bars |pastries|brownies

vegan marzipan cheesecake brownie bars |

This year I haven’t baked much so far. I admit that I needed a little sugar break after I had finished my e-book on holiday baking. I didn’t really crave a lot of sweet stuff until I saw a picture of a marzipan cheesecake bownie cake. I saw it and wanted to have it on our dessert plates right that moment. But that’s the problem with pictures and with the internet, too. You can stare all you want, that cake is not going to appear in front of you. Plus, it wasn’t even vegan.

If you’re going to veganise a cheesecake, there are two methods, depending on what kind of cheesecake you’re making. If you are making a US-style cheesecake, vegan creamcheese is the substitute of choice because most Northern American cheesecakes are made with creamcheese. If you’re going for a German/Eastern European cheesecake, many people these days use drained soy yoghurt, because traditional cheesecake recipes call for curd cheese (quark), that is often drained. The recipe I was looking at was made with creamcheese and sour cream. I can get vegan versions of both these things, but I went with a mixture of drained yoghurt and cashews instead. It’s totally weird but whenever I use vegan substitutes for my recipes I feel like cheating. After going vegan I “grew up” making my own substitutes and now that most people can get them, I don’t need them anymore. And isn’t it funny that I consider creamcheese and sour cream substitutes but yoghurt and soy milk not? Yeah, it’s weird.

Anyway, I veganised the cake with ingredients I am most comfortable with when it comes to baking. By comfortable I mean these are ingredients I know good enough so I can make a new recipe from scratch. If I would have used creamcheese, I probably would have had more work and maybe I would have been forced to make some changes. Or maybe I wouldn’t have liked the taste? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. These bars came out so wonderful. They have a moist crust and the filling is creamy with a hint of marzipan. They are best eaten on the day they were made, right after they have cooled down.  If you store them in the fridge make sure to take them out one or two hours before serving.

Marzipan Cheesecake Brownie Bars (makes one 20 x 20 cm or 8 x 8 inch pan)

For the brownie crust:
120 g (4.2 oz or 1/2 cup) firm tofu
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons non-dairy milk
100 g ( 1/2 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla
120 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
170 g (6 oz chocolate or 1 cup chips) dark chocolate, melted

For the cheesecake filling:
500 g yoghurt, drained over night (see note)
175 g (6.2 oz or 1 1/4 cups) raw cashews
110 g (1/2 cup) melted margarine or refined coconut oil
120 ml (1/2 cup) non-dairy milk
125 g ( 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
150 g (5.3 oz) firm marzipan, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla

Note: To drain the yoghurt place a sieve over a bowl and a large cheesecloth over the sieve. Pour in 500 g of yoghurt and let sit in the fridge over night. There probably won’t be much drained liquid in the bowl as the cloth will soak up almost everything. The next day, scrape the yoghurt into a bowl. It should have a creamy consistency similar to greek yoghurt or sour cream. Use immediately or cover and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) square pan with parchment paper.
To make the crust, combine tofu, oil, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Place flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and mix well. Pour in tofu mixture and stir well. Fold in chocolate. Pour into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth down the batter.

To make the filling, combine yoghurt, cashews, margarine, milk, and sugar in a blender and process until smooth. Add the marzipan and blend again. This will probably take a while. Make sure your blender doesn’t get too hot. Once the marzipan is blended in mix in cornstarch and vanilla. Pour on top of the crust and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the filling is nicely browned. If it browns too quickly, place a piece of aluminium foil on top. Let cool before serving.

Tip: For decoration you can use chocolate shavings or cut out marzipan and powdered sugar.

cranberry butterscotch flapjacks |

Flapjacks were the first cookie bars I actually made years ago when I had no clue about baking. I really love that you almost cannot mess them up. (I used to mess up a lot of baked goods.) Usually they are simple and consist of only a few ingredients. They are my stand-by cookies when I am out of flour for example, or need a snack that keeps well and is easy to transport. To make them a bit fancier, I used a butterscotch flavoured syrup that I got at my favourite shop here in Dresden. It consists of invert sugar syrup and flavourings, so it works like regular corn syrup or golden syrup, which is often used in bars like these. The syrup improves both the texture and colour, it makes them all shiny and chestnut-coloured. And of course it adds this amazing buttery toffee syrup. I added cranberries and almonds but I think this recipe is quite adaptable. For example you could use butterscotch chips instead of the cranberries. Of course you can use raisins instead of the cranberries and you could leave out the almonds as well for a simpler and cheaper version.

Note: I used this brand of butterscotch syrup but there are other brands, too. A German equivalent would be this kind of syrup. If you don’t have access to butterscotch syrup at all, you can use agave nectar, rice syrup or corn syrup instead. This will change the flavour but should not affect the texture. Please keep in mind that the baking time might be shorter when using agave syrup.


Cranberry Butterscotch Flapjacks (makes 16 bars)

150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
80 g (6 tablespoons) soft refined coconut oil
200 g (2 cups) rolled oats
125 g (1 cup) cranberries
100 g (1 cup) slivered almonds
4 tablespoons butterscotch syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a rectangular pan (28 x 18 cm or 11 x 7 inch) with parchment paper. Beat sugar and oil until creamy. Add remaining ingredients and knead with your hands until everything is mixed well. Press into the pan and bake for 23 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

cranberry butterscotch flapjacks |

Nut bars cut into triangles are a popular treat in Germany. They can be found at many bakeries, but they are also easy to make at home. Veganising them is quite easy. Most vegan recipes are adaptions from the traditional recipe: they call for soy flour or egg-replacer instead of an egg in the shortbread crust. Margarine substitutes both the butter in the crust and the filling.

I admit that I used to be a butter person and I never became close friends with vegan margarine, no matter what brand. I did use it for baking because it was easy, but a couple of years ago when people started to talk about all the issues with palm oil, often a part of margarine, I decided to no longer use margarine in my baking recipes. For many recipes refined coconut oil is a great replacement both for butter and margarine. You just have to keep in mind that coconut oil is 100 % fat and margarine (or butter) has a water content of about 20 %. If you use refined coconut oil instead of margarine in a recipe, always use a little less coconut oil. Sometimes things are more complicated though as this recipe for margarine-free nut bars shows. I already had a triangle nut bar recipe on my blog, a veganised version of a Dr. Oetker recipe, which, of course, called for margarine.

If you make nut bars with margarine instead of butter, it’s easy to take those traditional recipes and veganise them. But what if you don’t want to use margarine? And what if you don’t want to grind your nuts but use coarsely chopped ones instead? Well, in this case using coconut oil for the topping is not always a good idea. I tried several different ratios of coconut oil to sugar and always ended up with gritty bars. (Yes, last week we ate a lot of nut bars!) Then I thought about making a caramel sauce for the topping and looked at recipes for caramel sauce. Those are often made with butter, too. But also with heavy cream. That sounded like a good start. Because there is a great vegan substitute for heavy cream. I am talking about coconut cream, which is the fat you can scrape off a can of chilled coconut milk.

When I first tried this I used too much coconut cream and my topping came out rather pale and didn’t set the way it was supposed to. I also had spread a layer of cherry jam on the crust and the combination of jam and moist topping made these quite gooey. Delicious, but still not good enough.

nut bars with cherry jam

 After all these nut bar trials I was fed up with chopping nuts. So for the next round I dumped all of them into my high speed blender et voilà, thanks to my lack of patience I ended up with 3/4 nut meal and 1/4 whole nuts in seconds. But you know what? I am done with making and eating nut bars. I now have a fantastic recipe even though this is still not like the one that is rattling around in my brain. Hey brain, do I have to say more than caramelised nuts and thick and still tender shortbread crust? No? Thank you!

coconut cream and sugar srup

Nussecken {Triangle Nut Bars}, 8-16 bars
  • For the crust:
  • 120 g (1/2 cup) softened refined coconut oil
  • 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 250 g (2 cups plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons soy milk
  • For the topping:
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) water
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) coconut cream*
  • 1 generous pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150 g (2 cups) hazelnuts, coarsely ground
  • 100 g (1 1/4 cups) walnuts or pecans, coarsely ground
  • 200 g (7 oz) chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  1. To make the crust: Cream together coconut oil and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix until crumbs form. Line a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) baking dish with parchment paper. Evenly press the dough into the pan and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  3. To make the topping: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat gently. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil on high for 5 minutes. (See picture above.) Remove from heat and stir in coconut cream, salt, and vanilla. Mix everything until the coconut cream is dissolved. Add nuts and stir until everything is combined and no lumps are left. Spread on top of the crust and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing from pan. Please note that these are moist and delicate, so make sure to cut them carefully with a sharp knife. Cut into four squares and then cut those into two large or four small triangles each.
  5. Melt 200 g (7 oz) chocolate and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a water bath.
  6. Place the nut bars on a piece of parchment paper or on a cookie rack placed over a piece of parchment.
  7. Dip the edges into the chocolate or, if the bars are a bit too crumbly, use a spoon to cover the edges with chocolate and let dry.
  8. Store these in an airtight container at room temperature. They should keep for 3-4 days.
For the coconut cream chill a can of coconut milk over night in the fridge. When you open it after chilling the solid fat should have risen to the top so that you can scrape it off. (See picture above.)

Nussecken ohne Margarine

Classic German Desserts

We are already in the third week of the Vegan Month of Food and yes, I skipped the first two days of this week. I guess I needed a little cake sabbatical. Plus, sometimes life just gets in your way and a day is much too short when you have to divide it between work, spending time with your family, and other things. But enough with the lame excuses already, today I am back, armed with flour, sugar, fat, and more sugar. I hope you will enjoy the following treats as today’s recipe and the next ones are all childhood favourites of mine. And they are all coworker tested, too.

Mandelhoernchen - a German childhood favourite

All of these childhood favourites were and are still available at the bakery right next to my parents house in Northern Germany. On Sunday afternoons my father would often go there and buy cakes or pastries so we could eat them for coffee, as that sweet afternoon snack was called.  One of my favourite pastries were these Mandelhörnchen (almond crescends). They are made from marzipan, topped with sliced almonds, and dipped in dark chocolate. If you bite into them they are chewy, but then the marzipan melts in your mouth right away. And then you taste the crispy roasted almonds and the bittersweet chocolate. I love all those contrasts in one baked good. The recipe is from a cookbook called Koch- und Backhits der 60er. I adapted and veganised it.

Note to those who are gluten-free: This recipe calls for 50 g of regular flour. It’s used for binding, but this might work without it. I haven’t tried, but maybe adding more starch or something like glutinous rice flour might give you the same results as regular wheat flour.





Mandelhörnchen (yields 17)

200 g (7 oz) marzipan
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
75 ml (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) soy milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
50 g (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon) flour
100 g (3.5 oz) sliced almonds

150 g (5.3 oz) chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the marzipan into small cubes and place in a bowl. Add sugar and soy milk. Mash with a spoon until the mixture is smooth. (You can also use a hand held mixer or blender for this step.) Add starch, baking powder, and flour. Use a hand held mixer to beat into a smooth paste. Fill into a a pastry bag with a large, whide mouthed tip attached. Pipe on a baking sheet in the form of crescents. Your crescents will look like bent sausages at this point, but they should spread and flatten out while baking. So make sure not to place them to close together! Sprinkle with almonds and carefully press some of the almonds into the crescents. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for about ten minutes. Transfer to a cookie rack to cool completely.
Melt the chocolate and dip the crescents into the marzipan. Place on a sheet of parchment paper to dry.