Friday, July 12, 2024

HOMEMADE MANGO APRICOT JAM

Jams are among my favourite things to make and enjoy for many reasons, mainly because they use the whole fruit, wasting nearly nothing, and they are simply perfect on a piece of toast, as a cake filling or frosting, as well as pancake and waffle topping. There is no wrong way of enjoying homemade jam.
This is a lovely and bright flavour combination, especially with just a touch of white rum, just to brighten it up a bit further. It does not use a lot of sugar, as the fruit is in its prime now, ripe and delightfully sweet, and the tiny addition of vanilla makes it taste like candy.
My tips for success
This is a small batch of jam, one of the smallest I make. Because of that, it cooks down very quickly, so it is best to keep it on medium to medium-low heat, depending on how hot your stove runs, and stir it constantly. That way, it cooks evenly and does not burn on the bottom.
Now, I chose to purée the jam so it spreads nicely onto toast, but you can most definitely leave it as is, leaving some of the fruit pieces intact. That is also a wonderful jam texture, without a doubt, and equally useful for cakes and pastries.
On a final note, you can remove the skins off the peaches if you wish, but I did not. If you remove it, the jam will be somewhat lighter in colour than mine, but the flavour will not be affected in any way.

Homemade vegan mango, apricot, and peach jam by food writer pastry development chef Tina Vesić

Ingredients
200 grams ripe mango pieces
100 grams ripe peaches
200 grams ripe apricots
200 grams granulated sugar
1 small lemon, juice only
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon white rum

Preparation
Remove all the stones from the fruit, dice and weigh it, and place it into a large non-reactive pot. Add the sugar and the lemon juice. Stir very well, so the sugar is evenly distributed, and let the fruit macerate for about an hour or so.
Once it has released its liquid, the pot over medium heat, and let it very slowly come to a boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, start the timer, and cook for about 35-40 minutes, stirring almost constantly, removing any foam that appears on the surface.
As this is a tiny batch of jam, the cooking process is quick. After about 30 minutes or so, purée the jam completely with an immersion blender, and check if it has reached its setting point, either by dropping a teaspoon of it onto a chilled plate, and seeing if it sets after about a minute, or by inserting a candy thermometer and making sure it has reached 105°C. If not, continue cooking and checking in 5-minute intervals until set. The longer you cook it, the deeper the colour and flavour will get.
Once the jam reaches its setting point, remove it from the heat, add in the vanilla and rum, and stir very well. Let it cool down for about 10 and pour it into a sterilised jar, closing the lid tightly. Keep it in a dark and cool place, or in the refrigerator, for the best possible taste. Yields 350 grams of jam.

Friday, July 05, 2024

VEGAN CARAMEL CAPPUCCINO CAKE

I take my coffee black, without any sweeteners or cream, and that is how I've loved it for years, but when it comes to desserts, any combination with caramel is an instant winner for me. The perfect blend of rich coffee and sweet caramel delight. A wonderful, robust espresso cookie base, gorgeous caramel layers, and plenty of velvety caramel frosting make for the perfect after-dinner or brunch treat.
I love serving it with a cup of coffee, as I find it pairs amazingly well with this type of cake, but a tall glass of cold milk of your choice is a good option, as well. It is also a marvellous however you choose to serve it - straight out of the refrigerator, with a texture of an ice cream bar, or slightly softened, after being at room temperature for about 15 minutes. There really is no wrong way of serving it.
My tips for success
If you have a tiny sheet pan that fits into your oven alongside the cake pan with the batter, you can bake the cookie and the cake layers simultaneously, only taking the cookie out earlier. This saves time and energy, of course. But if you do not have a tiny sheet pan, simply invert a cake pan and bake the cookie that way.
If you enjoy a stronger coffee flavour, add up to ½ teaspoon of instant espresso more to the cookie, but not more than that, because it will turn out bitter and almost overpowering.
And finally, if you add caramel sauce to the filling and frosting, like I did, be prepared that there will be pieces of chewy and thick caramel throughout the frosting. If you are fine with that, perfect; if not, and you want it completely smooth, add the caramel sauce to the butter and cream them together before blending in the custard.


Ingredients
For the vegan caramel cake layers
85 grams plain flour
70 grams coconut sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
90 millilitres tepid water
For the vegan cappuccino cookie
20 grams coconut sugar
20 grams vegan block butter, slightly softened
25 millilitres soy milk
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
45 grams plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
For the caramel cream filling
300 millilitres soy milk, cold
100 grams granulated sugar
50 grams cornflour
100 grams vegan block butter, softened
50 grams vegan caramel sauce, optional


Preparation
Start by making the caramel custard, as it takes time to cool down. Take away about 100 millilitres of soy milk, and whisk it very well with sifted cornflour. Set it aside, and whisk it gently from time to time. Add the sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place it over medium heat, and let the sugar melt slowly. Once it starts to brown around the edges, slowly move the melted parts towards the centre.
Keep cooking on medium heat until it starts to turn dark in colour and become very fragrant. As soon as it becomes a deep amber colour, very carefully pour in the larger portion of the soy milk, 200 millilitres, and let it come to a boil. The cooked caramel will harden, and that is fine, as it will completely melt into the milk by the time it starts boiling.
Once all the caramel is melted, whisk in the cornflour mixture, and cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Remove it from the heat and immediately strain it through a mesh strainer, in case there are still pieces of hardened caramel. Cover the top cling film or a piece of baking parchment, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the caramel cake layers, take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour and the baking powder. Whisk them together, and then add in the coconut sugar. Set it aside for just a minute, and prepare the pan by lining the bottom and sides of a small round baking pan (12 cm) with baking parchment.
Pour the water and vanilla 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 15-20 minutes, checking for doneness early on. 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.
To make the vegan espresso cookie base, place the vegan block butter into a small bowl and mash it with a fork until somewhat smooth. Add in the coconut sugar and the espresso powder, and blend and mash them together. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix as much as you can, and add in the soy milk. Blend everything together using a fork or a tiny whisk, and scrape all the batter onto a tiny baking sheet, forming a single cookie that is roughly 12-13 cm in diameter. Bake it in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 8-10 minutes. Let the baked cookie cool down completely.
Once everything is cool to the touch, proceed to assemble the cake.
Take a large bowl, add in the softened vegan block butter, and mix it with an electric mixer on high, until very light and creamy, almost resembling a buttercream, about 3-4 minutes. Do the same with the cooled custard, to make it easier to blend. Without stopping the mixer, start adding the cooled custard, a spoonful at a time, to the vegan butter, until completely combined. Add in the vegan caramel sauce, if using, and briefly blend again.
Level the cake, if needed, and slice it into two layers horizontally. Place the cookie onto the serving platter and top it with a portion of the filling. It does not have to be precise, just make sure you have enough filling to use as frosting. Add one cake layer and top it with another portion of the filling.
Finally, add the second cake layer and frost the entire cake with the remaining custard filling. There is plenty of custard, so the decoration can be as intricate as you like. Place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, and serve with freshly brewed espresso. Yields 6 servings. © Tina Vesić 2024

Friday, June 28, 2024

VEGAN CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT FUDGE CAKE

Summer is officially here in the Northern hemisphere, and late evening gatherings simply call for indulging in delightful cakes such as this one. The toasted hazelnuts embellish the cake with a delightful, warm, earthy flavour that complements perfectly the deep, intense flavours of dark chocolate. Truffle-like chocolate cake, rich and smooth hazelnut fudge frosting, and a shiny chocolate glaze make this wonderful little cake a true velvety treat.
My tips for success
It truly is best to use toasted hazelnuts for this type of cakes, because they have the most flavour, but even blanched will work well, even though the cake will be milder in flavour and somewhat lighter in colour.
When it comes to baking, always use the written instructions as a guideline, honouring your baking equipment first and foremost. You know your oven best, and if it runs a bit hotter, the cake will be done sooner. Always check with a toothpick to make sure it is done, but not dry.
This cake is really meant to be served straight out of the pan, but if you want to transfer it to a nice cake platter and decorate it further, it is absolutely possible. After chilling overnight, simply remove it with the parchment, gently and carefully remove the parchment, and place it on the platter. Alternatively, if you are certain that that is how you want to serve it, you can remove the parchment once the cake is cool, and simply place it on the cake platter, closing a square cake form around it, and then proceeding with the recipe.


Ingredients
For the vegan chocolate cake
200 grams plain flour
50 grams toasted hazelnuts, ground
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
10 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
120 grams light brown sugar
65 millilitres vegetable oil
200 millilitres boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the rich vegan hazelnut frosting
350 millilitres soy milk, cold
40 grams cornflour
30 grams plain flour
50 grams dark brown sugar
100 grams vegan block butter, cubed
60 grams hazelnut butter
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the dark chocolate glaze
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
40 grams vegan block butter
30 millilitres soy milk

Preparation
Start by making the hazelnut fudge filling, as it needs a bit of time to cool down and set. Sift together the flour and cornflour into a heavy saucepan, add in the sugar, and mix very well. Pour in the cold soy milk and the vanilla, whisk well, and place the pan over medium heat. Let it heat up slowly, and as soon as it starts to simmer, start stirring. Cook, stirring constantly for about 2-3 minutes, or until thickened and glossy.
Remove from heat, add in the vegan block butter, vanilla, and the hazelnut butter, and whisk until incorporated. At this point, you can use a hand mixer or an immersion blender if you find it easier. Once blended, cover the top with a piece of cling film or baking parchment, and set it aside to cool down to room temperature.
Next, make the fudge cake. Set the oven to preheat to 180°C. Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl, add in the espresso powder, and pour in about 50 millilitres of boiling water over it. Mix briefly, and let it bloom. Take a large bowl, add in the sugar and the rest of the hot water, mix well, and set it aside so the sugar starts to melt.
Add in the oil, vanilla, and the cocoa powder, and mix very well. Tip in the plain flour, ground hazelnuts, and the baking powder, and whisk until just blended.
Take a medium rectangle baking pan (18x18 cm), and line it with baking parchment. Pour in the batter and tap it very lightly on the counter to remove any large bubbles. Bake immediately, in a nicely preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15 minutes or so. Once a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, it is done. Remove it from the oven, and let it cool down to room temperature in the pan.
Once the cake and the filling are cool to the touch, mix the filling with an electric mixer on high for a minute or so, until smooth and creamy. Spread it all over the top of the cake, levelling it as much as possible. Place the whole pan in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably two.
When the filling is somewhat firm to the touch, make the chocolate glaze by melting together the dark chocolate, vegan block butter, and soy milk over low heat. Once melted, let it cool down for a few moments, glaze the top of the cake, and return it to the refrigerator for at least 6 more hours, preferably overnight. Yields 9 rich servings.

Friday, June 21, 2024

SWEET CHERRY RED WINE VEGAN SWIRL BREAD

Cherries, both sweet and sour, are one of my favourite fruits. Gloriously aromatic and full of flavour, they are the perfect pairing for many desserts. And this luxurious little loaf combines the richness of sweet cherries with beautiful tanginess of the red wine, creating a luscious treat that's perfect for breakfast or brunch.
With its subtle hints of vanilla and a perfectly balanced sweetness, this wonderful egg-free and dairy-free loaf is a fantastic way to start the day. Whether enjoyed with a cup of strong coffee or a glass of cold almond milk, each slice is bursting with flavour and gorgeous aromas.
Some of my tips for success: Use the red wine you enjoy drinking. That goes for any recipe that calls for wine, as a matter of fact, because the flavour can be prominent, and you want something you enjoy on its own.
This loaf is not that great for toasting, due to the sticky filling, but it broils perfectly, especially slathered with vegan butter beforehand.
And finally, my heartfelt advice about the filling - cook it until thickened, so there are no juices running, and it will be fine. If cooked thicker, it will be firmer and stay in place, allowing for a tidier slice. And if cooked thinner, it will almost meld into the dough itself, making it moister and stickier. No wrong way to do it!


Ingredients
For the vegan enriched dough
250 grams plain flour
100 grams strong bread flour
120 millilitres warm water
30 grams light brown sugar
25 grams fresh yeast
100 grams apple sauce
20 millilitres sunflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
10 grams salt
60 grams vegan block butter, cold
For the sweet cherry red wine swirl
300 grams fresh sweet cherries, weighed without stems or pits
75 millilitres unfined red wine, such as Merlot or Pinot Noir
100 grams granulated sugar
¼ vanilla bean

Preparation
Start by making the vegan enriched dough. Pour the warm water into a large bowl, add in the sugar and crumbled fresh yeast, mix lightly, and let it dissolve and bubble up. When the yeast becomes fragrant, add in the apple sauce, vanilla, and oil, and mix well. Sift in both types of flour and salt, and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl and not stick too much to the spoon, but if it does, add another tablespoon of plain flour and mix it well. Once a shaggy dough forms, add in the vegan block butter, and knead it into the dough. Be patient in with this step, as it will take a bit of time for the dough to absorb the butter. Place the formed dough into a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until doubled in size.
Next, make the sweet cherry swirl. Halve the cherries and add them to a heavy-bottomed pot. Slice the vanilla bean in half, scrape out all the seeds into the pot, add in the vanilla pods themselves, and add in the wine and sugar. Mix briefly, and let it come to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until it thickens up to the consistency of thick jam, about 15-20 minutes. Ty not to stir too much, swirling the pot frequently, so the cherries stay whole as much as possible. Remove from the heat, remove the vanilla pods, and discard them. Let the filling cool down.
Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into three equal parts. Roll each part into a large rectangle, and spread on a third of the fruit filling. Roll each dough piece into a roll, and seal the edges well. Make a three-strand plait out of the dough pieces, tuck the ends underneath, and then place it into a loaf pan that has been lined with baking parchment. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for a second time, for about 30 minutes. Let the oven preheat to 200˚C.
As soon as the oven is ready, generously mist the loaf with cold water, and bake immediately, at 200˚C, for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden. Once baked to your liking, take it out of the oven, mist it with cold water for a softer crust, and let it cool down enough to be handled; about 10 minutes in the loaf pan, and then for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack. Yields 8 rich servings.

Friday, June 14, 2024

VEGAN STRAWBERRY COCONUT CRÊPE CAKE

Although I do love all seasons, this warmer part of the year is my favourite, I have to admit. Abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, abundance of sunshine, early mornings and late sunsets really make me fall in love with it every year.
While fresh strawberries are in season, I indulge in them in any way I can; smoothies, cakes, cookies, breads, and just as they are, sweet as honey. And as someone who loves the strawberries and coconut combination, I find this cake just delightful; incredibly rich in taste and texture, yet very light, as it is a fruit cake, after all.
Such a wonderful pairing of the sweetness of coconut and natural tanginess of the strawberries, enhanced by a touch of lemon juice. Just perfect for summer gatherings.
On a final note, a few of my tips for success. If you want the outside of the cake to be picture-perfect, you can use a cake ring to trim the outer, crispy edges of the crêpes, but I do not mind the imperfections, so I left them as they were.
I like to divide the filling by weight, so there is enough for each layer, and I do it with a digital scale, but it is absolutely fine if you wish to simply estimate, it will certainly go much quicker. The only thing I do have to point out is that if you also get 14 crêpes, like I did, you need to divide the filling into 13 parts. If you get fewer crêpes, divide the filling into fewer parts, so there is enough for all of them.


Ingredients
For the vanilla crêpes
300 grams plain flour
650 millilitres carbonated water
10 grams baking powder
20 grams light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the strawberry coconut filling
400 grams fresh strawberries, hulled
50 millilitres fresh lemon juice
50 grams cornflour
120 grams light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
50 grams vegan block butter, diced
100 grams desiccated coconut
500 millilitres plant-based double cream

Preparation
Start by making the strawberry cream filling, as it needs to cool down completely. Place the fresh strawberries into a blender, along with the lemon juice, cornflour, and sugar, and let it run until a completely smooth batter forms. Pour it into a heavy saucepan or a pot, and place it over medium high heat. Let it slowly heat up, and once it starts to simmer, whisk vigorously for a minute or two, until it thickens up and starts to resemble fruit custard.
Remove from the heat, add in the vanilla and the vegan block butter, and stir until it all melts and blends together. At this point you can use an immersion blender, if you wish. Once everything is ready and smooth, cover the top with some cling film or a piece of baking parchment, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the crêpes, take a large bowl, and add in the carbonated water, sugar, and the vanilla, and mix well so everything starts to dissolve. Sift in the flour and the baking powder, and whisk to form a thick batter. The batter will be quite runny, and that is fine, that will help it spread in the pan.
Take a large crêpe pan, 20-22 cm in diameter, and lightly oil it or spray it with a cooking spray just once. Place the pan over medium high heat, and let it heat up. Once ready, take a small ladle (about 80 millilitres), and pour it onto the centre of the heated pan, quickly swirling it around so the batter covers the whole surface. This will make sure the crêpes are thin, which is what is needed for the cake.
Cook each one on medium high heat until the surface looks set, flip it over gently, and cook for 15-20 seconds more. Repeat with the rest of the batter, until all of it is used up. You should have 13 or 14 super thin crêpes. Set them aside to cool down completely.
Once the filling and the crêpes are cool, proceed to assemble the cake.
Take a large bowl and pour in the chilled plant double cream. Using a hand mixer on high, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Without changing the beaters, whip the cooled fruit custard on high, for at least a minute, so it becomes smooth and spreadable. Add in the desiccated coconut, and blend really well. Add the filling to the bowl with the cream, and fold everything through until almost completely blended.
Finally, use the hand mixer on the highest speed for barely 5 seconds, to firm it up additionally. Reserve about one-fifth of the filling to use as frosting for the cake, and divide the remaining filling into 13 equal parts. This is best done by weight, as there are many layers, and it is preferable they are all evenly stacked.
Place the first crepe on a serving platter, top it with a portion of the filling, spread it all the way out to the edges, top with another crêpe, then filling, and continue stacking until all of the crêpes are used up. Frost the entire cake with the reserved filling and place it into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Serve with fresh seasonal fruit and strong coffee. Yields 16 rich servings.