serve it with a savoury spread, be it red pepper relish, aubergine relish, or anything else you enjoy. And no utensils, please, this bread is meant to be broken by hand, and shared as soon as it is cool enough to handle.


Ingredients
For the dough
600 grams plain flour
350 millilitres warm water
30 millilitres vegetable oil
25 grams fresh yeast
25 grams brown sugar
12 grams salt
For the lamination
150 grams unsalted vegan block butter, divided

Preparation
Take about a third of the butter and set it aside; and let the rest of the butter soften up to become easily spreadable.
To make the bread dough, sift the flour into a medium bowl, add in the salt, and whisk lightly. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the fresh yeast, sugar, and the warm water, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once the yeast is fragrant and bubbly, make a little well in the centre of the flour, pour it in, and add in the oil.
Mix with a wooden spoon until a somewhat sticky dough comes together. It should be ever so slightly sticky, but manageable. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for a minute or two, until springy and supple. Return it to the bowl, cover, and let it rest for about 45 minutes.
After the initial rise, the dough should be rested and even softer. Turn it out onto a floured surface again, gently press it out with your hands, and divide it into seven equal pieces. Shape each of them into a ball, and let them rest for about 15 minutes; and then roll each piece into round disk about 30 centimetres in diameter.
Take the first piece of dough, place it on a large sheet of baking parchment, spread a portion of the softened butter, top with another piece, and continue stacking until all the softened butter has been used up. Take a heavy rolling pin and press out the dough stack until it flattens slightly, helping the layers stick together.
To make the shaping easier, press a mug or a small bowl into the centre of the dough. You can even leave it there for the entire shaping process, if you are more comfortable working that way.
Using a large sharp knife, cut four slices through the dough, similar to how you would cut the dough into quarters to make crescent rolls. Divide each section in half, creating eight slices. The mug or bowl that is in the centre of the dough will help you not slice the dough in half entirely.
Create two cuts into each of the section, dividing each of them into three parts, essentially creating twenty-four strands, that you will braid into eight plaits, all radiating from the centre. Tuck each of the plait ends underneath it, and transfer the whole bread to a round pan (24 cm). Remove the mug or bowl from the centre, cover the bread with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rest and rise for about 30 minutes, while the oven is preheating.
Just before baking, melt the reserved butter, and brush the bread generously. Bake it in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately. Yields one large decorative loaf.

Friday, April 22, 2022

VEGAN ELDERFLOWER STRAWBERRY LAYER CAKE

When one loves to bake as much as I do, some things inevitably become personal classics. To me, soft, marshmallow-like fillings will always be the absolute best choice for any cake. Preferably combined with thin cake layers and a minimalistic decoration.
After you have sat with the idea, after all the development, it is just so rewarding to take that first bite of the dessert you made and to see it having the exact flavour and texture you envisioned. It is a delight to see something you have created, right in front of you, just the way you saw it in your mind.
When it comes to the decoration, I advise approaching each cake as a blank canvas. Imagine the decoration and bring it to life. As I love minimalism in general, I love how soft and pretty the filling colour is just from the strawberries, but you can definitely make it stand out more. I simply like its pastel, unassuming little charm.
On a final note, if you like, you can additionally soak the cake layers with some diluted cordial. They are perfectly moist on their own, but this will only emphasise the elderflower notes that are already in the cake.


Ingredients
For the elderflower cake
200 grams plain flour
60 grams semolina
200 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
220 millilitres cold water
30 millilitres elderflower cordial
For the whipped strawberry filling
300 grams vegan white chocolate
200 millilitres plant double cream
2 ½ tablespoons freeze-dried strawberry powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
few drops vegan strawberry red food colouring


Preparation
Start by making the strawberry filling, as it needs time to cool down, so it can be whipped. Chop the chocolate finely, and place it into a large bowl. Pour the cream and the vanilla bean paste into a separate pot, ideally one with a heavy bottom, and let it heat up over medium-low heat until almost boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate, let it stand for a minute, add in the freeze-dried strawberry powder, and then gently mix and fold, until the completely melted and blended.
Cover the surface with cling film, let it cool down to room temperature, and then place the whole bowl into the refrigerator for at least four hours. This will make it easier to whip it into a mousse later on.
To make the cake layers, take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour and the baking powder. Whisk them together once again, just to blend them thoroughly, and then mix in the semolina and the granulated sugar. To prepare the wet ingredients, pour the water into a medium bowl, add in the vanilla and the cordial, and gently agitate until dissolved. Set it aside for just a minute, and prepare the cake pan by lining the bottom and sides of a small round baking pan (15 cm) with baking parchment.


Just before baking, pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and quickly whisk until blended. As soon as the batter is ready, pour it into the prepared pan, tap it once or twice on the counter, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for 20-25 minutes, checking for doneness early on. Every oven bakes differently, and the cake should remain as soft and moist as possible. As soon as a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, it is done. Remove it from the oven and let the cake cool down in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then invert it on a wire rack, and let it cool down completely.
When everything is cool to the touch and ready, proceed to assemble the cake. Level the cake, if necessary, and slice it into three layers. Set them aside for the time being. Take the filling out of the refrigerator, and whip it into a mousse, using an electric mixer on the highest setting. If you like, you can add a drop of two of vegan strawberry red food colouring, to make it more vibrant. As soon as it starts to look like marshmallow fluff and get very thick, stop whipping. Divide the filling into three equal parts, by either weight or estimation.
Place the first cake layer on the serving platter and carefully spread on the filling. Top with another layer, more filling, and the final layer. Cover the entire cake in the mousse filling, and place it into the refrigerator for at least eight hours. When ready, slice it into thin slices and serve. Yields 12 servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2022

Friday, April 15, 2022

QUADRUPLE VEGAN CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE

One of the greatest compliments to me, as a baker, is when a cake I made is the first one to disappear from the serving platter. I always make desserts that I personally enjoy, and it warms my heart to see others love them as much as I do. Through food is how we bond, and it is a great pleasure and honour to be able to create something that will make people happy. I have found my calling in this, and I am thankful for every idea and inspiration I have had.
This little cake has been an instant favourite ever since I made it for the first time. The soft cake layers, different flavours and textures from the different mousse fillings, the extra dark syrup; just perfect. I believe I made this cake over a dozen times, and every time it is the first one to go. I always have, and always will take that as a great compliment.
On a final note, this cake is marvellous when served straight from the refrigerator, or even after a short stay in the freezer, as that makes the mousse fillings have a wonderful ice cream texture. Serve it with a good cup of coffee, hot and strong, and enjoy.


Ingredients
For the soft chocolate cake
250 grams plain flour
40 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
300 grams granulated sugar
10 grams baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
50 grams extra dark chocolate (95%), grated finely
425 millilitres boiling water
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
100 millilitres vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the extra dark chocolate syrup
120 grams granulated sugar
150 millilitres cold water
5 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 grams extra dark chocolate (95%), grated finely
For the vegan white chocolate mousse
200 grams vegan white chocolate, chopped finely
100 millilitres plant double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the vegan milk chocolate mousse
120 grams vegan milk chocolate, chopped finely
200 millilitres plant double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the dark chocolate mousse
100 grams dark chocolate (75%), chopped finely
200 millilitres plant double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Start by making the chocolate fillings, as they need a bit of time to cool down, so they can be whipped into a mousse. Chop the chocolate bars finely, and divide them into three separate bowls. Prepare three bowls for heating the plant cream, and heat it up over low heat until almost boiling. Alternatively, you can carefully heat up the entire quantity of cream until it almost comes to a boil, and then divide the hot cream, measuring carefully, into each of the prepared bowls of chocolate.
Whichever approach you choose, pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate, and let it stand for a minute, so it starts melting, and then gently mix and fold, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. If you find that the dark chocolate is not melting as quickly as others are, gently heat it up, over the lowest heat setting, until melted.
Once the chocolate has melted fully, cover the surface of each of the fillings with cling film, let them cool down to room temperature, and then place them into the refrigerator for at least four hours. This will make it easier to whip them into a mousse later on.
Next, make the chocolate cake layers. Sift the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add in the sugar and the grated chocolate, and mix very well. Add the espresso powder to the boiling water, mix it well, and set it aside so it can dissolve nicely.
Take another large bowl, pour in the coffee, oil, and the vanilla, and blend it very well. Create a small well in the centre of the sifted dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk until only blended, being careful not to overmix.
Line a rectangular baking pan (20x30 cm) with baking parchment, bottom and sides, and pour in the batter. Tap the pan a few times on the counter, to remove and bubbles, and then bake it in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 20-25 minutes.
Check it for doneness early, as every oven bakes differently, and the cake should remain as soft and moist as possible. As soon as a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, it is done. Remove them from the oven and let the cake cool down in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then invert it on a wire rack, and let it cool down completely.
To make the extra dark chocolate syrup, place the sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, sift in the cocoa powder, and whisk them together well. Pour in the water and mix to combine. Place the saucepan over high heat and let it come to a boil. Once it starts to boil, cook the syrup, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, depending on the desired thickness of the sauce, and as soon as it starts to thicken, remove it from the heat. Add in the grated chocolate, and the vanilla, and whisk until melted and incorporated. Even if it seems runny at that point, it will thicken as it cools.
When everything is cool to the touch and 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. Set them aside for the time being.
Take all of the fillings out of the refrigerator, and whip each one into a mousse, using an electric mixer. The textures of the fillings will vary depending on the type of chocolate. The vegan white chocolate mousse will be dense and creamy, the vegan milk chocolate will be very airy and voluminous, and the dark chocolate mousse will be somewhat dense and rich. Reserve half of the milk chocolate filling into a separate bowl, and set it aside.
Place the first cake layer on the serving platter, generously soak it with the cooled extra dark chocolate syrup, and carefully spread on the white chocolate mousse. Top with another layer; add the syrup, and half of the milk chocolate mousse. Repeat the process once more, with dark chocolate, and top with the final cake layer. Cover the entire cake in the reserved milk chocolate mousse, and place it into the refrigerator for at least eight hours. When ready, slice it into thin slices, and serve with additional dark chocolate shavings, and strong coffee. Yields 12 servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2022

Author's note: Depending on the type or the brand of vegan white chocolate used, the white chocolate mousse may be a tad softer after whipping. If you feel like the cake is weighing down on it, or you notice it being almost pushed out under the weight of the cake, create a little dam over it with the reserved milk chocolate mousse, or even a bit of the dark chocolate mousse. That should help greatly.
If you are more comfortable that way, reverse the order of the fillings, and start with the dark chocolate mousse, instead of white chocolate. That will give the cake more stability, which can come in handy if you are transporting the cake.