Brunch Bars – the cereal bars of your dreams

Cereal bars seem to be big news. I don’t buy them (it’s rare to find a nut and dairy-free cereal bar) and don’t often venture down the ‘bar’ aisle of the supermarket. I happened to wander down it the other day and was utterly overwhelmed by the amount and variety of bars on offer. They really must be a ‘thing’ for lots of people.

I certainly get the point – a mid-morning snack with a healthy vibe (whether that is true or not is another matter!) must be a good idea. It stuck me that maybe we needed a friendly cereal bar in our lives, one to act as breakfast on the hoof or as an interesting addition to these daily triple packed lunches I seem to be making.

This recipe took a while to evolve, but the wait was worth it, these bars are seriously good. I’ve been eating them all week, and I’m not a cereal bar eater! They combine granola (homemade in this case) for flavour and texture with rice crispies for crunch. This is enrobed in a delicious mix of sugar, syrup and biscoff spread. Nut or seed butter would work wonderfully and give a ‘nutty’ undertone if you can tolerate it. Don’t worry if you don’t have safe granola just sub for oats (ideally toasted) and a handful of dried/freeze-dried fruit of choice. There must be some shop bought dairy-free and nut-free granola available, but I’ve not come across it. Do let me know of any recommendations.

I definitely recommend the chocolate drizzle – not only does it look nice but it also gives a touch of luxury. Besides, chocolate is always a good addition!

Brunch Cereal Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 6 large bars

100g granola

25g rice krispies

60g caster sugar

90g golden or maple syrup, or use honey

50g Biscoff spread (or nut/seed/wow butter of choice)

20g dark dairy-free chocolate

  1. Melt together the sugar, syrup and biscoff spread until you have a thick smooth mixture
  2. Stir in the granola and rice krispies and stir until everything is coated in the rich caramel sauce
  3. Press into a baking tin lined with parchment. I used a 2lb loaf tin which is perfect for the amount quoted about. If you want to make more, double the quantities and use a standard square baking tin.
  4. Place in the fridge or a cool place to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over, leave to set.
  6. Cut into 6 bars.

Pizza Swirls and Savoury Swirls

These little swirls are the answer to your snack dreams! Easy, moreish and worthy of any occasion. I serve them instead of crisps, with an aperitif or as a tasty addition to packed lunches. These bites are one of my ‘go to’ recipes when the girls are hungry and only a savoury option will do. To be honest, it’s not much of a recipe, nothing complicated here, but sometimes it’s the inspiration that’s needed rather than the instructions.

Puff pastry has a miriade of uses, and these little bitesized snacks are a great example of a super quick puff based recipe. This recipe if for either pizza flavoured bites (cheese, tomato and oregano), or the ultimate umami taste of cheese and marmite. I know Marmite totally divides people, so go for your favoured choice, or maybe even a combination of the two.

Most puff pastry is dairy-free if it isn’t the ‘all butter’ version (but do check) and is certainly a great freezer staple. I don’t often use dairy-free cheese as i find most of it pretty unpalatable, but it really does work in this recipe as it’s paired with such strong flavours any unpleasant flavour is overpowered and you are left with a pleasing savoury umami taste.

 

Pizza and Savoury Swirls

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 10-15

1/2 pack of puff-pastry

1 tbsp tomato puree or 1 tbsp marmite

about 3 tbsp grated dairy-free cheese (enough to lightly sprinkle over)

1/2 tsp oregano if making pizza swirls (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade, Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry to an even rectangle (or be really lazy and use pre-rolled!)
  3. For pizza swirls: Spread the tomato puree evenly all over the puff. For savoury swirls do the same with the marmite. Sprinkle over the cheese and oregano if using.
  4. Roll up into a Swiss roll shape. Cut 1cm slices and place onto the baking sheet, with room to spread.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden.

Fudge Brownies

Is there anything more delicious that a rich, fudge brownie? Personally, I can’t think of many more pleasing desserts than a warm fudge brownie topped with ice cream and caramel or chocolate sauce; I’m even salivating at the thought of it!

I was having coffee with a friend recently and she had a brownie with her cappuccino. I had a little taste as she was raving about it but I found it bland and stodgy, certainly not the brownie of my dreams.  I felt like I had thrown down the gauntlet to myself to make a far superior, friendly brownie. Some brownies are cake, some are dense, and some like these beauties are rich, fudgy and very very full of chocolate. It turns out I like these types the best 🙂

This recipe replies on lots of melted chocolate for richness and soft brown sugar for a fudge flavour. The middle it dense and gooey, the top slightly crispy, surely the profile of a perfect brownie.

I recommend warming these for 10 seconds in a microwave before eating with ice cream and warm sauce for the ultimate indulgence.

Fudge Brownies

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 9 good sized brownies

100g dairy-free chocolate

60g dairy-free margarine

110g soft brown sugar

100ml dairy-free milk

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tsp vanilla

100g plain flour

4 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

  1. Line an 20cm/8inch square baking tin with parchment. preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade
  2. Melt together the chocolate and margarine either in a microwave or over a Bain-marie. Stir until smooth
  3. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Whisk together the cornflour, milk and vanilla and pour into the chocolate. Combine thoroughly.
  5. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into the chocolate mix and gently fold until you have a smooth batter.
  6. Pour into the tin and level off. Bake for 18 minutes or until a knife comes out almost clean, a few moist crumbs are ok.
  7. Cool in the pan and then cut into 9 squares.

Confetti Traybake

Easy, tasty and pretty what more could you want from a cake recipe? I needed to make a quick after-school snack and thought something pretty was what was needed with the May sunshine shining through the windows, and surely no-one can resist a colourful sprinkle strewn traybake when they return home from a long and busy day at school.

I think the combination of vanilla sponge, baked with sprinkles stirred in for a colourful ‘funfetti’ effect, vanilla buttercream and a topping of more sprinkles is as pretty as a picture. The added bonus is that this recipe can be whipped up in about 40 minutes, which includes cooking and cooling time, you can’t get much quicker than that for a wow-worthy cake.

Confetti Traybake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

200g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp sprinkles

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a square baking tray with parchment
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon, vanilla and oil.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combined. Stir through the sprinkles.
  6. Pour the mix into the lined tin, level off and bake for 20-22 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

for the buttercream:

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine
1 tbsp vegetable fat
around 2 cups icing sugar
a splash of dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together the fats
  2. Whisk in the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, adding a splash of dairy-free milk. You may not need all the sugar, just keep checking the taste and texture
  3. Spread the buttercream over the cooled traybake and scatter liberally with sprinkles

Easter Rocky Road

Happy Easter (or just long bank holiday weekend) everyone 🐣

We’re been so lucky this year with a glorious sunny weekend, filled with plenty of time outside enjoying the countryside, having Easter Egg hunts or just gardening. It’s been a really joyous and sunny way to spend a long weekend.

Chocolate is everywhere at easter time, which certainly poses it’s problems for the food-allergy family. Things have definitely improved, but still the majority of Easter treats (and particularly child oriented ones) have to be avoided. Oh to be able to buy candy shelled mini-eggs just like everyone else!

To ensure the chocolate quota is at maximum for everyone I’ve made wonderfully spring-themed rocky road, decorated with homemade mini-eggs (melted dairy-free chocolate set in a mould with a glitter coating) and the obligatory mini fluffy chicks! Also called tiffin or chocolate biscuit cake, this combination of roughly crushed biscuits, rice crisps and marshmallows enrobed in chocolate will delight nearly everyone.

This is also the perfect recipe to use up any leftover chocolate, take away the Easter adornments and you have the perfect teatime treat for any time of year 🙂

Easter Rocky Road

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, can be gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 12 or so bars

160g dairy-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped

60g dairy-free margarine

25g golden syrup

100g chocolate biscuits, roughly crushed (I used Lotus biscuits that are (currently) dairy, egg and nut-free)

25g Rice Krispies

50g mini vegetarian marshmallows (or use normal if you’re not vegetarian/vegan)

homemade mini-eggs, jelly eggs and sprinkles to decorate

  1. Line a square brownie tin with non-stick parchment
  2. Melt together the chocolate, margarine and syrup, either in a microwave or over a bain marie
  3. Stir in the crushed biscuits, Rice Krispie and marshmallows.
  4. Evenly spread into the tin and press down.
  5. Scatter over some sprinkles and press the mini and jelly eggs on top for an extra dose of fun
  6. Leave to set in the fridge.
  7. Cut into bars.

Easter Biscuits

 

Easter is such an exciting time of year; spring is finally upon us with all it’s delights of cheeping birds, frolicking lambs and beautiful flowers and it feels like everything is just starting again after the fallow winter months. Easter seems to literally put the spring into everyone’s steps, and we start to look forward again. I feel this in terms of cooking as well as nature, suddenly fresh inspiration hits and there are so many more options open to me. I can’t wait to use all those spring flavours in the next few months. 🙂

I have many Easter themed recipes on my blog, and not surprisingly lots of them feature a lot of chocolate. However, even though they’re a personal favourite, I’ve never made traditional Easter biscuits. These customary cookies are a celebration of Easter time combining a subtle ‘hot cross bun’ spice with pretty decoration or dried fruit. These biscuits lend themselves equally well to the addition of the traditional juicy currants and crunchy caster sugar topping, or the somewhat fancier crispy yet soft cover of pretty pastel hued icing. Serve these to make a nice change from the chocolate overload and everyone will be happy come Easter weekend!

Easter Biscuits

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

 

makes lots, at least 20 large cookies

300g plain flour

2 tbsps cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

115g vegetable fat (I used Trex)

115g dairy-free margarine (Pure)

225g sugar (either caster or granulated)

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

60ml dairy-free milk

60g currants (if making fruited variety)

  1. Sift together the flour, cornflour, spices, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, spread and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the dairy-free milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine. Stir in the currants if using.
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden round the edges
  5. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  6. if making the fruity variety, sprinkle with caster sugar whilst hot.

for the royal icing:

3 tbsps aquafaba (water from a tin of beans or chickpeas)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3 cups icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

dairy-free milk to thin the icing

food colouring as desired

  1. In a stand mixer, or an electric whisk, whisk together all the ingredients until a smooth thick paste is created.
  2. Colour as desired. I split the mixture into two, and then coloured each with natural food colouring.
  3. Thin each colour with a splash of milk to make the icing a good consistency to coat the biscuits (thick, but thin enough to pipe!)
  4. Pipe as desired
  5. Let set but leaving at room temperature for a good few hours. If you dare, return the iced biscuits to the oven for a couple of minutes for a smooth shiny finish and then leave to set.