Black Forest trifle

Well, I don’t know about where you live, but the weather has been a bit stink-o around here recently. I guess it goes with the time of year, but the wind and the rain doesn’t really help elevate my mood (which is pretty darn sombre after recent events in the news).

I’m not saying this recipe is going to cure all ills (especially since sugar is the devil these days to a lot of folks. Hey, I still love you, sugar!) but it was certainly a worthy use of leftover cake. I made my standard chocolate cake a few days ago (this time with added flaked almonds) but that’s quite a large amount of cake for one person to get through and I’m a bit short on freezer space so it’s heading towards stale. How to deal? Take some inspiration from ye olde Black Forest gateaux!

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Sainsbury’s were selling frozen cherries at a slightly reduced price recently and I had managed to find space to squish those into my freezer. They also had a modest discount on Alpro custard pots. You may also recall that I am never without a large supply of Fair Trade chocolate from Plamil, so I simply cut up some cake, placed some frozen cherries on top, heated up a pot of custard, added a few spoonfuls of chocolate chips to melt in and about a tablespoon of rum then poured the latter over the former! A good 5 minutes work, if I say so myself 🙂

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Creamy chocolate peanut-butter mousse

Having an obsession with something traditionally made with egg whites, double cream and/or gelatine is tricky as a vegan! When I was a child, my mother used to make an incredibly boozy chocolate mousse using dark chocolate, egg whites, cream and liberal splashes of brandy. I remember eyeing up the individual glass serving dishes chilling in the fridge in preparation for dinner parties. Perhaps I got to “help clean” the mixing bowl and I am sure I got my own dish at dinner, but I would happily have eaten the lot of them if I could have got away with it!

Since finally getting a long-wished-for Vitamix several years ago I’ve made a lot of moussey desserts, mainly based on nuts. They aren’t quite as smooth or light as the mousses of my childhood, but they have their own charms. Soon I hope to start experimenting with aquafaba but until then, I’m mighty pleased with the peanut-butter and chocolate creation I made a couple of days ago, especially as I think it will work as a recipe even without access to a high-speed blender if a few modifications are made.

The quantities I used made a huge amount, so I’ve frozen an ice-cream tub full in the hopes that it might work semi-frozen.

If you’re going to try this I suggest halving the quantities, which will still make several generous servings!

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (I used Meridian organic because it’s palm-oil-free and I’m trying to be good about that, plus it was on special offer, £5 for a kilo from the Better Food Company in Bristol earlier this year)
  • 1 cup dark (72%) chocolate chips (I used Plamil)
  • 2 Tbs sugar (could be left out if using sweeter chocolate)
  • 4 cups non-dairy milk (I used value soya)
  • 1.5 Tbs flax seeds
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract

I put a cup of milk into the blender, followed by the peanut butter, flax seeds, then another couple of cups of milk and the extracts. That got blended up until the friction started heating the mixture, then I added the chocolate and sugar and it melted in and blended. It soon became evident that the mix was going to be too thick, so another cup of milk got added, then I poured it into a variety of containers and left it to chill in the fridge for a few hours. Once it sets it’s light and airy, creamy but with a slightly floury texture from the peanut butter. I daresay there would have been a smoother result from a more processed style of peanut butter, but this is fine, it’s kind of velvety!

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I also added a few mix-ins to some of the pots, such as oats and raisins, and I blended an orange into the last cup or so of mixture to see if that would work (it was okay, but probably not worth repeating).

If I were going to make this without a blender, I would probably warm a couple of cups of milk, add the peanut butter and stir until it had thoroughly blended in, then add the chocolate and whip in another cup of milk, see what the texture was like and add more milk as necessary. I probably wouldn’t add flax if making a non-blender version as it’d make the texture grainy. If I try this version I will update this recipe, but if you happen to fancy trying it in the meantime please comment and let me know how you get on!


Vegan chocolate is much cheaper in bulk!

(Relatively speaking, that is.)

If you are a vegan/milk-avoider who enjoys chocolate you’ll know that it’s usually not cheap. It’s possible to buy 100g of plain Value/Basics chocolate for around 30p, but most of those contain milk (I’m told Morrisons sell a bar without milk listed in the ingredients) but when I tried a non-milky one several years ago I was not at all impressed with the taste. If you’re going to have a luxury food, it has to actually be a pleasure to eat, or what’s the point?

I’ve always been a fan of Plamil’s range of dark chocolate chips. If you buy a small pouch of their diary-free chocolate drops they’ll cost over £3 for 175g (you might think that’s reasonable if you only want a small amount, especially if you have allergies, as they’re made in a dedicated dairy and nut-free environment), but if you look at their bulk options the price gets a lot more attractive. They will sell you a kilo of organic, fairtrade baking chocolate drops for £8.63, so 86p per 100g. If you buy over £25 worth of goods, they don’t charge for postage. They also offer 10% off for first time orders, and once you’ve registered your email address with them (and this is what prompted this post – hey, direct mailings do sometimes work!) they also offer 10% off deals throughout the year, such as for this Bank Holiday weekend.

Where the savings really come in is when you start buying their catering packs of 7.5 kilos. At the moment they are selling  ‘Free From’ Baking chocolate drop Catering Packs of 7.5kg, 53% cocoa, for a reduced price of £45.89. Take 10% from that and it will cost £41.30, so 55p per 100g, for something that actually tastes nice eaten straight up. (NB – If you want 10% off you must either be a first-time customer or buy this weekend or the next time they run an offer!)

If you want fairtrade organic, the 7.5 kilo bulk boxes are £52.13 for the 53% stuff, which is £46.92 with 10% off, making 100g cost 62p.

It’s quite a bit of money to find in one go, but if you’ve got a cool dry place to store it chocolate will last for a long time. You can also split the cost of an order with one or more friends or neighbours.

I know I sound like a blaring advert for Plamil. I swear I am not affiliated with them in any way, I’ve just ordered from them several times and I’ve always been pleased with the service and pleased that I splashed out the money. That amount of chocolate will keep me going for more than a year and is brilliantly handy for making gifts for birthdays and festivals. When you consider how much a 100g bar of allergy-friendly chocolate normally costs, this seems a much better option in the long run.


Vegan white chocolate cardamon tart

Quite a while back, I put in an order for six kilos of assorted chocolate chips from Plamil foods, a company with a dedicated dairy-free facility. Now, I don’t care if something “may contain traces” of dairy, I’m not severely allergic and it’s the intended ingredients that concern me, however I know it’s a big deal for people with allergies or just preferences not to have their chocolate cross-contaminated by unintended dairy, so I like to support this company, and a big plus for the budget-conscious is that they offer free postage over a certain spend, and their bulk packaged chips work out to a very reasonable price, especially if you catch them during one of their special offer periods.

My order was mainly for dark chocolate of varying cocoa content, however I thought I would give their alternatives to milk and white chocolate a try, so ordered a kilo of each. I’d been hoping to use them for truffles, however they didn’t behave quite as I’d expected them to upon heating. I was able to use the milk-chocolate chips in cookies and brownies in the end (rather than melting for couverture purposes, the rice-milk content makes it a bit too grainy/fudgy textured for that) but the white chocolate seemed to disintegrate when I tried to use it in cookies, leaving puddles of toffee-like goo in their place – perfectly tasty but not what I was expecting, nor very aesthetically pleasing.

In consequence, I’ve had nearly a kilo of white chocolate sitting around unloved for many a moon, and now I’m almost out of dark choc chips I thought some more about whether I’d be able to use the white ones for anything. As it turns out, they work brilliantly in a custard pie/cheesecake type application! I’m not over my pie jag yet, and have eyed up nearly all of the remaining ingredients in my cupboard with a view to pressing them into a pie dish. Being out of nuts (apart from cashews and about a tablespoon of walnut pieces), but discovering some dessicated coconut I thought I’d see how a coconut oat press-in crust would work, which resulted in a very rich tasting pie-crust which holds together surprisingly well.

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This recipe is very much a work in progress which I hope to refine, but I was very pleased with the texture of the custard, which is thick and luscious.

Vegan white chocolate cardamon tart

Crust:

1 cup oat flour

3/4 cup dessicated coconut, whizzed halfheartedly in a blender (that stuff is difficult to turn into flour! Too light, it just flies around the container!)

3 tablespoons marmalade (I expect maple syrup or agave or golden syrup would work pretty well, maybe better)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon water.

Pinch of salt (maybe 1/4 teaspoon)

Pie filling ingredients:

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 1/4 cups soya milk

1/2 cup marmalade

1/2 cup cashews

2 tablespoons custard powder

2 or 3 green cardomon pods (Just use the seeds if you’re not sure how well your blender will cope with the husks)

Pinch of salt.

Method

Put the oats and coconuts into a mixing bowl, add the marmalade, oil and water and cut in with a knife until a crumbly dough is formed. Press into a pie-dish or individual tartlet cases and blind bake for about ten minutes in a moderate oven 180/350. This seems to burn quite easily so keep an eye on it to check it’s not getting too done. N.B. I don’t have the ratio of crust to filling quite right yet! You will probably end up with extra crust unless you make it very thick or have a wide but shallow pie dish.

Put all the filling ingredients in a blender and whizz them up until smooth. If you don’t have a high speed blender you might want to soak the cashews for a couple of hours, or boil them for a few minutes to soften them up, and just blend those with some of the milk to start with until they’re a smooth paste.

Pour the custard mix into the pie crust and bake for about another 20 minutes, until just beginning to get a golden top in spots. Keep an eye on it and reduce the heat a notch if it looks like it’ll start burning. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing. The flavours develop after chilling for a while, so make the day before eating, if possible.