I’ve tried a lot of vegan brownies which are dry, crumbly or ‘raw’. Sure, there’s a time and a place for healthy alternatives and we can’t just slob around eating sugar-laden baked goods all day, but if I want a brownie and I’m vegan (I’m not I’m just being really selfless…) I want the real thing, not a load of dates and coconut oil. With this not-very-2018 thought in mind, I’ve been attempting to put together a recipe for a completely vegan and gluten free brownie which rivals a conventional dairy/egg based one. The recipe I’ve devised delivers a fudgy core and crisp top, rich flavour and all round delicious result- give it a try, it’s a good place to start with vegan baking.
Ingredients (makes 16 small brownies, or 9 big ones!)
125g smooth peanut butter, plus 50g more for the core and topping
75ml vegetable oil
275g dark chocolate (I used half 60% and half 80%), plus 75g roughly chopped for chocolate chips
large pinch salt
100ml aquafaba (the starchy water you get in a can of chickpeas- you will get about 100ml from one can)
1tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 1tbsp water (this replicates an egg yolk very well!)
100g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden caster sugar
100g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
few chopped peanuts, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20x20cm square brownie tin.
Mix together the flaxseed and water at this stage to give it time to thicken an form an egg-yolk consistency. Put the oil, peanut butter and 275g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Allow the ingredients to melt together, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat to cool to room temperature.
Place the aquafaba in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until soft peaks just form. At this stage add in the flax mixture, sugars and salt (it’s amazing how much this looks like eggs whisked together with sugar!). Whisk again until the sugars are well incorporated then fold in the cooled chocolate mixture with a metal spoon, followed by the flour. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared tin then dot over half of the extra peanut butter and some of the chopped chocolate. Top with the remaining batter and repeat the peanut butter/chocolate stage, then finish with the peanuts (if using).
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until crisp on top but very slightly wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool completely then slice up and serve.
This is my first successful foray into the vegan cake world. It’s a space I’ve steered clear of for quite some time, half because I’m not vegan and have had a bit of an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude to baking, and half because I’ve tasted some very cardboard-esque vegan bakes in the past that have put me off.
This cake, however, contains aquafaba (that starchy water you get in a tin of chickpeas) and it’s a real game changer; just whisk it up in a stand mixer and it thickens like egg whites, bringing a great lightness to sponges. It’s worked particularly well in conjunction with banana in this recipe and the resulting sponge is moist, light and delicious- helped along with a few rum soaked raisins and a generous swirl of coconut icing for good measure. As a complete experiment this has worked really well and I hope some of you try it out over the next few weeks, vegan or not.
For the cake
150g mixed raisins and sultanas
4tbsp dark rum
350g self-raising flour
1/2tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice
100g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
75g pecans, roughly chopped
125ml aquafaba (i.e. the drained starchy water from a can of chickpeas)
250ml olive oil
4 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
For the icing
3-4 tins coconut cream (I used 160ml tins but if you are buying different sizes just make sure you’ve got roughly 600ml overall)
2-3tbsp icing sugar
juice 1/2 lemon
Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the raisins, sultanas and rum in a bowl and let them soak for 10 minutes (stir occasionally to make sure they’re all plump and well flavoured).
In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, both sugars and chopped pecans. Tip the aquafaba into the clean bowl of a stand mixer (alternatively use a handheld electric whisk) and whisk until frothy (about 5-10 minutes). Set aside.
In a large jug mix together the olive oil and mashed banana then add in the thickened aquafaba. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add in the wet. Carefully fold the ingredients together until you have a batter free of flour lumps then stir in the soaked raisins and sultanas along with the rum.
Split the batter evenly between the two prepared cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. At this point pop the coconut cream tins in the freezer (trust me, it makes the cream much easier to separate from the water and makes for a thicker icing).
Once the cakes are baked leave them to cool completely in the tins and move onto the icing. Retrieve the coconut tins from the freezer and scoop out the hardened cream from the tops. Place this in a stand mixer along with 3tbsp coconut liquid (from the bottom of the tin). Whisk with the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth, thick and lump free (add another tbsp of liquid to loosen if necessary but you shouldn’t need it) then place in the fridge to firm up a little.
Once the cakes are completely cool and the coconut cream has firmed up slightly you’re ready to assemble. To do this just even off the cakes if necessary then spread a generous layer of icing over the first, sandwich on the second and repeat, creating a swirl design on top, if you like.
Garnish with pumpkin seeds, pecans, banana chips and cinnamon.
This dense, fudgy cake topped with a generous sweep of thick milk chocolate ganache is best enjoyed on the sofa with a good film, strong coffee and warm blanket (I’m fantasising about this right now as the fluke sunny day we enjoyed last week is a distant memory and it’s currently blowing a gale). Don’t be put off by the beetroot- the earthy flavour mellows through baking and brings moisture and richness to the cake.
For the cake:
325g dark chocolate (melted)
4 eggs, separated
275g grated raw beetroot
175g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
2tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder
For the ganache:
250g milk chocolate
150ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Place the melted dark chocolate, egg yolks, grated beetroot, caster sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir together until combined.
Put the egg whites in another bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk, together with the salt, until they have formed stiff (but not dry) peaks. Add a large spoonful of the whites into the beetroot mixture and stir in to loosen.
Add the remaining whites and carefully fold with a large metal spoon, ensuring you keep as much of the air in as possible. Once the mix is combined, carefully tip into the prepared cake tin (not from a height or you will lose some of the air you’ve worked in!).
Level out the mixture then bake for 45-55 minutes, until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Set the cake aside and make the ganache. To do this simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a bowl, then heat the cream to just below boiling and pour directly onto the chocolate. Leave to melt for a couple of minutes then stir together until smooth and glossy. Leave to cool.
Once everything is cool, cover the cake in the ganache and decorate as desired. I used some purple violas, handmade beetroot crisps, herbs and chocolate shards.
Yep, I’ve jumped on the detox January bandwagon, and here’s the first of my healthier bakes; butternut squash, date, blueberry and cinnamon muffins. A quick scroll through my blog and it won’t come as a shock that I’m a bit clueless when it comes to ‘free from’ baking, but I’ve actually surprised myself with what can be done without the conventional sugars and flours I’m used to. The fruit in these muffins add sweetness and the almonds create a moist and soft texture making them a great (and still tasty) alternative to the sugar packed treats I’m sure we’ve all indulged in over Christmas. Give them a try!
Ingredients (makes 12):
200g finely grated butternut squash
100g melted butter
100g chopped dates (softened in a little boiling water)
2tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice
60g ground almonds
175g buckwheat flour (or self raising if you don’t need a GF option)
200g fresh blueberries
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.
Place the squash in a bowl along with the melted butter, dates, date water and eggs. Mix together thoroughly.
Add the baking powder, spices, ground almonds, flour and blueberries. Stir gently into the wet ingredients until just combined then distribute evenly between the muffin cases.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.