Quick Savoury Straws

Now it’s December we can officially get all Christmassy, which is really exciting as I have an ever expanding list of Christmas themed ideas which I need to get on with. Some of these have been on the back burner for some time, because if they don’t get posted before Christmas then they have to be kept til the following year. This is very frustrating when they’re fantastic recipes that need sharing! As you may have guessed, I have some knock-out sweet recipes lined up for the next few weeks, but here’s an easy savoury snack for the party season.

With so much festive time spent at home or visiting friends and family, the savoury snack has a crucial place for filling gaps between meals or to nibble on with drinks. In my view there’s nothing quite like something with a crispy crunch when you feel like a savoury snack. Having to avoid certain food stuffs really restricts the choices of savoury snacks available – of course no Christmas nuts in this house, no cheese based treats, indeed no Twiglets either – sad times!

Ok there is a choice of certain flavours and brands of crisps which we rely upon (we’re all big crisp fans in this household) and some popcorn brands are a good option but after that the choices get a little dull or difficult. So, the brief is a savoury snack which is easy to make, savoury and tempting too. Something that’s a little reminiscent of a cheese straw – light, crispy and oh so tangy? Welcome then  savoury stars which are irresistible savoury nibbles that are made in a flash. You may say, ‘oh I don’t like marmite so I’ll hate these’. Fair enough, but in my experience even marmite haters tend to enjoy these savoury crispy batons – it’s just a way of giving them a salty tang. I don’t tend to use ‘dairy-free’ cheese often, but on this occasion it does lift the taste to a new level. Make them any length/width you like – the photos show some that are long and elegant, some short and kind of chubby; all equally delicious.

 

Quick Savoury Straws

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

makes 20+

1/2 pack ready made puff pastry

1 tbsp marmite

a few drops of water

a sprinkle of dairy-free grated cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degreesC/gas mark 7
  2. Roll out the pastry, trying to make a nice even rectangle
  3. Thin the marmite with a few drops of water and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle with the dairy-free cheese. A couple of tbsp should be plenty.
  4. Fold the pastry in half and roll it out a little more.
  5. Cut 1cm thick strips and then twist a few times. Place on a lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and puffed up.
  7. They will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Chocolate Twists – The Ultimate Easy Breakfast Pastry

As a family we struggle to find exciting breakfasts, and generally revert to good old toast or cereal. However, sometimes it’s nice to have an exciting, fancy breakfast; one that feels a little more luxurious than the usual. Sadly, it seems to me that most exciting breakfasts involve some combination of dairy, eggs or nuts, which is certainly not ideal in our household, and makes most exciting options out of bounds.

I always feel particularly bad when we go to France and the girls can’t tuck into a crisp flaky croissant or Pain au Chocolat like (it seems) everyone else. I have made my own rather successful Pain au Chocolat which are dairy-free but they do take a good few hours to laminate the layers, and I’m sure not many people have the time to make homemade viennoiserie too often. Personally, I think it’s a great way to spend a day, but then I’m a bit of a baking fanatic 😉

This recipe is essentially a quick an easy version of a chocolate filled breakfast pastry and is based on those chocolate twists you see in coffee shops or bakery counters. I think a twist is a very appealing pastry, with the filling peeping out of the turns between the layers of golden pastry. Served warm with a little dusting of icing sugar these chocolate twists are the perfect, easy breakfast pastry. They also freeze brilliantly, so I bake a batch to freeze then in the morning i place it frozen into the microwave for 20 seconds to thaw, then into the oven for 5 minutes to warm. Ta Da, the perfect fresh warm pastry for breakfast heaven!

Chocolate Twists

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

300ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine, such as Pure

450-500g plain flour

2 tsp dried yeast

50g or 1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp chocolate extract [optional] or vanilla essence

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free spread

50g dairy-free chocolate, finely chopped [optional]

  1. Melt the margarine and milk together – you want it to be warm and melted but not hot
  2.  In a bowl mix together the flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, cornflour and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk.
  3. Bring together to a soft dough and knead until its smooth and bounces back when prodded. Cover and let double in size
  4. Mix together the filling ingredients (except the chopped chocolate) to form a soft paste. Set aside.
  5. Knock back the risen dough and roll out to a large long rectangle
  6. Smear on the chocolate paste. Sprinkle over the chocolate pieces, then fold in half
  7. Cut into even slices and twist each one to form a lovely swirly pastry
  8. Place on lined and greased baking pans and cover and leave to rise again for another half an hour
  9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
  10. Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through
  11. Dust with icing sugar before serving

Super Simple Mini Cupcakes – maybe the easiest recipe in the world!

 

It’s the start of birthday season in this household – we all have Autumn birthdays and so it’s a frantic run up to Christmas filled with various celebrations. Obviously, birthdays need cake and as you can imagine all my cakes are homemade.

These teeny tiny cupcakes were probably the first ever dairy and egg-free sweet recipe I devised, but never the less I get requests for them at every birthday! Maybe it’s their size but these miniature cupcakes always go down a treat; they also freeze brilliantly which is fantastic for being prepared for any situation. They can be defrosted and iced ready to take to a birthday party in a flash, making it easy for my daughters not to feel left out when it comes to the all important cake time!

They are light but tasty and can be made any size, and are very easy to flavour with choc chips, essences or dried fruit. Probably the simplest cupcake recipe you’ll ever come across, this is great one to pass to people who want to cater for an egg-free and dairy-free guest without any unusual ingredients, visits to the supermarket or complicated instructions! I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t like them, which really must be the best review going.

Super Simple Mini Cupcakes

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

 

(makes about 12 standard size or around 24 mini cupcakes)

110g plain flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

50g caster sugar

150ml water

40ml sunflower oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract or other essence of choice

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a muffin/cupcake tin
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then stir in the sugar
  3. Add flavourings as desired. 40g choc chips or 50g dried fruit plus a splash of extra water
  4. Pour in water and oil and stir until well combined, but don’t over-mix. Some tiny lumps are fine, as with a muffin batter.
  5. 2/3rds fill the cupcake/muffin cases
  6. Bake standard size for 20-25 mins until golden, mini size for 10-15 mins.
  7. Cool and ice if desired.

Gingerbread Welsh Cakes

I’m very fond of Welsh Cakes, I think they’re under-appreciated and overlooked in the world of teatime treats, unless you’re in Wales that is! They’re basically a little griddle cake or drop scone, usually subtly spiced and filled with dried fruit. Here is a rather tasty Autumnal version from me, bringing the warming spices of gingerbread to Welsh cakes.

The inspiration came from D who just went on a crazy mission to the rugged Snowdonia coastline in Wales to take part in a madcap 10km swim up a cold river estuary. It certainly is one of the last ways I would want to spend my weekend, but he loves swimming, particularly in beautiful surroundings, and couldn’t pass up this challenging opportunity. It was a massive achievement which involved over ten hours of driving, little sleep and 2 hours 40 minutes of swimming all in a 24 hour period.

So as a little ‘well done’, with a nod to the Autumnal weather and Wales, I created these little gingerbread Welsh Cakes. The perfect sweet pick me up after a challenging day.

Again, like my last two sweet ’emergency ready’ recipes, Welsh cakes are ideal to make at the last minute. They’re made in a flash and work perfectly in any teatime setting. Serve warm, spread with dairy-free margarine for some truly happy guests.

Gingerbread Welsh Cakes

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

makes 8-12

1 cup of plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

1/4 cup soft brown sugar

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp black treacle

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

caster sugar, to sprinkle

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spice into a bowl.
  2. Rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Add the dairy-free milk, syrup and treacle and mix to form a slightly sticky dough.
  4. Roll out on a floured board and cut out shaped with a cookie cutter – circles are the traditional shape but any would be fine.
  5. Heat a dry non-stick frying pan (or any frying pan wiped with a smear of spread)
  6. When hot add the cakes and dry fry/griddle for 2-3 minutes on either side until golden.
  7. Sprinkle with caster sugar and serve.
  8. To reheat warm in an oven or microwave

Caramel Crispy Bars

No word of a lie, these chocolate coated caramel crispy cakes are as addictive as a banned narcotic. I’ve made four batches in the past few weeks and before I could blink they’d all been hoovered up! You will make plenty of friends if you bring these to the cake sale – that’s if your new friends are quick enough to grab one before it’s too late. They only lasted a couple of minutes at yesterday’s charity bake sale… whole tray, gone in no time.

This is really my take on those Rice Krispie squares, which are sweet and gooey and for me: reminiscent of the treats a friend’s mum used to make with melted Mars Bars when I was young. It’s by no means guilt-free munching, but these bars are arguably healthier than those featuring melted Mars Bars and still just as delicious. I’ve combined syrup, sugar, Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread with vanilla for a wonderfully more-ish result that keeps you reaching for another.

I would definitely recommend a dark chocolate coating, any sweeter chocolate would push the needle on the sugar scale to overload, and besides the dark top contrasts so nicely with the lighter crispy base. This is most definitely another recipe to keep close to hand for those baking emergencies I was talking about last week.

Caramel Crispy Bars

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

 

makes about 16

120g caster sugar

170g golden syrup

100g Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g Rice Krispies

75g dairy-free dark chocolate

20g dairy-free margarine

  1. Melt together the sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the Lotus spread to make a thick smooth mixture.
  2. Stir in the Rice Krispies and ensure they are well covered with the gooey syrupy mix
  3. Press into a lined baking pan [a small brownie pan is ideal] and place in the fridge to firm up
  4. Melt together the chocolate and margarine. Pour over the caramel crispy cake and spread out. I like to make a pattern with a fork to make it look pretty!
  5. Leave to set and then slice into squares or rectangles.

 

Oreos – My Way and an issue with Tesco

 

I’m not sure if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook? (do follow the link in the sidebar if you’re interested). If you do, you might be aware of ‘cookie-gate’, with Tesco own brand Cookies and Cream Biscuits. If not, here’s a brief summery of the last nine months (it’s a very long and involved story so I won’t bore you with every detail)!

Oreos, the iconic American cream-filled cookies are vegan in the US, but for some bizarre reason they contain milk in the UK. However, Oreos seem to be everywhere, everyone eats them and my girls feel left out. Occasionally we’ll splash out on a ridiculously expensive imported US pack from somewhere like Urban Outfitters (oddly), but this is a very rare occurrence! So I was over the moon when I found the own brand Cookies and Cream biscuits in Tesco just before Christmas last year and couldn’t wait for us to taste test them.

Within seconds both girls had itchy mouths, tight throats and swelling lips. We administered antihistamine and everything was ok, but clearly there was something amiss with the ingredients in the cookies.

I contacted Tesco, returned the biscuits to store and an investigation took place. Well, they said an investigation took place. I was told that there were no nuts in the factory, and that milk didn’t produce that kind of allergic reaction (in their opinion milk allergy involves a stomach based reaction). That seemed the end of the matter for them, we hadn’t needed a doctor so I didn’t have any documents  to provide which they wanted for any escalation. Here’s a copy of the letter they sent…

Then months later in early summer I came across allergy forums where others had had reactions to the same biscuits, and most bizarrely had different responses from Tesco, first claiming that there were nuts used in the factory, then that milk was used on the same line but they cleaned thoroughly between, and finally last week the biscuits (all batches) were recalled because they do in fact contain milk!

We were shocked after being so clearly fobbed off to start with, and that they now admit the biscuits do contain milk which was undeclared (in fact denied). We’ve gone back to them for at least an explanation. I just hope that nobody had a serious reaction in the past months whilst the biscuits remained on sale.

So, to make up for ‘cookie-gate’, I have revamped and improved my Oreo recipe. Who needs shop bought when these are so so much nicer!

‘Oreos’

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

Makes approx. 24 sandwich biscuits

3/4 cup hard vegetable fat

1 cup of caster sugar

2 tsps vanilla extract

1/2 cup dairy-free milk

1and 1/2 cups plain flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tsps cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Filling

1/4 cup vegetable fat

1/4 cup dairy-free spread

2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Cream together the vegetable fat and sugar. When fluffy, add the dairy-free milk and vanilla. Mix well. If it looks like it’s split add a couple of tbsp of flour to the mix
  3. Sift in the remaining ingredients and bring together to a firm-ish dough.
  4. Place half on a sheet of baking paper, place more paper on top and roll out to 1/4-1/2cm thickness. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter and remove the ‘in between bits’. Transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on the tray for five minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  6. Repeat with remaining mixture until it’s all be used up.
  7. Meanwhile, make the filling. Whisk together the vegetable fat and dairy-free spread. Add the vanilla.
  8. Add the icing sugar in 1/2 cup measurements, until fully incorporated. It may look this breadcrumbs, so squeeze together to form a stiff paste.
  9. Roll out large grape size balls of filling and squish between two biscuits.