Friday, September 23, 2022

VEGAN CHOCOLATE CHESTNUT LAYER CAKE

Nothing says autumn like chilly mornings, romantic walks, and the smell of roasted chestnuts in the air. A magical atmosphere for any romantic soul.
And indeed, it is a magical time, and an endless inspiration for me when it comes to desserts. A treasure trove of seasonal ingredients that create the most beautiful and delicious sweets, especially cakes.
I have to admit, the older I get, the more I love creating new cake recipes. Especially cakes like this one, with many different layers, all in autumnal shades, full of delight and nostalgia. With warm rum and vanilla pairing perfectly with the chestnut and chocolate fillings, and a texture reminiscent of old-fashion pastry shop cakes, velvety and robust.
Generously glazed in dark chocolate ganache, it is best served well-chilled, with a cup of strong coffee, and even a glass of brandy.


Ingredients
For the soft vanilla cake layers
200 grams plain flour
240 grams granulated sugar
1 levelled teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
50 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
280 millilitres tepid water
For the fragrant chestnut rum filling
350 grams chestnuts, in shell
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
20 millilitres water
50 grams dandelion honey
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100 grams vegan block butter, at room temperature
100 millilitres plant double cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
For the dark chocolate ganache
75 grams dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)
100 millilitres plant double cream
For the decoration
100 grams dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)
150 millilitres plant double cream

Preparation
Start by making the chestnut filling, as it needs to be completely cool before filling the cake.
Take each chestnut, and lay it on a kitchen towel, flat side down. Holding it firmly, make a small, relatively shallow cut on the shell, just deep enough so it is easier to peel later on. Rotate it, and make another cut across. That way, they will open up while cooking, and the peeling will be much easier.
Place the prepared chestnuts into a large pot, add enough water to cover them, add the sugar, and let them come to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, cook for 40 minutes, or until you see the chestnuts opening up. The water may change colour, but that is fine.
Strain the cooked chestnuts, let them cool slightly, so they are comfortably warm to handle, and remove the shells and the inner skin from each of them. This should go very smoothly, as they will be warm.
Weigh exactly 200 grams of the prepared chestnuts, place them into a blender, along with the water and vanilla, and let it run until a thick paste forms. This can be done with an immersion blender, as well.
Transfer the purée into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the honey, and mix well. At this point, taste the purée and adjust the sweetness, if needed. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and let it heat up until a very soft boil. Stirring constantly, let it cook until thickened and darker in colour. This will remove additional water from the purée, making it smoother, and easier to blend with the vegan butter and cream later on. Cover the top with a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper, and let it cool down completely.
While the chestnut filling is cooling, make the soft vanilla layers. Sift the flour with the baking soda a few times, to aerate it nicely, and add it to a large bowl. Add in the sugar and salt, and whisk well. Take another bowl, and whisk together the water, oil, vinegar, and the vanilla; and pour everything over the dry ingredients. Whisk only until everything comes together into a smooth batter, so the cakes stay nice and soft.
Line two 20-cm round pans by lining the bottoms and side with baking parchment, and divide the batter between them. Due to their thickness, this is best done by weight. Bake them immediately in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 12-15 minutes, or until baked through. Check them with a toothpick even around the 10-minute mark, to make sure they are baked, but not dry.
Remove them from the oven, let them cool down in the pans for about 10 minutes, and then take them out and let them cool down completely on wire racks. If you are worried about the cakes sticking, invert them onto a piece of baking parchment, and then onto the cooling racks.
Once the chestnut purée is completely cool, proceed with the filling. Pour the chilled plant cream into a deep bowl, and whip it until soft peaks form. Set it aside.
Place the chestnut purée into a large bowl, and add in the softened vegan block butter. Whip, with an electric mixer on high, until a smooth and thick filling forms. There is no possibility of overbeating the filling; even if it becomes somewhat soft, it will firm up in the refrigerator.
Add the whipped cream into the filling, along with the rum, and blend on high until it all whips together. Place the bowl into the refrigerator.
For the dark chocolate ganache, chop up the chocolate into shards, for easier melting, add it to a small saucepan, and pour over the double cream. Place it over medium heat, and let it melt together slowly. As soon as it is melted, remove from heat, whisk vigorously to make sure all the shards are melted, and let it cool down until thick and spreadable.
While both fillings are cooling down, very gently transfer the cooled cakes onto your work surface, level them if needed, and slice them into two thin layers. If you are more comfortable working that way, you can use cake boards to transfer the layers.
To assemble, place the first cake layer onto the serving platter, add a cake ring around it, a strip of acetate on the inside, and close the ring in place. Divide the chestnut filling into two equal parts, either by weight or approximation, and gently spread one half onto the cake layer.
Place the next layer on top, gently press it down with your palm, to even it out, and spread the dark chocolate ganache. If necessary, tap the cake platter a few times on the work surface, to remove any air bubbles. Place another cake layer on top, and spread the remaining chestnut filling. Top with the final cake layer, and gently press down with your palm. Place the platter into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
The next day, make the decoration. Once again, chop up the dark chocolate into thin shards, add it to a small saucepan, and pour over the double cream. Place the pan over medium heat, and let everything melt together slowly. As soon as it is melted, remove from heat, whisk to make sure all the shards are melted. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top, and let it cool down to room temperature, so it is pourable.
Remove the cooled cake from the refrigerator, remove the cake ring and the acetate strip, and glaze the top and sides with the ganache. Decorate the cake further, if desired, and serve. Yields 20 servings. © Tina Vesić 2022

Friday, September 16, 2022

NO-BAKE VEGAN CHOCOLATE WALNUT CAKE

A very long time ago, I found a recipe for a treat that included making a cooked pudding. Understandably, it got my attention immediately, because I had just learnt to make pudding, and I was confident that this one would be a breeze, as well. However, the instructions were not as detailed as I needed them to be, and the cake recipe fell into oblivion.
That is one of the reasons why I now try to be as detailed as possible when writing a recipe. I feel it is very important to keep in mind that everyone was once a beginner, every single person once started starry-eyed and plenty of hope their recipe will work; and I find great joy in seeing people succeed in their baking adventures.
This cake is one of those that young Tina would have loved to prepare. No baking, no tricky ingredients, no special and hard to find equipment; just biscuits, chocolate, and walnuts. A seriously delicious and rich cake, with three layers of pure indulgence.
It is best served in modest slices, due to its richness, with strong coffee, and a few extra walnuts. And a bit of whipped plant cream, if you're so inclined.


Ingredients
For the base
200 grams vegan vanilla biscuit crumbs
30 grams icing sugar, sifted
120 grams vegan block butter
100 millilitres soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the fillings
900 millilitres soy milk
120 grams cornflour
120 grams brown sugar
150 grams vegan block butter
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
200 grams vegan vanilla biscuit crumbs
200 grams toasted walnuts, ground
150 grams dark chocolate (75%)

Preparation
To make the base, place the biscuit crumbs and the sugar in a medium bowl, and set aside. Melt the vegan block butter over medium-high heat, pour it over the cookie crumbs, add in the milk and the vanilla, and mix together until a soft dough forms.
Place a small (15 cm) cake ring on a serving plate, add a tall strip of acetate, close it in place, and press the cookie dough into the bottom, forming a base. Level it as much as you can, and set it aside.
To make the fillings, pour the cold soy milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the cornflour and the sugar, and whisk until blended and smooth. Place the saucepan over medium heat and let it heat up slowly. As soon as it starts to steam, start whisking.
Once it comes to a boil, cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens and resembles a custard, about 2-3 minutes. Remove it from the heat, and let it cool down for just a minute. Add in the vegan butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly. Once melted, add in the vanilla, and blend. Divide the custard into two equal parts.
Add the vanilla biscuit crumbs to one part, mix well, and spread that filling over the base. Place the platter into the refrigerator while you work on the other part.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave, and let it cool slightly. Add the ground walnuts to the remaining filling, and blend well. Finally, pour in the melted and cooled chocolate, and mix everything together. Take the cake out of the refrigerator, spread the chocolate filling over the vanilla filling, and return the cake to chill for at least 8 hours. It can also be frozen for about 30 minutes before serving. Yields 16 servings.

Friday, September 09, 2022

VEGAN BROWNIE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH TORTE

I have written before about my love for effortless desserts. Desserts that can be made while something else is cooking on the stove. Desserts that do not create additional pressure when making or serving them.
This is one of those treats, perfected to my liking. Fudgy brownie base, cookie dough frosting, and a drizzle of extra dark chocolate on top. Simply marvellous.
Now, I must point out that this cookie dough is, as all my cookie dough is, made with ground rolled oats. I do not like using raw flour in my desserts, and that extends even to the heat-treated flour, as the texture it gives to the frosting is pretty much the same, and not to my liking.
This way, rolled oats are finely ground, mixed with softened vegan butter and hazelnut milk, and give a wonderfully nutty flavour to the frosting. Just perfect with a glass of milk.


Ingredients
For the chocolate brownie base
180 grams plain flour
200 grams granulated sugar
20 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
small pinch of salt
150 millilitres water
100 grams applesauce
60 millilitres vegetable oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the cookie dough frosting
150 grams vegan block butter, softened
150 grams dark brown sugar
100 grams rolled oats, very finely ground
75 millilitres hazelnut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
50 grams miniature chocolate chips
For the decoration
100 grams dark chocolate (75%)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preparation
To make the fudge chocolate brownie base, take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the sugar and mix very well. Line a small (15 cm) round baking pan with baking parchment, bottom and sides, and set it aside. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients; add in the warm water, oil, vanilla, applesauce, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 25-30 minutes, or until done. Check it with a toothpick, making sure it stays fudgy, and not dry. Let it cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then turn it out onto a wire rack and let it cool to room temperature.
To make the cookie dough frosting, start by placing the dark brown sugar into a blender and letting it run until it resembles icing sugar. Alternatively, use dark brown icing sugar, if available. Place the softened vegan block butter into a large bowl, and whip with an electric mixer on high, for about 5 minutes, until lighter in colour and texture.
Add in the sugar, and whip on high for another 5 minutes, until blended, smooth, and almost resembling whipped cream. Add in the finely ground oats, hazelnut milk, and vanilla, and blend until smooth. Finally, add in the chocolate chips, and fold them through.
Place the cooled cake onto a serving platter, close a cake ring around it, if you are more comfortable working that way, and spread the cookie dough frosting evenly. Place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Just before serving, melt together the dark chocolate and the vegetable oil, over low heat or in the microwave, slice up the cake, glaze each piece, and serve. Yields 12 servings.

Friday, September 02, 2022

BURNT SUGAR VEGAN CHOCOLATE APPLE CAKE

I love apple cakes. I could try to phase it a bit less pompously, but that is the truth; I simply love apple cakes. It really does not matter if they are in the batter or in the filling, like here, apples give a wonderful flavour and texture to any dessert.
Here, they are cooked until tender and soft, turned into a gorgeous pudding, and then layered with biscuits dipped in burnt sugar syrup. A delightful late summer treat, effortless to make, and absolutely wonderful to enjoy.
You can use any apple you love to eat, but I do have to say that sweeter apples are a much better choice for this cake. Tarter apples will work just fine, but there might be that tanginess that comes through in the filling, as well as some of the crispness they have. Sweeter cooking apples cook down more easily, and turn into a gorgeous fragrant filling.
Serve it in generous slices, with strong coffee.


Ingredients
For the berry filling
500 grams sweet apples; peeled, cored, and grated
100 grams granulated sugar
80 grams cornflour
100 millilitres cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 grams vegan block butter, diced
50 grams dark chocolate (75%)
For the biscuit base
300 grams vegan petit beurre biscuits (27 pieces)
50 grams granulated sugar
100 millilitres water
For serving
100 millilitres plant double cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
chopped walnuts, optional


Preparation
Grate the cleaned apples directly into a heavy-bottomed pot, to save any liquid they release, add in the sugar, place the pot over medium-high heat, and let it come to a boil. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the cold water, sifted cornflour, and vanilla, and reserve. Once the apples come to a gentle boil, cook for about 5 minutes, until they start to thicken up, and then pour in the cornflour mixture.
Stirring vigorously and constantly, cook the apple pudding until it thickens, about 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat, and add in the butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until it blends into the pudding, and then divide it into two parts. Add the dark chocolate to one of them, and mix until melted and blended. Set both fillings aside for a moment.


To make the dipping solution for the biscuits, pour the sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and shake it gently, so the sugar distributes evenly. Place the saucepan on medium-high heat, and let the sugar melt, and then start to cook. Without disturbing the sugar too much, let it cook for about 7-8 minutes, until it becomes a deep amber colour. Carefully pour in the water, mix gently, and then return to heat. Let it bubble away until all of the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let it cool down to lukewarm. Once ready, pour it into a wide, shallow dish.
To assemble the cake, line a small rectangular cake tin (18x18 cm), with cling film or baking parchment, for easier serving of the cake.
Divide the biscuits into three equal parts, making sure each layer of them fits snuggly into the pan. Dip each biscuit of the first layer into the burnt sugar syrup, then line the bottom of the tin. Spread the vanilla filling evenly on top of that layer.
Dip the next batch of biscuits into the syrup, and lay them on the filling. Spread the chocolate filling on top, and arrange the remaining biscuits dipped in the syrup. Cover the top of the cake with cling film or a piece of baking parchment, and place the pan into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. When ready to serve, whip the cream until soft peaks form, and spread it all over the top of the cake. Decorate further as desired, and serve. Yields 9 servings.

Friday, August 26, 2022

SPECULAAS CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

No-churn ice creams have become a summer staple for me. Incredibly effortless to put together, yet incredibly delicious. And, on top of everything, incredibly adjustable to individual preferences, especially when it comes to the level of sweetness.
I do not like overly sweet desserts, so this combination, with the dark chocolate balancing the condensed milk and the biscuits, is just perfect for me. Especially with a cup of espresso.
And while this ice cream requires no additional work after it’s been placed in the freezer, if you like your ice cream very light and airy, you can take it out after about two hours, whip it until it starts resembling marshmallow fluff, and then leave it to fully freeze. This way, it will be like a creamy, frozen mousse. Just a wonderful sweet little treat.


Ingredients
150 grams sweetened condensed milk
200 millilitres double cream
100 grams Speculaas biscuits, finely ground
75 grams dark chocolate (90%), finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Pour the chilled double cream into a large bowl, and whip it until stiff peaks form. Set it aside briefly. In another bowl, add in the chilled sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and the dark chocolate pieces, and mix everything together.
Add it to the whipped cream, along with the biscuit crumbs, and gently fold through until blended. If it looks like it will not blend together, just keep softly folding with a sturdy spatula, and it will come together perfectly. A few streaks of cream are fine to be still visible.
Pour the batter into a freezer-safe container, cover tightly with a lid, and place it in the freezer for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Serve with additional chocolate flakes, or even melted chocolate. Yields 600 ml of ice cream.