Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

These are my recreation of those mini muffins people buy in tubs from the supermarket! They’ve always looks so useful and appealing, but are sadly not suitable for us.

Both girls tried to eat school lunches for ages, but we came to realise that whilst the schools really tried, the lack of choice and the fact it often wasn’t to their taste, meant they both hardly ate any lunch. I think the difficulty is that the schools have to cater for everyone and so there ended up being one generic ‘free-from’ meal which hardly compared to the exciting options everyone else was tucking into!

So we have moved to packed lunches which means they both definitely eat something, but it is hard to find interesting, different things to include (especially as they generally like different things!). There’s so few shop bought options, and luckily since I love to bake, I try and make a variety of different tasty sweet treats to add. These muffins totally fit that bill; not only are they lunch box sized, but you can also freeze them and add them frozen to defrost for lunch time – a total godsend on busy work/school days!

Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

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

makes about 36-48 depending on the size of your mini-muffin tin

2 cups plain flour

2/3 rds cup caster sugar

1 tbsps baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsps cocoa powder

1/2 cup melted dairy free margarine

2/3 rds cup dairy free milk

1 cup dairy free yogurt

1/3 cup dairy free chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Stir in most of the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips
  3. Combine the wet ingredients; melted margarine, milk and yogurt. Pour the wet into the dry and gently mix until it is just combined with no lumps of raw flour remaining.
  4. 1/2 to 2/3rds fill each muffin case (depending if you want a muffin top or just a domed mini muffin) and then top each with a couple of choc chip/lumps of choc to give an appealing finish
  5. Bake for 12 minutes until they are puffed up and a knife comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. One cool eat, keep in a tin or freeze.

Stollen (egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free)

I have a fondness for Stollen and it’s been on my Christmas recipe to-do list for some years. Somehow it’s always felt a little out of reach to make it friendly enough for the family. Clearly any yeasted dough filled with marzipan doesn’t fit the nut-free criteria! Then I came across this recipe for nut-free marzipan and all the pieces fell into place – friendly Stollen here we come!

Stollen

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

 

makes one Stollen

100g mixture of dried fruit and candiedĀ citrus peel

90ml apple juice

1 tbsp fast-action dried yeast

250g flour

50g caster sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine

60ml dairy-free milk

125g marzipan or nut-free marzipan

1 tbsp melted dairy-free margarine

icing sugar to dust

  1. Soak the dried fruit and citrus peel in the apple juice for at least half an hour
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and spices. Rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the dairy-free milk and dried fruit and the juice they’re soaked in. Bring to a dough and then knead until smooth.
  3. Cover the bowl and leave double in size which will probably take an hour or two.
  4. Knock back and roll out to a rectangle. Roll the marzipan into a sausage and place in the middle of the rectangle of dough.
  5. Fold it up and then use the side of your hand to make an indentation down the length of the dough. Transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover and leave to rise for at least half an hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes until risen and golden all over.
  9. Remove from the oven, brush with melted margarine and generously dust with icing sugar

Mocha Biscotti

This year I’m intending on making lots of my Christmas presents, well that’s the plan! I’ll have to see if life, work and the new puppy let that happen…

To me it seems like this is the right time to take a little step away from consumerism and reconnect with the the homemade. I also think it makes the festive season seem particularly special; that extra effort in making gifts for people adds an extra touch of love and I hope makes both the giver and receiver equally happy.

Along with the jams, chutneys and chocolate truffles (I’ve got a cracking new recipe coming up next), these biscotti make a wonderful gift. They keep well and are just perfect with coffee or something stronger šŸ˜‰ over the festive season.

Biscotti may seem tricky to make but in reality they just need a little extra time to be double baked, first as a large log and then sliced. The resulting crispy slices keep well and are robust enough to make fantastic gifts.

I’ve given these biscotti a mocha flavour which i think works particularly well when it’s cold and dark; there’s something so cosy about the combination of coffee and chocolate. Don’t worry about it being an ‘adult’ taste, it works wonderfully with decaf and it’s more a tinge of coffee rather than a full whack in the chops!

Mocha Biscotti

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

makes about 24 biscotti

250g or 2 cups plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

pinch of salt

200g or 1 cup caster sugar

50g dairy-free chocolate, chopped

120ml sunflower oil

120ml dairy-free milk (made up of 1tbsp instant coffee powder and 1 tbsp hot water topped up to 120ml with dairy-free milk)

30g dairy-free chocolate, melted (to drizzle on top)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4
  2. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Ā Stir in the sugar and chocolate chips.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, dairy-free milk mix.Ā Bring together to a wet and sticky dough.
  5. Form into one or two log shapes on the lined baking sheet. (they spread out quite Ā a lot so make them smaller than you think unless you want long biscotti!) Brush with the dairy-free milk.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and starting to turn golden around the edges.
  7. Cool briefly, then cut into even slices. Return to the baking sheet and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, turn the slices over and cook for 5-10 minutes more. You want a uniform slightly golden tinge, but no particularly dark areas.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, drizzle or dip into the melted chocolate
  9. These keep well, in an airtight container for a week or so.

 

Bonfire or Christmas Spice Scones

I’m not one for a milky coffee but I do like the sound of the seasonal varieties that are sold in the big golf shop chains. Bonfire and pumpkin spice sounds so warm and appealing and just the right kind of taste for these cold winter months. So to avoid missing out, I’ve added the same warm spices to these delightfully light and fluffy spiced clouds of pure pleasure!

After the awful scones we had in a 5*hotel (see previous post!) I felt I had to post a better recipe Ā – One Aldwych if you’re reading look here for a good dairy and egg-free scone recipe šŸ˜‰ These scones are spot on every time, light, fluffy and delicate; absolutely nothing like the almost inedible hard biscuits we got in the fancy tea!

I’ve provided two different spice varieties; one more autumnal and the other with a bit more of a Christmas feel but adding clementine and lemon zest to the mix.

Spiced Scones

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

Makes about 12

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch ground cardamon

(zest of 1 lemon and 1 clementine for Christmas spice)

220g plain flour

1 and 1/2 tsps baking powder

2 tbsp dairy-freeĀ margarine

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Pinch of salt

Up to 100ml dairy-freeĀ milk

1-2 tbsps Demerara sugar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Preheat the oven toĀ 200 degrees centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Grease and flour a baking sheet
  3. Mix together all the spices (plus zests if making Christmas spice)
  4. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and most of the spice mix spices. Rub in the margarineĀ until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Pour in some of the dairy-free milk. Gently bring together to form a soft dough (do NOT knead or youā€™ll end up with rock hard scones!). Add more milk if necessary.
  6. Gently pat out to a circle about 5cm thick. Stamp our circles and place on the baking sheet. Gather up the remaining dough, pat out again and stamp out more circles until all the dough is used up
  7. Brush the tops with dairy-free milkĀ and sprinkle over some Demerara sugar and the remaining spice mix
  8. Bake forĀ 20-25 minutesĀ until well risen and golden on the tops and bottoms
  9. Cool on a wire rack

The Best Ever Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies and the worries of school trips

My thinking is that in the U.K. a cookie, by definition, is a chocolate chip variety, a nod to the giant soft but chewy versions of our American friends, rather than a firmer crunchy British biscuit. These chocolate studded beauties sit right on the cusp between an English biscuit (crunchy, sweet, sometimes dunked) and the all the more soft and gooey American counterpart. I have to say I like both crunchy biscuits and softer cookies, so these tick all the boxes – crisp round the edges, soft and yielding in the centre with more chocolate than you could hope for. Surely the ultimate in sweet comfort food, and that’s certainly what we need this half term with two school trips in progress.

My stress levels have been high for months ever since these trips came on the horizon. Clearly school trips are fantastic experiences, are great at promoting independence and growth and well, I wouldn’t want the girls to miss out. But factor in no only missing them dreadfully but also food allergies and the worries about safe food, then you have the ingredients for a stressful time!

These aren’t the first school trips, they have both been on them before. However, other than a French trip for Big S where the hotel refused to give her any food as there had been a serious allergic reaction in the region (my that was one tricky trip!) they have generally been to residential venues which are set up to cater for schools, and so generally pretty on the case for catering for everyone. Food might not have been fantastic (and there have often been some problems) but at least it’s been safe and each time I’ve spoken to the chef involved who has cooked all the meals. So there has always been a sense of being as prepared as possible.

These trips are a whole different scenario. Both girls are going some distance, staying in hotels and eating at different places every day – we would never dream of doing this kind of holiday as a family! Even the thought of staying in a hotel for more than one night seems out of the question, and then eating at places like leisure centres and bowling complexes – it’s a big no way!

I have done everything I can – contacting the hotels and the chef, going through every meal, checking options, providing alternatives and snacks. But it’s still a big worry. It’s hard to hand over control and totally trust others when you’re asking them to be so vigilant to one child when they have a whole group to look after. Luckily both girls are sensible and if anything will come home starving having eaten very little, but it does make me sad that they don’t have the freedom and carefreeness of their friends.

Anyway, these cookies are to help us through the next two weeks, to give us all a metaphorical hug when the stress is feeling a bit too much. Hopefully, they can do the same for you and your family and friends when you need a big cuddle.

The Best Ever Tripe Chocolate Cookies

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

 

makes about 24

150g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

70g soft brown sugar

big pinch of bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

200g plain flour

85g dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped

85g dairy-free ‘milk’ chocolate, chopped

30g dairy-free white chocolate, chopped

  1. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy
  2. Sift in the flour, bicarb and salt and bring together to a soft dough
  3. Stir in the chocolate chunks
  4. Form into a sausage shape, wrap and chill in the fridge. If you like you can freeze at this point, then slice and bake the dough from frozen, adding one extra minute to the cooking time
  5. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Line baking sheets with parchment
  6. Cut 1cm slices of dough and place well apart on the lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They should be just turning golden at the edges but still soft in the centre.
  8. Cool for a few minutes on the baking tray to firm up, then more to a wire rack.

Light Fruit Cake in the style of a Genoa Cake or a French Cake aux Fruits

Sometimes I find inspiration is lacking and I find it hard to come up with new ideas – well, there are over 700 unique recipes on my site! Then along comes a whole season of inspiration in the form of the Great British Bake Off. It’s such a feel-good programme when there is so much doom and gloom in the news, that it adds a touch of good natured homely fun to each Tuesday evening. I have tried to bake along for the past few years, but my plans have often gone awry. This year, however, I’m really going to try to keep it up and provide you lovely people with a new friendly Bake Off inspired recipe each week.

For Week 1: cake week; the three bakes were fruit cake, Angel cake slices and a childhood themed showstopper. It’s still the school summer holidays so the showstopper was out of the question (not enough time!), angel cake slices have so far eluded me as genoise sponge is so egg heavy I’ve never been able to recreate an egg-free version. I do hope to get there one day (bear with me!), but for now the fruit cake was the right choice for me.

I don’t often make fruit cakes (except at Christmas) as my children can’t stand dried fruit, but I have a fondness for an occasional slice, especially if it’s the lighter styles, I’m no fan a dark heavy dense fruit cake!

This lovely light fruit loaf is inspired by French-style or Genoa cake recipes and gives a wonderful delicate but fruity cake. Delicious freshly baked, or lightly toasted the next day šŸ™‚

Light Genoa Fruit Cake

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

makes 1 loaf cake

100g glace cherries

50gĀ dates, stoned and roughly chopped

50g raisins

50g currants

1 tbsps brandy (or apple juice)

1 tsp cherry syrup (optional)

175g plain flour

1/2 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

35g dairy-freeĀ margarine

zest of 1 lemon

85g light Muscovado sugar

150ml dairy-freeĀ milk, warmed to hand hot temperature

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin
  2. Pour the brandy/apple juice over the dried fruit and leave to steep for at least half an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and mixed spice.Ā Add the lemon zest.
  5. Rub in the dairy-freeĀ margarine, until the mix looks like fine breadcrumbs
  6. Stir in the sugar, and the dried fruits
  7. Add the bicarb to the warm milk and stir until dissolved
  8. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough
  9. Turn into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn the cake aroundĀ and continue to bake for a further 15, or until a knife comes out clean.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.
  11. For added moisture pour over 1 tbsp extra brandy mixed with 1 tsp cherry syrup if you have any.
  12. Once cool brush with nappage (warmed equal parts apricot jam mixed with water) and decorate with extra halves place cherries