Category Archives: Vegan

Buckwheat tahini chocolate chip cookies (vegan, gluten-free)

Years ago, when I had my short-lived cookie stall on the local food market, I was never entirely satisfied with the free-from options I came up with for vegan, allergic, intolerant and orthorexic customers.

Via my sister in Sydney I’ve recently discovered Lancey Morris, aka Sweet Lancey, a very accomplished vegan baker who does a box delivery scheme over there. Wish I could order one of her treats boxes here! As I already love baking with nut butters (such as in my fave go-to cookie recipe), and use tahini (a kind of seed butter, if you will) in other cooking, both sweet (eg these brownies) and savoury (in hummus of course), it wasn’t a big leap to embrace her tahini chocolate chip cookies.

Lancey’s original recipe uses wheat flour, and that version is great. But I love using buckwheat flour too. Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) flour is just so tasty, and handily gluten-free if you’re of that inclination. It’s not even related to wheat, it’s related to rhubarb, sorrel and, er, Japanese knotweed.

The result is one of those great free-from recipes where you don’t eat them and muse about what’s missing.

These days, I’m finding Naturli’ Block is a great vegan butter-alternative here in the UK, as it doesn’t even include problematic palm oil* like most of the previously available non-dairy fats. It’s made with shea, coconut, rapeseed and almond. The tahini, meanwhile, is a great binder and enricher, so does a lot of the work of egg in other cookie recipes.

The other complication with vegan baking is chocolate. A lot of dark chocolate doesn’t contain dairy in the ingredients, but comes with the caveat “May contain nuts and milk”, due to potential contamination in the factory it’s made in. In terms of big brands available in British supermarkets, I got some Green & Blacks dark chocolate that was marked as vegan but this seems inconsistent across their range.

If you’re not vegan, this recipe works fine with dairy butter and whatever chocolate you prefer.

1. Cream together butter and sugars.
2. Add the tahini and keep beating until smooth.
3. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and add to the mixture, along with the salt.
4. Combine to clear, ie no visible bits of flour.

5. Add the milk and chocolate.

6. Wrap the dough (total weight approx 700g) and rest in fridge for half an hour or so.
7. Heat the oven to 180C and prepare baking sheets with silicon or baking parchment.


8. Make balls of dough. If you scale them at 40g, the recipe will make 18-ish.
9. Put the balls of dough on the prepared trays and push down slightly. Leave space, as they will spread.
10. Bake for around 18 minutes until nicely browned.
11. Cool on a rack.

I’ve also done another version where I chocolated them up even more, using 135g buckwheat flour, 20g cocoa and added some cocoa nibs. I do love trying to get as many chocolate products as possible into the same cookie. See my quintuple chocolate chip cookie recipe.

 

* This is of course a big topic, but palm oil production is deeply problematic. It’s often grown on huge plantations that have been created where tropical rainforest has been cleared, notably in Indonesia and Malaysia (which between them produce 90% of the world’s palm oil). So a hugely diverse natural environment has been destroyed and replaced by monoculture agriculture, where very few wild animals can survive.

Yet again, humanity deprives our fellow residents of this planet of their home. Just so we can have a cheap ingredient in our cheap supermarket biscuits. And indeed most supermarket biscuits do contain palm oil. Its use is very widespread in artificially cheap industrial foods – artificially cheap in that the cost to the consumer doesn’t factor in the cost to the planet. Which is soomething that has very much come back to bite us on the arse the last few years. Destroying rainforest exposes us to zoonotic organisms – that is, pathogens that jump from animals to humans, eg with SARS-CoV-2, which scientists mostly agree now jumped from bats or other mammals to humans.

Some products say they contain “sustainable palm oil” but I’ve never seen a credible explanation of what that means.

2 Comments

Filed under Biscuits, cookies, gluten free, Recipes, Vegan

Chocolate beetroot cake (vegan)

As my previous post patently indicated I’m not a vegan. But I am keen to keep building a repertoire of good plant-based bakes for when vegan friends visit, or just because reducing reliance on the environmentally problematic meat and dairy industry makes sense.

Not that consumer choices really make that much difference in the grand scheme of things. If only we had a political system where our elected representatives genuinely got on board and introduced the far-reaching environmental and energy policies we need, right now*. I’m deeply cynical that anything meaningful will come out of COP26. And deeply worried for the future. What a world we’ve created for our children.

In the meantime, as humanity continues to fail to galvanize in the face the climate emergency*, I’ll continue baking.

Anyway. In the same way carrots make for a nice, moist classic cake, beetroot does a great job of creating a moist, one-of-your-five-a-day, chocolate cake. I do chocolate beetroot muffins already, but this is another option. You can ice it with a (vegan) butter cream too. I had a little vegan margarine left so just added a layer of raspberry jam and choc butter cream in the middle, using some Chococo baking drops my mum had given us a while back.

I’ve had this recipe a while and originally used soya milk, but it’s a lot easier to get more vegan milk alternatives these days, and we always have oat milk. We prefer oat milk, and there are a couple of places in town now where you can get refills**.

400g vegan “milk”. I’ve used soy and oat.
30g white wine vinegar
200g vegetable oil
425g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
11/2 / 6g teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 / 4g teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
180g caster sugar
About 2 medium beetroots, peeled and grated. That is, about 300g before peeling, 250g peeled.

1. Oil and line two 20cm sandwich tins. Alternatively, use one larger tin if you don’t want a layer cake, say 25cm round or bundt.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C.
3. In a large bowl, combine the oat milk, oil and vinegar.


4. Sieve together the flour, cocoa powder and raising agents.
5. Add the flour mix, pinch of salt, and grated beetroot to the bowl and stir until well combined, with no patches of dry flour.


6. Pour the batter into the tins and bake for about 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
7. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and leave to cool on racks.
8. When cool, decorate how you like. As well as a filling, I dusted the top with cocoa and icing sugar. Previously I’ve done it and served it with a vegan chocolate custard made with soya milk, sugar, cornflour and cocoa.

It’s a pretty good cake. This particular one I made then fed to four kids after school. They ate it without batting an eyelid. We didn’t mention the beetroot. One thing I would say about a cake such as this compared to a non-vegan one is that it’s crumbly and not as rich. Butter and egg yolk give a fatty richness that I’m still working on finding with a vegan cake, plus they’re also better binders.

As I wrote this blog, I found out that the sister of my sister’s boyfriend in Sydney is an accomplished vegan baker called Lancey Morris. She has a page on her site about egg alternatives. I know about a lot of these things, it’s just learning how and when best to utilise them. I’ll be visiting Lancey’s site a lot in future I suspect.

* We galvanized to face Covid-19, producing a vaccine in record time. Even in the face of all the nonsense, lies, misinformation and false news (ie not news). The climate and environmental crisis (of which Covid is a factor, the result of our rapaciousness exposing us to more zoonotic organisms) is sadly accompanied by an even bigger barrage of lies and misinformation. But there’s some deeper psychology at work that seems to be stopping us from doing what we need to do. We’re a bizarre species, seemingly so determined to indulge in epic self-harm.
** Refills are expensive compared to just getting more in Tetra Paks from the supermarket. As with so many ethical food decisions, you pay more to do the right thing, which is a hard sell when so many people are suffering financially anyway. I did struggle with why oat milk refills are expensive – the producet itself mostly just oats and water, not expensive ingredients. But supermarkets have the economies of scale on their side, and sell diary milk as a loss leader – totally unrealistically price to keep customers loyal, but drive farmers into worse and worse practices trying to make a living themselves. Likewise they can offer Tetra Paks of oat milk, say, at a lower price than the small refill shops. Our agricultural and food supply chain is so riven with problems, even before Brexit and Covid made things even more difficult and expensive. Anyway, for us, avoiding some Tetra Paks at least means we’re using less wasteful packaging. It’s hard to even recycling Tetra Paks. Our local council doesn’t include them in kerbside recycling, and even if a carton recycling option is available to you, it’s a false economy. Tetra Paks and similar laminated cartons are made of such an awkward mix of foil, card and plastic, “recycling” them is arguably pointless. It’s highly energy inefficient to transport them to specialist recycling facilities then disassemble them. Even when they’re broken down, the resulting materials can’t all be recycled anyway. The Tetra Pak company does have environmental corporate social responsibility policies, but when its core product is so problematic, can such policies really compensate? Or is it just more corporate greenwash?

2 Comments

Filed under Baking, Cakes, Vegan