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.

Friday, May 10, 2024

VEGAN CHOCOLATE ORANGE FUDGE BROWNIE TORTE

As far as I am concerned, dark chocolate and orange are a truly timeless flavour combination when it comes to desserts. All vegan chocolate orange treats have that je ne sais quoi which makes them simply perfect, but cakes indeed hold a special place in my heart.
And even though it has a striking appearance, this little vegan fudge brownie torte is quite simple to make. Completely dairy-free and egg-free, it is velvety and smooth, with vibrant citrus notes coming through so brightly.
Due to it having a brownie base, I recommend letting it stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving, so it softens up slightly and completely melts on each bite. Do serve it with strong coffee, as it pairs oh-so-well with the chocolate and citrus notes.


Ingredients
For the fudge brownie base
100 grams plain flour
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
70 grams vegan block butter
100 grams dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)
100 grams granulated sugar
150 grams vegan vanilla yoghurt
1 teaspoon dark rum
60 millilitres aquafaba
1 heaping teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the fresh orange filling
150 grams fresh orange segments
150 grams granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cornflour
30 millilitres cold water
For the vegan dark chocolate mousse
200 millilitres plant-based double cream
100 grams dark chocolate (80-85% cocoa solids)


Preparation
Start by making the fresh orange filling. Segment two or three large oranges and place the fruit into a heavy bottomed saucepan, along with the sugar, and place it over medium heat. Let it come to a boil, and then cook for about 10 minutes, stirring quite often, until all the liquid evaporates.
Dissolve the cornflour in cold water and add it to the orange jam. Mix vigorously and cook for a minute or two, until thickened. Remove it from the heat, transfer it to a small bowl, and let it cool down completely. This can also be done the night before.
For the vegan dark chocolate mousse, chop up the chocolate finely, and place it into a heavy saucepan or a medium pot, along with the plant double cream. Place the saucepan over medium heat and let everything melt together slowly. Do not rush this process so the chocolate does not burn.
Once everything is melted and smooth, remove it from the heat, cover the top with a piece of cling film or baking parchment, let it cool down to room temperature, and then place it into the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours, so it can whip up.
Once the fillings are cool, make the vegan fudge brownies. Turn on the oven to preheat to 180°C. Sift the flour with the cocoa powder and baking powder, and set it aside. Chop up the vegan dark chocolate finely, add it to a small saucepan, and add in the vegan butter and sugar. Melt it over low heat or in the microwave, and set it aside to cool down slightly. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the vegan yoghurt, rum, aquafaba and vanilla.
As soon as the chocolate is ready, add the liquid ingredients to the dry, and whisk until only incorporated. Whisking any further can make the brownies tough later on. Line a small (15 cm) round cake pan with baking parchment, transfer the batter, and bake in a nicely preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 25-30 minutes.
Test it with a toothpick, and if there are only a few moist crumbs clinging to it, it is ready. Brownies are supposed to be like that. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool down in the pan, preferably to room temperature.
Once you are ready to assemble, take the vegan chocolate mousse out of the refrigerator, and whip it with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Stir around the cooked jam a bit, to loosen it up, as well.
Place the brownie layer on the serving platter, line it with a strip of acetate, and close a cake ring tightly around it. Add all of the orange jam and spread it nicely. Finally, add the vegan mousse, and if you want, make a decorative pattern on the top with a bit of the mousse, although that is completely optional. Place the torte in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and serve well-chilled, preferably with strong coffee. Yields 12 generous servings.

Friday, May 03, 2024

VEGAN RASPBERRY PISTACHIO LAYER CAKE

As we progress through spring and towards summer, more and more lovely fresh fruit is available on the market, and that makes me, someone who adores fruit desserts, tremendously happy. Berries are the epitome of spring and early summer to me, and I use every chance I get to make them a part of something delicious.
This cake is just what I deem cakes should be - light and creamy, with the perfect blend of textures. Soft pistachio cake layers, rich raspberry filling, and a gorgeous topping of strawberries and hazelnuts that almost melts into the cake. Just a wonderful spring cake.
Both fresh and defrosted berries will work wonderfully in this recipe, and they do not even have to be fully defrosted, either. If you want, you can purée and push the raspberries through a sieve to remove the pips, for a completely smooth filling, but I don’t mind them, so I left them in.
As for the fresh mint, use the quantity written in the recipe as a suggestion more than anything else. I love the combination of strawberries and mint, so I added about 10 medium leaves. If you are not as in love with it as I am, simply add a few leaves less, and it will be perfect.
The decoration was done to match the occasion, observing Orthodox Easter, and the chocolate nest is made with rice vermicelli and dark chocolate.


Ingredients
For the soft pistachio cake layers
160 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
160 grams granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
60 grams pistachios, ground
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
50 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
250 millilitres water
2 heaping tablespoons camomile flowers
For the strawberry hazelnut crunch
300 grams strawberries, fresh or defrosted
100 grams light brown sugar
10 fresh mint leaves
100 grams toasted hazelnuts, ground
For the rich raspberry filling
400 grams raspberries, fresh or defrosted
65 grams fresh lemon juice
50 grams cornflour
100 grams light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
80 grams vegan block butter, diced
50 grams vegan white chocolate, chopped
¼ teaspoon rosewater
200 millilitres plant-based double cream
1-2 drops vegan pink food colouring, optional


Preparation
Start by making the strawberry jam. Place the strawberries into a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add in the sugar, shake the pot so everything settles nicely, and place the pot over medium heat. Separately either mash the fresh mint leaves in a mortar or simply chop them.
Let it slowly come to a boil and cook, stirring often, for about 15-20 minutes, or until thickened nicely. Once the jam reaches its setting point (105°C), remove it from the heat, add in the mint leaves, and purée everything with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth. Return the pot to the heat for just a minute or so, and then remove it and let it cool down completely.
Next, make the raspberry filling. Add the berries to a heavy-duty saucepan, tip in the sugar, cornflour, and lemon juice, and whisk very well. Place the pot over medium high heat, and once it starts to steam lightly, start whisking vigorously with a wire whisk.
Let it come to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 minutes, or until thickened and quite fragrant. Remove from the heat, add in the vanilla, vegan white chocolate, and vegan butter, one piece at a time, whisking constantly, until everything is incorporated. Cover the top with cling film or a piece of baking parchment, and let it cool down to room temperature.
Finally, make the soft pistachio layers. Let the oven preheat to 170°C. Place the camomile flowers into a pot, and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, pour it over the flowers, cover, and let them steep for about 10 minutes, then strain and set the tea aside. Sift the flour into a medium bowl, add in the baking soda, sugar, and salt, and whisk very well. Add in the ground pistachios, and whisk once again.
Pour in the warm tea, oil, vanilla, and the vinegar, and mix until just combined. Line two small round cake pans (15 cm) with baking parchment, and divide the batter between them evenly. It is a runny batter, so it will level on its own. Bake them immediately, in a well preheated oven, at 170°C, for about 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove them from the oven and let them cool completely in the pans.
Once everything is cool and ready, whip the chilled plant double cream until soft peaks form, and set it aside. If using food colouring, add it now. With the same beaters, whip the cooled raspberry custard and the rosewater on high until softened and creamy, add in the whipped cream, and fold it through. Once folded, blend on the highest speed for a few moments, so the filling stiffens up and firm peaks form.
Level the cakes, if needed, and slice both of them into two thin layers. Add the ground hazelnuts to the strawberry jam, and fold them through well.
Place the first cake layer onto the cake platter. Spread one-third of the strawberry jam onto it, and then spread one-fourth of the raspberry filling on top. Repeat this two more times until all of the jam is used up. Finally, top with the final layer and frost the cake as desired. As the filling is firm and pipes well, the cake is stable to be decorated immediately. Place it into the refrigerator overnight, and serve with freshly brewed coffee. Yields 16 rich servings. © Tina Vesić 2024

Friday, April 26, 2024

SWEET VEGAN ALMOND CROISSANT BREAD

Baking bread is something I truly enjoy, and if it is a sweet flaky bread, then even better. And this sweet little loaf is just perfect for brunch or a sweet breakfast, depending on your preferences.
Full of vanilla and my rendition of the famed frangipane that simply melts into the dough, it is phenomenal all on its own, but also with a dusting of icing sugar or some vegan honey on top. It truly is best with piping hot black coffee, I have to admit.
And while it is a flaky bread, it is not a croissant type of dough, but it can be toasted the next day, if desired. My personal favourite way is to toast it nicely, then top it with a bit of sugar, and broil it for not even a minute. Delightfully crunchy!
I topped mine with plenty of flaked almonds, for a bit of additional crunchiness, but it is completely optional. It will also be delicious topped with a bit of granulated sugar, or you can omit all of that and brush it with a bit of vegan butter as soon as it comes out of the oven.


Ingredients
For the dough
300 grams plain flour
150 millilitres carbonated water, at room temperature
50 millilitres vegetable oil
25 grams fresh yeast
30 grams sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon almond extract, optional
For the filling
60 grams vegan block butter, lightly softened
30 grams almond butter
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 teaspoons cold almond milk, or as needed


Preparation
To make the bread, sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the salt, and whisk lightly. Take a separate small bowl and crumble in the fresh yeast. Add in the room temperature carbonated water and the sugar, mix well, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once the yeast is fragrant and bubbly, add it to the sifted flour, along with the oil, vanilla, and almond extract, if using.
Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until it comes together. The dough should not be sticky. Turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface and knead it for a minute or two, until springy and supple. Return it to the bowl, cover, and let it rest for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
To make the almond croissant filling, place the lightly softened vegan block butter into a small bowl, and mash it through with a fork. It does not have to be perfect. Add in the almond butter and mix with a fork until somewhat combined. Sift in the cornflour and mix a bit more vigorously, until a paste forms. At that point, add half of the cold almond milk, and mix through. If needed, add another teaspoon of milk, so a smooth paste forms. If there are still bits of butter visible, that is perfectly fine. Set it aside for the time being.
Once risen, turn out the soft dough onto a floured surface, and without any kneading, roll it out to about 45-50 centimetres in length and about 30 centimetres in width. Do not force the dough to roll out, if it is pulling back as you roll, let it rest a bit more. Split the dough into two long strips (about 15x45 cm) and spread the filling evenly on both of them, leaving one edge free, so the roll can seal. Roll up each strip towards the free edge and seal it well.
Wrap the two thin rolls together, like a little two-strand plait, and then coil the plait around itself, tucking the ends underneath it. Grease and flour a small round baking pan (16 cm) or line it with baking parchment, position the bread in the centre of it, and let it rise for about 30 minutes, while the oven preheats to 200˚C. Just before baking, generously mist the dough with cold water, and bake in a nicely preheated oven, at 200˚C, for about 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven. Serve it warm. Yields one small bread loaf.