Chocolate cake with an unlikely ingredient (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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One serious chocolate cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy Easter! I hope the sun is shining where you are this holiday weekend. I had intended to post this feature a little ahead of the weekend but time has run away with me this week. Actually, to be completely honest, I was ready to post it yesterday until I realised what the date was, and given the unusual ingredient, I thought that my recipe might not be taken seriously. So, here we are at the end of the week, and I’m ready to reveal all ūüôā

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Easter on a plate. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This is one of the easiest chocolate cake batter recipes you will come across, so even if you don’t have the time to make the chocolate ganache and other finishing touches, do keep the cake batter recipe for trying at a later date with your own icing and decorations. What makes this cake batter a bit alternative is the addition of plain vegan mayonnaise. But, it’s not that weird an addition when you think about it, mayonnaise is just an amalgam of fat and liquid which are 2 of the main ingredients in a cake batter.

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The unlikely cake ingredient. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

However, I must emphasise the word “plain”. Please do check the ingredient list for mustard and/or garlic or anything else highly flavoured i.e. choose a mayonnaise with the least amount of flavouring possible. Taste the mayonnaise before you add it to the other ingredients, just to make sure. If you’re not vegan, a plain egg-based mayonnaise will work as well. The same goes for anyone who is not gluten-free, you can use ordinary plain white wheat flour.

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A very chocolaty slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Because it’s Easter and I love marzipan, I have added an additional layer of chocolate marzipan before the ganache gets poured over, and I used some more to make the decorations. If you don’t like marzipan just pour the ganache directly over the cake, and decorate with readymade chocolate decorations. Or you add cocoa powder to ready-to-roll (fondant) white icing in the same way as in the recipe below, and use this to make flowers and eggs instead.

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Chocolate marzipan eggs. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The cake is deliciously rich, moist and flavoursome. It freezes well if you have any left. Once cut, it is best stored in the fridge or at a cool room temperature for up to 5 days. I hope you enjoy it.

Serves: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 140g gluten free plain flour blend
  • 65g cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
  • 17g gluten-free baking powder
  • ¬ľ tsp xanthan gum (optional but it does help hold the crumb together)
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 190g plain vegan mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g marzipan
  • 2 tbsp smooth apricot jam
  • 250g dairy free dark chocolate (I use 54% cocoa chocolate but use darker if preferred)
  • 125g plant-based block margarine

1. Grease and line a deep 20cm round tin. Put the flour, 50g cocoa, baking powder, xanthan gum and almonds in a bowl and mix together until well blended. Stir in the sugar, and crush any lumps.

2. Make a well in the centre, and add 175ml cold water and the mayonnaise, then beat everything together until smooth and thoroughly blended. Spoon into the tin, smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray.

3. Bake for about 1hr to 1hr 10 minutes until risen and firm to the touch – test the centre with a skewer, if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Leave for 10 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool completely. The cake may sink slightly in the middle. When the cake is cold, turn it upside down and peel away the lining paper.

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Chocolate cake preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

4. While the cake is cooling, make the marzipan. Knead the marzipan a few times to soften it. Flatten slightly then add 1tsp of the remaining cocoa powder. Fold the marzipan over the cocoa and keep kneading until the cocoa is distributed evenly in the marzipan. Repeat the process, adding the cocoa gradually, until it is used up.

5. Cut off a 75g piece and put to one side. Lightly dust the work top with more cocoa powder and roll out the remaining marzipan to fit the top of the cake. I use the tin base as a template to cut out a neat circle.

6. Brush the cake with apricot jam and sit the marzipan circle on top. Any marzipan trimmings can be added to the reserved piece and used to make decorations.

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Chocolate marzipan preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

7. For the ganache, break up the chocolate and place in a saucepan with the margarine and 50ml water. Heat gently, stirring, until melted together. Remove from the heat, stir well, then leave to cool for about 20-30 minutes. You want the mixture to thicken sufficiently so that it doesn’t run straight off the cake when you pour it over.

8. Once thickened, sit the cake and wire rack over a tray or board. Slowly pour the ganache over the top of the cake from the middle, in a thin stream. If you want a completely smooth finish, continue pouring so that the ganache floods down the sides of the cake to coat them. Alternatively, pour and spread for a more textured appearance. Any ganache that sets on the tray underneath can be scooped up and remelted.

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Chocolate ganache preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Once the cake is covered, the ganache will set quite firmly if chilled, then you can prise the cake from the rack. If you have a cool kitchen, leave the cake to set naturally; the ganache will be slightly softer and it will be easier to remove it from the rack. Make the decorations while the cake is setting and then all you have to do is decorate the cake, serve it up and take in all the praise ūüôā

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Covering the cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Have a good Easter break and see you again soon.

Tutti frutti coconut bars (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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All fruits coconut bars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Here in the UK, we are now in week 3 of lock-down, and whilst the weather has been wonderful this week and the garden has been very well attended to, I have also spent some time in the kitchen creating this week’s post.

I looked in the fridge at the weekend and noted a few bits and pieces that needed to be used up. The combination before me made me think of a sweet treat from yesteryear, Paradise Slice, which was a combination of dried fruit and sweet fudgy coconut mixture baked with a layer of chocolate underneath. And so, this week’s recipe was born.

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Paradise slice revisited. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can use any dried fruit you have in the fridge or cupboard Рsultanas, raisins, dried apricot, cranberries will all work fine. I had the remnants of a bag of Trail Mix and some glacé cherries to use up, and they have created a very colourful combination.

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A filling of candied papaya, mango, pineapple and cherries mixed with coconut. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The original bake I remember contained eggs to bind the ingredients together, but in this recipe, I use a vegan meringue-style mixture which works very well and helps keep the coconut filling moist and pure white in colour. There are a few stages to the recipe, but if you haven’t got time to do it all in one go, you can bake the base first and then make the filling and topping later on. I hope you enjoy it.

Makes: 12 slices

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 100g white vegetable fat (such as Trex) or coconut oil, softened
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 175g gluten-free plain flour mix
  • 20g cocoa powder

For the filling and topping:

  • 90ml chickpea canning water
  • ¬ľ tsp cream of tartar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • ¬ľ tsp xanthan gum
  • 150g dried or candied fruit, chopped
  • 150g desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g dark dairy-free chocolate
  1. First make the base. Grease and line a deep 20cm square tin. Beat together the fat and sugar until well blended and creamy. Sift the flour and cocoa on top and mix everything together well. Bring together with your hands to form a soft dough and then press into the bottom of the tin. Smooth with the back of a spoon, prick all over with a fork and chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC, 160¬įC fan oven, gas 4. Bake the chocolate base for 20 minutes until just firm to the touch. Leave to cool, the cover until ready to make the filling.

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    Making the chocolate base. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. For the filling, pour the canning water into a large grease-free bowl and whisk until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking for a full 5 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the sugar, tablespoon at a time, whisking well in between, and then add the xanthan gum. Continue whisking for a further 2 minutes to make a thick, glossy meringue.
  5. Add the fruit, coconut and vanilla and gently mix everything together. Pile on top of the chocolate base, smooth the top. Bake at 170¬įC, 150¬įC, gas 3 for about 40 minutes until just firm to the touch, puffed up and lightly browned – cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Leave to cool in the tin – it will deflate on cooling.

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    Making the fruit and coconut filling. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. When the coconut layer is cool, melt the chocolate and spread it over the top of the filling, right to the edges. Leave in a cool place for a few minutes until the chocolate is just about to set, then score with a sharp knife into 12 bars – it is important to do this before the chocolate sets otherwise, without scoring, the chocolate will shatter when you come to cut the bars through.
  7. Leave to set completely. Chill if necessary. Note: I have kept the bars quite large for easier cutting (and because I’m greedy!), but you can score the chocolate with 2 more lines and cut into 24 for small portions.
  8. To serve, carefully remove the cake from the tin and peel back the lining paper. Use a large sharp knife to cut through the chocolate, filling and base to make 12 bars – it is quite a crumbly mixture but a good blade should get through it easily.

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    Covering with chocolate and slicing. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The slices keep well in a cake tin, but if the room temperature is warm, they are best stored in the fridge.

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A slice of paradise. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week. My best wishes to you all until my next post. Keep healthy and stay safe ūüôā

Salame al cioccolato (Chocolate salami) (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Chocolate and orange treat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I thought it was time¬†to deliver¬†a little treat.¬†This week, I’ve broken¬†into the chocolate¬†to make something deliciously decadent. Still feeling inspired by my culinary adventure with Sicilian red oranges¬†in last week’s post, I used some to flavour this rich Italian confection which is traditionally served at the end of a meal with coffee and liqueurs, or in my case, Marsala wine.

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Sliced Italian chocolate salami with coffee and Marsala wine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I was watching a travel programme about Sicily¬†over the festive holidays. It really does seem like a food and drink paradise, and¬†I hope¬†to pay a visit some day. In the meantime, I tracked down some of the island’s Modica¬†chocolate which is so very different from any other chocolate I have eaten or cooked with. It is naturally vegan as it is made with just cocoa, sugar and vanilla. The texture is grainy and slightly crunchy,¬†with a¬†flavour that¬†is rich and intense.¬†Modica chocolate is very like the chocolate the Aztecs would have been familiar with; it¬†was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish, and I’m delighted to have finally made its acquaintance.

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Sicilian Modica chocolate. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

You can add any flavourings you fancy¬†to the basic salami¬†recipe. I opted for all things Italian and went with pistachios, marzipan and the red orange. Candied peel is¬†often added but I’m not a huge fan. Because¬†I had the fresh red oranges to hand, I made my own non-candied¬†peel which is much softer and¬†much more¬†zesty than the preserved variety.¬†However, feel free to use the more traditional candied peel if you like it.

I put some red orange juice in the salami mixture as well. If you fancy something with more oomph, you can use 2 tbsp.  liqueur instead. I used a dairy-free margarine which has a lower fat content than a solid fat. The combination of the margarine and the added liquid gives a more fudgy texture to the salami. If you prefer a firmer set then leave out the liquid altogether and use something like coconut oil  (or unsalted butter if you eat it) which will give a much firmer set.

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Italian flavours. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes 16 slices

Ingredients

  • 2 medium oranges, red or other variety
  • 100g 50% cocoa¬†Modica or similar free-from plain chocolate
  • 75g dairy-free margarine
  • 150g free-from ginger biscuits, lightly crushed (or use your favourite variety)
  • 50g natural pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
  • 75g natural marzipan, finely chopped
  • 15g each ground almonds and icing sugar
  1. First prepare the orange rind. Using a vegetable peeler, pare off the orange rind thinly. You need about 40g rind to achieve a rich orange flavour.
  2. Slice the pared rind into thin strips. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the strips for 4-5 minutes until soft. Drain and cool under cold running water, then drain well¬†and pat dry, before chopping finely. Extract 2 tbsp. juice from one of the oranges – and enjoy the rest of the juice¬†at your leisure ūüôā

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    Making fresh orange peel. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the dairy-free margarine and place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and leave until melted. Remove from the water and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Put the biscuits, pistachios, marzipan, chopped orange rind and juice in a bowl and mix together, then stir in the melted chocolate. Leave in a cool place for about 30 minutes to firm up but not set completely.

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    Chocolate salami mix. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. Line the work top with a large double layer of cling film and pile the chocolate mixture in the centre to form a rough rectangular shape about 24cm long.
  6. Fold over the cling film and twist the ends closed to make a fat sausage-like shape with slightly tapering ends. Chill for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight until firm.

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    Shaping chocolate salami. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  7. To decorate, place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work top and sift the ground almonds and icing sugar down the centre to cover an area the same length as the salami.
  8. Carefully unwrap the salami and roll evenly in the sweet almond mixture to coat it lightly. Slice and serve. Store any remaining chocolate salami in the fridge – the sugary almond coating will start to dissolve in the fridge but this doesn’t affect the flavour or texture of the salami. Buon appetite!

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    Delizioso. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Dark chocolate brownie bites (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Dark chocolate brownie bites. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Something a little bit on the indulgent side for you this week. I am working my way through a hoard of classic baking recipes, converting them into vegan versions, and recently I got to a chocolate brownie recipe.

There are so many variations on this particular bake, and everyone has their own personal favourite. My version gives a texture which is soft and¬†gooey when eaten warm, but when cold, it firms up to something more like chocolate fudge. I find it quite rich,¬†and cut it into small squares, but that’s a question of personal taste.

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Warm dark chocolate brownie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I use coconut oil now instead of the butter in my traditional recipe. This does give a slightly nutty flavour, so if you’re not a fan, use a solid vegetable fat such as Trex instead, or choose a vegan margarine with a high fat content. Other than that, it’s a very straightforward recipe, with a minimum amount of ingredients. I hope you like it.

Makes: 20 small squares

Ingredients

  • 150g 85% cocoa extra dark chocolate (dairy-free)
  • 150g extra virgin coconut oil
  • 140g silken tofu
  • 225g light Muscovado sugar
  • 2 teasp vanilla paste
  • 100g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)

To decorate:

  • 50g 85% cocoa extra dark chocolate (dairy-free)
  • Freeze-dried raspberry pieces

1. Preheat the oven to¬†170¬įC (150¬įC fan oven, gas 3). Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin. Break up the chocolate and put in a heatproof bowl with the coconut oil. Place the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water until melted. Remove the bowl from the water and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

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Melting dark chocolate with coconut oil. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Whisk the tofu and sugar together until well blended and creamy and stir in the   vanilla paste. Mix in the melted chocolate and coconut oil, and gradually mix in the flour. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes until marbled and crackled on top, just set in the middle but still with a slight wobble underneath. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

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Vegan chocolate brownies, from tin to bake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. To decorate, carefully the bake remove from the tin and discard the lining paper. Cut into 20 bite-sized pieces and arrange on a sheet of baking parchment. Melt the chocolate as above and drizzle over each piece of brownie using a teaspoon. Scatter with raspberry pieces and leave for a few minutes to set before serving.

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Just decorated, vegan brownie bites. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

Burns Night mini chocolate haggis (gluten-free; dairy-free & vegan alternatives)

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Mini haggis sweeties. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A¬†short post this week, but I wanted¬†to publish a recipe to¬†celebrate Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, whose anniversary falls on January 25th each year. These cute,¬† haggis-shaped sweet treats are a version of my Chocolate Haggis for a Burns Night supper (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)¬†recipe from last year. You can mix and match ingredients¬†according to¬†the¬†bits and pieces¬†you have to hand. If you don’t like marzipan,¬†¬†use ivory or cream¬†coloured fondant icing instead.

Makes: 16

Ingredients

  • 50g unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 50g heather honey or golden syrup
  • 75g¬†free-from dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 75g¬†free-from oatcakes, finely crushed
  • 40g toasted fine oatmeal
  • 50g currants
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds, crushed
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • 400g natural marzipan
  1. Put the butter (coconut oil) and honey (golden syrup) in a saucepan with the chocolate, and heat very gently, stirring, until melted.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the crushed oatcakes, oatmeal, currants and almonds. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool, then chill for about 30 minutes until firm enough to form into portions.
  3. Divide the mixture into 16 and form each into an oval-shaped sausage. Chill for 30 minutes until firm.
  4. Divide the marzipan into 16 and flatten each into a round Рuse a little icing sugar if the marzipan is sticky. Wrap a disc of marzipan around each chocolate oat cluster; press the edges to seal and then twist the ends to make a haggis shape.

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    Mini chocolate haggis preparation. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

    Store¬†the mini haggis at a cool room temperature until ready to eat. The marzipan will become sticky if refrigerated. Best enjoyed with coffee¬†and a wee dram.¬† Until next week, I raise a glass to you all and say “Sl√†inte!” – to your good health ūüôā

    Plate_of_mini_chocolate_haggis_and_a_wee_dram_of_whisky
    Mini haggis and a wee dram. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Baked vanilla pears with chocolate “butter” (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Home-grown Comice pears. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve had a very “light” pear harvest this year. In fact, just 4¬†fruit developed on one tree and¬†the other had no fruit at all. Not sure why, the spring was fine, there was so much blossom and plenty of bees around to pollinate it. Perhaps the¬†pear trees¬†decided to have¬†a bit of a¬†holiday this year.

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Just before harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So with such a precious harvest, what to cook? I picked the pears a couple of weeks ago, and they have been ripening gently and slowly in a cool spot in the kitchen. They remained quite firm, so I decided I would cook them.

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Vanilla baked pears with chocolate “butter”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Vanilla is one of my favourite spices, and it is a particularly delicious flavouring for pears. This is a very simple recipe, but it tastes a little bit more special because the pears are cooked in Moscatel de Valencia Рthe floral notes of this sweet Spanish wine are a perfect match for both pears and vanilla.

Chocolate is another “must have” with pears as far as I’m concerned, and this easy “butter” makes an interesting¬†alternative to the usual chocolate sauce. Moscatel is one of the few wines I think goes well with chocolate, so this is a “win win” recipe for me. Serve the pears very slightly warm or at room temperature so that the¬†cooking juices don’t¬†¬†begin to set, and avoid chilling the chocolate accompaniment (unless the room temperature is very warm)¬†as it will become¬†very hard to spoon.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 firm pears
  • Juice of ¬Ĺ a lemon
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 300ml Moscatel¬† de Valencia wine (or white grape juice if preferred)
  • 1 tbsp. agave syrup (or clear honey if you eat it)
  • 40g dairy-free margarine (or unsalted butter)
  • 100g dairy-free 85% cocoa chocolate
  • 50g golden syrup
  1. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC (160¬įC fan oven, gas 4). Peel and¬†core the pears, and cut¬†in half. Brush lightly with lemon juice and place cut-side up in a shallow baking dish.
  2. Split the vanilla pod and scoop out some of the seeds using the tip of a sharp knife. Push the rest of the pod into the dish of pears, mix the scooped-out seeds with the wine and pour over the pears.
  3. Dot the pears with 15g of the margarine and drizzle with agave syrup. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the pears over, baste with the cooking juices, and return to the oven to bake, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes or until the pears are tender.
  4. Cool for 30 minutes in the cooking juices, discard the vanilla pod, then lift out the pears using a slotted spoon and place in a heatproof dish. Pour the cooking juices into a small saucepan.
  5. Bring the cooking juices to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until reduced by half. Pour over the pears and leave to cool.

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    Preparing baked pears with vanilla. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  6. For the chocolate “butter”, break the chocolate into pieces and put in a saucepan with the remaining margarine and the golden syrup. Heat very gently, stirring, until melted. Remove from the heat, mix well and pour into a small, heatproof dish. Leave to cool – the “butter” will solidify when it becomes cold.

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    Making chocolate “butter”. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Serve the pears at room temperature accompanied with the chocolate “butter”. If you prefer, leave the chocolate mixture to cool for about 30 minutes and serve warm as a¬†thick, glossy chocolate¬†sauce.

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    Vanilla baked pears with chocolate “butter”. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Pick-me-up dark chocolate granola bars (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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The perfect pick-me-up. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Out of the tin and ready for slicing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s that time of year when the weather turns a bit dull, the nights¬†draw in fast,¬†and it begins to feel a bit chilly.¬†For me, it’s¬†time for a pick-me-up. My standby on these occasions is always some kind of melted chocolate-based mix; it’s easy to put together, requires¬†no baking, and¬†keeps¬†for several days in the fridge.

The recipe is the perfect way to use up all the bits of seeds, fruit and nuts you have in the fridge or cupboard. I usually end up with a different combination of flavours every time I make this recipe. If you prefer, simply half the quantities, pack the mixture into an 18cm square tin and cut into 12 portions instead.

Makes: 24 chunky pieces

Ingredients

  • 500g 90% cocoa solids, dairy-free¬†chocolate
  • 100g coconut oil
  • 60g golden syrup
  • 200g gluten-free, vegan granola
  • 75g crisp rice cereal
  • 100g pumpkin seeds
  • 75g shredded coconut + extra to decorate
  • 400g chopped dried, glac√© and candied¬†fruit such as pineapple, cherries, orange peel, golden sultanas, etc.
  • 100g dairy-free, vegan white “chocolate”
  1. Line a 20 x 30cm cake tin with baking parchment or cling film. Break up the 90% cocoa chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with the coconut oil and golden syrup. Stand the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and leave to melt. Remove from the water, stir well and cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix in all the remaining ingredients except the white chocolate. Stir well until everything is coated, then pack into the prepared tin, pressing down well with the back of a spoon. Cool for at least an hour or until firm.
  3. Carefully remove from the tin and peel away the lining parchment or cling film. Place on a board. Use a large bladed knife to cut into strips and then chunks Рthe mixture is quite firm to slice.Line a large tray or board with baking parchment and arrange a few pieces on top. Melt the white chocolate as above and then drizzle over each piece. Sprinkle with shredded coconut if like. Leave in a cool place for several minutes to set before serving. Decorate the remaining pieces in the same way. Enjoy!

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    Drizzled, sprinkled and ready to eat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Morello cherries – cherry compote and chocolate blancmange (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

 

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Morello cherries, ripe and ready for picking. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Picking the cherries from my espalier Morello cherry tree¬†is one of¬†the highlights of my fruit growing calendar.¬†Having had¬†such a mild¬†Scottish¬†spring this year, all the fruit in the garden seems to be ripening a bit earlier than in other years. The cherries are no exception. Usually I pick them in the middle of August, but¬†this week, they were ripe and ready.¬†¬†The harvest was pretty good too:¬†from¬†one small tree, I picked ¬ĺkg.

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This year’s Morello cherry harvest. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m not that adventurous when it comes to cooking with cherries. I suppose it’s because I never have that many to play with,¬†therefore, I want to make sure I enjoy what I cook. Morellos are a sour cherry and are too tart to¬†eat as a fresh fruit. This year I made a large pot of jam and, my favourite, a compote flavoured with vanilla and lemon – recipe below.

I use a cherry stoner to¬†remove the pits; I’ve had it for years, and it does the job perfectly. This years¬†cherries¬†were so ripe, the pit just plopped out without any effort. Wash the cherries first and then prepare them over a bowl to catch the stones¬†and the juice that falls;¬†you can then easily¬†drain¬†off the stones, keeping the¬†juice. If you don’t have a specialist stoner, a small knife with a pointed blade should enable you to prise out the stones with ease. After preparation, the final weight of the cherries I picked this year, along with the juice from the bowl,¬†was around 650g.

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Vital piece of kit: my cherry stoner. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Pitting cherries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Flavours that go well with cherries are: almond (especially marzipan); citrus fruit; vanilla; cinnamon (just a pinch); coconut, and chocolate. I¬†often make something chocolatey to go along side the compote, and this year, it was a nostalgic chocolate blancmange, deliciously velvety and thick. A perfect combination. So here¬†are my recipes for both compote and blancmange. By the way, if¬†you are using sweet cherries for¬†the compote, you’ll need to reduce the quantity of sugar you add to the compote by at least half.

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Fresh Morello cherry compote. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 4

For the compote:

  • 300g prepared ripe Morello cherries (about 350g with stones)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 level teasp cornflour
  • ¬Ĺ¬†vanilla pod, split
  • Juice of¬†¬Ĺ small lemon or half a lime

For the blancmange:

  • 50g cornflour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 50g vanilla sugar (use plain caster if preferred)
  • 500ml non-dairy milk (I used soya milk)

1. To make the compote, put the cherries in a saucepan and gently mix in the caster sugar and 3 tbsp. water. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and cook for about 3 minutes until just tender Рtake care not to over-cook, ripe cherries need very little cooking.

2. Blend the cornflour with 2 tbsp. water to make a paste, then stir into the cherries. Bring back to the boil, stirring, and cook for a further 1 minute until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat, push in the vanilla pod and leave to cool completely. Remove the pod and stir in the lemon juice. Chill lightly before serving – about 30 minutes.

3. For the blancmange, mix the cornflour, cocoa and sugar in a saucepan, and gradually stir in the milk, making sure it is thoroughly blended – I find a balloon whisk is good for mixing powders into liquids.

4. Keep stirring the mixture over the heat, until it reaches boiling point and becomes very thick. Continue to cook for 1 minute to make sure the cornflour is completely cooked then spoon into small individual heat-proof dishes Рthere is enough to fill 6 x pot au chocolat dishes (it is quite rich, so these little dishes are the perfect size for me). Leave to cool completely, then chill for an hour until ready to serve.

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Chocolate blancmange and Morello cherry compote. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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My espalier Morello cherry tree with spring blossom, and in fruit earlier this week.             Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Pinkies (beetroot and raspberry blondies – gluten-free with dairy-free/vegan alternative.

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Beetroot and raspberry blondies Image: Kathryn Hawkins

After my post on Fresh globe beetroot a couple of weeks ago, I finally got round to a spot of beetroot-baking with the fine specimens I took pictures of. This is a great tasting recipe which makes the most of how naturally colourful the vegetable is.

You’ll find plenty of recipes for brownies and¬†blondies,¬†so now, here’s¬†one for “pinkies”. For all intents and purposes,¬†it is¬†a blondie recipe with cooked beetroot added to it. I used natural raspberry extract to flavour my recipe but a good quality vanilla extract or freshly grated orange rind would work just as well. As with the more traditional blondie¬† (and brownie) recipes, this one is¬†better the day after baking. By the way, if you cook beetroot from raw, the cooking water turns very pink. I used a little of this to make the icing. The pinkies also freeze well. By the way, the recipe also works with cooked carrot instead of beetroot.

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Cooled, fresh beetroot cooking water. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 9 pieces

  • 100g white chocolate drops (or dairy-free alternative)
  • 75g butter (or dairy-free alternative)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g silken tofu
  • 115g cooked, peeled beetroot in natural juice
  • 75g gluten-free self raising flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • ¬ľ- ¬Ĺ tsp natural raspberry extract
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tsp beetroot cooking water or water and natural pink food colouring
  • Freeze-dried raspberry pieces, to decorate
  1. Preheat the oven to 180¬įC (160¬į fan oven, 350¬į F, gas mark¬†4). Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the chocolate chips, butter and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to melt together. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, blend the tofu and beetroot together to make a purée.
  3. Sieve the flour into a bowl. Add the ground almonds, beetroot purée and melted chocolate mixture. Add the extract and mix well to make a smooth batter.
  4. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly crusted but slightly soft underneath. Cool for 20 minutes then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store for 24 hours to allow the texture and flavour together.

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    Preparation of beetroot and raspberry blondies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. To decorate. remove the wrappings and cut the cake into 9 equal squares. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in a little beetroot or tap water to make a smooth, spreadable icing. Add pink colouring if using.
  6. Spoon a dollop of icing of over each piece of cake and spread to cover the tops, allowing it to drip down the sides. Sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before serving.

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    Slice of beetroot and raspberry blondie. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Chocolate tart (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Chocolate tart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Only a few days ago, in my last post, I had the feeling that spring was on its way. But only one¬†day later, down came the snow once again. In fact, as I go to post this piece, it’s very white outside. ¬†At times of despair, a “cheer-me-up” pudding is called for to help me get through the rest of this dreary month, and what comes to mind most naturally? Chocolate, of course!

This is a simple recipe with only a few ingredients. I don’t usually buy out of season fruit, but I made an exception this week and bought some rather delicious looking strawberries. Best of all, they tasted pretty good too. Of course you can top your dessert with any fruit you fancy, or simply leave it plain. I also added a sprinkle of my favourite toasted raw coconut flakes on top, just before serving. Depending on your chocolate taste-buds, use however much of the darker variety you prefer. Enjoy!

Serves: 8-10

  • 140g plain gluten-free, dairy-free granola, finely crushed
  • 50g coconut oil
  • 200ml canned coconut milk
  • 200g dairy free plain chocolate
  • 100g 90% cocoa extra dark chocolate
  • 1 to 2 tsp good quality vanilla bean paste
  • Fresh fruit and toasted coconut, optional, to serve
  1. Grease and line an 18cm spring-form cake tin. Put the granola in a bowl. Melt the coconut oil and mix into the granola until well incorporated.
  2. Press into the bottom of the tin using the back of a spoon and chill whilst preparing the chocolate layer.
  3. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan. Break up the chocolate and add to the pan. Place over a very low heat, and stir occasionally until melted. Cool for 10 minutes, stir in vanilla paste to taste and then pour over the granola base. Leave to cool, and then chill for about an hour until firm.
  4. Carefully release from the tin. Peel away the lining paper and transfer to a serving plate. Top with fruit and coconut if using.

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Finished with a coconut topping. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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One slice is never enough. Image: Kathryn Hawkins