Plant-based desserts delight

Anthea Cheng says it took 10 years for her to become a vegan.  PHOTOS: ANTHEA CHENG
Anthea Cheng says it took 10 years for her to become a vegan. PHOTOS: ANTHEA CHENG
Cheesecake, tarts, bars, slices and even a scone get a vegan makeover in Anthea Cheng’s book Incredible Plant-based Desserts.

Based in Canberra Australia, Cheng runs a blog and social media account called Rainbow Nourishments and used to make cakes for a living.

'Incredible Plant-based Desserts', by Anthea Cheng, published by Quarto Books, RRP$45.
'Incredible Plant-based Desserts', by Anthea Cheng, published by Quarto Books, RRP$45.
Baking was not Cheng’s first career of choice. Having grown up in her parents’ restaurants, food was the last thing she wanted to do for a career, but after getting sick and starting a hobby Instagram account to connect with like-minded individuals, she ended up quitting her secure government job to work on her blog full-time.

The aim was to create a blog less about the kitchen and more about connecting with people on a deeper level.

It grew into a blog that shared vegan recipes as well as promoting discussions about wellbeing and the environment.

Cheng said it took 10 years for her to become a vegan after first trying it as a teenager. She first became a vegetarian, then vegan and unlike when she was a teen, was able to create nutritionally balanced meals.

In the past five years the idea of eating less has grown siginficantly.

"Plant-based diets fit perfectly in this movement as eating no animal products significantly reduces a person’s carbon footprint."

She believes most people would benefit from a diet with more vegetables, fruit and wholefoods in an approach that is sustainable and able to be maintained long-term.

"My ultimate goal is to have a healthy relationship with food, so I don’t seek perfection with eating wholefoods."

The book includes recipes with some gluten and refined sugar.

"Sometimes treats taste better with these ingredients."

Cheng has gone on to become a food consultant to dessert businesses around the world and hosts pop-up events and workshops around Australia. The recipes in her book come from these events.

They range from nourishing breakfasts and ideas for snack time to cafe-style treats, celebration cakes and basic condiments and frostings.

 

Baked cinnamon doughnuts with a strawberry glaze

Classic doughnuts are characterised by their subtle cinnamon and nutmeg flavour and their sweet glaze, which is dry to the touch and "cracks" when you bite into it.

I’ve replicated all those elements in this recipe! The oven temperature for this recipe is higher than usual as the doughnuts need to develop a crust so they can easily pop out of their moulds.

When making the glaze, I reduced the strawberries on the stove top to intensify their flavour and colour. The frosting turns into a playful pastel pink colour that reminds me of childhood!

Makes 18 doughnuts

Ingrdients

2½ cups (300g) self-rising flour

1¼ cups (250g) white or (180g) coconut sugar

1 Tbsp (13g) chia seeds or (12g) flaxseeds, ground

1½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Wet ingredients
1¼ cup (285ml) plant-based milk, such as almond, soy, or coconut

¾ cup (175ml) light-tasting vegetable oil, such as sunflower

1 Tbsp (15ml) apple cider vinegar

Pink strawberry frosting and decoration

1 cup (145g) strawberries, stems removed

½ cup (112g) refined coconut oil or vegetable shortening

3-4 cups (360g-480g) powdered sugar, as needed

3 Tbsp (45ml) plant-based milk, such as almond, soy, or coconut

sprinkles of choice

Method

1. Heat the oven to 190degC. If you have silicone doughnut trays, place them on a baking tray. If you have an aluminum doughnut tray, thoroughly grease with oil.

2. Add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Mix until combined and there are no lumps. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl and mix until just combined.

3. Spoon or pipe the batter into your doughnut trays, filling each mould about three-quarters full. Bake the doughnuts for 13-15 minutes or until they are slightly golden brown. Let the doughnuts completely cool in the moulds. If you try to remove the doughnuts earlier, they may crumble or stick to the moulds. Remove the doughnuts and place them on a wire rack.

To make the frosting

1. Add the strawberries and a splash of water to a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil until the strawberries have completely broken down and can easily be smashed with the back of a fork. Puree with a stick blender and reduce the stove to medium-low heat. Add the oil or shortening and mix until it melts. Add the sugar and milk and then mix until everything is fully combined. When the frosting is warm, it should be a little thicker than a liquid sweetener. If it is too thick, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Remove from the heat.

To decorate

1. Spoon the frosting over each doughnut and sprinkle the decorations

on top. Set aside for 10-15 minutes

until the frosting sets and is dry to the touch.

2. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, in the fridge for 5 days, or in the freezer up to 1 month.

Tip: To easily grind the seeds, blend them with all the wet ingredients in a blender. If you don’t like overly sweet treats, substitute coconut sugar for the regular sugar in the doughgnuts. Skip the frosting or top the doughnuts with fresh strawberries. Alternatively, frost the doughnuts with cashew cream-flavoured with freeze-dried strawberry powder or strawberry puree.

 

Almond butter and berry ‘jelly’ bar 

A fancy take on the classic peanut butter and jelly bar!

The base is crunchy, the middle layer is creamy, and the jelly layer is bouncy gelatin!

For the jelly, most recipes would ask you to remove the berry pulp, but to minimise food waste I kept the pulp in the jelly.

Conventional gelatin is derived from animal bones, so I used agar powder, which is a seaweed extract. Agar can be found in Asian and health food stores.

Makes 16 small square bars

Ingredients

Base

1 cup (145g) almonds

1 cup (85g) desiccated coconut

⅔ cup (107g) pitted dates

dash of ground cinnamon

Almond butter layer

¾ cup (105g) cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours

½ cup (130g) almond butter

¾ cup (175ml) canned coconut cream

2-4 Tbsp (40g-80g) rice malt or maple

syrup, or any other plant-based liquid sweetener, to taste

¼ cup (55g) cacao butter, melted

pinch of salt

Jelly layer

1 cup (235ml) water

1 cup (about 150g) fresh or frozen berries of choice

3 Tbsp (60g) rice malt or maple syrup, or any other plant-based liquid sweetener (optional)

1½ tsp agar powder

½ cup (65g) fresh raspberries, sliced in half lengthways

Method

1. Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

To make the base

1. Add the almonds and coconut to a food processor and process until it forms coarse crumbs. Drain the dates and add them to the food processor with the cinnamon. Process the ingredients until they are well combined. Scoop the mixture into the cake tin and press it down to create a firm and even base.

To make the almond butter layer

1. Drain the cashews and add them to a high-powered blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend on medium to high for 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is very smooth. Pour the cheesecake mixture on the top of the base and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon or a cake scraper. Place it in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

To make the jelly layer

1. When the almond butter layer is firm to the touch, add the water, 1 cup (about 150g) of berries, sweetener

(if using), and agar powder to a small saucepan. Blend with a stick blender until there are no more large chunks of berries.

Bring the mixture to a gentle boil for 1 minute and then remove from the heat to cool slightly.

Carefully pour the jelly on top of the almond butter layer and quickly arrange the sliced raspberries in the jelly. Place it in the fridge for 2 hours or until set.

2. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars. Enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. The bars cannot go in the freezer because the jelly layer would crystallise if frozen.

 

Summery fruit tart, two ways!

This creamy tart is perfect for gatherings in the warmer months! The first version of this tart is better for those who prefer more traditional desserts, as it is baked and has a classic, crumbly base. The second version is better for those who are health-conscious, as it is packed with nutritious nuts. Feel free to mix and match the bases and fillings!

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

Option 1: tart base

1½ cups (188g) all-purpose flour

⅓ cup (80ml) light-tasting vegetable oil, such as sunflower

3 Tbsp (27g) coconut sugar

2-4 Tbsp (28ml-60ml) water

Option 1: Filling

1 heaped cup (140g) cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours

¾ cup (188g) silken firm tofu

¼ cup (60ml) plant-based milk, such as almond, soy, or coconut

¼-½ cup (80g-100g) rice malt or maple syrup, or any other plant-based liquid sweetener to taste

½ cup (85g) unsweetened plant-based yoghurt (optional)

1 Tbsp (15ml) vanilla extract zest and juice of ½ lemon

pinch of salt

Option 2: Tart base

1½ cups (218g) almonds, or any other nut or seed

⅓ cup (53g) pitted dates, soaked in water for at least 4 hours

pinch of salt

Option 2: Filling

1 cup (140g) cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours

1 cup (235ml) coconut cream

¼-½ cup (80g-100g) rice malt or maple syrup, or any other plant-based liquid sweetener to taste

3 Tbsp (42g) cacao butter or coconut oil, melted

Decorations

Mangoes, nectarines, passionfruit, or any other fruit in season!

Method — Option 1

1. Heat the oven to160degC. Line the bottom of an 20cm loose-bottom tart pan.

To make the tart base

1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. If the mixture is crumbly, add extra water and mix until it becomes a pliable dough.

Firmly press the mixture into the baking pan and smooth the surface. Set aside.

To make the filling

1. Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender, blend until smooth, and then pour the mixture into the tart pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the middle of the tart is not wobbly. Leave the tart in the oven with the door ajar. When the tart is cool, set it aside in the fridge to set further.

2. Slice the fruit and decorate the tart as desired. Serve immediately or set aside in the fridge in a large airtight container until ready to serve! Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Option 2

1. Line the bottom of an 20cm loose bottom tart pan.

To make the tart base

1. Add the almonds to a food processor and process until it forms coarse crumbs.

Drain the dates and add them to the food processor with the salt. Process until it is combined and stays together when it is pinched. Press the mixture into the tart pan.

To make the filling

1. Drain the cashews and add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender. Blend until it is as smooth as possible. Pour the mixture into the tart base. Set aside in the fridge to set for about 4 hours or until the cream is not wobbly in the middle.

2. Slice the fruit and decorate the tart as desired. Serve immediately or set aside in the fridge in a large airtight container until ready to serve! Store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to a month.

Add a Comment

 

Ask a Chef Recipe Book ON SALE NOW! $29.99

The all-new Ask a Chef is available now! With fantastic recipes from the popular newspaper series, there is inspiration for everything from salads to chocolate cakes and quiches to sausage rolls - sure to impress at your next family or social gathering!

With a delicious mix of recipes from around the region including Riverstone Kitchen and Fleur's Place, there is something for everyone. Get your copy of Ask a Chef today !

 

Buy now from ODT Shop 

ODT subscriber only price - $25