Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Sablé Biscuits, failed challenges and a fresh start.

 

Recently I’ve felt that my blog has gone off the boil, that my recipes were dull and not very inspiring, the photos were so-so and better resources could be found elsewhere. Maybe I needed a break, just to give it up or a fresh approach? These have been tough times in working out whether to invest any time and effort into creating and posting for my blog.

I think having a baked milk challenge approaching for both girls made me think that maybe it was becoming less relevant for myself too. Perhaps we had got to another stage of our journey that needed a new approach?

To be honest, we were rather surprised when the Doctor suggested a baked milk challenge at our most recent appointment – it seemed out of the blue since they both had sizeable wheals from the skin prick results and we have certainly never been on the cusp of any ‘advances’ before. Actually, although we’ve always been lucky enough to have had fantastic care from our allergy specialists, this year was different. The doctor was new and had a surprising approach, she wanted to discharge big S as she claimed that the appointments weren’t necessary and there was unlikely to be any further change at this stage. As most people who have tried know, it’s so hard to get under the care of a specialist that we really weren’t keen to lose this support. This particular doctor also said that skin prick tests were worthless and they should both have a baked milk challenge as it was the only way to really diagnose an allergy. I get her point to some extent, but those are not particularly helpful comments for the girls who have spent their entire lives having yearly skin prick tests!

Anyway she requested blood tests, about which Little S was rather nervous and tearful, hardly surprisingly as she’s previously had a difficult experience with a cannula involving lots of blood and bruises! I have to say that I was rather shocked by her response. She offered no compassion, despite being a paediatric doctor and said it was up to us if we had bloods taken, but if we did’t she’d write down that we refused her advice. I was dumbfounded, should a children’s doctor not have some understanding over the anxiety involved? Anyway, we did the bloods and Little S fainted as she stood up afterwards – it certainly was an eventful day.

Well the food challenge itself was the other week and in short: both girls failed. It was upsetting and a setback, but not unexpected either. Since the challenge my thoughts have turned back to my blog and why I started it in the first place, why I felt the desire to help others in a similar position, and how hard I’ve found it myself. I’ve also had some wonderful recent (and past) comments from readers, really lovely thoughts that have made me feel that all my experiments and recipes are of use. I feel reinvigorated and excited about creating and blogging! Expect a flurry of innovation (I hope) to follow.

I really think I’ve found the holy grail for egg and dairy free biscuits with this recipe. They’re the perfect combination of crisp crunch, turning to ‘buttery’ melt and chew. You couldn’t ask for much more from a biscuit texture.

The combination of raspberry and chocolate is always one that works, it’s tried and tested. Do try using freeze-dried fruits in your baking, they add so much of the flavour and character without any ‘sogginess’ that fresh fruit can bring.

It really is essential to chill the dough before baking – an hour will do, at a push 15 minutes in the freezer will suffice. But if at all possible, chill for as long as possible for the very best textured biscuits.

Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Sable Biscuits

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

makes about 12-15

90-100g chocolate, chopped

2 tbsp chopped freeze dried raspberries

100g plain flour

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

75g dairyfree margarine

85g caster sugar

1/2 tsp good quality flaky salt, such as fleur de sel

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugars and salt.
  2. Gently mix in the flour and bicarbonate and combine to form a soft dough. Stir in the chocolate pieces and freeze dried raspberries.
  3. Form into a sausage shape and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to chill, you want it to be as cold as possible.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade.
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice the cookie dough into 1cm slices and place well apart on the baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 11-12 minutes. They should have spread out nicely.
  7. Cool briefly on the sheets so they are stiff enough to move and then transfer to a wire rack.

Vanilla Spice Hot Cross Buns

 

With Easter fast approaching, my thoughts have turned towards festive baking and what could be more Easter-y than Hot Cross Buns. Every year seem to make a new variety – I was particularly pleased with the flavour combination of last years sticky toffee ones (actually i really must make some of them before the weekend!) and chocolate chip varieties of anything go down well in this household.

But by and large Easter baking means spice – hot cross buns, easter biscuits and simnel cake all have a mellow spice that is the taste of sweet easter baking (if you remove chocolate from the equation!). This hot cross buns variation leaves out the dried fruit (to please my kids) but ramps up the spice and adds the mellow sweetness of vanilla. It’s s great combination and I do recommend taking the time to make these for Easter – they’re so rewarding and fun to make.

Vanilla Spice Hot Cross Buns

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

makes 9-12

550-575g strong bread flour

1 tsp dried yeast

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1and 1/5 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

seeds from 1/2 a vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

1 and 3/4 cups warm oat milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

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, yeast, sugar, lemon zest, salt and spices. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and melted 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 (or as i did, nearish so they link up when baked)
  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
  7. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  8. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  10. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

Hot Cross Scones

 

Get it? Since Easter is all about Hot Cross Buns they have to feature. However, I also love scones, then why not link the two to make some wonderfully seasonal baked goodies which are a little out of the ordinary?

The spicing, with added fruit and peel (if desired), is to my mind, the taste of Easter. Who would have thought it would work so beautifully in scone format (or biscuit as I believe they’re known in the US).

Obviously any Easter recipe must feature a cross so these little spiced scones are topped with a water icing cross which was more effective and maybe a bit more celebratory than a traditional flour paste version.

 

Hot Cross Scones

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

Makes about 12

 

220g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Up to 100ml dairy-free milk

handful of dried fruit and 2 tbsp mixed peel (optional)

1-2 tbsps granulated sugar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Grease and flour a baking sheet
  3. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and spices. Rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the dried fruit and mixed peel if using.
  4. Pour in some of the oat milk. Gently bring together to form a soft dough (do NOT knead or you’ll end up with rock hard scones!). Add more milk if necessary.
  5. 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
  6. Brush the tops with dairy-free milk and sprinkle over some granulated sugar
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and golden on the tops and bottoms
  8. Cool on a wire rack

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Have you ever had an an American style coffee cake? Not a coffee flavoured cake which were so popular in the U.K. in the 80s but a spiced cake made to be eaten with coffee?

A few years back I worked on a project in the US Virgin Isles (beautiful Caribbean waters), and we ate an American style diet and as we were very busy, convenience was the key. I have to say the catering, which we took turns to help with, was not always very inspiring, however, crumbly topped spiced coffee cake was one flavour which stayed with me. If I remember correctly, it was a boxed cake mix we used, but certainly not a familiar style of cake in the UK.

 

I’ve tried to recreate my memory with little success over the years, but now I think I’ve cracked it. The sponge is moist and spiced and the topping is sweet, crunchy and crumbly – and indeed does go rather well with a coffee. Handily enough it also makes a great pudding when served with custard. Double bonus to have a recipe with multiple uses up your sleeve.

 

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

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

  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 cup Bird’s custard powder or corn flour
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, such as Pure
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup soya yogurt, preferably vanilla flavour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup oat milk

For the filling:

  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the streusel topping:

  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, such as Pure
  1. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling and set aside.
  2. In a bowl stir together the flour, sugar and cinnamon for the streusel topping. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips to make a crumble like consistency. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/gas mark 4. Grease and line a spring-form cake tin
  4. Sift together the flour, custard powder or corn flour and bicarbonate and set aside
  5. Mix together the yogurt, oat milk and vanilla and set aside
  6. Cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy
  7.  Alternately add the flour and yogurt mix (about 1/3rd of the mix each time) and whisk well between each addition.
  8. Pour 1/2 of the mix into the cake tin and level off.
  9. Sprinkle over the cinnamon/sugar mix on top, then pour the rest of the cake mix over the top.
  10. Scatter over the streusel mixture and then bake for 35-40 minutes, until a knife cones out clean
  11. Cool briefly in the tin before unmoulding.

 

Maple glazed spiced doughnuts

 

maple glazed spiced doughnuts, dairy-free egg-free nut-free

I love getting requests and this week I was asked for doughnuts, which gave me the perfect opportunity to get all experimental with flavours and designs – bliss!

I’ve had a really good quality bottle of maple syrup in the cupboard for a while and it’s been begging me to be used in other ways than poured over waffles (recipe coming soon!) or yogurt, so that had to feature, and a maple syrup glaze sounded rather tempting! Since maple syrup has a mellow sweetness I’ve given the actual doughnuts a subtle spice to give an overall warm cosines – it is still wintery after all, so any warmth and goodness is most welcome.

I’m particuarly pleased with this riff on my usual baked doughnut recipe – the flavours work really well and the maple glazed has a wonderful soft bite which is perfect for a doughnut. I was worried that they’d look a little anaemic as the icing is a syrupy tan colour on a golden doughnut, so a sprinkle of adornments definitely adds to the overall look.

maple glazed doughnuts, dairy-free egg-free

Maple Glazed Spiced Doughnuts

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

vegan maple glazed doughnuts

Makes 20 doughnuts

3 cups self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 cup soft brown sugar

1/4 cup caster sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, melted

5 tbsp of aquafaba (water from a tin of chickpeas or beans)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp mixed spice

1 cup dairy-free milk

  1. Grease your doughnut pan (or follow the instructions here if you don’t own one) and preheat the oven to 220 degrees centigrade
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet ingredients and pour into the dry. Gently mix until fully combined.
  3. Pipe or spoon into the tin
  4. Bake for 7-10 minutes until well risen and a knife comes out clean. Remove  from the tins and cool.

baked dairy-free egg-free donuts

for the icing:

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

50g dairy free margarine, melted

 

100ml maple syrup

  1. Whisk together then use to coat the doughnuts and sprinkle with decorations.

vegan maple glazed donuts

Triple Chocolate Swirl Buns

triple chocolate swirl buns, dairy-free and egg-free

I love making sweet swirled buns, there’s something magical about using a yeasted dough and making the swirls, then watching them come’ alive’ in the oven. They’re also a fantastic bake because they’re simple but look mightily impressive. As I’ve mentioned before Little S’s class gets a home-baked treat every Friday partly so she can enjoy sharing nice treats that she can have with her friends and partly to install in her friends that ‘friendly’ foods are also delicious (and I get to bake too)!

Since everyone always loves chocolate I thought we’d bring a ray of sunshine to cold dark January with these rather exciting and original triple chocolate swirl buns. Whilst we all love cinnamon buns sometimes it’s nice for a bit of variety and triple chocolate certainly hits the mark. The dough is subtly flavoured with cocoa, the swirl is a sugary cocoa paste flecked with chunks of white chocolate and the whole thing is drizzled with dairy-free milk chocolate. It makes for a stunning combination both to look at and eat. These have now been declared an all time favourite by some recipients so they must be ok!

making swirl buns

Triple Chocolate Swirl Buns

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

vegan nut-free chocolate buns

100ml dairy-free yogurt, I used Alpo

220ml water

3 tbsp dairy-free spread, such as Pure

475g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tsp dried yeast

75g soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp chocolate extract [optional]

75g dairy-free white chocolate, finely chopped [optional]

For the glaze:

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp pearl sugar/sugar crystals

And/or:

50g dairy-free ‘milk’ chocolate, melted

  1. Melt the margarine and water together – you want it to be warm and melted but not hot, stir in the yogurt
  2. In a bowl mx together the flour, yeast, sugar, cornflour and salt
  3. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm liquid mix
  4. Bring together to a soft dough and knead until its smooth and bounces back when poked. Cover and let double in size in a warm place.
  5. Mix together the filling ingredients (except the chopped chocolate) and set aside.
  6. Knock back and roll out to a large rectangle. Spread on the chocolate filling. Sprinkle over the chopped white chocolate, then roll up tightly into a long sausage
  7. Cut into even slices, probably about 1.5-2cm each – I managed to get 25 small slices from mine
  8. Place on lined baking sheets, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise again for another half an hour. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
  9. Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through.
  10. Melt the brown sugar with the water and brush over the top and sprinkle with the pearl sugar (if using)
  11. Remove from the pans and peel off the paper. Drizzle with the melted chocolate if desired.

triple chocolate swirl yeasted buns