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.

Friday, June 07, 2024

FLAKY VEGAN PEACH PIES

With summer being almost here, peaches are abundant and ripe, and one of the best ways to enjoy them are these lovely hand pies, with a flaky crust and sweet, tangy filling. I especially love them because they are so perfect for picnics, snacks, or even gatherings.
A beautiful combination of fresh peaches, vanilla, orange zest, and cinnamon is a wonderful addition to any pastry, if I am being honest. Cooked into almost a jam consistency, the filling is quite stable and will take baking very well, which I appreciate greatly. And I have to say, they are so much more than just a sweet treat; they are a celebration of summer and the abundance of fruit.
A few final tips for success - if your oven's bottom heating element is strong, consider placing another baking tray underneath the ones with the hand pies, so they do not burn on the bottom. And if your top heating element is strong, tent the pies with a piece of baking parchment or aluminium foil if you notice they are browning way too quickly.
When making any dough of this nature, add the cold water last, and add it in increments. Not all flours absorb the same and not all yoghurts have the same water content. And speaking of the water, you can absolutely replace it with fresh orange or lemon juice, it will be absolutely delicious.
Finally, if you like, you can top them with flaked almonds just before baking, for a gorgeous little crunch!


Ingredients
For the pie dough
300 grams plain flour
small pinch of baking powder
50 grams icing sugar
big pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon orange zest
200 grams vegan block butter, chilled and cubed
60 grams vegan Greek yoghurt or vegan Skyr
45 millilitres ice cold water
For the fresh peach filling
150 grams fresh peaches, stones removed
50 grams light brown sugar, granulated sugar, or maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons cornflour
1 tablespoon cold water


Preparation
Start by making the filling, as it needs to be completely cool before filling the hand pies. If desired, peel the peaches, remove the stones, and chop them up nicely. Place them in a heavy saucepan and add in the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix well and place over medium-high heat.
Let it heat up slowly, and once it starts to bubble, cook and stir for about 5 minutes, or until somewhat reduced and thickened. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornflour and cold water; add it to the peaches, and cook for a minute or two more, to thicken it up completely. Once ready, remove from the heat, and let it cool down entirely.
To make the pie dough, add the cold, diced butter into a large bowl, add in the icing sugar, salt, vanilla, and the orange zest, and mash everything together with a fork or a pastry cutter, until combined. It will start to resemble buttercream. Add in half of the flour and all of the baking powder, and continue mashing with a fork until mixed somewhat well. Add in the vegan Skyr alternative and mix it through. Finally, add in the rest of the flour and continue to mash together. Add in the cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until you form a nice, pliable dough that does not crumble or stick to your hands. Take a large piece of cling film or baking parchment and wrap the dough tightly. Place it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes or so, or up to an hour, depending on how warm your kitchen is.
Once the dough is chilled and the filling is cool, let the oven preheat to 180°C, and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Vigorously stir the cooled filling, to make it spreadable.
Lightly flour your work surface, roll out the dough into a 20x40 cm rectangle, or to about 3-4 millimetre thickness, and cut it into six equal rectangles. Place a portion of the cooled filling on each of them, making sure the edges are clean, and fold over reach rectangle, sealing the hand pie. Press the edges together with a fork, and arrange them on the prepared baking tray.
Lightly score or slice the tops, generously mist them with cold water, and bake them in a nicely preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden and baked through. Remove from the oven and serve as soon as they are cool to your liking. Yields 6 large servings.

Friday, May 31, 2024

VEGAN STRAWBERRY LEMONADE STRUDEL

When it comes to desserts, few things can match the comfort of a freshly baked strudel. Especially when fresh strawberries are in season and just bursting with flavour.
Making homemade strudels is a truly rewarding experience that combines simple ingredients with a dash of creativity. I love them because they are egg-free, dairy-free, and so versatile and lovely to serve on so many occasions, from a delightful after-lunch treat to a picnic or a gathering.
Sweet dough desserts are loved by all, as they are a simple, comforting treat. And they pair incredibly well with a cup of coffee or tea.
On a final note, some tried and tested tips for success - for the best flavour, use ripe and fresh strawberries. They are the juiciest and most fragrant, and will make the best filling. However, if you don’t have them available, you absolutely can use frozen strawberries, just make sure to thaw them really well. In this case, there may be slightly less filling, but it will be delicious regardless.
Speaking of the filling; if it was still a touch warm when you tried to spread it on the dough and roll it up, and the dough does not want to seal, but instead starts to slide or tries to split open, simply cover it well with cling film and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes. That will help set the filling and give you the possibility of rolling it up nicely.
And, of course, if you have wild strawberries, use them! They are so aromatic and gorgeous, and will make the strudel even better!


Ingredients
For the sweet dough
400 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
200 millilitres warm water
30 light grams brown sugar
25 grams fresh yeast
60 millilitres vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon rosewater
For the filling
400 grams fresh and ripe strawberries
200 grams light brown sugar
50 millilitres fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
10 grams cornflour
20 millilitres cold water

Preparation
Start by making the fresh strawberry filling, as it needs to be lukewarm when assembling. Place the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into a large saucepan, and let it macerate for about 30 minutes, or up to an hour. When the fruit is ready, and in the vanilla and place it over medium heat. Once it starts to simmer, turn the heat to medium-high, and start to stir so it doesn’t burn.
Cook, stirring often, for about 20-30 minutes, or until thickened. It does not have to be as thick as traditional jam. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the cornflour and the cold water. Add the cornflour to the jam, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes, or until thickened and glossy. Remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool.
While the filling is cooling, make the dough. Pour the warm water into a large bowl; add in the sugar, 40 millilitres of oil, and the fresh yeast. Mix briefly and let the yeast dissolve and activate. Once it becomes bubbly and fragrant, add in the vanilla, lemon zest, and rosewater, and mix well.
Finally, sift in the flour and the salt, and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. It should not be overly sticky, but if it is, add another tablespoon of flour. Knead it for a few minutes with your hands in the bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour, or until doubled.
Once ready, transfer the dough to a floured surface, and without any kneading roll it out into a large rectangle of about 1 centimetre thickness. Vigorously whisk the cooked jam so it becomes smoother to spread, and spread it 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 it very well, so the filling does not leak.
Place the strudel on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, seam side down, generously mist it with cold water, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rest and rise for about 30 more minutes in a warm place. Let the oven preheat to 200˚C. Just before baking, brush it with the reserved oil, and bake, in a preheated oven, at 200˚C, for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden. Let it cool down completely, slice, and serve. Yields 12 rich servings.

Friday, May 24, 2024

NO-BAKE VEGAN CHOCOLATE RUM BARS

I have written before about the chocolate bar of my childhood, the famed milk chocolate filled with rum fondant, and how much I still love that chocolate rum combination to this day. These little bars feature just that fantastic blend, with a perhaps unexpected ingredient as their base - chickpeas.
They are incredibly versatile and useful in a whole array of recipes, sweet and savoury, and I love using them in desserts like these. Combined with chocolate, cocoa powder, and rum, they are simply blended into a smooth paste, mixed with a few more ingredients, and left to set. As simple as that.
I love how flexible these bars are, and how adaptable the recipe itself is. You can add more icing sugar if you like your bars sweeter, you can replace the sugar altogether with 5-6 Medjool dates, or you can use maple syrup or even vegan honey, and add a bit more of ground biscuits, to make the batter pliable.
You can add a teaspoon or two of rum extract, to enhance the flavour, or if you do not want to use alcohol at all, replace the quantity stated in the recipe with almond milk and simply add the rum flavouring to taste. They will be delicious either way.


Ingredients
250 grams cooked chickpeas
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids)
100 grams vegan block butter
120 grams icing sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 millilitres dark rum
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
150 grams finely ground almonds
100 grams vegan vanilla biscuits, finely ground

Preparation
Start by draining the chickpeas very well from aquafaba, and placing them in a blender. Melt together the dark chocolate and the vegan butter, either over low heat or in the microwave, and set them aside for a moment, to cool down.
Add the icing sugar, vanilla, and rum to the chickpeas, and let the blender run until a smooth, fragrant paste forms. Add in the cocoa powder, and blend well. At this point, there should not be any visible bits of chickpeas left.
Add in the melted and cooled chocolate, and blend until smooth. Transfer the batter to a large bowl and add in the ground almonds. Mix and fold with a wooden spoon or a spatula until all the almonds are mixed through. Finally, add in the ground vanilla biscuits in a few additions, mixing and folding after each addition. If the batter looks very soft, you can add a bit more biscuits, but do not overdo it, as they will be tough after cooling.
Line a small square cake pan (15x15 for taller bars or 18x18 for slightly shorter ones) with baking parchment and gently press in and level the batter. Place the pan into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or until firm and set. Slice into 36 squares or the desired number of bars, and serve.

Friday, May 17, 2024

VEGAN CHOCOLATE APRICOT THUMBPRINT COOKIES

When I compare my dessert preferences now to those of my childhood, I realise that not much has changed. As a child, I absolutely loved spice cookies called Medenjaci, which were made with honey and cinnamon. Quite similar to Pfeffernüsse, only made larger and without any glaze.
But what I really loved was the actual spice combination, as I enjoy it to this day. And that combination is the essence of these cookies, as well. The timeless blend of cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, beautifully enhanced by apricot jam and dark chocolate, they are simply divine with a cup of tea.
Incredibly easy to make, completely dairy-free and egg-free, of course, they take no longer than an hour from start to finish. Personally, I like to enjoy them slightly warm with a dash of icy cold jam, without any glaze, but I do recommend glazing them, for a wonderful balance of flavours.


Ingredients
For the vegan cookies
200 grams plain flour
50 grams whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
90 grams granulated sugar
50 millilitres water
50 millilitres vegetable oil
60 grams vegan honey
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the filling and glazing
75-100 grams thick apricot jam
150 grams dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)


Preparation
Set the oven to preheat to 180°C. Take a large bowl and sift in both types of flour, spices, and baking soda, and whisk them together well. Add in the sugar and whisk to combine. In a medium saucepan, combine water, oil, honey, and vanilla, and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, pour it over the dry ingredients, and mix with a wooden spoon until a soft dough comes together. Briefly and lightly knead with your hands to make it into a proper dough, divide it into 16 equal pieces, roll them into balls, and arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. They do not spread much while baking.
Using the tip of your finger or the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation in the centre of each little dough ball, and bake them immediately, in a nicely preheated oven, at 180°C for about 10-12 minutes. They should not change their colour a lot; only perhaps get lightly golden on the bottom. Remove them from the oven and let them cool down on the baking sheet. If desired, gently press on the indentations with either a tiny measuring spoon or the end of a wooden spoon, to make them more prominent.
When they are barely lukewarm, place the apricot jam into a piping bag and generously fill each cookie. Place them into a sealed container so they don’t dry out and melt the chocolate, either on low heat or in the microwave. Glaze each cookie to your liking, either by dipping it into the chocolate or pouring the chocolate over it, and let the glaze set. Yields 16 medium cookies.