Triple chocolate hot cross buns

My it’s been a long hard Winter! But at last things are starting to look brighter and the first signs of spring are hitting at the same time as an early Easter. It’s such a joy to see the spring flowers burst through and the first real warm sunshine of the year. It seems like a hopeful time.

Easter means plenty of hot cross buns and chocolate so why not combine both to get the best of both worlds! I really enjoy making hot cross buns, they’re pretty simple but there’s something magical about the soft dough, sweet spice and gorgeous shine.

I have a lot of flavour varieties on my site (just put hot cross buns in the search bar!) but these are particularly rich and decadent so I would urge you to give them a go. Plus the white cross on the dark chocolate dough is particularly striking!

The big question is what variety next? I’m thinking a savoury version (inspired by those cheese and marmite/cheese and chilli ones from M&S), so what this space as I’ll hopefully be able to develop it before next weekend!

Triple Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

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

makes 9-12

460g strong bread flour

40g cocoa powder

1 tbsp dried yeast

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice

400ml warm dairy-free milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

100g dairy-free chocolate chips (I used a combination of milk, dark and white)

for the crosses:

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp water

for the glaze:

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

  1.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, yeast, sugar, salt and spice. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and dairy-free margarine, bring together to form a dough (adding more flour if too wet, or more liquid if too dry)
  2. Knead for about 5 mins until the dough is smooth
  3. Place in a bowl and cover, leave in a warm place to double in size
  4. Knock back, knead again and then form into 9-12 even sized balls. Place well spaced on a baking sheet lined with grease proof paper
  5. Leave to rise again for 10-20 minutes
  6. Mix together the water and flour to make a paste and pipe onto the top of the buns in crosses. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 15-20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  7. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  9. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

Churros Cake

We’re still in desperate need of anything that’ll make us feel good and for these dark dismal lock-down days to pass as quickly as possible, although that said today was beautiful and sunny and hopefully a hint of brighter things to come.
Isn’t it crazy that we’re nearly a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and some of the simple joys of the first lockdown (the peace and quiet, quality family time, having to be at home but in some really gorgeous sunny weather and just the novelty of the whole situation – whilst not forgetting the horror and the misery people have had to cope with) has been replaced with boredom and drudge. No-one has zoom calls and quizzes anymore, no-one enjoys yet another day with nothing interesting to do, it’s all gone on for far too long.
I do believe that some good food and tempting treats do add little rays of sunshine into these otherwise dismal days and have been baking like crazy. Some experiments are quickly forgotten about, others become the seeds of new and exciting recipes. This is one of those successes…

Churros, cinnamon buns, snickerdoodles and more – all these bakes have such a wonderful warmth about them, there’s something so ultimately comforting about baking (and eating) with cinnamon and sugar. It’s almost like a sweet warm hug, the kind of hug we’re all missing right now.

I saw a photo of a churros cake on Instagram and immediately knew I had to make a ‘friendly’ version. So here we have a lightly spiced sponge, rippled with a spicy cinnamon swirl and then sprinkled with a crunchy sugar coating, just like a churros in cake form. How could that not be a spectacular combination? Add a warm, dark chocolate ganache sauce and you’re in churros heaven!

 

I served this cake for both pudding and a teatime treat, and it worked superbly in both scenarios. It won’t look quite so pretty without a bundt cake tin but it’ll still taste amazing. Let me know what you think?

Churros Cake

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

 

makes one cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder (make sure it’s the diary free version)

220g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

290ml dairy-free milk

2 tbsps dairy-free yogurt

100g dairy-free margarine, melted

3 tbsp soft brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp caster sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease the cake tin with melted margarine and sprinkle over a dusting of caster sugar and cinnamon
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the caster sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine and yogurt.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour half into the cake tin, sprinkle over the cinnamon sugar and then top with the other half of the better. Gently marble thebatzer with a skewer and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Remove from the tin and sprinkle with the extra sugar whilst still warm. If you want to add a chocolate sauce melt together 50g dark chocolate with 3 tbsp dairy-free cream.
Caramel muffins

Caramel Muffins

When I last visited the supermarket (how is it that a simple trip to the supermarket is now the most exciting part of the week), I spied a sign for a delicious looking caramel muffin in the coffee shop window. Now a caramel muffin sounds like a great idea, why haven’t i thought of that before? It’s funny how I usually get inspiration from so many different places, now it’s either from a screen or a brief trip out of the house. I do hope that when this is all over we don’t take simple luxuries, like eating out, browsing the shops or just the signs of bustling life for granted.

Since we as family have become rather fond of the new caramel filled Nomo bars (simply the best free-from alternative to a Cadbury’s Caramel that you are likely to find), I had the idea of stuffing the muffins with a square to give a gooey caramel chocolatey centre. This results in a filling that remains gooey even once the muffins have cooled, and an oozy chocolatey caramel simply has to be a good idea. These muffins don’t need the icing, but it does add a bit of extravagance that is very welcome in the rather dismal winter of 2021.

Caramel Muffins

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

makes 6 large muffins

20g caster sugar

25g soft brown sugar

1/2 tbsp baking powder

125g plain flour

pinch of salt

55g dairy-free margarine, melted

75ml dairy-free milk

75ml dairy-free yogurt

30ml golden or maple syrup

1/2 tsp caramel essence (optional)

6 squares of Nomo caramel filled chocolate 

for the icing:

40g dairy-free margarine

80g icing sugar

splash of dairy-free milk

  1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade. Fill a muffin tray with liners.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour in the wet ingredients and combine. You do not want any clumps of raw flour but do not over-mix, a little lumpy is good.
  3. 1/4 fill the liners and then place a square of the chocolate in the middle. Cover with the remaining muffin mix.
  4. I topped mine with some Demerara sugar, but it’s not necessary
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden and a knife comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. If icing, whisk together the icing ingredients and pipe rosettes on the top of each muffin, topped with another square of caramel chocolate if you wish.

Pear Tart Tatin

You will notice a theme in the coming weeks of comfort and joyful foods that will hopefully brighten your day (as well as mine when I develop and make them) and help us through this darkest of Januarys.
I still find it mind boggling that only a year ago we had no idea what the last year would bring and our lives would turn out so differently. We’ve been lucky with work carrying on from home and schools doing a fantastic job of offering great education from home, but I know it hasn’t been so easy for many many others. People getting seriously ill, losing jobs, struggling with their mental health and opportunities disappearing out the window. It’s just all so sad; i don’t notice on a normal day but then you go into town and see everything shut and it dawns on you that the world is a different place to a few short months ago. Like everyone, I do so hope things get better and we can return to some kind of normality soon.

But in the meantime, what we need is serious comfort food; a great big hug on a plate! Surely a Tart Tatin, with it’s crisp and flaky base topped with delicious caramel and juicy fruit must be the epitome of feel good food.

I think people presume a Tart Tatin is difficult to make but it’s so easy and you only need a few ingredients to make a delicious drool-worthy tart. Apparently created by a happy mistake, the beauty of a good tart Tatin is that a little bit of scruffiness only adds to the appeal. A normal Tart Tatin is laden with butter but you really wouldn’t notice the difference with my friendly version.

Pear Tart Tatin

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

serves 4-6

100g caster sugar

30g dairy-free margarine

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 pears, peeled , cored and cut into 12 wedges each

1/2 pack dairy-free puff pastry (about 250g)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade
  2. Roll out the pastry and cut out a circle a little bigger than the top of the pan you’re going to use.
  3. Place an oven-proof pan (if you have one) on a medium heat. Add the sugar and let is dissolve until it forms a light golden caramel. Carefully add the margarine and cinnamon (it will splatter a bit) and swirl to combine. Add the pear slices and turn over in the caramel so they are nicely coated.
  4. Either pour into an oven proof dish or use the one you made the caramel in. Neatly arrange the pear slices and let cool for a few minutes
  5. Place the pastry circle on top and tuck the edges in
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and is golden all over
  7. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then place a plate on top of the pan and quickly invert the dish.
  8. Serve wedges with ice cream or dairy-free pouring cream

Tomato and Balsamic Taralli Biscuits

I’m always looking for new savoury snack ideas as they can be sadly hard to find if you’re on a restricted diet. Breadsticks are mainly out of bounds due to traces of sesame, few crackers are suitable and cheese straws are a obvious no-no! Some crisps and popcorn are good but you can’t always eat crisps, well maybe you can buy you probably shouldn’t!

These little crunchy Italian bites are a great addition to the snacking scene. They savoury, crunchy and moreish – just perfect with an aperitif or to snack on whilst watching a film.

They seem to have been quite a hit as the first batch disappeared in a couple of hours – always a good sign. I think I’ll have to make a couple of extra batches to keep us going through Christmas and to add little bags to my homemade hampers!

Taralli biscuits are often flavoured with fennel but I’ve use balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomato paste and oregano. I think it results in a subtle but delicious savoury taste. If you want to ramp up the flavour use double concentrated tomato purée instead.

Sundreid Tomato and Balsamic Taralli Biscuits

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

makes about 40

250g plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried oregano

3 tsp sun-dried tomato paste

20ml cheap balsamic vinegar (don’t waste the good stuff here!)

80ml white one or grape juice

60-80ml extra virgin olive oil

to glaze: 1 tsp tomato paste mixed with 1 tsp dairy-free milk, flaky salt crystals

  1. Stir in the salt and oregano into the flour. Add the tomato paste, olive oil and white wine and bring together to a soft dough.
  2. Knead until silky and smooth.
  3. Wrap and rest in the fridge for at least an hour
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade Fan, 190 degrees non-fan
  5. grab small grape sized pieces of the dough and then roll into half cm wide sausages. Cross over the ends to make a loop and place on the lined baking tray while you shape the rest.
  6. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop in the Taralli, ten or so at a time and boil until the rise to the surface. This will take a minute or two.
  7. Place back on the lined baking sheet.
  8. Brush with the glaze and sprinkle with the salt. 
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy. 
  10. Cool on wire rack. These will get more crunchy as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a week (if they last that long!)

Berry crumble bars

img_1483It’s suddenly got to that time of year -Winter is most certainly here but it’s not quite Christmas! It may be the craziest year ever with days of lockdown merging into months, ever more depressing news and stress everywhere, but there is still something joyful and comforting in the seasons. I’ve always felt so lucky to live somewhere where years are marked by definite seasons, I think I’d really miss them if I lived somewhere with wet and dry instead.

Winter has its downsides (I’m mainly talking about the dark and the annoying habit of house spiders to scuttle about) but the beauty of the colourful leaves, the bounty of the harvest and the delight of a beautiful chilly morning easily out way them.

It’s time to get cosy, to eat comfort food and delight in the low sun and long shadows. These berry crumble bars are the perfect early Winter treat; comforting but with the remains of summer in the form of the berry jam filling. By all means use a different jam, but I find a berry jam adds a beautiful red band as well as a fresh tartness that brings the shortbread and crumble alive. Although it would be a travesty to only eat them in the Winter – big S has pronounced these her favourite sweet thing I’ve ever baked! That must be saying something as I bake new things all the time!

I’ve made these with both a simple crumble topping, or a fancier crumble and candied seed topping. Both are delicious, just pick the variety you’d prefer.

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Berry Crmble Bars with Candied Seeds
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Berry crumble bars with just the crumble topping

This recipe is inspired and adapted from one in the original Ottolenghi cookbook. I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit obsessed with Ottolenghi and his amazing flavour filled food, so I was dleighted to be able to adapt one of his delicious recipes to cater for us as a family. I have a few others up my sleeve, so keep watching 🙂

I like to serve these in packed lunches wrapped in paper, for a teatime treat or even warmed slightly and served with custard for an autumnal pudding. They’d even work for a breakfast if you were inclined!

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Berry Crumble Bars (with optional candied seed topping)

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

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makes 12 good sized bars

120g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

60g caster sugar

pinch of salt

75g oats

100g dairy-free margarine

5 or 6 tbsp jam (about half a jar)

for a crumble top:

60g plain flour

40g oats

10g pumpkin seeds (optional)

30g dairy-free margarine

25g demarara sugar

for the candied seeds:

30g 0ats

30g pumpkin seeds

30g sunflower seeds

30g caster sugar

30g dairy-free margarine

20ml dairy free milk

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Line a square baking tin with non-stick baking paper
  2. Pour the flour, baking owder, salt, caster sugar and oats into a bowl. Cut the margarine into small cubes and add to the bowl. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips until it ressembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Lightly press the mix into the base of the lined tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  4. Whilst the base is cooking make the crumble top: place the flour, oats, seeds (if using) and demarara sugar into a bowl. Again rub in the margarine until you have a craggy crumble. Set aside.
  5. To make the candied seeds (if using): melt together the margarine, milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the oats and seeds.
  6. Once the base has cooled a little, spread over the jam in an even layer.
  7. (if using candied seeds) Spead the seeds over the jam.
  8. Sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. 
  10. Let cool fully befre cutting into square.
  11. These bars keep for a good week in an airtight container.img_1481