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.
No intricate decorations, fillings or tiers here, just one humble layer of ludicrously fudgy, crinkly chocolate joy (which is, entirely by chance, dairy and gluten free). For a real depth of flavour and the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, take note of my chocolate recommendations and use a good quality olive oil (this recipe idea actually stemmed from a yearning to bake with a deliciously floral, wincingly expensive extra virgin oil I picked up in Greece last month*).
* Disclaimer: don’t judge, I was in that holiday headspace where you flash your card with the sort of cavalier attitude usually reserved for Monopoly money… sufficed to say, I could do with passing GO right now
200g 60% dark chocolate
100g 70% dark chocolate
100g 80% dark chocolate
200ml good quality olive oil
275g light brown soft sugar
75ml strong espresso
Generous pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin.
Roughly chop all the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl along with the olive oil. Put the sugar and coffee in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (avoid bringing it to the boil at this stage).
Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring to the boil, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir everything (chocolate, olive oil, sugar, espresso) together to form a smooth, glossy liquid. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then stir in the egg yolks.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the salt (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two batches using a large metal spoon, then scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin (make sure you don’t scrape from a height or you’ll knock out some of that air you’ve just put into the whites!).
Bake for 50-60 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin. When cooling, the top of the cake will dip and crack- don’t worry, it’s a smooth, flourless torte, not a sponge cake! Once cool, slice up and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve with creme fraiche, if you like.
We’ve been enjoying a very unusual bout of beautiful hot weather here in the UK, so today’s recipe is an iced one. I served this up for my boyfriends birthday (after he broke the news to me that he didn’t want a cake- yeah, sacrilege I know) and although it requires a little more effort to make than a simple sponge, the creamy, indulgent and slightly bittersweet (thanks to the tahini and very dark chocolate) result is well worth it.
For the chocolate ripple
150g bitter dark chocolate
150ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the cherry compote
200g fresh cherries (de-stoned)
3tbsp honey or caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
For the parfait base
75g caster sugar
125ml whole milk
250ml double cream
For the tahini crumble
25g demerara sugar
25g butter, cubed
100g plain flour
1tbsp black sesame seeds
Start by making the chocolate ganache for the ripple. To do this simply place the chocolate, salt and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl). Stir occasionally until it melts together and forms a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool.
Now prepare the cherry compote. Put the cherries, honey (or sugar), orange zest and juice in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a sticky compote consistency (5-10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Now it’s time to make the parfait base. Line a loaf tin with 2 layers of cling film, leaving an overhang on all sides.
Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl along with the sugar and whisk until pale, meanwhile, heat the milk until just boiling in a saucepan. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the egg yolks, then stir together until smooth. Return the mix to a clean pan and gently heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes, the mix will start to thicken- once it coats the back of the spoon set aside and cool to room temperature.
Once the ganache, compote and custard have cooled to room temperature, whisk the double cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to medium peaks. Stir the tahini into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the double cream into the egg yolk/ tahini with a large metal spoon, then do the same with the egg whites, retaining as much air as possible. Ripple through 2/3 of the chocolate ganache and 2/3 of the cherry compote.
Spoon the remaining chocolate ganache and cherry compote into the bottom of the prepared tin, then spoon in the parfait mix. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.
While the parfait is freezing, make the sesame crumble. Preheat the oven to 180c. Rub together the butter and flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and tahini, then tip onto a lined baking tray- bake for 10 minutes then check, shake and return to the oven to 10 more minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Stir through the sesame seeds and set aside to cool.
Take the parfait out of the oven 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it to allow it to soften slightly. Sprinkle on the sesame crumble and finish with some fresh cherries.
This vibrant dish works well if you’re feeling a boujee brunch, but would also make for a delicious, light summer dessert; it’s a real celebration of summer produce and the contrast of flavours, textures and colours mean it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser (plus it’s vegan!).
Ingredients (serves 6)
For the peaches
6 ripe peaches
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground cardamom
2tbsp coconut nectar (or honey/ maple)
100ml dessert wine (optional)
For the blackberry compote
300g fresh blackberries
juice 1 lime
2tbsp coconut nectar (or honey/ maple)
For the coconut crumble
75g rolled oats
3tbsp melted coconut oil
2tbsp coconut nectar (or honey/ maple)
1tsp ground cinnamon
50g roughly chopped almonds
50g flaked coconut
zest 2 limes
500ml coconut yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 1 baking tray and 1 high sided baking dish with greaseproof paper.
Half the peaches and remove the stones, then place them in the baking dish, cut side up. In a small bowl, mix together the ground cardamom, ground cinnamon and coconut nectar. Drizzle all over the peaches (along with the dessert wine, if using).
In a mixing bowl, stir together the rolled oats, coconut oil, coconut nectar, ground cinnamon and chopped almonds. Tip this mixture onto the baking tray and spread out.
Pop both trays in the oven and roast the peaches for 20-25 minutes (or until very tender and sticky). Check the coconut crumble after 10 minutes and turn to prevent burning. Once the crumble starts crisping up and reaches a golden colour, add in the coconut flakes and cook for a further 5 minutes. When the peaches and crumble are ready, just leave them to cool while you make the blackberry compote.
For the compote, simply place the blackberries, coconut nectar and lime juice in a saucepan and cook gently (stirring occasionally) until it reaches a loose jam-like consistency. Set aside to cool.
To assemble the dish, start with the coconut yoghurt in the base of the bowl and ripple through some compote, then top with two peach halves, a generous helping of coconut crumble and a sprinkle of fresh lime zest.
Light, buttery sponge flavoured with lemon, tart pockets of soft, juicy gooseberries, and a generous swirl of elderflower mascarpone make up this simple summer cake and ode to the British countryside.
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
zest 2 lemons
1tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
75g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
250g gooseberries (blueberries, blackberries or raspberries would also work well)
3tbsp elderflower cordial
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.
Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add a little flour if you’re worried about curdling.
Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Trim the tops and stalks of the gooseberries then fold them through the cake batter.
Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and level off the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is springy and golden (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
Meanwhile, whisk together the mascarpone, elderflower and honey. When the cake is cool, swirl the mascarpone over the cake and decorate with fresh flowers.
With a light baked ricotta filling studded with fresh raspberries, crunchy almond-oat base and griddled peach topping, these cheesecake bars pay homage to 90s peach melba, and make for the perfect summer dessert.
Preheat the oven to 160c and grease and line a 22x22cm baking tin. Place the digestives, demerara sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and blitz into crumbs. Add in the melted butter, almonds and oats and very briefly blitz again to combine- don’t over mix here, you want a nice crunchy base. Tip this mixture into the prepared tin and pack down with the back of a spoon. Chill for 15 minutes then bake for 10 minutes to set. Once baked set aside for later.
Now make the filling. To do this simply whisk together the ricotta, golden caster sugar, corn flour and vanilla until very smooth, then add in the egg and egg yolk one at a time, whisking between each addition to bring the mixture together again. Lastly, whisk in the yoghurt. Roughly break up the raspberries with the back of a fork and tip them in. Ripple them through then scrape all the filling onto the base. Place the tin into another larger roasting tin and fill with water (about half way up the sides of your baking tin). Bake for 1 hour or until the cheesecake is set but still has a uniform wobble.
Once baked, leave the cheesecake to cool completely then chill for 4-6 hours to set.
While the cheesecake is chilling, lightly oil a griddle pan and slice the peaches into wedges. Heat the pan and char the slices on each side, then leave to cool.
When your cheesecake has set, just remove it from the tin, slice into 12 bars (use a hot knife for this and you will get a cleaner result) and top with the griddled peach slices, extra raspberries and nuts.
I know I’m getting a few months ahead of myself by posting a fig recipe (usually they come into season around late July), but when I saw some particularly plump, dark looking figs in my local fresh produce shop, I couldn’t help but cook them up with some delicious accompaniments. You could recreate this super simple recipe using any seasonal fruit- rhubarb, greengage or peach would work particularly well.
Ingredients (serves 6)
400ml Greek yoghurt
3tbsp runny honey
2tsp rose water
10-12 ripe figs
Few sprigs thyme
1 pomegranate, seeds only
Place the yoghurt, 1tbsp of the honey and the rose water in a bowl. Mix together then transfer to a muslin cloth and tie up the corners. Sit this in a sieve over a bowl for at least 24 hours (refrigerated).
After 24 hours the liquid will have drained from the yoghurt, leaving you with a thick, smooth labneh.
Once the labneh is ready, prepare the other elements of your dessert. Preheat the oven to 200c and line a high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper. Slice the figs into either halves or quarters (depending on your visual preference!) and spread out on the tray (cut side up). Drizzle with the remaining 2tbsp honey and sprinkle over the sumac. Roughly break the thyme into the tray too.
Roast the figs for 20-25 minutes until very tender and sticky. While the figs are cooking, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly coloured, then roughly chop.
To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the labneh onto your dessert plates and arrange some fig pieces on top. Sprinkle over the almonds and pomegranate seeds and lastly, garnish with some thyme, if you like.