Friday, June 18, 2021

VEGAN CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO BUCKWHEAT LOAF

Few pleasures in life are as reflective as enjoying a piece of toast in the morning, with a cup of coffee, and your thoughts. Although I usually prefer a savoury breakfast, from time to time, I do enjoy pastries and sweet breads, especially with pomegranate and mint tea. A little bit of sweetness, and a whole lot of nostalgia in every bite.
This little chocolate loaf is what I consider a true breakfast indulgence. Slightly sweet, with a rich chocolate flavour, soft crumb, and delightfully chewy crust, it is perfect all on its own, as well as toasted. And because of the sugar content, it will even ever so slightly caramelise when toasted, making it even more delicious, especially with the addition of espresso.
In my experience, both chocolate and cocoa bread loaves take a tad longer to bake. However, because every oven is different, do watch it carefully while it bakes, especially if it starts browning a little too much, too quickly. If you have doubts if the loaf is baked or not, give it a few more minutes in the oven.
Once baked and fragrant, take it out of the pan, generously brush it with dandelion honey, and let it cool down on a wire rack. Serve it as soon as it has cooled down to your liking. Personally, I love to cut slices as thick as the toaster allows, toast them up, and serve with some plant yoghurt and dandelion honey. Like a little chocolate cheesecake for breakfast. It is delicious, though, with any sweet spread you can think of, and even peanut butter.


Ingredients
150 grams plain flour
100 grams buckwheat flour
15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
75 grams brown sugar
7 grams instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
180 millilitres warm water
30 millilitres sunflower oil
100 grams dark chocolate, roughly grated
30 grams dandelion honey, optional

Preparation
Sift the plain flour and the cocoa powder into a medium bowl, add in the buckwheat flour, sugar, yeast, espresso powder, grated chocolate, and salt, and whisk until evenly combined. Make a well in the centre, and pour in the warm water and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until a somewhat sticky dough comes together. It may seem sticky, but it will be manageable. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for a few minutes, until springy and supple. Add a little bit of flour more if it keeps sticking. Return it to the bowl, cover, and let it rest for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until doubled.
Prepare a small loaf pan (10x20 centimetres) by lining the bottom and sides with a piece of baking parchment. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface again, and gently press it out with your hands, to deflate it. At this point, either shape it into a regular loaf or divide it into three equal pieces and make a braid. Place the dough into the prepared pan, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rest and rise for another 30 minutes or so, while the oven preheats.
Generously mist the surface of the dough with cold water, and bake it in a preheated oven, at 220°C, for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C, and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The baked loaf should feel done and light, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Do check it often, so it does not overbake. If you notice the top is getting too dark too quickly, make a little aluminium foil cover, to protect it. Once baked, take it out of the oven, brush it generously with dandelion honey, if desired, and serve as soon as it cools down enough to be sliced. Yields 6 servings. © Tina Vesić

Friday, June 11, 2021

VEGAN CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO ICE CREAM

Ice creams and other frozen treats that do not require churning or ice cream machines are always a good choice. Truly, if nothing else, than just for the ease of preparation and availability. And there is nothing like a quickly whipped up treat on a warm, late spring day.
Sweet, ripe bananas, unsweetened cocoa powder, rich dark chocolate, intense and earthy espresso, and a shot of rum for good measure make this ice cream a real delight.
Choose very ripe bananas, as they are the sweetest, and will give the best texture and flavour. A good guideline for choosing bananas for this type of dessert is to simply use the ones that would be good for banana bread. Even bananas that are on their way to become overripe can be used. Portioned up and frozen, they will work like magic.
The rum is optional, but I definitely recommend adding it, as it adds just a mere hint of delightfully burnt sugar and a pleasant aftertaste of sweet vanilla.
If you prefer your ice cream soft, served in a glass, it can be enjoyed right after the final blending, especially with plenty of chocolate shavings, for the tiniest hint of crunch. And if you prefer your ice cream in scoops, an hour or so in the freezer is all it needs. Add just a small cup of freshly made espresso, and enjoy.


Ingredients
350 grams ripe bananas
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
100 grams dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids)
30 millilitres plant double cream
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon dark rum, optional

Preparation
Slice the bananas into somewhat thin slices, arrange them on a large tray lined with baking parchment, cover tightly with cling film, and place them in the freezer for at least 4 hours, or until completely frozen. Once the bananas are frozen, melt the chocolate, over low heat or in the microwave, and let it cool down slightly. Head up the plant double cream until barely simmering, add in the espresso powder, vanilla, and rum, mix well, and remove from the heat, so it can cool down as well.
Take the frozen banana slices out of the freezer and add them to the bowl of a large food processor. Pulse them a few times until they start to blend up, and then let it run until the bananas turn into a soft ice cream. Sift in the cocoa powder and let the food processor run for a minute or two, until it blends completely. Add in the melted and cooled chocolate, as well as the cooled double cream, and blend again. If it is too soft for your liking, pour it into a freezer-safe container and freeze it for an hour or two. Otherwise, serve immediately with some additional dark chocolate shavings. Yields 600 ml of ice cream.

Author's note: I did not add sugar to this ice cream, as I find it has plenty of sweetness from the bananas and chocolate. However, if you prefer your ice creams on the sweeter side, do add a spoonful of icing sugar while blending.

Friday, June 04, 2021

VEGAN CHERRY BROWNIES

I consider brownies to be one of the best, if not the best, busy day desserts. They are simply marvellous for everyday baking, as they require very little time and effort, and only a few ingredients. Truly infinitely adaptable, cakey or fudgy, with or without chocolate chips or frosting, they always make for a wholesome dessert.
Immensely fudgy, with a deep chocolate flavour, and just a hint of tartness from the cherries, these brownies are the perfect choice for a quick everyday treat. One thing I particularly love about them is how the liquid the cherries release while baking almost turns into a syrup by the time they are chilled and ready to serve.
I wholeheartedly suggest placing them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so, just before serving. They will firm up and start to freeze ever so slightly, turning into delightfully soft ice cream bars. Serve them with a generous drizzle of melted chocolate or chocolate sauce, ice cream, or even a glass of chilled cherry cordial and enjoy.


Ingredients
150 grams vegan vanilla yoghurt
120 grams unsweetened applesauce
120 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
150 grams dark chocolate
50 ml vegetable oil
30 grams semolina
100 grams plain flour
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
small pinch baking soda
100 grams sour cherries, pitted

Preparation
Take a large bowl, pour in the yoghurt, applesauce, sugar, and the vanilla, and whisk vigorously, until the mixture becomes smooth and glossy. Set it aside. Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add in the chopped up chocolate, espresso powder, and the oil, and let everything melt slowly. Stir it often so it melts evenly. Once melted, set it aside to cool down slightly. Add the semolina to the yoghurt and applesauce, and stir it through well. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, and the small pinch of baking soda, and mix them in, as well.
Add in the melted chocolate and the cherries, and gently fold only until smooth and blended. It is best not to overmix the batter, as that tends to make the brownies tough. Take a small square pan (18x18 cm), line it with baking parchment, pour in the batter, and level it as much as possible. If desired, sprinkle even more cherries on the very top. Bake immediately, in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Check them for doneness earlier rather than later, to make sure they do not overbake. Once baked, let them cool down to your liking, and serve. Yields 9 servings.

Friday, May 28, 2021

VEGAN SCALLION PIE

My first encounter with scallions was at a Sunday lunch at my paternal grandparents' house, where I was offered a fresh scallion, right from their garden, alongside my grandmother's homemade cheese. Needless to say, I fell in love with their bright flavour.
To me, they are one of the signature sights and flavours of spring. Equally delicious raw and cooked, and incredibly versatile, the perfect vegetable. Although in many recipes only the white part of the scallion is used, this recipe uses both white and green parts. All of it gets sautéed slowly, and then folded through the golden, speckled cornmeal batter.
This is one of those old-fashioned recipes that you simply have to love. Not only is it hearty and infinitely adaptable, it is also incredibly easy to prepare. A few minutes to wash and slice the scallions, another few to let them sauté as the batter is coming together, and the pie is ready for the oven. A marvellous quick lunch idea, as well as a great picnic treat.
It is very delicious both hot from the baking pan, and cold, even the next day. Truly best served with some thickened soy yoghurt as a dipping sauce, and even with a light sprinkling of crushed dried pepperoncini.


Ingredients
250 grams fresh scallions
100 millilitres vegetable oil, divided
150 grams fine cornmeal
100 grams plain flour
50 rye flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
400 millilitres carbonated water

Preparation
Wash and clean the scallions, then finely chop them, making sure all of the parts are used; the white and the greens. Pour about half of the oil into a large skillet, and place it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add in the scallions, and reduce the heat to medium. Sauté them, stirring often, until they become fragrant, but not for too long. They should remain still bright in colour. The aroma will change, from somewhat sharp and pungent to mellow and sweeter. Remove from heat, add in the salt, pepper, and sugar, and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking, and reserve.
Sift the plain flour, cornmeal, and the rye flour into a large bowl, and mix well so all of them are combined. Sift in the baking powder and mix again to distribute it well. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the carbonated water and the rest of the oil, and briefly mix. Add in the sautéed scallions, and mix them through. Line the bottom and sides of a round baking pan (24 cm) with baking parchment, pour in the batter, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 25-30 minutes. Once baked, generously mist the top of it with cold water, and serve. Yields 4 rich servings.

Friday, May 21, 2021

RUBY CHOCOLATE LAVENDER LEMON DOUGHNUTS

Doughnuts are an incredibly versatile dessert. Baked, fried, covered in chocolate, or filled with a tangy jam, they are one of the most beloved desserts, and for many of us, one of the first ones we experience.
Because they are an old-fashioned treat, they have very few ingredients, and heavily rely on the flavours of the filling and topping, and the texture of the dough itself. Many of the doughnuts I make, including these beauties, are baked, not fried. The dough is abundantly soft and light, generously flavoured with vanilla and lemon zest, and perfectly paired by the ruby chocolate lavender ganache filling.
Lavender is an amazing herb, as all of the plant can be used, so nothing goes to waste once it has been picked. This recipe uses dried buds that have been finely crushed, and only a tiny amount, too. After all, it is a powerful flavour addition, and as such, should be used moderately. It does pair, however, wonderfully with both citrus and chocolate, making it perfect for these little pillowy treats.
Serve them still warm, while the filling is molten, after lavishly rolling them in icing sugar. Add a tiny cup of strong coffee or a glass of cold milk, and enjoy.


Ingredients
For the soft doughnuts
350 grams plain flour
20 grams granulated sugar, divided
5 grams salt
100 grams vanilla soya yoghurt
100 millilitres warm water
60 millilitres vegetable oil, divided
20 grams fresh yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
For the ruby chocolate lavender ganache
150 grams ruby chocolate
75 millilitres plant double cream
½ teaspoon dried culinary lavender, finely crushed
30 grams vegan block butter
½ vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Start by making the ruby chocolate lavender ganache. Add the cream and lavender to a medium saucepan, and place it over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, let it heat up until it starts to steam. As soon as wisps of steam start appearing, remove it from the heat, cover the saucepan, and allow it to rest and steep for about 15 minutes. Strain the cream to remove all the solids, pour it back into the saucepan, add in the chocolate, butter, and vanilla, and place the pan over the medium heat. Mix gently until everything is melted together, remove from heat, let it cool down to room temperature, and then place the pan into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
While the filling is cooling, make the dough. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add in the sugar and salt, and whisk well. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the yeast and water, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Once the yeast is ready, make a little well in the centre of the flour, pour it in, and add in the yoghurt, half of the oil, vanilla, and the lemon zest, and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft and sticky dough forms. Place it into a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise, at room temperature, for about an hour, or until doubled.
Once the dough is risen and ready, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it very briefly. Divide it into 12 equal pieces, and shape each of them into a ball. Arrange them on a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment, and gently flatten them. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let them rise for 30 more minutes. Just before baking, brush them with the reserved oil, and bake in a preheated oven, at 200°C, for about 10 minutes, or until done.
When done, remove them from the oven, and immediately remove them from the baking sheet, to help them cool down more easily. While they are cooling, remove the chilled ganache from the refrigerator, and stir it gently with a spatula, to loosen it up slightly. Place it into a piping bag, and as soon as the doughnuts are cool, generously fill them, and serve immediately. Yields 12 servings. © TINA VESIĆ