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.

Ravishing Raspberry Flapjacks

I always like  to have a batch of flapjacks in the freezer. They’re such a great snack and a perfect addition for a packed lunch. Just grab one straight from the freezer in the morning, wrap in parchment and by lunchtime they’re be defrosted and ready to be munched on. I also like the way that a flapjack can fit many different occasions; it can be a substitute breakfast, an energy giving elevenses, a delicious sweet treat or even crumbled onto of yogurt or tweed fruit as an impromptu pudding!

I have many flapjack recipes on my site (just put flapjack into the search bar and you’ll find a whole variety of different flavours), but this one evolved from a few slightly sad looking raspberries left in the fridge. The fruit makes a lovely jammy addition to the flapjacks, the tart sweetness contrasting nicely with the syrupy oats, but i do recommend cooking for a few extra minutes to make up for the additional moisture in the mix.

Ravishing Raspberry Flapjacks

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

200g dairy free margarine (I use Pure soya or sunflower)

200g demerara sugar

200g golden syrup

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp freeze-dried raspberry pieces

50g raspberries

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with foil
  2. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup, and salt. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats, stir in the fresh and freeze-dried raspberry pieces
  3. Spread into the lined baking tray
  4. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  5. remove from the oven and press down with a spatula for an even finish
  6. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares. Or freeze whole and cut when defrosted.
  7. Try not to eat too many!!

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.

Black Forest Cheesecake

Sometimes a recipe evolves as a idea and sometimes it just happens due to the contents of the larder!
I wanted to make a cheesecake for Sunday lunch last week and had all the necessary ingredients except for the icing sugar that I use to sweeten the cream cheese filling. It was nearly a case of no pudding for Sunday lunch – shock, horror! Luckily lurking at the back of the baking shelf was the remnants of a bag of Sugar and Crumbs black cherry icing sugar… could I use that? Then lightbulb moment, of course if it’s black cherry flavour then that goes perfectly with chocolate and we can have a black forest cheesecake. Bingo! What started as an experiment using what I had in the cupboard ended up as a complete hit. Everyone was wowing about it as a combination, so it’s certainly worth recreating 🙂
I urge you to seek out Sugar and Crumbs icing sugars and cocoa powders – they’re allergen free and flavoured with natural flavourings, and add an fabulous flavour to many a dish. If you don’t have the flavoured icing sugar then use either 1 tsp cherry essence, or maybe a tablespoon of cherry jam to flavour the cream cheese filling. Perhaps even a marble of cherry jam would be a nice addition?
Have you come across the Oatly ‘cream cheese’ yet? I’ve been emailing them for years to bring it to the UK as all their products are so good, I really hoped it would be a great cream cheese alternative. We always used Tofutti out of preference, as the creamy smooth spread was in our opinion the best you could buy. So many dairy-free cream cheeses are too ‘cheesy’ and no good substitution for a standard cream cheese which is smooth, creamy and mild tasting. So since the UK distributor of Tofutti disappeared we’ve had a sad lack of cheesecakes. These have been sad sad days as cheesecake is the favourite pudding in the household. But now with Oatly creamy spread is widely available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, it’s back to cheesecake a go-go! The mild flavour works perfectly as a cream cheese substitute and carries additional flavours without any underlying cheesy aroma.

This black forest cheesecake will be the prefect Valentine’s day pud – i hope you enjoy as much as we did ❤

Black Forest Cheesecake

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

makes one 20cm cake, serves 4-6

115g Biscuits, crushed (I used Lotus)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tub of dairy-free cream cheese (150g)

1 tbsp dairy-free yogurt

2-3 tbsp black cherry icing sugar

30g dairy-free dark chocolate

fresh or glace cherries to garnish

  1. Line a spring form cake tin with parchment.
  2. Mix together the crushed biscuits, cocoa powder and melted margarine. Press into the bottom of the tin (and slightly up the sides if you’d like the biscuit crumb edge look). Place int he fridge to chill.
  3. In a food processor (or with a whisk), whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt and 2 tbsps icing sugar. Taste and add more icing sugar if desired. Pour over the chilled base and level off. Leave in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to set.
  4. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the cheesecake. Garnish with glaze or fresh cherries.
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.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

I don’t know about you but I find lunches the most difficult meal to cater for, especially right now where we’re all at home all the time, we have differing timetables and differing ideas over what makes a perfect lunch!

D and I generally have lunch and take the dog for a walk before the girls have even finished their morning lessons, so lunches have to be ready to be reheated or eaten cold. Right now, in mid-Winter slides and sandwiches seem rather less appealing and a hot option is preferred, but then there is the issue of keeping things warm for the lunches in stages. It has transpired that soup ticks all the boxes; it’s warm and nourishing, can easily keep warm and mostly all the family members like it. Also, there is something wonderfully homely about having a pot of soup on the hob and it makes me feel like I’m winning on the lunch front!

This soup is not only very easy to make from mainly store cupboard ingredients but also pleases the ‘bit-a-phobes’ (both children!) who only like smooth soups, but adds extra substance with the addition of rice to keep tummies full until supper time. I add chilli paste to mine as we all like slightly spicy food, but so feel free to leave it out if you’d rather have a more mellow soup for lunch.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

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

serves 4

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp chilli paste

2 tsps balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar

400ml passata

400ml vegetarian stock

1/3 cup rice

1/2 tin sweetcorn (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sweat the onion  until soft and translucent – try not to get too much colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree and chilli paste (if using) and cook for a further couple of minutes. 
  3. Pour in the tomato passata and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Taste and season. 
  5. Blitz if you want a very smooth soup and return to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  6. Add the rice to the simmering soup and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. If using sweetcorn, add a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking.
  7. Serve with a hunk of bread or a sandwich for a hearty and warming lunch.