Eggs and flour have been hard to come by since the UK entered the lockdown zone, so I’ve been working on a few bakes free from both. I thought brownies would be a good place to start and after a few variations, I decided that this caramelised almond version was far superior to any others I’d tried (and actually one of the best brownies I’ve made, regardless of ingredients). If you don’t like almonds this will be a bit of a non-starter as I’ve used almond butter in place of dairy, ground almonds in place of flour and flaked caramelised almonds as a crispy, almost florentine-esque topping, otherwise please do try; they’re moist (sorry) and incredibly moreish.
Ingredients (makes 12-16 brownies in a roughly 9×9 inch tin)
Caramelised almonds (you can omit these if you like, although I think the texture contrast and salt/nutty flavour is delicious!)
- 75g flaked almonds (or any other nuts you like)
- 75g caster sugar
- generous pinch sea salt
- 3tbsp ground flaxseed
- 250g dark chocolate
- 170g almond butter (or your favourite nut butter, or tahini)
- 50g vegan margarine/butter
- 120ml aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas)
- 100g light brown soft sugar
- 75g caster sugar
- 100g ground almonds (or blitz up 100g oats into a flour)
- generous pinch sea salt
- An additional 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (optional- I like adding chocolate chunks to brownies as I don’t understand the concept of too much chocolate, but you can leave this out if you’d rather)
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 9×9 brownie tin.
- Start by making the almond brittle. To do this place a piece of baking paper on a heatproof work top or baking tray. Put the sugar in a small saucepan and allow it to melt, swirling the pan occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the caramel reaches a golden colour, stir through the flaked almonds and salt, then tip onto the paper and spread out into as thin a layer as you can. Leave to set hard while you make the batter.
- Put the flaxseed in a small bowl with 5tbsp water. Stir and set aside. Put the chocolate, almond butter and vegan butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water). Let the ingredients melt together, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, place the aquafaba in the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment (or use an electric whisk and large mixing bowl). Whisk the aquafaba until stiff peaks form (about 10-15 minutes). By this point the chocolate mix will be glossy and smooth- set aside to cool.
- Now add the sugars and flax mix to the aquafaba and whisk to create a glossier texture (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape the cooled chocolate mixture into the aquafaba and briefly whisk again until it’s combined, then fold the ground almonds and salt in with a large metal spoon.
- Spoon half the batter into the prepared tin then scatter over half of the roughly chopped chocolate (if using). Now add the remaining batter and level off. Break up the almond brittle into uneven pieces and scatter all over the top of the brownie along with the remaining chocolate. Bake for 35-40 minutes (longer than a regular brownie) or until there is just a slight wobble left in the middle. Once baked, leave to cool completely in the tin before slicing up and serving.
This tart (using ‘tart’ as a loose term for this- there’s no pastry or baking involved) is so easy to put together but makes for a really delicious plant based dessert. The crunchy base is laced with tahini and sesame seeds so the earthy flavour really comes through, and the filling has a savoury note thanks to miso paste, and is super smooth and creamy courtesy of my favourite plant based brand- Oatly.
- 100g dark chocolate
- 75g tahini
- 1tbsp maple syrup
- large pinch sea salt
- 100g sesame seeds
- 50g finely chopped mixed nuts (I used cashews and pistachios)
- 225g dark chocolate
- 30g vegan butter (I used Stork)
- 300ml Oatly cream alternative
- 3tbsp maple syrup
- large pinch sea salt
- 3tbsp white miso paste
- 75g sesame seeds
- 100g caster sugar
- Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin. For the base, place the chocolate, tahini, maple and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t allow the base of the bowl to touch the water or the chocolate may burn). Gently melt all the ingredients together then stir through the sesame seeds and chopped nuts. Scrape this mixture into the lined cake tin and spread out into one even layer. Place this in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
- For the filling, roughly chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl along with the vegan butter. Set aside. Put the Oatly cream, maple, salt and miso paste in a saucepan and, stirring often, heat to just below boiling point. Pour this mixture over the chocolate and butter and allow it to sit for a moment before stirring together to form a smooth glossy ganache. Let this cool then pour it over the chilled base. Transfer to the fridge again and chill for another hour or until set.
- While the tart is chilling, make the sesame shards. Before you start, place a piece of greaseproof paper on a large baking tray. Now put the sugar in a small saucepan. Allow the sugar to melt, swirling the pan occasionally, then, once the caramel is golden take off the heat, stir in the sesame seeds and spread into an even layer on the greaseproof paper. Leave to cool and harden, then break into shards.
- Slice up the tart and serve with shards of sesame caramel and a sprinkling of sea salt.
Although I enjoy experimenting with different flavour combinations and ingredients, a wedge of proper classic chocolate fudge cake is always a winner. With that in mind and in the spirit of hashtag Veganuary I thought I should probably develop a plant based alternative. The resulting cake is made up of moist well risen sponges (with espresso and salt used to bring out the chocolate flavour), salted bitter chocolate ganache and sweet cocoa buttercream. I defy anyone to do anything but ask for another slice.
- 120ml aquafaba (the starchy water from a can of chickpeas- one 400g tin supplies around 120ml)
- 375g plain flour
- 275g caster sugar
- 85g cocoa powder
- 2tsp baking powder
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
- large pinch sea salt, plus extra for the top
- 40g ground flaxseed mixed with 60ml water
- 325ml oat milk
- 175ml vegetable oil
- 3 heaped tsp instant coffee dissolved into 300ml boiled water
- 100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
For the ganache
- 200g dark chocolate
- 200ml vegan cream (I used Oatly)
- 1tbsp caster sugar
- pinch sea salt
For the buttercream
- 200g vegan butter (I used STORK)
- 300g icing sugar
- 4 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
- pinch sea salt
- 3-4tbsp oat milk
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
- You’ll need two bowls and some electric beaters (or, even better, a stand mixer with whisk attachment). Place the aquafaba in one bowl (or the bowl of the stand mixer) and whisk until stiff peaks form (about 10 minutes). In the other bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
- Once the aquafaba has reached stiff peaks, whisk in the soaked flaxseed. Make a well in the dry ingredients bowl and add the oat milk and vegetable oil. Mix together using a balloon whisk until just combined, then very slowly mix in the boiling water and coffee, followed by the melted chocolate. The mix will look very loose but that’s fine.
- Finally, fold in the aquafaba mixture. Distribute the batter between the two prepared tins and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tins.
- While the sponges are cooling, roughly chop the dark chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan along with the salt and caster sugar and heat to scalding point to dissolve the sugar. Pour the cream over the dark chocolate and leave to sit for a couple of minutes before stirring together to form a smooth glossy ganache. Set aside to cool completely.
- For the buttercream, simply place the vegan butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until fluffy. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt and cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, then beat until well combined (this will avoid a sugar cloud- if you’re using electric beaters, just mix in most of the icing sugar with a wooden spoon before whisking at a high speed to avoid a face full of icing sugar!). Add in the milk and beat again until very light and fluffy.
- Once all the components are cool, slice the sponges in half horizontally, leaving you with four even layers. Top the first layer with 1/3 of the buttercream, followed by the next sponge. Repeat until you’ve used up the sponges, then cover the whole cake in the ganache (which will have thickened as it cooled). Finish with sea salt or nut brittle, if you like.
This vegan banana bread is perfect if you’re after maximum taste pay off in exchange for minimal effort; the method calls for just a mixing bowl and hand whisk and you’ll have it in the oven in less than 10 minutes. I add chunks of dark chocolate and a shot of espresso to my banana bread as it adds a great depth of flavour and slight bittersweet finish, but feel free to omit these (if you’re weird and don’t like my two favourite things).
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 100ml dairy free yoghurt (I used Alpro plain)
- 100ml nut milk (I used almond)
- 3 very ripe bananas (roughly mashed) plus 1 extra banana (halved down the middle)
- 2tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 2tbsp boiling water
- 75g light brown soft sugar
- 75g caster sugar
- 225g plain flour
- 1tsp baking power
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- generous pinch of salt
- 150g 70% dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a large loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
- Place the oil, yoghurt, milk, mashed banana, both sugars and coffee in a bowl and whisk together. Now add in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk again until you have a smooth batter. Roughly chop 100g of the dark chocolate and stir that in, reserving the rest. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and arrange the banana halves on top.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until well risen, springy and golden. Once baked, leave to cool in the tin, then melt the remaining dark chocolate and drizzle over the top.
In the spirit of Veganuary, I thought I’d keep my recipes plant based this month. I’m not vegan myself, but am completely on board with reducing my consumption of animal products, so should probably reflect this in my baking. This week I tackled a home baking classic: the chocolate chip cookie. I’m pretty smug about the result; you would never guess they contained neither eggs nor dairy as the texture is buttery and chewy and the flavour rich, nutty and indulgent. Definitely give them a try, I’ve had great feedback from my (very willing) testers!
- 150g vegan butter ( I used Naturli’s Vegan Baking Block)
- 150g smooth almond butter
- 75ml almond milk
- 175g light brown soft sugar
- 150g caster sugar
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 150g rye flour
- 200g plain flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2tsp baking powder
- 300g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 75g almonds, roughly chopped
- Sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 170c. Place the vegan butter, almond butter, almond milk, both sugars and vanilla in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (ensuring that the water does not touch the base of the bowl). Heat, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients have melted to form a smooth mixture. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the rye flour, plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Add in the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until a soft dough has formed. Now evenly distribute 3/4 of the chocolate chunks and all the almonds through the mixture.
- Line 2 or 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Using an ice cream scoop shape even balls of dough and arrange on the trays, allowing space for spreading ( I put up to 6 cookies on each tray). Take a couple of your reserved chocolate chunks and press into the top of each ball of dough, then sprinkle with some sea salt.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully take the trays out and bang them sharply on a worktop. Pop them back in the oven for 3 minutes then bang once more and leave to cool. This technique is favoured by lots of bakers as it stops the cookies from puffing up too much and creates that wrinkly finish (you’ll probably need to bake the cookies in batches as this recipe will make 18-22).
- Leave the cookies to cool on the trays or serve warm. Best enjoyed freshly baked.