Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake

A few weeks ago, I found myself channel surfing and consquently fixated on an episode of Nigellissima, where a Nutella Cheesecake was being born. “Utter brilliance”, I thought. I love chocolate-anything. It was a fairly straight forward recipe and all the ingredients were pre-packaged. As I began to mull over how to make a vegan version of this, I found myself getting a little too carried away and complicating things.

I’ve held back greatly on the many ideas whirring around in my head here – the one thing that I wasn’t going to compromise on, though, was a gluten free base. And one that doesn’t use packaged biscuits – because I’ve done that before. I wanted to try something different, so the base is an adaptation of this recipe – literally the first Google search result for “vegan rice crispy recipe”.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 4

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake

The Base:

4 C Crispy Rice Cereal, NOT soft puffed rice (read the ingredients, most brands list “barley malt” which contains gluten, check your health food aisle rather than the cereal aisle)
1/8 C Flax Meal
1/2 C Agave Nectar
1/3 C Hazelnut Butter/Spread (or other nut butter of your choice – almond or peanut would also be good!)
1 t Vanilla Extract
Vegan margarine, such as Nuttelex

  • Lightly grease a 25cm springform pan with vegan margarine, then line with baking paper. You can use a smaller springform tin, but don’t use a larger one.
  • Pule 3 C of the crispy rice cereal in a food processor or high speed blender until broken up, but not powdery. Place in a mixing bowl with the remaining 1 C of crispy rice cereal and the flax meal.
  • On low heat in a small pot, stir together the agave nectar, hazelnut butter and vanilla extract. Once combined, pour into the mixing bowl and mix, mix, mix! If you’re afraid to get your hands dirty, you can wear gloves.
  • Press mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the springform pan and leave in the fridge to set for an hour or so.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 3

Because all the vegan chocolate spreads I have access to are allergen-friendly, they’re nut free – which means I had to mix together chocolate spread and hazelnut butter to get the “Nutella” effect. I found this frustrating at first, but later realised that it’s great if you want to change it up and use a different nut (e.g. peanuts or almonds).

The Filling:

300g Dark Chocolate Spread (I used the fair trade Oxfam one, which is available at Woolies)
100g Hazelnut Butter/Spread (or other nut butter of your choice)
2 tubs + 2 TBSP Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (500g)
3/4 – 1 1/4 C GF Icing Sugar (3/4 C will give you a bittersweet dark chocolate taste, whereas 1 1/4 C will give you a more widely palatable milk chocolate taste)
3 pinches of Salt

  • Bring the cream cheese to room temperature, then beat with the chocolate spread and hazelnut butter.
  • Sift in the icing sugar and beat until smooth and combined.
  • Pour into the springform pan on top of the rice crispy base and leave to set overnight.
  • Carefully remove from springform pan and place on a plate or platter.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 1

The Topping:

1 C Strawberries, sliced
2-3 TBSP Hazelnuts (or other nut of your choice)
Agave

  • Roast the hazelnuts at 150C for about 10 minutes; keep an eye on them. When the skins start to split, remove them from the oven and leave to cool. You can remove the skins the slow/hard way (by hand), or you can rub a handful of them in a clean tea towel. You don’t need to remove all the skins, just the loose ones. Leaving some on will give you some extra texture and a rustic look.
  • Roughly chop the hazelnuts.
  • Scatter the strawberries on the cake, followed by the chopped hazelnuts, then lightly drizzle some agave on top.

Decadent Choc Hazelnut Cheesecake 2

Voilà! A party favourite that will literally get devoured before any other dessert on offer (that’s a tried and true fact).

Tips:

  • Serve this straight from the fridge. If you let it cool or serve it on a hot day, it’ll soften and be more of a mousse-cake than a cheesecake!
  • If using peanut butter, make sure you select one that’s natural/doesn’t contain any salt or sugar.

Death Star Cake Pops

Well, here it is: Mr. AA’s birthday “cake” – a fleet of nerdy, edible Death Stars.

Death Star Cake Pop - Vader 1
Darth Vader endorses Death Star cake pops.*

Despite them being a bit of a “craze”, I didn’t really know much about cake pops until this experiment – and although I did a bit of research and asked a friend of mine plenty of questions, I still ran into a few problems. I’ll talk you through the process with some photos below.

First up, I was horrified to learn that the inside of a standard cake pop is crumbled cake mixed with icing to bind it all together. This just seems like WAY too much sugar for my liking. Mr. AA isn’t much of a sweet tooth, so I tried to find a way around this by purchasing one of these silicone moulds that will bake your cake into spheres (hence eliminating the icing altogether). I thought this was a rather brilliant solution. The outside of a standard cake pop is made from “candy melts” – something that isn’t even remotely vegan. The next best thing? Melt some chocolate. Easy peasy.

To make the process a little quicker, easier and gluten-free-friendly, I started by using an Orgran cake mix. This back fired on me a little – the gluten free gal I shared them with thought they were great, but this was hands down one of the worst cakes I’ve ever tasted. It was rubbery in texture and fairly bland. You could tell it was made with water and the sugar and chocolate flavours just weren’t strong enough. The cake mix also didn’t rise too well, leaving my spheres a little flat and lop sided.

Death Star Cake Pop Tray
Silicone cake pop tray in action. Cakes pictured contain gluten.

So… I went ahead and made two more batches of cake batter from scratch. I used the “basic chocolate cupcakes” and “simple vanilla & agave nectar cupcakes” from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. These worked brilliantly – they rose the right amount and tasted amazing.

Tips/notes:

  • Use a cupcake recipe rather than a cake recipe for the batter.
  • Don’t be conservative – fill the pods to the top.
  • The holes in the top half of the silicone tray are for releasing steam. Don’t try and poke your sticks through there.
  • Place the silicone tray on a metal tray or it’ll flop around and you’ll make a mess with your batter.
  • After cooking, leave to cool for a couple of minutes before peeling off the top half of the silicone tray.
  • Leave to cool a little longer before removing the spheres and popping onto a cooling rack. If you’re having trouble removing the balls, poke a sharp toothpick into the sides to help loosen them.

DS Cake Pop Insert Stick

Right. Next! I was told by more than one person that the best way to get your stick to stay in there comfortably is to freeze the balls, melt some chocolate, dip the stick in melted chocolate and insert into frozen balls. The freezing probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it helps. Trust me. It means your cake won’t fall apart in your hands when you’re trying to push the stick in and the cold temperature will set the chocolate fairly quickly.

Death Star Cake Pop Cut Out

Now that the sticks are in, it’s time to cut out the “dish”. You can skip this step if you’re making regular cake pops, but who would want regular cake pops when they could have DEATH STAR CAKE POPS. Am I right?

Whether you want to freeze these for a little while again or not is totally up to you. If it’s a hot day, I’d recommend it. If not, grab your paring knife and get started. I hope this part is fairly self explanatory, as I didn’t take any photos or video of me doing it. But basically a small, sharp, pointy knife will go a long way in making this easy for you.

Time to put these back in the freezer (yes, again). At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m a little insane, so I’m just going to point out two things. 1/ I really really love Mr. AA and 2/ I worked on these 3 nights in a row after work. They didn’t come together in a few hours… So yes, they will require some love, time and effort.

DS Chocolate Coating

The next step is to melt some chocolate. You don’t need a special pot for this – I used a small pot with some water in it and a ceramic bowl on top. The golden rule is: don’t let the boiling water touch the bowl. If it does, your chocolate will over heat and be ruined to the point of no return.

You’ll need a chunk of polystyrene for this – I recommend making a series of holes in it in advance with a skewer or screw driver. Leave it in the freezer.

Cover each cake pop with melted chocolate by dipping it into the bowl and twirling it around. Tap on the edges of the bowl until all the excess chocolate drips off, then stand it in the polystyrene in the freezer. Repeat for each individual cake pop. This process is a little slow and painful, but worth it.

Tips/notes:

  • If you’re using dark chocolate, you won’t have any issues. If you use white, chocolate, however, you’ll find that it doesn’t melt down quite as thin. In fact, it’ll still be fairly thick and difficult to work with. Whisk in a little canola oil to help thin it out. If you don’t, your bowl will be full of cake that has been torn off by the thick chocolate. It might make you cry. Or swear. Or both.

You’re nearly there…

Death Star Cake Pop Fleet

I painted these guys with some cheap paint brushes, as I don’t have air brushing tools. It worked fine, but you’ll need to leave the base coat to dry for a few hours before painting on the smaller details.

Tips/notes:

  • Don’t take these out of the freezer and try to paint them on a really hot day. Condensation will keep building up on the chocolate making it near impossible to paint – especially since the paint is water soluble.

Death Star Silver Food Paint

I used this silver food paint, which claims to be both vegetarian and gluten free. As far as I could tell, it’s also vegan – however ingredient E110 states “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”. Probably not the best thing to be putting into your body, but I made an exception for this special occassion.

There wasn’t enough difference between the light & dark shades of silver paint, so I mixed some black food colouring into the dark silver which made it show up a lot better against the light silver, but it also reduced the colourfast-ness of the paint and resulted in silver lips while eating. Oh well. It’s ok to look like a space man once in a while!

So there you have it – a lengthy tutorial on a special Star Wars dessert.

Death Star Cake Pop - Vader 2

*This is not an official endorsement; I’m just being silly.

Chocolate Mousse Crumble

This is a semi-raw, rich & creamy mousse that’s dairy, gluten and egg free! There’s a hint of coconut flavour from the coconut milk, but you can’t taste the avocadoes at all, I promise. The tartness of raspberries cuts through the richness of this nicely – I recommend serving with fresh or defrosted raspberries (or any other berry), or a berry coulis.

I made this on a whim tonight, with a list on ingredients but no guidance on quantities. A huge thanks goes out to my friend Jodie for the inspiration.

Choc Mousse Crumble
Serves 10

Mousse:
3 Haas Avocadoes
270ml Coconut Milk*
2 TBSP Raw Cacao Powder
1/4 C + 2 TBSP Agave Nectar

Crumble:
1/4 C Almonds
2 Pinches Cinnamon Powder

  • Blend together all mousse ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  • Divide mixture in a couple of silicone muffin trays. Your mixture will make 10 serves of mousse.
  • Pulse together crumble ingredients, sprinkle onto mousse and freeze for at least 3 hours. If you choose to freeze longer, remove individual serves from silicone tray and defrost in fridge for approx an hour before serving.

*I recommend choosing a full fat coconut milk that doesn’t contain emulsifier. In Australia, the Ayam brand is good! It has a clear definition between the milk and the solid cream layer on top.

Late Night Snack: Belgian Hot Chocolate

The other day, Mr. AA took me out for brunch and on the way back to the car, I made a beeline for a boutique chocolate store I’d never been to before – Indulge. The display window was pretty exciting and overwhelming, but none of the pre-packaged shelf items listed ingredients which made me nervous.

After asking about what was vegan/dairy free, I discovered that the choices were pretty limited. In fact, they were sorely disappointing. I was pointed to a small tray of solid dark chocolates in the display case which triggered instant boredom (I think I accidentally made a “face” at them!) – then the lady behind the counter pointed to some Belgian hot chocolate on the shelf behind me – SOLD.

Belgian Hot Chocolate

I had some that night with some fresh, home made almond milk in front of the fire at home. What a perfect way to end a chilly winter evening! It’s been a long time since I had a Belgian hot chocolate – and I’ve never had the luxury of enjoying one in the comfort of my own home; $9.95 for that little bag might seem a little steep, but it’s definitely worth it… Especially if you can make it last.

Choc Beet Cake

I was feeling inspired when I saw Cindy & Michael from Where’s The Beef? post a beetroot chocolate fudge cake recipe. I mean… In what world does that NOT sound amazing, right? They were kind enough to direct me to the original recipe that they adapted from The Fairest Feed, which was vegan. I made this twice with my own little string of adjustments – one of which was the cooking time. Thirty five minutes definitely wasn’t enough, even for my out-of-this-world fan forced oven. I also thought this was just as good (if not better) with a light dusting of gluten free icing sugar, as opposed to icing… And I wouldn’t argue with you if you wanted to serve it with some vanilla or coconut ice-cream.

Below is my adapted recipe, which works a charm even with gluten free flour, so my wonderful celiac readers won’t miss out! Oh and for anyone concerned, you can’t taste the beetroot and it dissolves when it bakes, so you won’t find any stringy red bits in there and if you do, well… You’ve done something wrong.

Choc Beet Cake
Serves 9-12, depending how big you like your slices of cake.

1 1/4 C + 2 TBSP Plain Flour (gluten free if required)
1 1/2 C Caster Sugar
3/4 C Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 C Soy Milk
1 C Water
3/4 C Canola Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
3/4 C Fresh Beetroot, peeled & grated
Icing Sugar for dusting (gluten free if required)

  • Preheat oven to 180C & grease a cake tin with some Nutelex/dairy free marg. You can use whatever shaped cake tin you like – I used a square one.
  • In a mixing bowl, sift and stir together the dry ingredients.
  • Add the soy milk, water, oil & vanilla. Stir until no obvious lumps remain.
  • Add the grated beetroot and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Pour batter into cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. Forty minutes will leave your cake a little fudgy inside – I thought this was nice, but Mr. AA didn’t dig it because get this – he doesn’t like the taste of raw cake batter! Forty five minutes should cook this right through without drying it out. A toothpick should come out clean. If you have an older/slower oven, don’t be afraid to leave it in for an extra 5 minutes if it’s still wet in the middle.
  • Leave to cool in the cake tin for around 5 minutes before tipping out onto a wire cooling rack. If you get impatient, your cake will fall apart and you’ll cry.
  • When cake has cooled, tip it onto a serving plate and dust with icing sugar, then chow down.

Recipe Review: Snickers Inspired Cupcakes

Snickers Inspired Cupcakes

Snickers Inspired Cupcakes

This recipe caught my eye the other day for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a mere day or two earlier, I’d been reminiscing about Snickers chocolate bars (let’s face it, they’re awesome – but sadly they’re not vegan) and secondly, unlike every other Snickers inspired cupcake I’d seen on the web, these had a peanut butter cupcake base as opposed to a chocolate one. SOLD.

Having to make three different toppings for these might have normally been a turn-off for me, but I didn’t let it phase me today. In fact, once the cupcakes were in the oven, I made the chocolate topping and the chocolate mousse without any hassles. Easy peasy. The only thing I did different was use Tofutti cream cheese instead of Kingland because Tofutti was all I could get.

I was pretty dubious about the mousse. I’ve tried using soy cream cheese before for a savoury dip and it was pretty awful. In fact, one of the non-vegan guests compared the texture to “eating putty”. Sadly, I agreed with her. Anyway, that’s another story and as it turns out, there’s something about Tofutti cream cheese’s texture that has changed in the past couple of years because this chocolate mousse is the best freakin’ mousse I’ve ever had – both pre and post vegan. I might have even eaten a few tablespoons of it on its own. It’s fluffy, creamy and decadent.

I was dreading making the caramel the most because I’ve never made caramel before. Sure enough, on my first try, I failed. It clumped up. I did it all wrong. At this point, instead of taking it as personally as I normally would and bursting into tears, I had a nap, followed by a shower and then tried again. Attempt #2 was perfect; only change that I made was cooking it on low heat instead of high. It was much less stressful and worked! WOAH & HUZZAH!

The Verdict: Excellent. The photo on The Compassionate Cook‘s blog definitely doesn’t do these justice. I’d absolutely make these again and recommend them to others. The toppings are just the right thickness to work with (not too runny or gluggy) – this really impressed me. They’re super sweet though – one is enough. All of my test subjects (family and co-workers) loved these and assured me that there’s no way they would have suspected that they were vegan; and my diabetic father in law naughtily snuck in TWO when we weren’t watching!

Recipe Notes:

  • If you have a fairly new fan forced oven, you won’t want to leave these in for a full 20 minutes; 18 should be plenty. I left mine in for the full 20 because I wanted to stay true to the recipe (afterall, I couldn’t review it fairly if I was doing my own thing!) but I ended up with a crust on them and a few burnt bits.
  • Using three kinds of sweetener in the cupcakes seems a little excessive and the end result is pretty sweet, so if you don’t have/can’t find agave syrup, just leave it out. Honestly, I doubt you’ll miss it.
  • The rice milk & apple cider vinegar didn’t curdle for me and it probably won’t for you either; I think the “curdling” method works best with soy milk. Don’t sweat it though – this doesn’t affect the end result.
  • Refrigerate your mousse before piping it onto the cupcakes.
  • Follow the instructions. For the love of God, just do it. Otherwise, like me, you might have to make your caramel twice… And that’s a whole lot of stickiness.
  • Make your caramel on low heat and dress your cupcakes with it fairly quickly. If you let it sit, it will start to solidify and you won’t be able to work with it.
  • The original recipe says this makes 12 cupcakes but I made 18 and still had some batter left over.

(r)Adelaide: Cocolat & Namaste

Cocolat
283 Rundle Street (East End)
Adelaide SA 5000
AUSTRALIA

Cocolat

Cocolat is, without a doubt, a chocolate lover’s wet dream – however it’s a vegan’s nightmare. So what happens when you’re both a chocolate lover and a vegan? Well – you end up pretty damn disappointed.

I’m not going to lie to you guys – everything in the cabinets at Cocolat looked pretty damn spectacular and if it had been vegan, I would have sampled the lot.

Cocolat truffles/cakes/desserts

About a week in advance, I emailed the store I was planning to visit but never received a reply. At first, I thought it was pretty rude – but there’s a chance my email went to their junk mail folder, so I’ll try not to hold that against them. I decided to risk making a visit there anyway and upon arriving and asking about what was dairy free, I had to wait for someone to call the manager. Admittedly, this was pretty annoying. Shouldn’t there be an ingredients list for all their items somewhere?

The guy (who was actually pretty friendly – zero complaints about the staff in that respect) came back shortly afterwards to tell me that only three items didn’t contain dairy and one of them was sold out.

Cocolat ice-cream & sorbet

I made a dramatic sad face and walked away with a dark “chocolate frog” and an “almond splinter”. The dark chocolate was pretty average/nothing to write home about. I did, however spot some sorbet in the freezer cabinet which turned out to be vegan, so I tried the lemon and the blood orange flavours which were exceptional. The blood orange was just like sherbet! Yummy.

Cocolat Vegan Options

All in all, while everything looked delicious I can’t comment on the taste of many things. If you have a special dietary requirement, Cocolat is not very accommodating. Even though soy milk was on the menu, I couldn’t even order one of their famous hot chocolates because the chocolate was pre-mixed with dairy cream.

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Namaste
41 George Street
Parkside SA 5063
AUSTRALIA

Namaste

My work dinner at Namaste (a Nepalese restaurant) was a far better experience – the menu was clearly labeled with options that were vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and lactose free. As it turns out, some of the vegetarian options are actually vegan if you ask for a tomato dipping sauce rather than a yoghurt one.

I had the “Phulaura” as an entree – they were crispy balls made from black lentils, potato, cauliflower, chickpea flour, spring onion, spinach, and coriander. They were seriously awesome even without any dipping sauce. They were pretty mild in flavour and not overpowering at all.

For my main I had the “Kwati”, which was a 9 bean curry. The serve was pretty huge and the curry was bursting with flavour. Again, it was very mild/not spicy in the slightest.

We ordered some side dishes to share among the table: “buteko vunta” (stir fried eggplant which was a little greasy but sweet and delicious), “pharsi ko tarkari” (a pureed pumpkin curry that was mildly spiced) and “rayoko saag” (stir fried mustard leaves & spinach). Even though the eggplant was my favourite, I couldn’t help but be incredibly impressed with the greens which were still bright – nothing turns me off like over cooked leafy greens.

Namaste yummies!
I’m really sorry about the quality of this photo – I may have been a little tipsy when I took it!

My only disappointment at Namaste was that none of the breads were vegan so I was feeling a little left out when everyone else had the chance to mop up the sauces left on their plates. Honestly though – if that’s the only bad thing I have to say, you’ve gotta realise that this place was pretty impressive. The food was warming and hearty and the atmosphere was cosy.