The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

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To egregiously paraphrase Dickens, though I’m sure he’s quite used to it by this point: you there! What day is it? Why it’s my annual edible gift recipe round up! 

In case this doesn’t make any sense, let me explain: each December I gather a list of recipes from my prior blog posts here on hungryandfrozen.com which I believe would make ideal edible gifts, in case you want some kind of prompting in that direction, despite having the entire internet already at your disposal. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process. I’ve kept a lot of the text in this post the same as last year’s as there’s only so many ways you can launch into this thing, and appreciate your understanding.

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This time last year I was naively hopeful that once 2021 drew to a close COVID-19 would be behind us but instead, it’s managed to get on top of us in new and innovatively terrifying ways. Just last week, after a quarter of the year spent in lockdown, I was (somewhat dramatically) not sure if Christmas would be happening at all, even now it feels like a bit of a mirage and I’m somehow overthinking it yet entirely unprepared at the same time. All of this is no reason not to cook though, if that’s what you like doing. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep (perhaps also with a note reassuring of your vaccination status if they’re a stranger that you’re giving something to). But even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake.

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, spices, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love beans? Get them beans! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

I realise to heaps of people Christmas is – quite reasonably – just another day of the week! But generally, there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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Anyway, let’s get to the list. I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the years.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from absolute years ago, as will happen when you have a fourteen-year-old food blog, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient that either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and makes an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

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Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune. I’ve made the first three (four, technically, since the Christmas Stars and Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits are basically the same) cookie recipes in this list a LOT this year and recommend them the most enthusiastically out of the biscuits on offer.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it. Note: unless you can find overproof vodka, the passionfruit and mandarin liqueurs won’t be ready in time for Christmas; either give the intended receiver an IOU, or save it for their birthday – or next Christmas.

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music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 Tony Awards performance of the musical Promises, Promises. If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I have a small tradition where I wait till December and then watch this extremely grainy video of a very goofy song being performed and CRY. (Here I need to really emphasise that this is absolutely not a song you’re supposed to cry at.) It’s Donna McKechnie’s rubber spine, it’s the diagonal thing they do at the end, it’s the anticipation, it’s Christmas, it’s everything.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals, by The Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Why am I consistently drawn to rap rock? Because it’s fun and great, that’s why!! (When does rap rock become nu metal? Not here, but I’m very happy on either side of course.)

The Only Heartbreaker, by Mitski. Anxious and beautiful and synthy! I don’t know what it is about synths, specifically, that makes me all “this song sounds like it has already existed. How can this be a new song” and here I am again saying that this song sounds like you already know it. I don’t mean that it sounds derivative of anything – I mean that it sounds like it was your favourite song from a long time ago and you’ve only just heard it again for the first time in forever. I guess the obvious answer is that synths sound like they’re from the eighties and it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve already heard it but I think it’s something more in the neon yearning quality of synths themselves? Anyway, I love it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Christmas Star Cookies

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My friend Harriet recently tweeted suggesting that Christmas be moved to every four years, like the Olympics, and as is usually the case with her opinions, I simply have to agree. I say this as someone who loves so much about Christmas – little brings me more joy than the scent of pine, a smooth jazz interpretation of a classic carol, experiencing some customary hustle and bustle, watching holiday episodes of TV shows, cracking open the seasonal text Nigella Christmas, and vibing near some baubles. Even so! It does seem to come around a little more often than usual these days, right? And all the things I like about it most are anticipative in nature – love Christmas Eve, routinely struggle to keep my head above water on Christmas Day itself – and what’s more anticipational than shifting the goalpost further away? And while we’re changing the fabric of western society, why not move Southern Hemisphere Christmas to July, in the middle of winter, where it belongs? Christmas in summer feels so gauche, trying to think about roast potatoes and fruitcake while also not being sure where the humidity starts and your violent sweating ends is no way to live!

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Unfathomably, no one’s put me in charge of anything yet, so till then we have to work with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is Christmas rapidly approaching like a fleet of sturdy, purposeful reindeer. And so with it goes the food. Real hungryandfrozen-heads will note that this recipe is literally the same as the biscuits I blogged about a few weeks ago, just a different shape and colour with some spices added, to which I say: that’s right! Recycling is chic! And surely you’re used to me doing it by now! For what it’s worth, my improved method of icing the cookies by dunking them directly into the bowl of frosting will save you absolute minutes, and they really do taste different with all the warm and friendly spices added – cinnamon, the spice of the season, plus ginger and a little clove, a batch of these in the oven will have your house smelling like a scented candle which smells like a batch of cookies baking, and I’m convinced it’s neurologically impossible to be around this much cinnamon and not feel the slightest bit merry and bright, even if you’re not sure why.

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Something about the particular combination of blue, white, and gold is monumentally pleasing to me – the colours feel very old-fashioned, like a dress that Lena Horne or Lana Turner might have worn, or like a mid-century tree ornament. Of course, you don’t have to make these star-shaped, nor do they need to be blue, nor do you need to track down specialty sprinkles. Any colour icing, any shape, any decoration, they’ll still taste excellent. This recipe is pretty easy – one bowl, quickly mixed, the dough behaves beautifully under the rolling pin and the finished biscuits are quite durable. If you’re looking for something to either laden your table with or to wrap up and give as a present, these cookies are an easy choice.

And you don’t even have to make these for any kind of Christmas-related reason! This is a cookie for all seasons. The sweetness of cinnamon, the calm-yet-almost-reckless nature of the blue food colouring – not to mention, the pure deliciousness – is welcome any time of year.

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Vegan Christmas Star Cookies

A seasonal variation on my hundreds and thousands biscuits, these cinnamon-spiced one-bowl vegan cookies are SO easy, and – if you choose to keep my blue icing with its night-sky scattering of white and gold – really quite beautiful. Most importantly, whichever shape or decoration you choose, these cookies are delicious. And for a more visual guide to the recipe below, see my tiktok. Recipe by myself. 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup treacle, golden syrup, or molasses
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup soy milk, oat milk, or similar

Icing:

  • 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • A few drops blue food colouring
  • White and gold sprinkles – about 80g

1: In a large bowl, mix the three cups of flour, the teaspoon of baking powder and baking soda, the pinch of salt and the quarter cup of sugar. It’s important to mix the dry ingredients together first to prevent any baking soda lumps – I also tend to sieve in the baking powder and baking soda to help with this.

2: Add in the two teaspoons of cinnamon, or three if you like, the teaspoon of ginger and the 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves. While these cookies can withstand a lot of cinnamon, I wouldn’t increase the ground cloves any more than this, unless you’re very certain of your preferences. Stir to combine, then make a well/excavate a little hole in the flour mixture with your spoon, and pour in the half cup oil, then the half cup of treacle – doing it in this order means the syrup will slide right out of the measuring cup – and the smaller quantity of milk. Stir everything together till it forms a rough, crumbly dough. If it’s too crumbly, add a little more milk. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for twenty minutes.

3: Meanwhile, set your oven to 190C/375F, and line a cookie sheet/flat baking tray with a large piece of baking paper. I find the dough to be pretty well-behaved and easy to roll out on a flat surface lined with baking paper, but depending on your capacity for doing dishes/the humidity levels etc you may wish to roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Either way, only roll out a smallish portion of the dough at a time so the rest can stay chilled in the fridge.

4: Cut star shapes (or, obviously, whichever shape you’d like using whatever cookie cutters you have) and transfer the stars to your baking paper-lined tray, continuing until your tray is pretty full. These cookies don’t really spread, so you can have them fairly close together on the tray. Bake the cookies for eight minutes (on the dot!) and shift them to a cooling tray while you continue rolling out, cutting, and baking the remaining cookie dough.

5: Once the cookies have cooled, place the 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar in a mixing bowl, along with about 2 tablespoons of water and either a couple of drops or dots of your food colouring. Whether you’re using liquid colouring or gel colouring, I find a toothpick inserted into the bottle then stabbed into the icing sugar to be the safest way of colouring the icing. You can always add more colour, but it’s very hard to take it back! Keep adding water, a small spoonful at a time, and stirring until you have a thick but pliant frosting. You can, if you like, just spread the icing straight onto the cookies, but I currently like to dip the cookies into the icing, then use a flat-sided knife to scrape off any excess – doing it this way is much quicker and less messy. Keep the layer of icing fairly thin, so it sets easily without dripping off, and place each iced cookie back onto the paper-lined baking tray (you may need to line another one to fit all the iced cookies on.)

6: Once you’ve iced five cookies, use a teaspoon to drop a little of the sprinkles over one side of the cookies, as you can see in the pictures. Continue, every five cookies – for me this was the ideal interval, because the icing wasn’t so wet that the sprinkles fell off, but it hadn’t firmed up too much yet either. Once the icing is completely firm and dry – I sat my cookies in front of a fan because it’s so humid here – store them in the fridge in an airtight container.

Makes about 34-ish cookies? Maybe more? If I may be frank with you I completely forgot to count them after they were baked, besides which the quantity of cookies all depends on the size and shape of your own cookie cutter anyway, but nonetheless, I apologise for not being able to offer specifics.

Note: I ordered my sprinkles online from a place called Sweet Pea Parties, they stock a charming range of decorating tools and ingredients and I happily recommend them.

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music lately:

Do You Love Me Now by The Breeders. I’ve listened to this song so many times that it feels like a meditation, it seems so much longer than its mere three minutes and yet there is never enough of it.

Return by Emma Ruth Rundle. It’s new, and it’s otherworldly beautiful, and that’s it really.

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t like this song when I first heard it on the radio in early 1990-something but sometimes songs just find you when they’re supposed to and now I am penitently and enthusiastically making up for lost time! (I hear what you’re saying – wasn’t I like, seven in the early 90s? Yes, and that’s no excuse for bad taste in music!)

Losing My Mind, from the musical Follies, specifically Liza Minnelli’s all-neon 1989 version. I’m still getting to grips with the death of Sondheim and staying immersed in his music and you wouldn’t necessarily think that one of his most delicate and poignant songs would work when smashed together with every last available synth, a four four beat, and the Pet Shop Boys’ production, but really, is there any place more poignant than the dancefloor? Somehow this – and a lot of it is to do with Liza’s gutsy voice and fully committed performance – is every bit as fragile as any acoustic version.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits [or, vegan cut-out cookies]

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“The enemy is the inner me“, said Nick Miller, eyes widened in recognition, in s2e7 of the TV show New Girl. “To thine own self be true”, wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet. Somewhere between these two cultural landmarks, I stand, acknowledging but not self-deprecating about the fact that despite my modestly well-travelled palate and my published cookbook and my food writing indiction and that time I was invited to two degustations in one week, the food expression I spiritually connect with, yearn for, and constantly seek to recreate most…is pink icing with hundreds and thousands sprinkles.

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I mean, I never claimed to be sophisticated – nor could I, you can practically hear the audience laughing uproariously at this notion – but it’s hard to explain my love of this combination. Experienced in the wild, the icing is at best artificially flavoured with fake raspberry but is usually just a vague, generic sugar paste, and speaking of vague, the sprinkles offer absolutely nothing taste-wise and barely anything texture-wise once they’ve softened into the frosting bed clinging them to the baked good beneath. But together? Somehow – transcendent! Immediate happiness! Is it mere nostalgia? My rambunctious undisciplined inner child? A shallow and superficial prioritisation of aesthetics?

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Well, whatever it is, pink icing and sprinkles is still cute, and no amount of psychoanalysis can take that away. And while this recipe is a kind of vegan recreation of the rainbow-studded Hundreds and Thousands biscuits that I grew up dazzled by, it’s also – for those of you not so preternaturally wedded to the aesthetic as me – a useful and reliable vegan cut-out cookie recipe for any occasion or frosting direction, limited only by your collection of cookie cutters. Christmas is the obvious one – in which case I might add some cinnamon and ginger to the dough – but any day of the week could, indeed, should, be cheered by a novelty-shaped, garishly iced biscuit.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan hundreds and thousands cookies • perfect cut out cookies for Xmas etc! recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #recipetok #vegan #cookies #fyp #nz #nzfood

♬ Taking a Chance on Love – Alma Cogan

And it’s not just about looks. These biscuits are delicious – of course! – I would never lead you up an ambiguous path – with the golden syrup offering a bordering-on-gingerbread intenseness, despite not a lick of ginger being present, and a softly dense texture. Fake raspberry flavouring is, to me, the white truffle of the bottled essences, instantly sending you to a time when fifty cents could get you the world at the corner bakery, and contained in the thin layer of simple frosting – just icing sugar and water, set to a firm, smooth surface – it provides a kind of off-kilter yet entirely welcome contrast to the more traditional-tasting biscuit beneath. The cookie dough itself is well-behaved – a little stirring brings it together, and it rolls and re-rolls obligingly, so long as you keep it chilled.

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We’re 74 days into lockdown now (and yes, I’m going to bring it up every time because there’s nothing else to bring up!) and, I don’t want to overstate their abilities or anything, but looking at these biscuits, like a pixelated rainbow scattered across a pink skyline, makes me feel at least momentarily peaceful – to say nothing of the pure joy I feel upon eating them.

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Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits [or, vegan cut-out cookies]

A versatile, easy, and delicious vegan cut-out cookie – make it pink with rainbow sprinkles or use whichever cutters and colours you like. The simple sugar-and-water icing sets firm like royal icing without any of the hassle. As always, the recipe is very simple, I just don’t know how to write short succinct instructions. Recipe by myself.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil, eg rice bran
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (see notes)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup soy milk, oat milk, or similar

1: Place the flour in a mixing bowl and sieve in the baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, then stir to combine.

2: Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, followed by the golden syrup (going in this order means the syrup should slide cleanly out of the oiled cup measure) and the milk, adding the smaller quantity at first in case you don’t need it all. Stir, and then push together with your hands, to form a ball of dough that is cohesive without being sticky. If it’s too dry and clumpy, add some more milk, if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for ten minutes, and turn the oven to 190C/375F.

3: Roll out your dough on a sheet of baking paper – you can use another sheet of baking paper between the dough and the rolling pin if you like but this dough is very well-behaved and shouldn’t stick to the roller. To help with this, it’s best to roll out the dough in small portions, so the remaining dough can stay chilled in the fridge. Cut out shapes using your chosen cookie cutter, and use a spatula or lifter-prodder type kitchen implement to transfer them to a baking paper-lined cookie tray/baking sheet.

4: Re-roll and cut until you have enough biscuits to fill the tray, return any unused dough to the fridge and bake the cookies for precisely eight minutes, positioned in the middle of the oven, if you want them soft-ish and chewy, and precisely ten minutes – no more! – if you want them crisp and snappish. As someone who frequently loses track of time and forgets what they’re doing in the middle of doing it, you understand that I don’t give you these instructions lightly.

5: Remove the cookies to a cooling tray and then continue rolling, cutting, and baking the remaining dough until it’s all finished. Allow the cookies to cool completely before icing.

Icing

  • 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon raspberry flavour/essence
  • a few drops pink food colouring
  • hundreds and thousands sprinkles

6: Stir the water into the icing sugar a little at a time – bearing in mind that the raspberry essence will add extra liquid – I found two tablespoons + one teaspoon of water gave me a thick but spreadable icing. Add the raspberry flavouring, then use a toothpick to transfer dots of pink food colouring from the bottle into the bowl of icing, stirring and adding more until it’s the right pink for you. (I mean, you can just pour the food colouring into the icing but that way is fraught with danger.)

7: Spread the icing in a thin layer on each cooled biscuit with a flat-sided knife, dipping the blade in water if need be to help smooth it – and then sprinkle the biscuits with the hundreds and thousands. Allow to cool until the icing has firmed then store the biscuits in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes – depending on the size of your cutter and how much cookie dough you eat – around 40 biscuits.

Notes:

  • If you’re in America and can’t get golden syrup then it’s my understanding that light corn syrup is the usual substitute – I wouldn’t use maple (too thin) or agave (too sweet) but if you can find golden syrup or treacle somewhere then stock up because it’s a singularly delicious and useful ingredient.
  • If you’re making these cookies for a non pink-rainbow-sprinkle context then I would still add a half-teaspoon flavoured essence in place of the raspberry – perhaps vanilla, or almond, depending on your audience and the occasion. Also bear in mind that using more flavouring or food colouring may require extra icing sugar to get the texture/thickness right.

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music lately:

Bluer Than Blue by Lil Hardin Armstrong; an accomplished composer, jazz musician, and singer, she was also the wife and collaborator of Louis Armstrong for several years. I’m so glad recordings like this one – where she sings her own composition in 1937 – exist.

The Man That Got Away by Judy Garland from her iconic Carnegie Hall concert – we listened to this album last night and it’s just – I can hardly even speak about it! The applause alone makes me cry!

Blue Banisters by Lana Del Rey – while not as instantly arresting as, say, Mariners Apartment Complex, this song lingers and haunts you in slow motion and it was stupid of me to imagine it wouldn’t affect me!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

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Getting used to something and being enthusiastic about it are two different things, but the absence of hatred is a start – of course, I’m talking about margarine, which I’ve resigned myself to using in various cooked and baked goods to the point where it’s done without thinking, and certainly without self-flagellation. I’ve been vegan for long enough now that I no longer appreciate the concept of consuming large quantities of dairy – that milk is none of my business! – but…it would be nice if margarine companies at least tried to emulate butter’s undeniably good flavour. Humans are capable of untold scientific endeavour, where’s that energy in margarine? I understand there are great vegan butters out there – and by “out there” I mean selected pockets of America – but here in New Zealand it’s margarine or nothing, and, well, I refuse to have nothing, so the margarine has to work for me.

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In the case of shortbread, where butter is the main event, the star, the biscuit’s reason for getting up in the morning – you’d be forgiven for assuming that a margarine-based recipe would be a failure, tinged with that tongue-lingering nastiness that only strong flavours can mask. First of all, you have to find the margarine that’s least vexatious, the most tolerable – for me, that’s Olivani (not Nuttelex, as I initially assumed when embarking on this highly-committed whim). Second of all, you have to believe me when I say – and I’m genuinely astonished by it – that this shortbread doesn’t taste like margarine. It doesn’t! It tastes softly buttery and mildly sweet and very reassuringly shortbready. It does, however, lack that final convincing push of flavour that butter enjoys; hence the helping hand offered by the regionally unorthodox yet highly recommended chocolate dip over half of each shortbread.

As well as bringing the obvious to the table – delicious chocolate flavour! – the firm shell of chocolate, especially when fridge-cold, has this fantastic contrasting bite compared to the fine-grained shortbread below, which melts in your mouth like sand disappearing into seawater. You can leave these plain if you don’t have any chocolate or you’re severely disapproving of any variation on this traditionally Scottish biscuit, but if you’re up for it this chocolate step comes highly, if not strenuously, endorsed.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate dipped shortbread 🍫 recipe @ hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #vegan #chocolate #veganbaking #recipe #nzfood #foodblogger #fyp #plantbased

♬ Working for the Knife – Mitski

I had intended for these to be adorable chocolate-dipped stars, but I realised moments before starting the recipe that I had lost my star-shaped cutter somewhere in the fifty million times I moved house in the last five years; all I could find was a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters which curiously did not include a star but did have a vague and formless shape that I could only assume was Santa with his sack upon his back or perhaps a slightly wonky and unsure-of-foot partridge. My aesthetic loss is absolutely your gain – this method is significantly easier and faster, scored and baked all at once in a tin then prised apart into rustic rectangular fingers.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we’re in the frenzied grips of my mother’s lockdown project where we celebrate a different country that one of us has been to each day, in alphabetical order; I will definitely be making the Fijian Tarkari and the Česnečka from the Czech Republic again; my attempt at a vegan haggis is probably best kept a memory not to be relived. These shortbreads, however, will definitely be back.

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Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

This vegan shortbread is simple, delicious, and made all the more palatable with a dunk in some melted chocolate. I swear to you, the recipe really is straightforward and super easy – I just couldn’t work out how to explain any elements of it in a succinct manner.
Recipe by myself.

  • 200g vegan butter/margarine (I used – and recommend – Olivani)
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 300g flour
  • 3 tablespoons custard powder
  • 150g dark chocolate

1: Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy – which should only take a minute or two – then tip in the flour and cornflour and carefully stir it all together (I say carefully because it’s very easy to shunt large clouds of flour everywhere at this point). Push the dough together into a ball with your hands, then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or lid and put it in the fridge for about twenty minutes.

2: While this is happening, set your oven to 160C/320F and line a 28x18cm baking dish/brownie tin with a sheet of baking paper. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and press it out evenly into the tin – you can lay another sheet of baking paper over the top and gently press down on it to make it more even, removing it before baking of course. Jab the dough several times with a fork, which helps steam escape and makes it rise neatly; and then use a knife to score it twice horizontally and vertically several times, so you have about 24 similarly-sized rectangles. Apologies if this description doesn’t make much sense – basically you’re just scoring the dough as if you were preparing to slice it up, which makes it easier to slice once it’s actually out of the oven.

3: Bake the shortbread dough for 35 minutes – checking often – or until it’s lightly golden and the surface is firm. Remove the cooked shortbread out of the dish by lifting the edges of the sheet of baking paper. Use a knife to slice through the lines you scored earlier, then carefully ferry each individual shortbread to a cooling rack.

4: Once the shortbreads have cooled, melt the chocolate however you normally do it (I used a small glass bowl and 20-second bursts in the microwave, but if you put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and then rest that bowl on a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, that works too). Carefully dip each shortbread halfway – so half of it is coated in chocolate and half of it remains bare – and sit them on a tray lined with baking paper, then refrigerate till set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 24.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have custard powder or are simply disinclined to use it, replace it with the same amount of cornflour (or cornstarch for the Americans) and add a generous splash of vanilla extract.
  • In my experience, Olivani is the best-behaved and most mellow-flavoured margarine – better than Nuttelex for sure – but you use whatever you’re comfortable with.

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music lately:

Minority by Green Day – I don’t know what it is about them but whenever I’m like “I’m a fan of Green Day” I say it in this reverent yet apologetic voice like I’m revealing some great shuddering truth about myself (it’s very similar to the voice I use when I own up that I’m a bigtime show tunes kind of guy.) Anyway, I’ve always been very fond of this song and its jauntiness and year-2000-ness and the impenetrable Mairzy Doats quality to the lyrics. I’m especially fond of this live version at Milton Keynes in 2005, since I was in that very audience.

Working For The Knife, by Mitski – new Mitski! New Mitski music in 2021! I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge throwing open his windows on Christmas Day. This is very important! Also, I was super nervous, and put off listening to it in case it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped, and then got anxious in case I was somehow letting Mitski down, or in case people were like “oho, a fair-weather fan, are we” but of course none of those things happened (or was going to happen) and as soon as she sang “I cry at the start of every movie/I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too” I knew she was BACK.

Hello Dad…I’m In Jail by Was (Not Was). Like the Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake scene in The Simpsons – truly the opposite of diminishing returns.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake

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As a rule, an abiding principle, a personal boundary: I hate anything that suggests even the merest hint of “team-building exercise”, three words that make my shoulders immediately stoop earthwards in resigned anticipation of all the time I’ll never get back from my one wild and free life. That being said I also like to please and being in this endless (necessary! but endless) lockdown does strange things to all of us, in my case it’s that I’ve ended up kind of throwing myself wholeheartedly into Mum’s lockdown project of honouring a new theme each day. Which brings us to this Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake.

You see, first we did a letter of the alphabet each day (for example on W day we listened to the Who and classical waltzes and I made a Woon Heng recipe for dinner) and when lockdown exceeded 26 days we hastily assembled the next ongoing theme: a new country each day, that at least one person in the family had been to, in – and bear with me here – alphabetical order, with music from that country and at least one regional dish or attempt thereof for dinner. We’re up to the letter I, which brings us to Ireland, which I visited in 2005, and The Cranberries/The Undertones/Thin Lizzy/My Bloody Valentine/Enya as the day’s soundtrack. I found a couple of cans of Guinness in my cupboard leftover from making last year’s Christmas Cake and before I knew it I was spontaneously and enthusiastically throwing together a vegan version of Nigella Lawson’s classic Chocolate Guinness Cake, like someone who enjoys activities and showing initiative. I don’t, but I do like hyperfocussing on a project and I love the opportunity for arbitrary culinarily decisions and in all honesty it has been a lot of fun – not a bit like team-building exercises, in fact.

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As I said, this recipe is inspired by Nigella Lawson’s cake from her book Feast, which I used to make all the time – because it was so incredibly delicious! – and while this version lacks that throat-coating full-cream dairy factor from the cream cheese icing, it’s a pretty fantastic tribute and I’m very pleased with myself. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this combination of chocolate and Guinness before, the bitter aggression of the Guinness provides an intense and dark backdrop to the cocoa and yet all its rough edges are entirely bevelled back and tempered by the cake batter and the sweetness in the icing. Curiously, despite the sugar in the cake exceeding that in the topping, the latter is much sweeter than the former, such is the black-hole abilities of Guinness to absorb everything that comes into its path. I’m not someone who can sit down and drink a Guinness with any conviction – it’s too blood-nosedly ferrous for me – but mixed with chocolate it’s quite spectacular, entirely palatable, and makes perfect sense – after all, dark coffee and chocolate are a go-to pairing, this just takes it one step further in the direction of bitterness.

Real hungryandfrozen-heads will notice that this recipe method doesn’t differ too much from my Incredibly Delicious Mocha Cake; that cake has never failed me and so I figured it would be a decent blueprint for this Guinness cake – and once more it came through. As well as being utterly delicious, dense yet light-crumbed, rich and celebratory yet unpretentious and comforting, this cake is a mere one-bowl situation and it leaves you plenty of Guinness leftover to drink from its tall can – if you have the palate for it – otherwise, I guess you’ll just have to make another cake.

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Vegan Chocolate Guinness Cake

A dense yet light-textured chocolate cake full of rich bitter Guinness – my vegan take on Nigella Lawson’s classic recipe. This is a one-bowl affair with a creamy, tangy frosting, and is just incredibly delicious. Recipe by myself.

  • 2 and 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup good dark cocoa (see notes)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain oil, eg rice bran
  • 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or light corn syrup or treacle if you’re in the US)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup/250ml Guinness

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and grease and line a 21cm springform or loose-based cake tin. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, then sieve in the baking soda and cocoa and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add everything except the Guinness, and stir briefly – it will look thick and dry and unlikely at this point but we’ve still got the Guinness to go, so don’t you worry.

2: Pour in the Guinness and slowly stir everything together to form a thick cake batter, making sure there’s no lumps of flour caught in it. Spatula this mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for forty minutes, covering with tin foil in the last ten minutes if need be. Allow to cool completely on a cake rack.

For the Icing:

This uses the sourness of citric acid and the fulsome saltiness of miso paste to emulate the vibe of the cream cheese icing that customarily goes with this cake; that being said if you can get hold of vegan cream cheese (or you’re happy to eat dairy) then feel free to use that instead in place of the coconut oil and coconut milk, leaving out the citric and miso and adjusting the lemon juice quantities as needed. I’ve included coconut milk here for its creaminess and because I figure you’ll have some leftover from the can you opened for the cake; you barely taste any coconut in the finished frosting. Finally, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a bowl and a wooden spoon to make this but it’ll take considerably more effort to get it thick and smooth. But, this is how people make icing for centuries so it’s not impossible.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soft refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/2 teaspoon miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk

1: Tip the icing sugar into the food processor and pulse a few times to get rid of any lumps. Add the coconut oil, citric acid, and miso paste, and process to combine. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the coconut milk, one tablespoon at a time, and process until you have a very thick, very smooth, bright white frosting. If it needs more liquid add it a little at a time. Set the icing aside in a cool place until needed. (I put it in the fridge, which made it entirely too solid, but sitting the bowl in a second bowl of hot water and stirring it helped.)

2: Spatula the icing onto the top of the cooled cake and spread it evenly over the top, leaving the sides bare. Store in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • When buying cocoa, look for a brand that has a minimum of 20g fat per 100g – I try not to be fussy with you about ingredients but anything less than 20g is not worth your while and will taste weak and is false economy.
  • I accidentally overcooked my cake – it was fine, but the edges were a little crisp, so I just prodded it with a skewer and brushed it with a quick syrup of a few spoons of brown sugar dissolved in an equal quantity of hot water before applying the icing with a pastry brush, and I pass this along in case you find yourself in the same predicament.
  • You could probably use soy milk or something similar instead of coconut milk in the cake and still have it turn out fine; but Nigella’s original recipe uses sour cream and I wanted something particularly creamy and fat to offset the bitter Guinness, so I do think it’s necessary – the finished cake doesn’t taste anything like coconut, I promise.
  • If you don’t have miso paste or just don’t have any confidence in my decision making – and it’s true, we do ask a lot of miso paste these days, perhaps too much even – then leave it out and add a pinch of salt.

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music lately:

I Wanna Be A Cowboy, Baby! by CMAT – who, coincidentally, is from Dublin. My friend Jordan recommended her music to me and in turn, I enthusiastically recommend her to you (I also recommend to you to recommend songs to me in general, as long as you’re prepared for my candid evaluation.)

For Good from the musical Wicked as performed by original cast members Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel at the Tony Awards this week. Now – this is not something I say lightly – I don’t necessarily love this song in and of itself, it’s not the most exciting or lyrically dexterous, to me, but I will always drop everything to watch a live performance of it because what it does give you is four and a half minutes of Acting and Emotion and Unbearable Momentousness. To see Chenoweth and Menzel reunited here – a very rare occurrence in the eighteen years since Wicked launched on Broadway – at the first Tony Awards since 2019, to see them hold hands and perform this song with all the sincerity of their long-ago characters but also as themselves, to hear those gentle but defined harmonies where she goes low and she goes high – well, you already know I cried.

You Mean The World To Me by Toni Braxton, simply a perfect song – obviously you could take Babyface’s back catalogue to a desert island and never run out of hits but he and Braxton together are a match made in heaven – that “oh baby baby, baby baby, babyyyy” bit at the end of the chorus has to be up there with the various pinnacles of human creative achievement.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf Cake

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Just a simple one, this time. A simple, one-bowl vegan lemon loaf cake that deftly manages to be nothing special and utterly magnificent at the same time, the line that loaf cakes specifically are so good at balancing upon. We’re back in lockdown again, although for me it feels different to the first one in 2020 because we now have the benefit of hindsight. I was genuinely delighted when this lockdown was announced and welcome any extensions to its stay – a response less rigid than this would’ve been considerably more hellish and anxious to endure in both the short and long term.

I wasn’t even going to blog about this loaf cake – as you can probably tell by the very hasty and inelegant photos and lack of accompanying TikTok – it was a variation on an older lemon cake recipe, with some poppy seeds thrown in because I just think they’re neat. It tasted so good though, and was easy to make, and that’s reason enough to share it. And we’re in lockdown, what else am I going to do?

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This cake has a light, springy crumb and enjoys a triple dose of fresh lemon flavour – and there are few things so cleanly optimistic as the scent and flavour of lemon – in the batter, of course, in the icing, and in what I call The Brine, where you pour a mixture of lemon juice and salt over the cake while it’s still hot from the oven. I know that squeezing juice over an oven-hot cake is hardly a new proposition but in these trying times, you have to romanticise what you can – calling it a brine makes me feel like I’ve really Done Something. If you find that insufferable (a reasonable stance!) then absolutely feel free to ignore the name but please don’t ignore the step itself, which adds to the dense citrus presence and provides alluring contrast to the sugar in the icing.

It’s not that my thoughts turn to baking more while we’re in lockdown, since I’m always thinking about baking anyway – but if you’re in the market for something relaxed and delicious, indeed, if you’re simply in the market to think about baking more at all, this loaf cake could be the one.

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Vegan Lemon Poppyseed Loaf Cake

A simple, classic loaf cake mixed quickly in one bowl and positively levitating with lemon flavour. You can use oranges or limes or a mix instead, and of course, leave out the poppy seeds if you don’t have them. The icing is optional but also absolutely not optional – those are your options. Recipe by myself.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rice bran oil (or similar flavourless oil)
  • Juice and zest of 2-3 lemons – enough to give you 1/3 cup juice
  • 1 cup/250ml full-fat coconut cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the brine:

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the icing:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tablespoon coconut cream
  • zest and juice of one lemon – enough to give you around 3 tablespoons of juice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar (though be prepared to add more)

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper.

2: Stir the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl – I sieve in the baking soda and baking powder to prevent any lumps – then make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, lemon juice and zest, coconut cream, vanilla and poppy seeds. Fold everything together to form a thick pale batter, spatula it into the loaf tin, and bake for about 40 minutes – depending on your oven – or until the top is firm and springy without any liquidy wobble beneath. Also – shake the can of coconut cream first before opening it, as they tend to separate into thicker cream and watery liquid and you want a good mix of both.

3: For the brine, zest the lemon and set that aside for later use (either throw it into the icing or sprinkle it on top of the finished loaf cake) and then mix the juice of the lemon and the salt together in a small ramekin or measuring cup until the salt has more or less dissolved. Spoon this mixture evenly over the cake while it’s still hot from the oven, and then let the cake cool completely before icing.

4: For the icing, mix everything together in a bowl to form a thick frosting – you may need to add more icing sugar – and refrigerate until required. Spread the icing thickly over the cooled loaf cake and sprinkle over any remaining lemon zest (or just zest another lemon – or you could sprinkle over some more poppy seeds.)

Note: I’ve never made this with anything other than full-fat coconut cream. Logic would suggest you could replace this with any milk – but since I haven’t tried it, I can’t guarantee the cake will then turn out how it should. On the other hand, I used a little coconut cream in the icing since I had it leftover from the open can used for the cake batter; you can definitely just use soy milk etc here instead.

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music lately:

That Life by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. New music by UMO is always good news. When the music video employs dancing muppets, so much the better. I love the way their music goes down but up at the same time, you know?

Kiss Off by Violent Femmes, a shaggy, Modern Lovers-esque exercise in sincerity, the sort of song where every part that comes along makes you say “oh wait THIS is my favourite part”.

No Good Deed sung by Shoshana Bean, from the musical Wicked – in all my years of being a fan of this show I was never particularly occupied with Ms Bean – which is nothing whatsoever to do with her talent! – there are so many portrayals of this role and I only have so many hours in the day. But this rendition of Elphaba’s last big song of the second act – a grainy video from 2005 of a performance on the Martha Stewart show of all things – stopped me in my tracks. The power and control in her voice – the way she can make her voice leap a tall building and then bring it back into the palm of her hand – while still managing to do capital-A Acting – is astonishing. I’ve heard this song a zillion times, this felt like hearing it for the first time again.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

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Brevity is a rare treat round these parts but this week has munted my concentration levels – such as they are – so you’re spared my usual dissertation. The thing is there’s not a lot to say about these cookies anyway – they’re simple, they’re good, and they’ve got oats and chocolate in them.

These are a solid workhorse cookie, a stalwart, neither austere nor gilded, just the sort of thing you want to eat when the hand reaches half past the hour or when you hear water coming to the boil. In her most recent book, the excellent Cook, Eat, Repeat, Nigella Lawson says of a rice dish: “You will not get blown away by this. It won’t be the most electrifying thing you’ve ever eaten. This is not to disparage it…If I felt it weren’t worthy of your time or your table, I wouldn’t include it.” I appreciated her appraising description of the dish. Food-writing can lean all too easily on hyperbole, but when hyperbole is all you have, how can any recipe stand out – or stand up to scrutiny? (I like to claim that I never exaggerate – that my heightened language is simply the precise and appropriate response to whatever I’m describing – but I’m aware it definitely looks like a duck and quacks, hyperbolically, like a duck.)

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And don’t get me wrong, these cookies are delicious – with an almost custardy vanilla perfume and a modest scattering of chopped dark chocolate throughout their small round bodies. Importantly they’re as relaxing to make as they are to eat and behave beautifully – place a squat ball of dough on the baking dish with confidence that it will not spread, crumble, or cook too fast into an inedible rusk. Says Nigella of her rice dish, “there is just something quiet and lovely about it that seems to still the air around you as you eat.” Much the same could be said of these cookies. They won’t blow your hair back, and they’re not the sort of cookie to go viral, cruelly pulled apart and folded in half for the camera to reveal a dripping, uncooked interior. But they will make your life better in an unobtrusive fashion and sometimes that’s where your energy levels are at.

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Despite several hours of trying, and for reasons I cannot fathom other than everything these past few weeks has actively worked to thwart me, I couldn’t embed the cute TikTok video I made to go with these cookies, but you can view it here (or directly in the app of course.)

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies

Easy, simple everyday vegan cookies, chewy from the oats and scattered with chopped chocolate. I genuinely don’t know how many this makes because I’m always eating the dough as I go, but from experience, if you only eat a modest quantity of dough and use a tablespoon measure to form the cookies, you should get 35. These cookies are loosely based on this recipe at Simple Sweet Vegan which I used as a starting point.

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup soft vegan butter (eg margarine)
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, I used rice bran
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 75g-100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped small
  • 2 cups flour

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line two baking trays with baking paper. Mix the chia seeds and water together in a small cup or ramekin and set aside for the chia seeds to swell.

2: Place the butter, oil, and sugars in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon till they’re combined and fluffy. Beat in the chia seeds, followed by the cinnamon, vanilla, baking soda and salt – although you’re not going to get a ton of aeration here as you would with eggs I like to mix it energetically for a few minutes as if this were the case, it probably doesn’t have much effect but it feels like you’re doing something worthwhile.

3: Fold in the oats and chocolate pieces, then stir in the flour to form a very thick dough. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place on the trays – no need to flatten – about two inches apart. They don’t spread out but I like to give them a little room to breathe. Bake each tray one at a time for fifteen minutes each, transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool before storing them in an airtight container.

Notes:

  • I haven’t tried it but I’m sure you could replace the chia seeds with ground flaxseeds
  • I promise the end result doesn’t taste a thing like margarine, and I am still the hardest boss to beat in this regard.
  • The cinnamon is barely detectable in the finished product and simply adds a sheer backdrop of comforting warmth, absolutely add more if you want it to actually taste of cinnamon.
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music lately:

Dark by Gary Numan. There’s a stretch of time in the late 90s that produced a lot of stupendous industrial music like this, in my head I call it “GreggArakiCore”, music that makes you feel like you’re wearing pleather pants and dancing in a decommissioned asbestos factory, I was only eleven in 1997 which is why my impression of this music is very stupid and surface-level but even a child can hear this and know for sure that it’s the music of people who are living.

New Rose, The Damned. My brother gave me a drum lesson the other day so I could accompany him on guitar, and I was pretty decent, as I should be three generations of drummers deep, and I went back out to the drum kit by myself a few days later and was simply astonished to discover I couldn’t immediately play one of my favourite songs just by staring at the drums and imagining the song in my head. Maybe next time! Anyway, listen to this song – doesn’t it make you want to play the drums? (We did manage a serviceable Just Like Honey played by ear but obviously, that’s pretty entry-level.)

The Story Goes On by Lea Salonga and Liz Callaway – two of the most crystalline, gleaming voices in musical theatre – this was Liz’s song in the 1983 musical Baby and the presence of harmonies with Lea only makes it even more beautiful – the towering, mountainous ending is just glorious and worth sticking around for.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Roasted Carrot Cake with Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream [Vegan]

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I love coming up with recipes – but I especially love when the recipe which appears in my head has an immediately iconic vibe, a “this will come to define you and you’ll thank it for the honour” vibe. Not every recipe has to relentlessly imply historical significance, that would be exhausting. It’s fine for some recipes to be merely excellent rather than One For The Ages – more Tony Awards red carpet than Met Gala – but when you know, you know. And as soon as this Roasted Carrot Cake entered my head: I knew. She’s a star.

Unfortunately, the first time I made it I couldn’t get the cake out of my head into the oven – the roasted carrot aspect of it was great, delicious, inspired, but the texture was okay at best. I scribbled some notes, I moved proportions around like a small prodigy at their chessboard, I put it aside. I then, with some ailing bananas, made these Banana Crumb Muffins from The Minimalist Baker – and the excellent results gave me the idea which saved the cake: more baking soda. (And then, upon looking at the cake I make the most, my Mocha Cake – well, that has two teaspoons of baking soda too. Turns out the answer was in my heart all along.) You might think two teaspoons sounds like too much, but it works and it’s exactly what the ingredients needed to spring together and form a dense, moist, rich carrot cake. 

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What makes this cake especially amazing is, of course, the roasted carrots. I’ve spoken enthusiastically and at length about my love of the fried or roasted carrot – in THE Fried Carrot Noodles, this Kale, Pecan and Fried Carrot Salad, and this Roasted Carrot Mac’n’Cheese. This cake is the zenith of my carrot preoccupation – although perhaps it’s recency bias talking – but it makes sense, right? The toasty, nutty depth of flavour and sweetness which comes from applying oil and high heat to your carrots would surely benefit a cake! In fact, I don’t know how it didn’t come to me sooner.

Roasting the carrots does add an extra step to this recipe, but you have to heat up the oven anyway, and besides, I’d rather wait around for carrots to brown than spend even a millisecond grating them. And from one extra step, you get this glowing, fulsome carrot flavour that the mere raw vegetable on its own could only dream of. It’s truly a perfect carrot cake – dense, hefty, yet light and cup-of-tea-friendly; warmed up with cinnamon and nutmeg and draped in a zingy buttercream. The buttercream uses the quick-emulsion method I devised – also iconic, as befits a cake like this – which I’ve made in various iterations before, such as these cupcakes and the aforementioned mocha cake. Here I’ve added a little more apple cider vinegar to give it a zingy bite – not too sharp, I mean, there is all that icing sugar – and its presence is vital and necessary. Yeah, you could get away with not having the icing but a fridge-cold slice of this carrot cake – feeling your teeth slide through the fudgy, wet-sand texture of the buttercream into the damp crumbs of cake and softly crunchy walnuts below – it’s honestly quite unreal.

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Roasted Carrot Cake with Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream

An incredible vegan carrot cake: moist, dense, rich, but light, with a zingy buttercream. The ACV gives all that sugar a necessary sour edge, but I promise it doesn’t end up tasting like salad dressing – if you’re really not sure though, use lemon or lime juice instead. Roasting the carrots gives them a nutty depth of flavour – a little extra work – and so worth it. Recipe by myself.

  • 400g carrots (roughly four medium carrots, don’t worry if it’s a bit over or under)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or treacle, or molasses – in which case reduce it to one tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped or broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour

1: Set your oven to 200C/400F. Scrub the carrots (no need to peel) and chop them into sticks. Place in a roasting dish with the olive oil and roast for fifteen to twenty minutes, until the carrot sticks are tender and slightly browned in places. (You can turn your oven up higher if you want, but keep an eye on them.)

2: While the carrots are roasting, place the chia seeds and water in a mixing bowl and let it sit for a few minutes till the chia seeds have swollen and absorbed most of the liquid.

3: Stir the brown and white sugar, golden syrup, milk, baking soda, spices, walnuts and salt into the chia mixture, and beat well to thoroughly combine.

4: Remove the roasting dish from the oven and lower the heat to 190C/375F. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

5: Use tongs to lift the carrots onto a chopping board (you’ll probably need to do this in batches) and chop them roughly but finely. A large heavy knife and a rocking motion – as though you were finely chopping herbs – are useful here. You could pulse the carrots in a food processor till they’re roughly yet finely chopped but that’s a whole extra thing to wash – it’s up to you. Transfer the chopped carrots to the mixing bowl and continue till they’re all chopped. Tip any remaining olive oil from the roasting dish into a 1/4 cup measure, and top up with extra olive oil till the measuring cup is full. Add this to the mixing bowl and stir to combine.

6: Add the flour to the mixing bowl and gently fold it together – don’t overmix. Spatula the cake batter into the waiting loaf tin, and bake for about thirty-five minutes – although it may need a little longer, depending on your oven. You may need to cover it with tin foil towards the end if it appears to be browning too much – again, this depends on your oven. Once it’s done, remove it from the oven and let it cool before frosting with the buttercream.

Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream

  • 3 generous tablespoons refined coconut oil, soft but not liquid
  • 3 tablespoons soy milk, plus extra if needed
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1: Beat the coconut oil, milk, cider vinegar and salt together in a small mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry if it looks a little unlikely! Stir in the icing sugar (sieving if you have the energy) to form a thick, pale buttercream. Add a splash of extra milk if it’s too thick. Spread over the cooled cake. (I, of course, absolutely couldn’t wait for it to cool, which is why the photos show the buttercream running down the sides of my cake.) 

Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge. It tastes better and better upon sitting for a day, I’m afraid to say.

Note: while this is my recipe, it was making these delicious Banana Crumb Muffins from Minimalist Baker which gave me the idea to boldly increase the baking soda. (I definitely recommend making the muffins, too.)

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music lately:

Party Up (Up In Here) by DMX – Man, I’m so sad about his passing. Like, he’s got poignant songs, and it’s impossible to hear the whistles at the start of Party Up without wanting to triple somersault from a diving board landing in the splits in the centre of the dance floor, but this is the one I wanted to hear most today.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself by the queen of Golden Age Broadway Mary Martin from the 1943 Kurt Weill musical One Touch of Venus. I don’t know how this song hasn’t become more of a standard – it certainly comes out the gate confidently sophisticated and arch – but there just aren’t that many cover versions of it (Kristin Chenoweth’s is charming, though.)

Venus in Furs by The Velvet Underground. Almost irresponsibly phenomenal? And I know I repeat this mild anecdote every time I mention this song but in 2006 I briefly worked in a German bakery and one day I was playing this song on loop on the little stereo and my boss pulled up in front, walked in, turned it off, walked away and drove off all without saying a word.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

The Best White Bread [vegan]

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There’s this twitter account dedicated solely to posting, every Friday, a brief clip of actor Daniel Craig announcing musician The Weeknd on Saturday Night Live, and though I don’t follow this account, every seven days enough of the people I do follow force it onto my timeline through their retweeting, and because time has become gelatinous and meaningless I seem to encounter this tweet at ever-shortening concentric cycles, though I understand a week is still seven days despite my perception of it being something much smaller. Anyway, the specific way the actor Daniel Craig says “Ladies and gentlemen: The Weeknd”, with this air of resigned gratefulness – with unabashed yet just faintly bemused gravitas – so moved by that which he is announcing – with his arms stretched wide and his head shaking in appreciative disbelief – his arms which say everything his mouth cannot – well, that’s the only way I can talk about this recipe. It’s the best bread I’ve ever made, it’s the best bread you’ll ever make, there’s nothing more that can be said, not by me, not by Daniel Craig, not even by Daniel Craig’s arms.

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It would, however, be failing the very concept of a food blog to imply nothing can actually be said about a recipe. And I’d be failing myself because I never miss an opportunity to over-explain. So here we go. This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s most recent book, Cook, Eat, Repeat, a soothingly expansive volume with essays that fluctuate into recipes and vice versa, and it’s the recipe I’ve made most from it thus far – in fact, it’s probably the recipe I’ve made most this year full stop. I’ve enacted some small changes to make Nigella’s recipe vegan – replacing the spoiled milk or sour cream with soy milk curdled by apple cider vinegar, the acid of which I believe has a spectacular effect on the airy crumb of the resulting loaf; I also use refined coconut oil instead of butter, since it bears a buttery flavour and has a similar melting temperature. Other than that, the recipe remains hers, via the chef Dan Lepard, although I only just realised – after having made this recipe countless times this year – that Nigella offers her own vegan option (using almond-soy yoghurt and vegetable shortening) in the book? I’m baffled at how I missed that extremely relevant detail, but that’s ADHD for ya I guess. What sets this bread apart from other methods is the on-off process of kneading for ten seconds and letting it rise for ten minutes – somehow these incredibly brief bursts of agitation make the dough flourish and swell like an inflated bouncy castle.

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I’ve made numerous loaves of bread in my time – recipes of mine, of Nigella’s, recipes ancient and modern, but nothing has ever knocked me clean off my feet quite like this one. It’s so light and soft, and crisp-of-crust, and perfect, the sort of bread the Famous Five would take to an island to eat while fighting crime (it’s a while since I’ve read any Enid Blyton and I may be conflating some storylines here), the sort of bread Da Vinci himself would’ve come up with had he devoted himself to baking instead of art and invention, it’s like finally realising a sublime dream you didn’t quite know you’d been chasing your entire life, and you know what else?

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It slices up a treat. The importance of this aspect cannot be overstated! The knife melts into the crust and peels away clean slice after clean slice without the slightest squashing – you can rest your hand squatly on top of the loaf to steady yourself as you cut with confidence that you’re not going to immediately flatten it like an old air mattress. Even I – someone who can normally only carve diagonally, producing great wide-hipped triangles of bread – can cut thin elegant sandwich-ready slices from this, mere minutes after it leaves the oven.

 

@hungryandfrozen

the BEST loaf of bread you’ll ever make 😍😩 🍞 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #nigella #nigellalawson #recipe #foodblogger #fyp #bread #vegan

♬ Happy When It Rains – The Jesus And Mary Chain

 

Set aside a day and make this recipe. Soon enough you’ll be wandering around, arms outstretched, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: this bread!” in a resonant and impassioned voice to anyone who will listen.

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The Best White Bread

Lightly adapted – by which I mean this is now vegan bread – from Nigella Lawson’s Old-Fashioned Sandwich Loaf in Cook, Eat, Repeat. This is simply the best loaf of white bread you’ll ever make, and worth every minute of the rise time. 

  • 500g strong white bread flour (also called “high grade”)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt or 1 teaspoon regular table salt
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 150ml cold water
  • 100ml water from a just-boiled kettle
  • 3 heaped tablespoons soft/room temperature refined coconut oil

1: Place the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in your biggest mixing bowl – this dough needs plenty of space to rise.

2: Pour the soy milk and apple cider vinegar into a measuring jug and leave it for a minute to curdle. Then add the cold water, followed by the hot water from the just-boiled kettle (might as well make yourself a cup of tea while you’re there) and stir the coconut oil into the jug. It doesn’t matter if the heat from the liquid doesn’t totally melt the oil. (If you can’t work out how to measure the 100ml and 150ml water – which falls outside of regular cup measurements – you can weigh the water on the scales you used for the flour, as 1g = 1ml.)

3: Pour the wet ingredients into the mixing bowl and stir briefly to combine. Form into a rough ball and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or, more sustainably – as per Nigella’s suggestion – a shower cap. I hope you don’t need me to tell you that it should be new and unused. Leave the dough for ten minutes.

4: Remove the plastic covering and knead the dough for ten seconds. You can do this on the kitchen counter, I prefer to do it inside the bowl to save on cleaning. Either way, it helps to put a little oil on your kneading hand to stop the dough from sticking to you as you push the dough away and pull it back to you. Cover the bowl again with the plastic wrap, and leave for ten minutes. Repeat this ten-seconds-on-ten-minutes-off step twice more.

5: After the third ten-second knead, form the dough into a ball, cover the bowl again with the plastic wrap, and leave for an hour to rise. Don’t worry about having it somewhere warm unless your house is especially freezing and draughty (which in New Zealand is, alas, highly likely.)

6: Lay a sheet of baking paper on the bench and tip the risen, puffy ball of dough onto it. Oil your hands again, press the dough into a rectangle shape about an inch thick (I have never once measured this step so don’t worry too much) then roll the dough up into a scroll, carefully shift it into the centre of the piece of baking paper, then lift the dough up by picking up the paper on either side of the dough scroll, and lower it all into a loaf tin, which should leave you with a loaf tin, lined with baking paper, and filled with dough. I hope these instructions make sense – the Tiktok video above gives a visual of what I mean – also Nigella’s recipe tells you to line the loaf tin with paper first and then pick up the dough directly with your hands, and you can, of course, follow this reasonable request instead of mine. Leave the tin-bound dough for one final rise of about an hour to 90 minutes, until it’s billowing over the top – I usually drape the same plastic wrap from the bowl loosely over it just to protect it from local marauding insects, depending on your location this may not be an issue.

7: Once the dough looks like it’s nearly done rising, turn your oven to 200C/400F. Dust the top of the loaf with a little flour, and bake for 45 minutes. I’ve never had to bake it for any more or any less, but I would suggest placing it fairly low in the oven because it does continue to rise and can scorch a little on top if it’s too close to the heat. Store wrapped in a clean tea towel.

Note: As I mentioned before, I somehow? Didn’t realise Nigella offers her own vegan alternative in the lead-up to this recipe, despite having made this so many times I just…completely missed it. She suggests using almond-soy yoghurt and vegetable shortening and I have no doubt this would yield excellent results. 

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music lately:

Loveless by My Bloody Valentine – one of my utmost favourite albums – is finally back on Spotify after a long and parched time away. You really need to listen to it all at once, preferably lying down.

Bless Your Beautiful Hide by Howard Keel from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Keel really found his niche playing brawny scoundrels who were startlingly sexist even for the time period, who were constantly striding about in tight trousers insisting someone marry him (he sang a near-identical song, vibes-wise, in Kiss Me Kate) all of which should not give me cheer whenever he appears onscreen and yet! That tall man has undeniable charisma rolling off him in waves and the kind of river-deep baritone we regrettably don’t value anymore and no matter what hackneyed nonsense he’s singing, his sheer talent makes it incredibly riveting.

Shy Guy by Diana King. It’s so timeless and electrifying, and that bridge! A truly top-tier bridge (closely followed by the one in Lisa Stansfield’s All Around The World). Wherever you hear this song will instantly become a dance floor.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes (including this one, back in January!) reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.

Vegan Brown Butter Chocolate Brownies

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Look, everyone’s gonna tell you their vegan chocolate brownie recipe is the best, the one, and you know what? That’s valid. The best need not be a zero-sum game, culinarily speaking, otherwise what’s the point of trying anything new. No, instead it’s a wide couch where we can all sit side by side, happily eating our brownies. So: these are the best vegan chocolate brownies. The one. One of many, that is. But what a one!

Brownies should be the easiest thing to bake – they’re usually one-bowl affairs, you don’t have to worry about them rising or being light-textured like a cake, there’s no faffing about shaping dough, like with cookies, and the presence of chocolate means they’re an instant crowd-pleaser. And yet, we’ve always had a wary relationship – I tend to overcook them into cakey dullness, or overshoot a scientifically crucial ingredient, sending the delicate chemical balance from “fudgy and rich” to “not unlike a peat bog”.

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As it happens, I didn’t get this recipe quite right on the first go. They were somehow too moist and too dry, with a stressful, peanut-butter-esque throat-clogging quality. Sometimes my rejection-sensitive receptors can’t handle this kind of defeat and it’ll send me spiralling with guilt and self-doubt (related: my piece for Tenderly about the heartbreak of recipe failure during lockdown.) I also don’t have all the resources in the world to rigorously test recipes. But we had precisely 100g chocolate left in the house and the first batch was still pleasant enough to eat, so not a total reproachful waste. I cheered myself with the reminder that 99% of the recipes I make up work perfectly the first time, which is pretty extraordinary, slept on it, and woke up knowing exactly how to fix the brownies by adjusting the liquid/flour ratio. It would’ve been nice if these instincts had kicked in a little sooner, but I appreciate them showing up nonetheless.

Second time around: the brownies were perfect. Exactly what you want: a shiny, delicately crisp exterior, a fudgy interior that’s melting without being undercooked, and a staunch chocolate flavour. (Thank goodness.) 

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These brownies are particularly special because of the brown butter step – which is to say, I’m emulating the culinary technique of burning butter to develop its flavour by using an unlikely but potent combination of ingredients. Coconut oil for buttery fatness; soy milk for its proteins; and a tiny dash of vinegar and brown sugar to speed things along, cooked down into a foamy emulsion, at which point I added pecans to assist with the nutty flavour you get from traditional browned butter. I realise this may seem unlikely, but bear with me. The result is this caramelised, toasty liquid with a deep, rich, and genuinely buttery intensity. I love eating vegan food but you have to dance a little harder to give your baked goods the same easily-achieved tastes and textures of non-vegan baking. This vegan browned butter offers complexity and sumptuousness, taking the brownies from two dimensional sweetness to three dimensional deliciousness. I imagine the browned butter would be wonderful used elsewhere, including in savoury recipes, but for now it’s the perfect base for the perfect brownies.

Brownies worth persisting through failure for – brownies so good they require a glamour photo shoot.

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Vegan Brown Butter Chocolate Brownies

These vegan chocolate brownies are fudgy and rich with a crisp edge and absolutely delicious. The “brown butter” step is a little extra work but so worth it. Recipe by myself.

  • 1/4 cup refined coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon extra brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 100g melted dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 150ml boiling water
  • 1/2 cup good cocoa powder
  • 125g flour (this is roughly one cup but try to weigh it if you can)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100g extra dark chocolate, roughly chopped (optional)

1: First, make the browned butter. Place the coconut oil, soy milk, one tablespoon of brown sugar (save the 1/2 cup for later), the apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt into a small frying pan and melt together over a medium heat, stirring constantly. It’ll look dodgy, but trust me.

2: Once it starts looking frothy and bubbly, stir in your pecans and continue cooking and stirring till it’s thickened and pale caramel in colour. Remove from the heat and leave to sit for five minutes. While you’re waiting, set your oven to 180C/350F and line a square brownie pan with baking paper.

3: Now to make the brownie batter – spatula your pecan/brown butter into a mixing bowl and stir in the remaining half cup of brown sugar and the white sugar. Pause to have a little taste: oh my gosh. So delicious.

4: Melt the chocolate (I put it in a small bowl and nuked it in short bursts in the microwave, otherwise heat it in a metal/heatproof bowl resting on a pan of water without touching the water) and stir it into the butter-sugar mix. Stir the coffee powder into the boiling water and set aside. Also – 150ml is more or less 2/3 of a cup, or you can measure 150 grams of water on your scales.

5: Sieve the cocoa powder, flour, and baking powder into the bowl, and add half the coffee liquid. Fold it all together and then add the remaining coffee, the vanilla extract, and the extra chopped chocolate (if using) and fold together.

6: Spatula this mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes. At this point, turn off the oven and let the brownies sit there for ten minutes (if your oven tends to really hold its heat, open the door, otherwise leave it closed) and then take the brownies from the oven and let them get basically completely cool before you attempt to slice them. And for that, I recommend a sharp serrated knife and a confident but slow hand.

Notes:

  • Don’t leave out the coffee powder! You don’t taste the coffee specifically but it’s important to add depth of flavour. However, if you can’t have caffeine it’s absolutely fine to use decaf powder.
  • I haven’t tried this with anything other than soy milk. Oat milk would probably work, but I have serious doubts about almond milk.
  • The pecans are specifically used to add a nutty, toasty flavour to the browned butter. I wouldn’t use any other nut here, but if you don’t want the pecans in your brownies you could scoop them out of the browned butter with a slotted spoon and save them for another use. It’s important to use them in the butter step itself though. Hope that makes sense!
  • When I say “good cocoa powder” I mean something with 20g or more fat per 100grams. Look in the nutritional information on the package, anything less than 20g per 100g is unfortunately not worth your time or money!
  • The second time I made these I didn’t have enough chocolate to chop up and fold through and honestly? They were amazing without it. So if you only have 100g chocolate to hand you can totally still make these.

Also if you want a visual reference I made a little tiktok video to go with these brownies. 

@hungryandfrozen

vegan brown butter chocolate brownies 🤠🍫 recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #recipe #foodblogger #chocolate #vegan #veganrecipes #cooking #fyp #brownies

♬ Do You Love Me Now – The Breeders

 

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music lately:

I Love How You Love Me by The Paris Sisters. There’s something about that Phil Spector production where it’s so present yet so distant, it’s like that exact feeling in The Wizard Of Oz where Glinda the Good Witch is smiling benevolently but also floating away unhelpfully; while I was listening to this the cat walked across my laptop and in the process changed the playback speed to 0.75 which gave it an instantly surreal, Julee Cruise quality and I think actually sent me into spontaneous sleep paralysis – but in a good way? So proceed with caution, I guess.

Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack, a song which makes me want to cry and levitate? Which can only truly be appreciated while lying down in a darkened room or clinging to the wing of a 747 as it takes off? Once more I say proceed with caution!

Black and White by The dB’s. “Well, I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore” – what a sentiment for the ages.

PS: If you enjoy my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis.