Sometimes I look at old recipes on this blog. And the I cringe. Or a serious laughing fit makes me fall off my chair. But I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself. After all I didn’t know much about baking in general when I started this blog. Plus, there weren’t too many vegan baking books to get help from. So I veganised ingredient lists and worked by trial and error. I wasn’t afraid of recipes that called for a ton of dairy products and I didn’t set those aside which called for three or four eggs. It was fun and creative. Baking from scratch felt like being Molly Bloom. It was mostly about what came to my mind and what came to my mind next. A stream of ingredients, a weird meandering of methods. I probably could have made recipes simpler. But that’s the good thing about blogging as a hobby. You can do whatever you want. If you want, you can make a fool of yourself. It’s just a recipe blog. I mostly want to have fun and learn a thing or two. So far, I learned a lot. And I do bake differently now. I want things to be precise and I want recipes to work (and not only for me). That’s why I sometimes rewrite old recipes, update pictures and and put the posts back on the blog.
Once I found a recipe for chocolate hazelnut squares in a grocery store leaflet. I don’t remember the original ingredient list, but judging from my adaptions it must have contained a ton of dairy and eggs. I probably tried to replace every single one of these ingredients. I also mixed together my own weird version of an egg replacer by combining tapioca starch, margarine, soy creamer, and baking powder. Was that supposed to be an egg? What was I thinking? Whatever, I remember that the bars were indestructible and came out excellent. And that weird recipe stuck in my head and I’ve always wanted to revise it. Now I finally did, crossing off some ingredients and specifying the instructions. The finished bars taste almost exactly as I remember them: a delicate and rich shortbread base combined with a moist and soft hazelnut topping. And this time I got there much faster.
How have your cooking and baking techniques changed over the years? What did you learn and how has your confidence improved? Did your approach towards baking or cooking change? Did you find new methods and realise that certain steps or ingredients you relied on are unnecessary?
Note: I know that there’s been going on a lot of discussion about which fats to use in baking. I started using refined coconut oil instead of margarine quite a while ago. That is mostly because I have very easy access to refined coconut oil and it’s cheaper than margarine. If you buy organic, it’s also more sustainable than palm oil. But I do also think that this is completely up to you, your dietary choices and other circumstances. So you can use margarine instead of coconut oil, if you want. For the curst, increase the amount to 200 g (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) and adjust the plant milk. You’ll probably need less if any at all to get the crust hold together.
Chocolate Shortbread and Hazelnut Squares
- For the crust
- 300 g 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 100 g 1 cup sifted, powdered sugar
- 60 g 1/2 cup sifted cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 165 g 3/4 cup refined coconut oil, softened
- 1-2 tablespoons soy milk
- For the topping
- 200 g haselnut meal or ground walnuts
- 180 g brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 80 g 1/3 cup soy yoghurt
- 80 ml 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 60 ml 1/4 cup soy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Grease a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 inch) brownie pan or line with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
- To make the crust, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Knead in the softened coconut oil with your hands and add soy milk if the dough seems to crunbly.
- Press into the prepared pan and refrigerate while making the filling.
- To make the filling, place all dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Add liquid ingredients and stir until everything is combined.
- Pour on top of the filling and spread out evenly.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes. If the filling gets too dark, cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.
- Let cool completely and cut into 16 squares or whatever size you like.