Vegan double chocolate cookies

(Vegan double chocolate cookies)

You heard it here first. I’ve actually completed my Christmas shopping ahead of time. It’s the first ever documented occurance of its kind, in all the many odd years that I’ve been enduring December gift buying through gritted teeth. The Christmas cards were even mailed out two weeks ago. Someone actually sent a reply exclaiming surprise at how organised I was.

Next year, I’ll probably revert back to spending the dying shopping hours of Christmas Eve frantically looking for necessary presents. But for now, I get to sit back and bask (and bake) in the glory of readiness.

Because most of my shopping was done online this year, I came across some lovely things during my travels, which I’m bookmarking for future reference. Call it a head start for Christmas 2012 if you like.

-this takoyaki grill pan

-the Lebkuchen spice blend from Gewurzhaus

-this journal to accompany the Keepsake Box I sent my niece

-vintage treasures from emerald + ella and Cake Vintage

-a subscription to Gastronomica

-Tasmanian apple brandy

-or maybe next year I’ll just settle for sending some very special cards

In the meantime, if you happened to make the gingerbread cake from a previous post, and still find yourself in possession of a bit of leftover apple sauce, you may want to make these chocolate cookies as well. Use a suitable alternative to the recommended flours below if you want to want them to also be gluten free.

[Note : 12/09/2016 I have deleted the recipe as it needs a few tweaks and I haven’t yet had time to test it out! The recipe will be republished in the future!]

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Vegan Baking

(Joanne Chang’s Vegan Chocolate Cake)

Once upon another lifetime ago, I decided to ‘do my bit for the environment’ and adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. This lasted several years until eventually I gave it up as my interests in cooking and restaurants grew to the point where I wanted to be able to learn from eating/tasting everything at least once.

Chefs are often notorious for being quite vocal about their dislike of vegetarians and vegans. Sometimes you can’t blame them, when customers claim to be vegan right up to the dessert course, where they knowingly order the creamiest dish on the menu.

These days, my kitchen lifestyle choice is to cook with eggs and butter, in moderation, but I’ve always been interested in what vegan baking has to offer. Working under certain constraints sometimes inspires you to think more creatively.

When we were in New York late last year, I got a chance to visit the famed vegan/gluten-free bakery, Babycakes NYC. Inspired by the trip, I even bought their cookbook. Unfortunately, despite the many delicious things we tasted at their store, I couldn’t get the book’s recipes to work for me. For example, this Babycakes banana bread I made recently, with agave nectar, coconut oil and other expensive ingredients, looked better than it tasted.

Despite being discouraged, it didn’t stop me from wanting to try the vegan chocolate cake recipe in Flour by Joanne Chang. You can’t help but love the simplicity of the recipe (Essentially, combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Bake. Eat.) and the lack of having to seek out speciality ingredients.

This is by no means the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. As a vegan (and low-fat!) cake, it is suitably moist with a pleasing chocolate flavour. A recipe worth attempting especially if you have long deleted eggs and dairy from your baking life.

Vegan Low-Fat Chocolate Cake :
(from Flour by Joanne Chang)

210g unbleached all-purpose flour
100g caster sugar
40g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, or 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
240g water
50g canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsulfured light or dark molasses

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 175’C. Butter and flour a 6-inch round cake pan. [I used a slightly smaller pan and reduced the baking time by about 10 minutes]

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla and molasses. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth and homogeneous. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Then invert the pan onto the rack, lift off the pan, turn the cake right-side up, and let cool completely.

Just before serving, dust the top with icing sugar. [I topped the cake with a vegan chocolate sauce instead]

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A week of baking vegan


(Silken Chocolate Mousse Cake)

Since my last post, I have been much busier. A little too busy to blog regularly, even though the weekend baking pursuits have continued to produce some interesting things I wish I had more time to share.

I’m taking time out from my regular butter-fests, to write about something a little different today : margarine. The reason being that I recently spent a week baking vegan. Not because I’ve run out of money for butter or grown tired of my leather shoes, but because what seems like eons ago, Hannah sent me a copy of her cookbook. In case you weren’t already a fan, Hannah Kaminsky is the voice behind BitterSweet (a blog I love and visit frequently) and the author of My Sweet Vegan.

I may be fairly inconsistent in my road towards a healthier lifestyle, but vegan baking is not something I often considered gravitating towards. Like most non-vegans, I’ve long held the view that this style of baking meant being prepared to search for hard-to-get (and often more expensive) ingredients such as vegan “sour cream”, brown rice syrup and soy creamer, or willing to make odd substitutions such as applesauce and bananas to replace butter in a recipe, or use tofu in a cheesecake.


(Hazelnut Orange Biscotti)

Rather unexpectedly then, my favourite recipe from My Sweet Vegan turned out to be a Silken Chocolate Mousse Cake (pictured above), which had a fantastic gluten-free, no-bake base, and a luscious, rich and flavoursome chocolate mousse featuring silken tofu as one of the main ingredients. Also high on my list of favourites, was the Orange Hazelnut Biscotti which featured items you’d find in most typical pantries.

The only recipe that I would not make again, of the handful that I tried, was the Black Bottom Blondies (not pictured), because I didn’t like the texture of the blondies, even though the brownie component was really delicious.

Apart from the blondie, the recipes I tried from the book were met with considerable praise from my taste-testers (all of whom were non-vegans). There were some detractors for the chocolate mousse cake who did not like the consistency of the tofu in the mousse, but you know what they say about pleasing some people some of the time..


(Crumb-topped Brownie)

After much use of margarine, soy milk and soy yogurt, I can safely say that Hannah’s book was a pleasure to bake from. In fact, I even have a renewed respect for Hannah’s talent and her passion for what she believes in.

My Sweet Vegan makes for an excellent introductory guide for those who aren’t vegan but like to try something different, or for those who already have margarine in their kitchen, and would like to expand their vegan repertoire. Refer to it when you’re feeling virtuous, or if you’re making a treat for a vegan friend. Either way, it’s a bit of a sweet win-win situation (especially when you end up with something like Sesame Chews. Who cares if it’s vegan when it’s this delicious!).


(Sesame Chews)

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