Homegrown hazelnuts and raspberries (tartlets and biscuits)

(Nederlandstalige versie)

Over the years, my parents have grown a variety of beautiful fruits in their garden. Some of my favourites have been pears, plums, and strawberries, and currently they’re harvesting raspberries and hazelnuts. The only things I’ve managed to harvest from my own attempts at apartment gardening so far have been a handful of tiny tiny tomatoes and two peas, so I’m always excited by other people’s ability to grow food (especially if they’re willing to share).

Raspberries Hazelnuts

My mother knows how much I love edible gifts, so last month she brought me a little box of raspberries. They were so good I could’ve eaten them all straight away, but I wanted to save some to pair them with the hazelnuts: a homegrown dessert! (With a few ingredients from my kitchen cupboards.)

Hazelnut and raspberry tartlets

I baked these tartlets using this baking tin that my Grandma gave me. The tin is a little too shallow for muffins, but it’s perfect for little tarts that you can eat in one or two bites. The crusts consisted mostly of ground hazelnuts, flour, sugar, and cocoa, and the filling was a hazelnut milk custard with raspberries on top. The cocoa flavour in the crust wasn’t very strong (I’d meant to garnish them with grated chocolate) but hazelnut and raspberry turned out to be an excellent combination.

Because the hazelnuts were so fresh, they seemed to require a slightly longer baking time than usual: I roasted them at 175 °C (350 °F) for 30 minutes and they came out deliciously crispy and full of flavour. As a result, we (I) ended up eating a lot of them straight from the oven, but I also saved enough to use in salads, pestos, and desserts. The biscuits below were inspired by posts from Amey over at Vegan Eats and Treats!, who happened to post two hazelnut cookie recipes during the Vegan Month of Food.

Baci di dama Hazelnut biscuits

I made quite a few changes to both recipes with varying degrees of success (as the pictures illustrate) so this isn’t intended as a critical review of the recipes I link to. I just wanted to share my pictures and experiences, because the biscuits were a good way to showcase these beautiful hazelnuts!

On the left are baci di dama (“lady’s kisses”) which I based on David Lebovitz’ recipe after reading Amey’s post. I didn’t have a food processor so I ground the hazelnuts in a coffee grinder, and I didn’t have rice flour so I used plain wheat flour instead. I also halved the recipe and used sunflower oil instead of butter or margarine. My dough was too crumbly to be rolled into ropes, so I used a measuring spoon to place teaspoon-sized scoops on the baking sheet and that worked quite well. Mine definitely weren’t as pretty as David’s or as adorable as Amey’s, and they kept rolling over when I tried to fill them with chocolate, but it was all worth it because they are seriously delicious. The recipe yields 45 cookies which may seem like a lot, but they have a tendency to disappear very quickly once have a bowl of them in front of you.

On the right is my attempt at brutti ma buoni, another Italian hazelnut biscuit. This time I really made one too many changes — though I’m not sure which was the fatal one. Again, I used the coffee grinder to grind the hazelnuts (along with the flax seeds). I may have added too much sugar because the biscuits were super sweet. The main problem was that my biscuits spread out in the oven, turning into thin disks with crispy edges and chewy centres — not bad, but not what I was going for. They were also a little greasy, so I think I ground the hazelnuts just a little too long. The flavour reminded me of nougat. I’d like to try them again using a food processor to get them right, but they did live up to their name: ugly but good.

Chocolate raspberry tartlets and market produce

Chocolate raspberry tartletsWhen I came home from the market with two boxes of raspberries that needed to be used quickly (more on that below), I immediately thought of this amazing-looking white chocolate raspberry tart I’d seen on Celine’s blog. Unfortunately I didn’t have the white chocolate or silken tofu required for the filling, so I went with a slightly different idea and made mini dark chocolate tarts instead. I halved Celine’s crust recipe, replaced the whole wheat flour with plain flour as that was all I had left, added a little cocoa powder for extra chocolate flavour, and baked it in a muffin tin (about 8 minutes for 6 mini crusts). The filling is a recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky (Lagusta’s Chocolate Raspberry Pie) and even though I think I let the chocolate melt too quickly which prevented the ganache from firming up properly, I’m really happy with the way they turned out. I like that they’re not too sweet, so the flavour of the raspberries really shines. I’d love to try the white chocolate pie as well!

Back from the marketLately I’ve been buying most of my vegetables (especially the ones that tend to be overpriced at supermarkets) at a local market. After shopping there a few times at different times of day, I now try to go in the morning when it’s not too busy and there’s still a good variety of produce to choose from. I usually bring a limited amount of cash (say, €10) and stick to that as my budget. I often spend less than that and just bring as much as I can carry, which will last us for 1-2 weeks. And I’ve found some pretty good deals! Here’s what I brought home today:

– eight (striped) aubergines for €1
– a bag of tomatoes (also striped! couldn’t resist the gorgeous patterns) for €1
– five courgettes for €1
– three ears of corn for €1
– one watermelon for €1
– two artichokes for €2,60
– two boxes of raspberries for €1,50

I did my best to protect the raspberries while carrying them home, but some of them still got crushed in my bag. Oh well, all the more reason to eat them straight away! The mushier berries were perfect in the tart filling and most of the whole ones found their way into our mouths by the end of the day as well. I don’t buy fresh raspberries very often so they’re a wonderful treat.

The artichokes were a little more expensive than I’d hoped, but I decided to splurge on them anyway because I love artichokes and my boyfriend has never tried them! I’ve never cooked them myself so I’ll have to look through my cookbooks for tips first. I’m hoping to counter my boyfriend’s reluctance to try new vegetables by appealing to his love for foods that come with dipping sauces, so I need to make a good vinaigrette or mayonnaise (or both)! Any ideas? :)

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading my posts and/or leaving comments! <3 Hope you have a lovely day.

VeganMoFo 23: Cupcakes

Raspberry Cupcakes

I totally forgot to plan a VeganMoFo post for today! Please forgive me. I’m visiting a friend later and I already have to leave in about an hour. I probably won’t be home before twelve o’ clock tonight, so this old picture will have to do for the post! I uploaded it onto Flickr months ago, but I hadn’t posted it here yet, so here goes:

The cupcakes are based on a standard vanilla cake recipe that I wanted to experiment with. They were pretty good, but I’d like to try again and make them perfect! If only I knew where I’d put the recipe… It’s probably in a notepad file somewhere on my computer. I’ll have to look for it soon!

On top of the cupcakes is a simple mix of coconut cream, a little vanilla extract, and sweetener (I forgot what kind… I think it was agave or powdered sugar or maybe even vanilla sugar…). When I put regular frosting on a cake, people sometimes complain that it’s too sweet or too “heavy”. I hope a topping like this will be more to their liking! I did like it myself, anyway, so I’d love to experiment more with this, too.

We’re almost entering the last week of MoFo. It’s going by so quickly! I love reading all the posts, though, and I know I still have plenty of unread posts on here to keep me entertained for a while even when the Month of Food is over.

Have a nice day/weekend!

VeganMoFo 13: East Coast Coffee Cake

Speculaas East Coast Coffee Cake

The above is a variation on the East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch. If you own the book and have made the recipe, you’ll how good it is. After trying a few variations from the book, I wanted to try and make a speculaas-flavoured coffee cake. Here’s what I did:

I omitted the spices in the topping and used about a tablespoon of speculaas spices instead. I also added some chunks of almond paste to the cake batter and a layer of sliced apples between the cake and the topping. Lastly, I sprinkled the topping with a handful of sliced almonds.

I also made a couple of other changes to the batter itself (mostly due to lack of ingredients and laziness when it comes to grocery shopping), but I’m going to stick to the basic cake recipe again next time, because that was much better. The topping on this cake, however, is delicious! The spices in the original recipe are already pretty similar to speculaas, but the extra flavours worked really well in this variation. I also really like the crunchy almonds on top.

As much as I like this speculaas cake, I think the blueberry coffee cake from the book is still my favourite:

East Coast Coffee Cake with Blueberries

It’s perfect. It’s really just the basic recipe with blueberries added to the batter, but I love the simplicity because you can really taste the lovely berries and the delicious topping. It’s so good, I would serve this to anyone. Or eat it all by myself.

I also tried this variation:

East Coast Coffee Cake - Chocolate Raspberry

Chocolate and raspberry. While I love the two of these together, I can’t say I’m too crazy about them in combination with the cinnamon and nutmeg in the topping. I think I would have liked the cake with just the raspberries, but I would leave the chocolate out next time. It’s just a personal preference, I guess – I don’t like the combination of speculaas and chocolate, either!

Now I don’t mean to say that I didn’t like this cake at all (it was still good!) – it’s just not my favourite. I love the basic coffee cake recipe, though, and I want to try all the other variations listed in the book! If anyone has one they’d like to recommend, I’d love to hear about it…

VeganMoFo 4: Brunch on Sunday I

I’ve decided that I’m going to make brunch every Sunday for VeganMoFo (and possibly after that), as Sundays are always pleasantly lazy days that are perfect for a morning of cooking followed by a nice meal with family. I woke up a little late today, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to cook enough for a proper brunch. Everything went more smoothly than I had expected, though, so I ended up with plenty of delicious brunch food!

Most of these recipes are from my newest cookbook, Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I never used to make brunch all that often, so I feared I might not use the book very often. I was wrong. This is turning into my new favourite cookbook! I guess I just didn’t realise how versatile brunch really is. There are so many different recipes in the book, there’s something you can use for every type of meal. I’ve also started having more elaborate brunches since I got it, so it’s definitely not sitting on by cookbook shelf unused!

Now, on to the pictures.

Chocolate Beer Waffles

We started our meal with these waffles. They’re the Chocolate Beer Waffles from Vegan Brunch and they are so decadent and delicious. I wanted to make the chocolate drizzle Isa suggests in the description of the recipe, but I didn’t have enough non-dairy milk so I ended up mixing some melted chocolate with a little maple syrup and fruit juice for an extra rich chocolate sauce. We had some raspberries that were about to go bad and they went great with these waffles!

Tofu scramble

After that, I made tofu scramble! I had a little bit of tofu left in the fridge and it needed to be used, so I made a small batch of the Basic Tofu Scramble from Vegan Brunch. I downsized the recipe and didn’t really measure the spices, so the quantities probably aren’t exactly right, but it was quite tasty. I added a sliced onion and two tomatoes. Mmm. I really love that this scramble has such a soft texture, probably because of the water added to the spice mix. I think the softness makes the dish seem a little more similar to scrambled eggs and since my tofu scramble often tends to burn a little, I really like this technique.

Roasted Potatoes

To go with the scramble, I roasted a few potatoes using the VB recipe. I had made one of the variations before (paprika rosemary), but this basic version was great as well! I never knew how well potatoes go with tofu scramble, but now I try to have them together every time.

Tofu bacon

Next up, tofu bacon. I know, two types of tofu in one meal seems silly, but I really wanted to try the bacon and I had to use up the other piece of tofu somehow, too.

This is the “tempeh bacon revamped” recipe from VB, with smoked tofu instead of tempeh. As I mentioned before, I don’t have any liquid smoke, so I wanted to try and see whether smoked tofu would be a good replacement. Apart from the fact that I may have cooked them a little too long, these were tasty! The recipe takes very little work (you just throw the marinade together and let it sit for an hour), so I’m probably going to make it more often!

Fronch toast

Even though we had more than enough food for one meal already, I also fried up some  fronch toast. I had made a couple pieces of the Fronch Toast from Vegan with a Vengeance on Friday, and I had saved the rest of the mixture in the fridge, so it was ready to use! The leftover batter was enough to coat a couple of slices of stale ciabatta, and served with fresh blueberries and maple syrup, these slices made a lovely addition to the brunch!

I hope I can keep this “brunch on Sunday” thing up for the entire month, because this sure was delicious.