Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: chocolate, green peas, pesto, sandwich cake, sea buckthorn, sun dried tomato
Even more than sunny spring days, I enjoy those overcast days with a slowly drizzling spring rain. Does it mean that I have a plants’ soul?
The Finnish year – cycle is structured between the two inactive seasons: the winter and the summer. After the long, dark lull of the winter the spring is a rushed burst of energy: in just a few short weeks the nature is turned from bare potential to a full blooming fertile beauty. Each week you hear a new migrant bird, and the amount of light increases day by day, until the darkness is just a memory, easily forgotten. And then you reach summer, the lovely, lazy season of free time, when nothing much happens, and the greatest newsline is a trout – bitten toe.
For a delicate mind spring can be depressing too, since it sets you face to face with the inevitability of all life: whether you catch the big rolling wheel or not, life will go on, with or without you. Spring is usually rich with deadlines, whether at work or full moons for planting things or enjoying the newly reborn nature. The elder will bloom only a day (did you collect the flowers for a juice? ) and the sprouting wild vegetables will turn bitter in couple of weeks (did you make the pesto?). The spring rolls on, and meanwhile you might struggle with a pollen allergy, unfixed bike and the continuous daylight that doesn’t let you sleep, and as the only thought have the idea of the summer holiday somewhere ahead, if you just manage a little bit longer.
Green Sandwich Cake
Springtime is also time of festivities of all sorts, and the Finnish traditional delicacy for a graduation party or other family festivity is a sandwich cake, which is a savoury cake made of a bread loaf (!). My friends insisted on having one at their house – warming party.
What happened was that on the Eve of First of May, which is a night of great many parties in Finland, I emptied my handbag on my doorstep at 3 am and figured that I’d left my keys inside. The cake was supposed to be ready the following day. I ended up spending the night elsewhere, and in the morning found a big kitchen full of jamming, singing and guitar – playing people. And even if the brunch was rather meagre, only one third of a shop bought pound cake, the music was such soul food that I just couldn’t leave the soaring voices and harmonies of the morning of First of May. So in the end the sandwich cake was assembled of things that I found in my cupboard, in a haste. But everyone loved it.
a loaf of bread, and 5 dl oat milk.
Green Pea Paste – for Icing
250 frozen green peas
1 tl grated horse radish
1 dl canola oil
1,5 dl sunflower seeds
3 tbsp lime juice
salt to taste
I threw the peas quickly to boiling water, strained them and blended everything with a hand held blender.
Pesto Rosso – for Filling
2 dl sun dried tomatoes in oil + the oil
1/2 dl sunflower seeds
1 garlic clove
I blended everything to a paste with a blender.
Lemongrass Mayo Paste – for Filling
1/2 dl lemongrass mayo (Plamil)
1/2 dl vegetable margarine
salt to taste
I blended everything to a paste.
For a sandwich cake you need a tin – baked loaf of bread, and it should not be fresh, but dried out a bit. Cut off all the crusts, and slice the bread diagonally into three layers. My loaf was too long to fit in my cake container, so a cut into half and made a square – shaped cake by putting the halves next to each other. Then I filled the cake, and moistened it using oat milk. I used about 5 dl of oat milk for moistening. It is good to start a day before, and let the cake stay in the fridge overnight. The following day put on the icing and the other decorations. My “icing” was a paste made of peas, and it turned out very well, sticky and not runny at all (must be the proteins in peas).
I decorated the cake with lime slices, very thin slices of radish, red peppercorns and pinches of black vegan caviar.
Sea – Buckthorn Chocolate Bites
This is another one of those let’s just bake something with whatever ingredients there happen to be at hand – kind of thing. The sea – buckthorns grow quite close to where I’m living and were a result of urban foraging last autumn (me and my Australian guest, in almost total darkness). Sea – buckthorn is extremely rich in vitamin C, and a very challenging berry to pick because of the nasty thorns in the bushes. It is also very, very sauer, almost bitter in taste, and does need a bit of sugar to be truly delicious.
4,5 dl flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tl bourbon vanilla powder
1 dl cocoa powder
2 dl sugar
100 g dark chocolate, chopped
0,5 dl oil
4 dl oat milk
1 tl vinegar
Mix the dry ingredients and then add the oat milk, oil and vinegar. Pour the batter into a greased and floured oven pan, size 20 cm x 15 cm. Bake in 200 °C about 4o minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool, and decorate with
Sea Buckthorn Icing
2 dl powdered sugar
1 dl frozen, thawed sea – buckthorn berries
Grind the berries through a sieve, to get rid of the seeds, and then mix the remaining paste with powdered sugar. Sprinkle on top of the chocolate cake. I also used some silver cake pearls for a finishing touch.
An open heart is something to I’d like to wish everyone, open to hold the world, open for freedom and commitment both. No sweet Valentine’s gifts from me, no junk to show that I care. Since I don’t, at least about any businesspeople getting rich with people’s earnest needs to be loved and cared for. Or maybe I’m just bitter since the only Valentine’s Day greeting that I can count on comes from dear Maman? But a pair of lovely yellow mittens, knitted with guaranteed love to protect my hands is not bad at all, maybe enough to turn my hardened heart a bit soft on Valentine’s Day… So suddenly I found myself thinking about red food, and about a pretty red cake, and maybe a pink smoothie to go with it.
Being not keen at all on artificial colourings and such I went for dear old beetroot in search of a red hue (did you know that beetroot can be used to make a home made lip gloss?). My previous experiences with beetroot baking had not been so very splendid, so a retake was in order. But alas, after baking my oh – so – pretty pink batter I found out that the insides of my reddish beetroot cupcakes were a shade of a bright yellow! Yellow is the colour of envy and jealousy, versus red as the colour of love and passion. Perhaps not the message you should convey on Valentine’s Day…
Beetroot Cupcakes with Hazelnut and Chocolate Spread
4 dl wheat flour
1 dl sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp egg replacer (optional)
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 dl shredded coconut, toasted on a dry pan
1 dl oil
2 dl oat cream
1 dl oat milk
1 tsp strawberry vinegar
120 g hazelnuts
1 dl coconut oil
1 dl powdered sugar
1 dl cocoa powder
a dash of vanilla
a pinch of salt
I wanted the beetroot to be as finely grated as possible, so I used my funky juicer from the 70’s. I juiced the beetroot, and combined the juice and the left over beetroot pulp, which resulted about 1 dl of beetroot mush. I mixed this mush with the rest of the wet ingredients. Then I combined in bowl the dry ingredients, and added the wet. I poured the batter into muffin forms and baked the cupcakes about 20 minutes in a 200°C oven.
The icing is kind of a homemade Nutella. I made it by first grinding the hazelnuts in a food processor until powdered, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. I put this to the fridge to cool and harden a bit, though it is a bit tricky to handle if it is too cool, especially if you want to pipe it. If it is too warm, it will be runny and cannot be piped either.
Red Berry Smoothie
This is an obvious recipe, but maybe worth remembering that in the long run it maybe healthier for your heart than chocolates (would dear Maman say).
1 dl frozen red currants
1/2 dl cashews, soaked overnight
1 dl oat milk
1 tsp lucuma
1 tsp maca
Blend all the ingredients!
Filed under: Drinks, Sweets | Tags: chai, chocolate, nut, rocky road, vegan
Once upon a time, in the faraway land of Australia, there was a strictly vegan Christmas celebration, up the road leading from the hamlet of Channon to Protestors Falls (which are indeed named after a group of successful environmental activists). There lived Mel and Jane, my two gorgeous Australian friends, in a house that was perched midway on a hill, like so many houses are in that region.
Northern New South Wales is full of alternative people and back – to – the – landers, colourful markets where hippies try to rip off tourists, ecovillages hidden in the bush and endless parties, with groovy music, vegan chocolate cakes and cuppas of chai. The hills grow other stuff than just eucalyptus, and that is one of the reasons for the prosperity of the local hippies. In Northern New South Wales it is not unusual at all to visit the monthly market dressed in a pair of wings, three layers of colourful skirts and curve – tipped fairy boots. And the parties! How they dance, dreadlocks flying, skirts swinging and the whole house going up and down with the beat of the didgeridoo! And afterwards, you jump with your friends into a van that runs on homemade biodiesel and drive an hour to the nearest beach, to have a plunge in the moonlit waves.
Around Christmastime, I happened to be staying with Mel and Jane up the Channon road. Their house was a vegan sanctuary and they were quite strict not to allow any animal products in the house. They had decided to celebrate Christmas by holding a gathering for their friends, and prepared vegan delicacies for the occasion. There was vegan sushi, vegan mudcake and vegan rocky road on the menu, as well as vegan lasagna, if I remember correctly. Christmastime is full summer in Australia, and extremely hot, so we went with our picnic down to a little creek that runs nearby. That lazy hot afternoon with non – traditional Christmas food is still one of my funniest adulthood Christmas memories, and so since I now happened to get some vegan marshmallows I decided to remake part of the memory.
There are certainly a thousand different rocky road recipes on net, generally they contain nuts, peanut butter, turkish delight, marshmallows and chocolate in some form. The idea is to drizzle the ingredients on a non- sticky surface and then cover with melted chocolate so that everything will stick together. Mine was simply accomplished by combining all the ingredients I found in my cupboard. For some reason this chocolate is really sticky, and I’m not sure whether that’s because of the honey. If you simply melted some chocolate, the end result would certainly be less sticky, and you’d get a pretty surface with all the goodies neatly layed out, instead of boring brown bars like I did.
1 dl vegan marshmallows, cut in halves
1 dl hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 dl coarsely chopped dried apricots
1 dl dried cranberries
1 dl toasted pumpkin seed
a small handful of dried chokeberries
a small handful of cocoa nibs
150 g cocoa butter
2 dl cocoa powder
280 g organic honey
a pinch of chillipowder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp bourbon vanilla powder
2 tbsp cognac
First I sprinkled all the nuts etc. on a greased round oven pan (27 cm in diameter). Then I carefully melted the cocoa butter on low heat, and blended in the cocoa powder, spices and honey. Then I poured this mixture over the nuts and other things, and allowed it to cool down in the fridge (in a hurry? Just stick it to the freezer for 10 minutes, I have learned from Yaelian).
Chai is the favourite hippie sweet drink. I’ve never been to India, and I have no idea how the original thing is made, but I’ve learned that there are as many ways to making chai as there are hippies in the world. Basically chai is a very sweet spicy milky tea: you can make it with organic dairy milk, with rice milk, with soy milk, with coconut milk, with or without black tea. My chai is made with seven heavenly spices: ginger, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, vanilla and cardamom. I usually like a bit of black tea in it too, and for sweetening I think honey is just right. Clove is a slightly dangerous spice, so use it with caution!
5 dl water
5 dl rice milk (etc)
3 cm piece of fresh ginger, cut into rounds
5 black peppercorns
15 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
7 whole cloves
a dash of bourbon vanilla powder
1/4 of a whole nutmeg, chopped
1 black teabag
1 tbsp honey
Filed under: Baking, Cooking | Tags: almond paste, cake, chocolate, pasta, zucchini
Do you know the feeling: nothing is no good, life is boring, no one likes you (least the significant person) and indeed, your not – at – all – fascinating garden appears to be overflowing with stupid zucchini! I bet at least some of you ladies out there know what I’m talking about here… So beriddled with this cursed bad vibe and heaps of zucchini, I decided to make some comfort food for myself. Keeping in mind that chocolate and carbohydrates should do the trick, I made some pasta with a sauce with almond paste and a chocolate zucchini cake, using a recipe that used to be my favourite once. The cake did not turn out very well, since it was not sweet enough, and the pasta was way too salty. Buhuhuhuuu!!
Pasta with Zucchini and Almond
1 clove garlic
1/2 dl almond butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
oil for frying
2 dl whole wheat pasta
3 liter water for cooking
I chopped the onion and garlic, and fried them on a frying pan for a couple of minutes. Then I added the sliced zucchini. I fried this until the zucchini looked more or less limp. Then I added the almond butter, the lemon juice and salt, and kept stirring it a couple of minutes on medium heat. Meanwhile, I had also boiled the pasta in salted water and drained it in a colander. Some people say that the cooking water for pasta should be as salty as the mediterranean sea, but tin this dish I definetely overdid the amount of salt. At last I mixed the pasta and the sauce, and decorated the dish with a few marigold petals.
Zucchini and Chocolate Cake
6 dl all purpose flour
4 dl grated zucchini
2,5 dl sugar
1,5 dl cocoa powder
1 dl chopped hazelnuts
2 dl canola oil
2 tsp baking soda
1,5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp egg replacer
1 tbsp potato starch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bourbon vanilla powder
3 – 4 dl soy milk (depends a bit on the zucchini how much liquid you need)
1 tsp white vinegar
This is easy: if you have already chopped up your hazelnuts and grated your zucchini, then you just need to mix the dry ingredients, and after that add the milk, vinegar and oil. Mix thoroughly but don’t overdo it. The batter should have the consistency of a very thick pancake mix. Pour the batter into a greased, floured cake tin (about 24cm in diameter) and bake in a 180°C oven for about 45 – 60 minutes. The vinegar is in the recipe, because it helps the raising agent (baking soda) function better. Don’t ask me what’s the actual chemical reaction, since I don’t know, but I’m sure there are lots of people who can explain it splendidly. One explanation I found here.
And also, the amount of sugar should be right in this recipe, I added some when writing it down, since the cake that I made really was not sweet enough for my sweet tooth. I don’t know why the recipe was not so good this time, since I’ve really baked a lot with it, even made a wedding cake with the recipe! But I am suspecting the type of muscovado sugar I was using, since it really is not that sweet. Check also out the zucchini and chocolate cake Sara from Innocent Primate made.
Presently, I am cooking for a bunch of Alternative People of Finland. They have decided to make a movie about Kalevala – the Finnish National ephic poem – and wanting to make it hit the box offices big time too. They just went to do some shooting to an island, and among the food that I made for them was this little hippie treat:
Mint Chocolate Balls
(about 20 pieces)
300 g vegetable margarine
2,5 dl brown sugar
5 dl oat flakes
1 dl cocoa powder
1 dl fresh peppermint (chopped)
2 dl grated coconut
This is so simple to make: I chopped the mint finely, mixed all the ingredients, and then made balls of it, and rolled them a bit on plate that was filled with grated coconut.
We’ll see about the movie…
Filed under: Baking, Cakes | Tags: cake, champagne, chocolate, strawberry, vegan
There was some leftover champagne from my working place, and I felt such a shame to throw such luxurious stuff away. So I was wondering what I could make out of it. I found some non – vegan recipes for champagne cakes, and decided to try to make something like that, but vegan. I also thought what would go well with the taste of champagne: traditionally it’s often strawberries and chocolate… So this is the end result: a vegan strawberry champagne cake with chocolate topping! So I made this cake for my friend Pinja’s birthday party.
100 g vegetable margarine
2 dl frozen strawberries, pureed
4 1/2 dl wheat flour
21/2 dl sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp egg replacer
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp bourbon vanilla powder
2 dl champagne (or sparkling wine)
150g vegan dark chocolate (good quality)
50g vegetable margarine
1,5 dl powdered sugar
1 tbsp red berry juice concentrate
First I melted the vegetable margarine in a pan, and set in my cold outer corridor to cool down. Then I pureed the strawberries, using a handheld mixer. After that I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then added the pureed strawberries, the champagne and finally the margarine, careful not to beat it too much. Voilá! The consistency of the cake batter seemed right away perfect! I poured it into a greased cake tin, about 24cm in diameter and baked in the oven that was preheated to 175 C about 40 minutes, until the cake was nicely brown and did not stick to the edges of the cake tin. I put the cake to my corridor to cool, and after about two hours added the topping.
The topping was simply made by melting the chocolate and adding the margarine to it, and then beating the mixture smooth. It is indeed a very good idea to melt the chocolate in a microwave oven, if you have one, since otherwise it is too easy to get water into the mixture, which will make the consistency crumbly. I put the cake again cool down, and when the topping had hardened, I decorated it with a letter P that I made out of marzipan, and hearts that I made out of the powdered sugar and red juice paste. The juice a used is something that has been hanging around in the fridge for ages, and it has become rather thick, so it gives out a very nice colour. I usually just use an old plastic bag (the brand Minigrip is good, or any other bag with a distinguishable corner) when decorating, I pour the paste into a corner of the bag and, squeeze tight and cut off the corner. Then it is possible to draw all kind of nice shapes on top your cake.
I suppose that in this recipe it would be very much possible to use sparkling wine instead of champagne. The champagne that I used was rather dry, so if you are using something more sweet, maybe adjust the amount of sugar.
People at the birthday party liked the cake well enough, even if I did not think it tasted much like champagne or strawberries… they said that it was “a cake for grown – ups”, whatever that means, and said that there was definitely a taste of champagne in it. As an afterthought I would next time perhaps make the cake a layered cake, and put the strawberries in between the layers, to make the taste clearer.