Thursday, June 23, 2022

VEGAN VANILLA FRUIT CONFIT LAYER CAKE

When I was little, every year for my birthday, I would get a bespoke vanilla fruit cake, with a fancy chocolate decoration and my name on it. Very fancy, indeed. And to be frank, that particular cake was my absolute favourite for the longest time.
This beauty is its close relative, only vegan and completely to my liking. Soft cake layers, abundant vanilla cream filling, and plenty of fruit conserve. Summer in a tiny cake form.
It is quite modest in ingredients, but abundant in flavour and marvellous summer fruit. And, of course, excellent when slightly frozen; the filling almost turns into ice cream.
I kept the decoration simple, however, that is always to your preference; although I have to say, it is a very soft and light cake, and it would not be suited for fondant or heavy decoration.


Ingredients
For the vegan vanilla cake
250 grams plain flour
60 grams semolina
250 grams granulated sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
250 millilitres cold water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the vegan vanilla cream filling
500 millilitres soy milk
50 grams plain flour
50 grams cornflour
100 grams light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric, optional
180 grams vegan block butter, at room temperature
For the strawberry filling
300 grams fresh strawberries
80 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons cold water
For the apricot filling
300 grams fresh apricots
80 grams light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons cold water
For the peach filling
300 grams fresh peaches
80 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons cold water


Preparation
Start by making the vanilla cream filling, as it needs to cool down completely before whipping.
Pour the cold soy milk into a large, heavy-bottomed pot, sift in the flour and the cornflour, mix well, and then add in the sugar, vanilla, and turmeric, if using. Place the pot over medium-high heat, and let it slowly heat up. As soon as it starts to steam, start whisking. Let the mixture come to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes, until it thickens, and resembles a thick custard. As soon as you remove it from the heat, add in 30 grams of softened vegan block butter, and whisk until melted and incorporated. This can be blended with an immersion blender or an electric mixer on low to medium speed, for convenience. Cover the top with cling film or a piece of baking parchment, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the vegan vanilla cake layers, take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour and the baking powder. Whisk them together, and then add in the semolina and the sugar. Set that aside for a moment, and prepare two small round cake pans (15 cm) by lining the bottom and sides 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 pans, tap it once or twice on the counter, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for 15-18 minutes, checking for doneness early. Every oven bakes differently, and the cake should remain as 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 cakes cool down in the pan for about 10 minutes, invert them on a wire rack, and let them cool down completely.
For the strawberry filling, chop the larger strawberries into smaller pieces, but leave some whole, the texture will be nicer. Put the fruit, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, just gently agitate the fruit, do not stir vigorously, so some fruit pieces remain whole. After about 10-15 minutes, when the fruit has reduced by half and is thick and glossy, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornflour and the cold water, pour it into the fruit, and cook for a minute longer, to thicken it up further. Remove from the heat, set it aside, and gently stir it from time to time as it cools.
For the apricot and peach fillings, start by scoring each fruit with a small knife, and blanching them for about 20 seconds. As soon as you remove them from the boiling water, add them to a bowl of ice water, to easily remove the skins. Peel them and segment them as best as possible.
To make the apricot filling, place the fruit segments, light brown sugar, and the lemon juice into a heavy saucepan, and just like before, let it come to a simmer over medium heat. Gently stir as it simmers for about 10-12 minutes, or until very thick and syrupy. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornflour and the cold water, pour it into the fruit, and cook for a minute longer. Remove from the heat and set it aside.
And for the peach filling, add the segments, sugar, and lemon juice into a saucepan, and let it come to a boil, still over medium heat. Peaches are very delicate, so stir them gently as they simmer, for about 10 minutes. Some segments will fall apart, but that is fine. As soon as they start looking quite glossy, whisk together the cornflour and the cold water, pour it into the fruit, and cook for a minute longer. Remove from the heat and set it aside.
Once the vanilla cream filling has cooled down, place the remaining butter into a large bowl, and beat it with an electric mixer on high, for about 5 minutes, so it becomes light and airy. Briefly whisk the cooked and cooled custard, so it is easier to incorporate. Without stopping the beaters, add a tablespoon of the custard at a time to the whipped butter, and blend them together until smooth and creamy.
Once the filling is whipped and ready, proceed to assemble the cake. Level the cakes, if necessary, and split each of them into two layers. Divide the filling into three equal parts, as well.
Place the first cake layer onto the serving platter, put a tall sheet of acetate, and close the cake ring around it. This will hold everything in place as the cake cools. Spread a portion of the vanilla filling over the first layer, and gently top it with the apricot filling. It is fine if it sinks into the whipped custard. Place the second cake layer on top, spread another fourth of the filling, and top with the cooked strawberries. Repeat the process once more, using up the peach filling. Top with the final cake layer, and cover the top with a piece of cling film, to stop it from drying out, and then place it into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Once ready, take the cake out of the refrigerator, remove the cake ring and the acetate sheet, and decorate as desired. If using fresh fruit for decoration, place it on the cake just before serving. Serve well chilled. Yields 16 generous servings. © TINA VESIĆ 2022

Friday, June 17, 2022

WHITE TEA STRAWBERRY BREAKFAST BREAD

Making bread is something that makes me truly happy. I love every bit of the process, the weighing, mixing, kneading, shaping; I love it. It was always like that, ever since I taught myself how to bake. Other interests have come and gone, but this is love.
This little loaf combines everything I love about summer baking. Fragrant strawberries, warm vanilla and brown sugar, and wonderful white tea, all combined into one gorgeous breakfast loaf. It is wonderful on its own, and it is also great for picnics.
It will stay fresh the next day, as well, but it isn't suitable for toasting, due to the sticky strawberry filling. It is, however, suitable to be slathered in some vegan butter, and broiled until golden. Or made into the most wonderful vegan French toast.


Ingredients
For the white tea sweet dough
210 millilitres water
1 teaspoon loose-leaf white tea
30 millilitres vegetable oil
30 grams granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 ½ teaspoon salt
20 grams fresh yeast
350 grams plain flour
For the strawberry filling
300 grams fresh strawberries
100 grams granulated sugar
½ vanilla bean

Preparation
Start by brewing the white 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 3-5 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.
While the dough is resting, make the strawberry filling. Wash the strawberries, chop them up nicely, and add them to a heavy-bottomed pot. Add in the sugar, and let it come to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once it starts to simmer and the fruit starts to release more liquid, split the vanilla bean in half, scrape all the seeds, and add them to the strawberries, along with the vanilla bean. Cook, stirring often, until it thickens up to the consistency of jam, about 15 minutes. Even if it is slightly thicker than regular jam, it will be fine. Remove the vanilla bean and discard it.
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 strawberry filling, which should be cool by now. Roll each dough piece into a roll, and seal the edges well. Make a three-strand plait out of the dough pieces, and tuck the ends underneath, if necessary, 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.
As soon as the oven is ready, bake the bread immediately, at 200°C, for about 20-25 minutes. Once baked to your liking, take it out of the oven, and generously mist it with cold water, and let it cool down enough to be handled. Slice and serve with more fresh strawberries and tea. Yields 8 large servings.

Friday, June 10, 2022

RASPBERRY ROSÉ JAM

When I think back to the first batch of jam I ever made, I cannot help but think about how much time and effort people invested into discouraging me from even trying. From the old classic, "You will burn it", to "Just buy a jar", I have heard it all.
That was a very long time ago, but that experience still holds a good, valuable lesson - do not let people discourage you from taking a step towards what makes you happy. There will be times in life when the support lacks, when there isn't anyone around for encouragement, but those moments are what builds character. Those moments when you face discouragement and fear, yet you feel that something is just right for you. and decide to continue down your individual path; those are the moments you will cherish later on in life, I promise you.
And so we come to this gorgeous small batch of incredibly fragrant raspberry and Rosé wine. With light brown sugar, rosewater, and vanilla bean paste, it almost tastes like candy. It is marvellous on toast, as well as a cake filling. Frankly, it is wonderful to enjoy on its own, with a tiny teaspoon.
I do need to add that this jam will not have that typical firm jam consistency. If you want it to be firmer, simply cook the jam for longer, until it is just the way you prefer it to be.


Ingredients
1 kilogram fresh organic raspberries
400 grams light brown sugar
120 millilitres Rosé wine
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon rosewater

Preparation
Very gently wash the raspberries, place them in a large, non-reactive pot, add in the sugar, and the wine, and let them sit, undisturbed, for two to three hours, so they macerate nicely.
Once the fruit has released plenty of liquid, place the pot over medium-high heat, and let it slowly come to a boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, add in the vanilla, stir well, and then cook, for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often, removing the foam that appears on the surface.
Because this is a small quantity of fruit, the cooking process is much quicker. After about 20 minutes or so, check if the jam 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 it is not ready, continue cooking for another 5 minutes, and then checking again.
Once it does reach the setting point, remove it from the heat and let it cool down slightly, for about 10-15 minutes. Add in the rosewater, mix very well, pour the jam into prepared sterilised jars and close the lids well. Keep them in a dark and cool place, or in the refrigerator, for the best possible taste. Yields 600 grams of jam.

Friday, June 03, 2022

VEGAN DARK CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO SEMOLINA PUDDING

A very long time ago, back when I still just loved cooking and baking, but was far too insecure to engage in either, I loved watching other people prepare food. Not only that, I loved collecting recipes as well as cookbooks.
I have written before about adding little heart drawings next to the recipes I wanted to try out later, when I grow up. Semolina pudding is one of those desserts that captured my heart close to three decades ago.
Modest and simple to prepare, it is one of the staple desserts that pretty much everyone loves. It takes minutes to prepare, and if you are like me, you can enjoy it immediately. However, it is wonderful when it cools slightly, enough to form that wonderful firm top layer, so it can be topped with vegan whipped cream, fresh berries, and even a fruit confit, if you're so inclined.
On a final note, this pudding is to my liking, soft, lightly sweetened and paired with extra dark chocolate; if you wish to serve this pudding with a slightly thicker texture, add another tablespoon of dry semolina, but not more than that, because it will additionally thicken as it cools.


Ingredients
600 millilitres soy milk, cold
100 grams semolina
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
50 grams light brown sugar
100 grams extra dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Take a large heavy-bottomed pot and pour in about 500 millilitres of soy milk. Put the pot over medium-high heat and let it heat up slowly and gently. Take a medium bowl and add in the dry semolina, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and the espresso powder, and whisk them together. As soon as the milk in the pot starts steaming, whisk together the dry semolina with the remaining milk, and pour it into the boiling milk. At this point, whisk it vigorously, and if needed, lower the heat to medium.
Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes, until thickened and creamy. Remove from the heat, add in the extra dark chocolate and the vanilla, and whisk quickly until blended. Divide the pudding between the serving bowls, and let it cool down to your liking. Top each serving with vegan whipped cream, fresh or frozen berries, and some more dark chocolate, and serve. Yields 6 servings.

Friday, May 27, 2022

BAKERY-STYLE VEGAN BREAKFAST ROLLS

Simple pleasures in life are the best pleasures. Early mornings, good books, birds' song, and some quiet time with a good, wholesome breakfast.
The older I get, the more I am appreciative of all things that invoke calmness and peace. Baking is one of those things, and the only one I truly believe I can never tire of. And even though I love developing and creating new recipes, sometimes, a good old classic is all that is needed. Simple, wholesome, and always welcome.
These little rolls are just perfect for any sort of breakfast you want to have, sweet and savoury. The tiny bit of sugar in the glaze will only give them that unmistakable bakery charm, but it will not make them overly sweet.
On a final note, they do not have much oil in them; they are a bit on the lean side, so they are the best when they are fresh, on the same day. However, if you do have some that are left over, they are simply marvellous when toasted.


Ingredients
For the soft rolls
350 grams plain flour
180 millilitres warm water
50 millilitres vegetable oil
15 grams fresh yeast
15 grams granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
For the glaze
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons icing sugar
50 millilitres cold water

Preparation
Take a medium bowl, crumble in the fresh yeast, add in the granulated sugar and the warm water, mix well, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Meanwhile, 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, as well as the oil and vinegar, 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 or so, until it becomes supple and smooth. If it is sticking too much to your hands or the surface, 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 and knead it gently, and then divide it into nine equal parts. This is best done by weight, but approximation works as well. Shape each part into a smooth roll, arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, cover them with a clean cloth, and let them rest and rise for about 30 minutes.
Whisk together all the ingredients for the glaze, and generously coat the rolls just before baking. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 12-15 minutes, or until evenly browned. Serve immediately. Yields 9 rolls.