Friday, July 30, 2021

TRADITIONAL VEGAN JAM STRUDEL

To me, comfort food is not, and will never be, about lavishness. It is about the nostalgia, the joy, the comfort of the familiar flavours and textures, the memories we cherish. I grew up having this type of dessert, so no wonder it is a great comfort food for me, both to make and enjoy.
Traditional desserts, especially the sweet dough desserts, are always incredibly forgiving and versatile. Effortless to prepare, uncomplicated, easily adaptable, plentiful, and quite convenient to share.
Any jam you like or have on hand will work wonderfully, and if you do not have fresh mint available, simply use two tea bags of your favourite mint tea and proceed with the recipe; and it will be perfect. Made with a handful of cupboard ingredients, this lovely little strudel rewards greatly, with a gorgeous blend of tangy jam, vanilla, and mint.
Best served while still warm, while the icing sugar is still slowly melting into the dough and sticking to the fingers; and always with a cup of freshly brewed mint tea.


Ingredients
For the dough
400 grams plain flour
200 millilitres water
10 fresh mint leaves
50 light grams brown sugar
25 grams fresh yeast
45 millilitres vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling
400 grams sour jam (cherry, blueberry, blackberry)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Start by making the fresh mint tea for the strudel. Bring the water to a rapid boil, remove from the heat, and add the fresh mint leaves. Cover with a lid or a larger saucer and let it steep for about 5 minutes. Pour the brewed tea into a large bowl, add in the sugar and the vanilla, and mix well. Wait a few minutes more, so the tea is just pleasantly warm, and crumble in the fresh yeast.
Let the yeast dissolve and activate, and when it starts to become bubbly and fragrant, add in the oil, and mix well. Finally, sift in the flour and the salt, and vigorously mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and sticky dough forms. It should not be overly sticky, but if it is, add another tablespoon of flour. Cover the dough 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 floured surface, lightly knead it, and roll it out into a large rectangle of about 5 millimetres thickness. In a large bowl, mix together the jam and vanilla, and spread the filling evenly all over the dough, making sure one of the edges is clean, so the strudel can be sealed nicely. Starting from the longer edge, gently roll the dough into a tight roll. Press and seal the roll really well, so the filling does not leak out during baking.
Place the strudel on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, seam side down, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rest and rise for about 30 more minutes in a warm place. Just before baking, generously mist it with room temperature water, and bake, in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 20 minutes, or until golden. Let it cool down completely, so it firms up, and then slice and serve. Yields 12 servings.

Friday, July 23, 2021

VEGAN SCHWARZWÄLDER KIRSCHTORTE BROWNIES

Sour cherries, dark chocolate, cream; the timeless classic when it comes to desserts. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is a magnificent chocolate cake with plenty of rich cherry filling, and these vegan brownies are a much quicker, miniature version of it, for all those times when a large cake is not needed. And if chilled really well, they are reminiscent of ice cream bars, which I highly appreciate.
As all brownies are, these are a fantastic choice for a fancy weekday dessert. Incredibly squidgy, with an intense chocolate flavour and a burst of tartness from the sour cherries, they are the perfect choice for a treat. I particularly love that they are one of those desserts that gets even better as they stand, and all of the syrup from the cherries gets absorbed by the brownie layer, blurring the line between the base and the filling. The true, unmistakable charm of old-fashioned desserts.
I have written before about my love for desserts that are more on the tart side, as I find them utterly refreshing, so it is unsurprising that I have used a very small amount of sugar in the filling. If you like your desserts on the sweeter side, rather than increasing the amount of sugar, replace half of the sour cherries with sweet ones. That will give a mellower sour note, while still keeping the lovely, summery cherry flavour.


Ingredients
For the fudge brownie base
100 grams plain flour
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
small pinch of salt
100 grams brown sugar
100 grams dark chocolate (70%)
150 grams vegan vanilla yoghurt
100 millilitres cold water
30 millilitres vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the sour cherry filling
300 grams sour cherries, pitted
50 grams brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 millilitres cold water or Kirschwasser
For the topping and decoration
100 millilitres plant double cream
30 grams icing sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 grams dark chocolate shavings or flakes

Preparation
Place the cherries into a large pot; add in the sugar, and shake the pot well, to distribute it. Add in the water or liqueur, if using, and shake the pot again. Cover the top with a kitchen towel, and let them macerate for 30 minutes. When ready, add in the vanilla, and place the cherries over medium heat, letting them slowly come to a boiling point. Let them bubble away, stirring occasionally, until they cook down to half of the original quantity. They should be a soft jam consistency. Remove from the heat, and let them cool down slightly.
For the brownie base, melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave, and set it aside to cool. Take a large bowl, add in the yoghurt, water, oil, and the vanilla bean paste, and whisk very well. Add in the sugar, and whisk again, so it starts to melt. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and briefly mix. Finally, add in the melted chocolate, and stir until only combined. Stirring the batter too much at this point will make the brownies tough. Line a small rectangular baking pan (18x18 cm) with baking parchment, pour in the batter, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 10-12 minutes. Make sure you check them with a toothpick to make sure they are not overbaked.
Remove from the oven and immediately top with the cooked cherries, spreading them as evenly as possible over the top. Let everything cool down completely, then cover the top with a piece of cling film, and place the pan in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, whip the plant double cream with the icing sugar and the vanilla, spread it evenly on top of the cherry layer, and generously sprinkle with chocolate flakes. Serve immediately. Yields 9 rich servings. © TINA VESIĆ

Friday, July 16, 2021

VEGAN STRAWBERRY ROSÉ DOUGHNUTS

I grew up having very humble sugar doughnuts, so for the longest of time, I liked them just like that, preferably with some vanilla sugar added. I still do enjoy that crunch from the sugar coating while the doughnut is still warm, but I have to admit, creating flavourful fillings for the doughnuts has become such a delight for me.
These soft baked beauties are full of strawberries, rosé wine, and vanilla. The perfect summer doughnut. Light and airy dough, flavourful filling, and a pretty, pink glaze.
They can be served as soon as the chocolate glaze sets, or even with it still being shiny and trickling, depending on the preference. And if I might say so myself, they pair fantastically with a glass of rosé or even a well-chilled strawberry cordial.


Ingredients
For the soft baked doughnuts
550 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon salt
150 millilitres warm water
30 grams fresh yeast
50 grams light brown sugar
150 grams soya yoghurt
65 millilitres vegetable oil, divided
For the strawberry rosé filling
400 grams fresh strawberries, hulled
100 millilitres unfined rosé wine
50 grams light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the white chocolate ganache glaze
220 grams vegan white chocolate
80 millilitres plant double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1-2 drops dusty rose vegan food colouring, optional

Preparation
Start by making the strawberry rosé filling. Dice the hulled strawberries and add them to a large pot. Sprinkle in the sugar, add the vanilla, and pour rosé over the top. Place the pot over medium heat, and let come to a boil slowly. Let the filling bubble away for at least 30-35 minutes, stirring often, until it almost resembles a very fragrant jam. Once thickened and reduced, remove it from the heat, and set it aside to cool down.
To make the doughnuts, sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the salt, whisk very well, and set it aside. Crumble the fresh yeast into a medium bowl, add in the sugar, pour in the warm water, and set it aside for about 10-15 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once the yeast is bubbly and ready, make a well in the centre of the flour, add in the yeast, yoghurt, vanilla, and 45 millilitres of oil, and vigorously mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and sticky dough forms. It should not stick to your hands, but if it does, add another tablespoon of flour, but do keep the dough as soft as possible. 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.
While the dough is resting, make the chocolate ganache. Place the chopped up vegan white chocolate into a large bowl, add in the plant double cream and the vanilla, and melt it slowly together, either in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Because plant creams vary in consistency, you might need to add a tablespoon or so more, to make the ganache nice and spreadable. Once melted, remove it from the heat so it cools down. Mix in the food colouring, if using.
When the dough is ready, transfer it to a lightly floured surface, and knead it briefly. Divide it into 12 equal pieces, shape each of them into a ball, and arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Let the doughnuts rest and rise, covered, for about 30 minutes more. Just before baking, brush them with the reserved oil, and bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 12-15 minutes.
Once baked and done, remove them from the oven, and immediately remove them from the baking sheet, to help them cool down more easily. When the doughnuts are ready, place the filling into a piping bag fitted with a large doughnut nozzle, fill each of them generously, and spread about two tablespoons of the ganache over each one. If ganache has hardened while the doughnuts were cooling, just place the whole bowl into another bowl of warm water, and it will be spreadable again. As soon as the ganache sets, they are ready to be served. Yields 12 rich servings.

Friday, July 09, 2021

SWEET CHERRY AND PEACH JAM

As I have written many times before, I love making jam. Such an indulgent, wonderful process of preserving the rich fruit colours and flavours for the colder parts of the year. I find great pleasure in cooking in general, but jam-making has had my heart ever since the first batch I made. I utterly enjoy all of the preparation steps, from washing and cleaning the fruit, to gently mixing with the sugars, slowly cooking and stirring, to finally sealing the jars.
Ripe and plump cherries, plenty of vineyard peaches, a drop of lemon juice, and a dash of vanilla is all it takes to transform this medley of stone fruit into a splendidly sweet spread. It truly tastes like the most delicious of candy, and it is simply perfect on toast.
Cherries are naturally somewhat low in pectin, so this jam has to be cooked for a tad longer than my usual jams. I often write about the setting point of jams, the famed 105°C. However, the truth is, as long as the fruit is soft and in plenty of its own syrup, one can hardly go wrong with jam. If it is slightly overcooked and set too firmly, it will be a fantastic filling for cakes or pastries, because it will be stable. If it is slightly undercooked and it set too softly, it will be marvellous over yoghurt, granola, and even vanilla ice cream. Jams are always good.
That is what cooking is, and always should be about. Exploring and enjoying the entire process, and finding that is perfect for you.


Ingredients
600 grams sweet cherries, pitted
300 grams peaches, pitted
300 grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Remove the stones from the fruit and dice the peaches, so all of the pieces of fruit are similar in size. Place the pitted cherries and the peaches into a large pot, preferably a non-reactive one, and tip in the sugar and the lemon juice. Stir it very well, so the sugar is as evenly distributed as possible, and let the fruit macerate for about an hour.
Once the fruit has released plenty of liquid, place the pot over medium-high heat, and let it very slowly come to a boil. As soon as it starts to bubble, add in the vanilla, stir well, and then cook, for about 35-40 minutes, stirring often, removing the foam that appears on the surface.
After about 35 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 has not, continue cooking for another 5 minutes, and then checking again in the same fashion.
Once the jam reaches its setting point, remove it from the heat and let it cool down slightly, for about 10-15 minutes. 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, July 02, 2021

VEGAN WHITE CHOCOLATE CHAMPAGNE BERRY PARFAITS

I have always loved gelée and all gel-based confections, so no wonder this crimson beauty became an instant favourite for me. Ruby red berries on a bed of rich white chocolate custard; is there a better way to celebrate the long summer days and abundance of fruit?
Use whichever combination of berries you love for this delight; each and every one of them will be marvellous. My favourite is the medley of strawberries, cherries, raspberries, a few blackberries, and a handful of sweet cherries, for the aroma. I wholeheartedly suggest using wild strawberries, if you can find them, as they definitely give a unique charm to this treat.
This truly is a signature summer dessert, with vibrant fresh berries, sparkling champagne, and a spoonful of sweet cream. Simply perfect for a summer brunch or an afternoon treat. Serve it well chilled, with a glass of champagne, and in good company.


Ingredients
For the white chocolate vegan custard
650 millilitres soy milk
30 grams cornflour
50 grams granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
150 grams vegan white chocolate
For the vegan berry champagne gelée
1 litre champagne
600 grams red berries
200 grams granulated sugar
90 grams cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the decoration
200 millilitres plant double cream
30 grams icing sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste


Preparation
Sift the cornflour into a small bowl, add in the sugar, and whisk well. Take about 100 millilitres of cold soy milk, pour it over the cornflour and sugar, and whisk until a smooth batter forms. Pour the rest of the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the vanilla, and place it over medium-high heat. Once it starts to boil gently, pour in the cornflour mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until it thickens and resembles a soft custard.
Once ready, remove it from the heat, and immediately add in the white chocolate. Let it stand for a minute or so, so the chocolate starts to melt, and then whisk or stir vigorously until completely melted and blended. Divide the custard between six large serving glasses, cover the tops with cling film, and let them cool down to room temperature.
While the custard is cooling down, make the champagne berry gelée. Just like before, sift the cornflour into a medium bowl, add in the sugar, and whisk well. Take out about 200 millilitres of champagne and pour it over the cornflour, being careful it does not bubble over. Mix gently until a thick batter forms, and then set aside. Pour the rest of the champagne into a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add in the berries, and place the pot over medium heat.
When it starts moderately boiling, start gently stirring the fruit, simply moving it around the pot, for about 5 minutes, so the champagne reduces slightly, and the fruit cooks down into it. Gently press one of the strawberries, and if it is soft, the mixture is ready, so pour in the cornflour batter and the vanilla, and cook for about 3-4 minutes, constantly mixing with a wooden spoon or a spatula, until a gelée forms. It will be almost transparent, but vibrant red in colour. Remove it from the heat, and let it start cooling down.
Because it is a rather large quantity, it will take a bit of time to cool down enough to be poured over the white chocolate custard, which, in turn, gives the custard even more time to set up. Once the gelée is at room temperature, but still has not set yet, divide it into six portions, and gently pour over the custard in each of the glasses. Cover the tops with cling film, and let them cool completely in the refrigerator.
Just before serving, whip up some plant double cream with a touch of icing sugar and vanilla, top each of the serving glasses, and add a few frozen berries. Serve well chilled. Yields 6 generous servings. © Tina Vesić 2021