Friday, February 03, 2023

WHITE WINE RASPBERRY VEGAN SWIRL LOAF

When it comes to breakfast, I usually prefer savoury items, for a more substantial start of the day, but from time to time, I do like a nice, aromatic bread and a bit of jam. Simple, yet delightful with a cup of strong coffee.
Fragrant raspberries and refreshing, almost floral, white wine combine perfectly into one neat swirl of delightfulness, with as many layers as you like. It would be perfect even as a plaid or in a simpler, bubble bread form.
I like to keep my breads fairly neutral when it comes to sweetness, mainly because that is how I like them, but I also find they toast more nicely that way. However, if you like breakfast breads on the sweeter side, do increase the amount of sugar a bit, or serve it with a spot of dandelion honey or maple syrup.
On a final note, if you only want a hint of raspberry flavour, feel free to reduce the amount of the freeze-dried fruit. It will be delicious either way, so do adjust it to your preferences fully.


Ingredients
350 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
120 millilitres warm water
90 millilitres unfined white wine
20 millilitres vegetable oil
50 grams granulated sugar
20 grams fresh yeast
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 tablespoons freeze-dried raspberry powder

Preparation
Take a large bowl, pour in the water, wine, and oil, and mix lightly. Add in the sugar and crumbled fresh yeast, mix well so it starts to dissolve, and then let it stand until activated and fragrant, about 10 minutes. When the yeast is ready, add in the vanilla and the lemon zest, and mix well.
Sift in half of the flour and the salt, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Once a sticky batter starts to form, sift in the rest of the flour, and proceed to knead with your hands, either in the bowl or on the work surface, for 3-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, covered.
Divide the dough ball into two parts, add in the freeze-dried raspberry powder to one half, and knead it through. If you find the powder to be too dry, or the dough not absorbing it well, add a teaspoon or two of white wine, and knead patiently. Place both dough pieces into a large bowl, cover it, and let them rest and rise for about an hour.
Once the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out both halves to about 5 millimetres in thickness. Stack the dough pieces together, slice into two, and stack again. Either proceed to roll it into a tight roll, or continue slicing and stacking, for a more marbled effect. When the dough is rolled, gently dampen the free edge with some cold water, so the roll holds together.
If necessary, tuck the ends underneath the roll, and place it into a small loaf tin (9x18 cm) lined with baking parchment. Cover the top with a clean kitchen towel, and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. Once risen, generously mist the dough with cold water, and bake it in a preheated oven, at 200˚C, for about 25-30 minutes, until baked and nicely browned. Let it cool down to room temperature, and serve. Yields one small loaf.

Friday, January 27, 2023

VEGAN CARAMEL APPLE HAND PIES

Filo pastry desserts are among my favourite things to make. Supremely thin and perfectly crunchy when baked, filo sheets are perfect for many types of fillings, although my favourite ones are fruits and nuts.
Sweet cooking apples, delightfully mellow and fragrant, toasted walnuts, date caramel, and vanilla make for such a wonderful dessert; and to take it even a step further, a medley of rum, cinnamon, and raisins is added. A fantastic, crunchy treat that is done in less than an hour.
There is no need to soak the raisins prior to assembly, as they will absorb some of the liquid that apples release during baking and become wonderfully soft. On the other hand, if your dates are a touch too dry, you can soak them for 10-15 minutes before blending, but that is purely optional.


Ingredients
For the pies
500 grams filo pastry sheets, 16 pieces
700 grams sweet cooking apples, peeled and cored
50 grams cornflour
100 grams toasted walnuts, ground
100 grams toasted walnuts, chopped
150 grams raisins
½ teaspoon dark rum
For the date caramel
100 grams Medjool dates
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
small pinch of salt
For the glaze
150 millilitres tepid water
75 millilitres vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preparation
Start by making the date caramel paste. Place the dates, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt into a blender, and let it run until a smooth, thick paste is formed. If you want a somewhat runnier caramel sauce, add a splash of water, and blend again.
Peel, core, and dice the apples into desired pieces, and place them into a large bowl. Sift in the cornflour, and toss them really well, so every piece is as coated as possible. Add in the walnuts, raisins, the date caramel paste made earlier, as well as the dark rum. Mix well, and set aside.
To make the glaze, pour the water and the oil into a small saucepan, and place it over high heat. Let the mixture come to a boil, then remove it from the heat and add in the vanilla. Blend well and set aside, so it cools down just a tad.
Lay one filo sheet flat on the work surface, brush it generously with the oil and water mixture, lay another sheet on top, and then place a portion of the filling right in the centre. Fold the sheet into a nice, tight parcel. Continue making the pies until all of the filling and the filo are used up, and arrange them on a large baking sheet, lined with baking parchment.
Brush each of them with the remaining mixture of water and oil, and bake immediately in a preheated oven, at 200˚C, for about 20-25 minutes. Once baked, remove them from the oven, let them cool down on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes, and serve. Yields 8 servings.

Friday, January 20, 2023

VEGAN CARAMEL RUM CHOCOLATE CAKE

When I was very young, we had a milk chocolate bar that was filled with rum fondant, and it still is, hands down, my favourite bar of chocolate. It has been discontinued since, sadly, but my love for the combination of rum and chocolate remains.
Caramel, I find, is one of the additions to chocolate cakes and chocolate in general, that pretty much everyone enjoys. The rich flavour of cooked sugar combined with the chewiness of the caramel itself is a true delight all on its own, but it can also give such a wonderful depth to any cake, especially a chocolate one.
Chocolate rum fudge cake, topped with homemade caramel sauce, a layer of dark chocolate ganache, and finally, a billowy cloud of whipped cream. Absolute indulgence on a plate.
It is best served with strong coffee, to balance the sweetness, but a small glass of rum will always be welcome, of course.


Ingredients
For the chocolate rum cake
150 grams plain flour
50 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
80 grams granulated sugar
100 grams dark brown sugar
180 millilitres soy milk
40 grams vegan vanilla yoghurt
20 millilitres dark rum
1 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
80 millilitres vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the homemade caramel sauce
150 grams granulated sugar
150 millilitres plant double cream
40 grams vegan block butter, diced
¼ teaspoon salt
For the dark chocolate ganache
150 grams dark chocolate (75%)
200 millilitres plant double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the decoration
100 millilitres plant double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
chocolate shavings, optional

Preparation
A few hours before making the cake, make the vegan caramel sauce. Pour the sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and place it over medium heat. Let the sugar heat up slowly, only gently swirling the pan, without any stirring. Let the sugar slowly melt and cook, but not burn.
Once the sugar becomes amber in colour, remove the pan from the heat and immediately add in the diced butter, being very careful, because it will bubble up. Stir vigorously until blended, and add in the cream and the salt. Whisk until everything is combined well, returning to the heat for a few moments, if necessary. Remove from the heat and transfer to a safe container so it can cool down completely.


To make the chocolate rum cake, sift the flour into a large bowl, sift in the dark cocoa powder, and add in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk briefly, add in the sugars, and whisk well to incorporate. Make a well in the centre, pour in all of the wet ingredients, and whisk until blended. Line a rectangular baking pan (20x20 cm) with baking parchment, and immediately bake, in an oven preheated to 180°C, for about 15-20 minutes. Check the cake even before the 15-minute mark, to make sure it does not overbake. Take it out of the oven, and let it cool down to room temperature.
As the cake is cooling, make the chocolate ganache. Chop up the chocolate and bring the cream almost to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate and set it aside so it starts to melt. Mix the ganache vigorously with a spatula until everything is melted, then let it cool down to room temperature, so it is cool to the touch, but still pourable.


To assemble the cake, if you have taken it out of the baking pan, return it, or place the cake onto the serving platter, and close a cake frame around it, and pour the caramel sauce all over it. Tap the pan onto the counter a few times, to settle the caramel, and then pour the ganache over it. Place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Before serving, whip up the plant double cream, top each serving, and enjoy. Yields 9 rich servings.

Friday, January 13, 2023

VEGAN DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COCONUT BONBONS

My love of truffles, bonbons, and all spherical desserts predates any attempt of my own to create them. And likewise, so does my love of two-bite desserts. I usually make them for birthdays and gatherings, as they are loved by all, and excellent for transport and gifting. Easy to make, easy to serve, and a complete delight to enjoy.
The cooked custard base guarantees they stay nice and soft inside a wonderful chocolate shell, and the bitter chocolate and rum give a fantastic bite and aftertaste that ensures they are the first ones to disappear off the serving platter.
And other than rum, these can be embellished by any vegan liqueur you feel matches well with chocolate and coconut; however, the alcohol can be completely omitted or replaced with an extract, if so desired.
The coconut milk should be very well shaken and somewhat thick. However, a part of the milk could be replaced with coconut cream, for a wonderful way to enhance the richness of these lovely little bonbons.
They can be served as soon as the chocolate sets, but I do have to admit they are the best icy cold.


Ingredients
For the bonbons
300 millilitres coconut milk
40 grams cornflour
20 grams agave syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon dark rum
75 grams vegan block butter, cubed
75 grams dark chocolate, chopped (at least 70% cocoa solids)
100 grams desiccated coconut
For the decoration
200 grams bittersweet chocolate (60% cocoa solids)
1 teaspoon coconut oil

Preparation
Pour the coconut milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, along with the agave syrup and the cornflour. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and let it slowly heat up. Once it starts to simmer, start whisking constantly, and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until thickened and smooth.
Remove the cooked pudding from the stove, let it cool down for a few moments, and add in the vegan butter, vanilla bean paste, rum, and the chopped chocolate. Whisk vigorously until it all comes together. If desired, it can be blended with an immersion blender, but it is not necessary. Once smooth, add in the desiccated coconut, and mix it through. It will still be quite runny, so cover with a piece of cling film or baking parchment, and let it cool down to room temperature.
Once it becomes firm and cool to the touch, take out small scoops of the batter, either by using a measuring spoon or a tiny cookie scoop, and arrange the bonbons onto a platter lined with baking parchment. Roll each one into a sphere, and place them in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
When they are ready, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler, dip each bonbon, and arrange them back on the platter. The chocolate should set up fairly quickly, especially if placed back into the refrigerator or a cooler room upon coating.
Serve them as desired. Yields 25 bonbons.

Friday, January 06, 2023

NUTELLA ESPRESSO CINNAMON ROLLS

When we think back to our childhood, we think about all those big dreams we had, all those things we wished to be once we grew up. Since as far back as I can remember, I wanted to cook and bake. One of my first actual memories is of me play-pretending to make lunch, and the joy and pride I felt, tearing those little papers, and putting them into a tiny pink bowl I decided to serve the said lunch in.
That exact feeling is still with me, especially when I bake.
Growing up, I was in awe of how people can simply bake a loaf of bread, or maybe make a cake, a big cake, even; and that is what I wanted to learn, when I grew up.
Some time ago, I realised that I am living my childhood dream, that I can simply make a loaf of bread, a big cake, anything I want. Anytime I want. The feeling of independence and liberty is worth far beyond anything else I can think of.
These little rolls were what caused the realisation to happen, actually. How quickly the dough comes together, how smoothly the filling spreads on top, and how wonderful they are to enjoy, with a cup of coffee. Everything that I wanted to be able to create as a child, I can safely say, these rolls embody.
Wonderfully soft dough and an amazing Nutella filling, enhanced with espresso powder and ground cinnamon, all wrapped and rolled up in a sweet little parcel.
They are best served warm, with a cup of espresso, or a tall glass of cold milk.


Ingredients
For the soft vanilla dough
300 grams plain flour
100 grams strong bread flour
250 millilitres warm water
30 millilitres vegetable oil
20 grams fresh yeast
25 grams granulated sugar
10 grams salt
For the Nutella espresso filling
150 grams Nutella, or any chocolate hazelnut spread
100 grams toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation
Take a medium bowl, crumble in the fresh yeast, add in the granulated sugar and the warm water, mix well, and set it aside for about 10 minutes so the yeast can activate. Meanwhile, sift the flours into a large bowl, add in the salt, and blend well. Once the yeast is ready, make a little well in the centre of the flour, pour in the yeast, as well as the oil, and mix with a wooden spoon until a very soft dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes or so, until it becomes supple and smooth. If it is sticking too much to your hands or the surface, feel free to add a bit more flour, so it is manageable. Place the kneaded dough into a large bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for about an hour, in a warm spot.
When the dough is ready, take the softened Nutella, and mix it well with the instant espresso powder and the ground cinnamon. Take the risen dough out of the bowl and knead it gently, and then roll it out into a long rectangle. Spread the Nutella all over the dough, making sure you leave one edge free, to seal the roll.
Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts evenly, and roll the dough up, starting from the shorter side, so the rolls are nice and tall. Arrange them in a rectangular baking pan (20x20 cm), lined with baking parchment, cover them with a clean cloth, and let them rest and rise for about 30 minutes. Bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C, for about 12-15 minutes, or until evenly browned. Serve immediately. Yields 9 rolls.