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 🙂

Light Genoa Fruit Cake

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

makes 1 loaf cake

100g glace cherries

50g 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-free margarine

zest of 1 lemon

85g light Muscovado sugar

150ml dairy-free 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. Add the lemon zest.
  5. Rub in the dairy-free 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 around 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

English Muffins

English muffins were always our saviour, a safe breakfast or bun option that was mostly readily available. Sadly over time , the safe brands have all started to add milk to their ingredients and now all of the easily available ones contain milk. Sad days for us, as it is yet another product we can no longer depend on being able to buy. I also find it a bizarre time for companies to start adding milk to the ingredients when there is an increasing interest in dairy-free and vegan is the new big thing!

So it was time to either miss out or start making them myself, and I obviously went for the making them myself option. I just can’t stop baking and cooking! It’s not the same, and ideally it’s nice to have some products we can buy, but needs must.

I have to say they’re pretty easy to make, the results are shop worthy and they freeze beautifully, so maybe we can return to the days to always having English muffins on hand.

English Muffins

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

makes 8-10 muffins

400g plain flour

1 tbsp fast-action dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 and 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

100ml dairy-free milk

25ml sunflower oil

125-150ml water

polenta for dusting, plus a little more flour

  1. Place the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Pour in the oil, milk and 125ml water. Mix to form a dough adding the extra 25ml water if needed.
  3. Knead until smooth, bouncy and silky. About 10 minutes by hand, 5 minutes by machine.
  4. Place into a bowl, cover and leave to rise for at least an hour. You want the mixture to have basically doubled in size.
  5. Knock back. Dust the kitchen surface with flour and polenta and roll out to a thickness of about 2 cm. Cut out circles using a cutter any size from 8 -12 cm.
  6. Rest on a floured/polenta covered board whilst you heat the pan.
  7. Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan on low until it has an even heat, this will take a good 5-10 minutes.
  8. Cook the muffins until golden on each side and no longer doughy in the middle which will take up to 10 minutes on each side.
  9. Store in an airtight container or freeze once cool for extra freshness,

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

Victoria sponge cake is surely the most appropriate traditional summertime cake. It’s the very essence of tea time, taken under the shade of an apple tree on a warm Summer afternoon, maybe along with some scones and cup of tea in fine china cups!

I’ve found it quite a journey to develop the perfect Victoria sponge recipe, for some reason it has been so much harder than a chocolate cake. Sometimes the texture is a bit too rubbery/bouncy or the flavour not quite right. However finally thanks to some gratefully received input from a reader and his mother in law, the a pretty fine egg and dairy-free Victoria sponge is here. It’s always such a delight to me when I feel I have developed a great ‘friendly’ alternative to a classic staple. I feel like I’m finally hitting my ‘brief’ from the outset of this journey, which is about enabling everyone to enjoy the same things. This cake would make an awesome birthday cake if chocolate isn’t your cup of [English] tea.

This sponge has a wonderful crumb, perfect for a layer cake and the addition of custard powder adds an additional welcome vanilla hit. Custard powder – that’s the tip I was given and wouldn’t have thought of myself.

This would’ve been perfect as a traditional jam filled sponge cake, but since my children aren’t very keen on jam I turned this into a salted caramel sponge cake with a Lotus spread drizzle and salted caramel buttercream. A version I highly recommend 🙂

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

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

makes one sandwich cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder

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

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine, yogurt and vanilla.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool in the cake tins.

Filling, enough to fill one cake:

  • Make the buttercream by whisking together 1tbsp Trex, 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, 1 cup sifted icing sugar [use Sugar and Crumbs salted caramel icing sugar if possible] and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk.
  • (if you can’t find flavoured icing sugar use normal but add 1 tsp caramel essence instead)
  • Make the caramel drizzle by combining 2 tbsp Lotus caramelised biscoff spread with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • spread the buttercream over one of the sponges, top with the Lotus drizzle. Place the top layer on the cake and dust with a generous layer of icing sugar

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

I haven’t posted a cupcake recipe for an age. I don’t know why because I’m often making them, tinkering away with the flavours and designs, and they always go down a treat.

These were inspired by our current new obsession, caramel chocolate. We used to buy those delicious Choices caramel chocolates all the time as a special treat but I haven’t seen them for sale in ages. Have they been discontinued? Sad times if so as they were truly scrumptious.

Luckily the new Nomo brand from Kinnerton has come to our rescue with these utterly moreish caramel chocolate bars. I slightly miss the oozy caramel filling but the taste of these is spot on gorgeous and besides you can’t have everything!

So here we have chocolate caramel cupcakes – enjoy 😊

(I must apologise about the piping though, my last piping bag split so I had to improvise, hence all the varying and unusual looks! They still taste great though 😀 )

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

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

makes 12

175g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

25g cocoa powder

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp caramel essence

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5
  2. Mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon juice, essence and oil. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the bicarb to the wet ingredients and stir.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix to thoroughly combine.
  6. 2/3 rds fill the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

Caramel Chocolate Buttercream 

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

Enough to spread on 12 cupcakes, double the mix to pipe luscious mounds of buttercream!

1/3 cup dairy-free margarine
2 tbsps vegetable fat such as Trex
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp caramel essence plus a splash of dairy-free milk

  1.  Whisk together the fats.
  2. Add the cocoa and whisk well.
  3. Whisk in the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, adding the essence and a splash or so of milk.
  4. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.
  5. top with 1/2 a square of Nomo Caramel Chocolate

 

Blueberry & Lemon Yo-Yo Cookies

Let’s get fresh, fruity and just right for the holidays. These yo-yo biscuits are are classic Antipodean staple and are perfect for warmer climes as they don’t have the tendency to melt like my favourite chocolate cookies! Talking of melting, this cookies have the wonderful melt in the mouth feels of very short shortbread, enhanced with a rich buttercream filling. It really is a wonderful combination.

I was in the mood for colour so concocted some delicate lemon biscuits (coloured with custard powder for a lovely yellow hue) and filled with bright purple blueberry filling. This biscuits will certainly get people talking, whilst also reaching for another one 🙂

Blueberry and Lemon Yo-Yo Cookies

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

makes about 20 sandwich biscuits

150g dairy-free margarine

65g icing sugar, sifted

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp lemon extract

pinch of salt

55g custard powder or cornflour

175g plain flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment
  3. Beat together the margarine, sugar, zest and essence until light and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the flours and salt to form a very soft, but not sticky dough.
  5. Make large marble sized balls and place on the baking sheet (try to make an even number). Flatten with the back of a fork.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  8. Once completely cool, sandwich together with the blueberry cream.

Blueberry Cream 

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

60g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

1 tbsp blueberry coulis

  1. Make the blueberry coulis by cooking down 100g blueberries with 2 tbsp sugar and 1 too lemon juice. Cook until eh blueberries have burst and the mix is saucy. Sieve to give a luscious sweet sauce.
  2. Whisk the margarine  with the icing sugar and  1 tbsp blueberry coulis until it is all incorporated. Place in the fridge to firm up before using.
  3. use the remaining blueberry coulis for ice cream, waffles or fruit salad