Homemade chocolate cookie selection box

Those pretty selection boxes of chocolates or cookies always look so tempting. I think they’re often a little disappointing but they always look like you want to dive in and choose some sweet delight.

Since my mission is always to recreate those delicacies that are not available if you’re avoiding certain foods and so a selection box had to be there! While you can get some free from chocolate boxes these days, I have never seen a friendly biscuit selection box. In fact biscuits are one of the hardest products to buy if you’re dairy, egg and nut free. Most free-from varieties are gluten-free and dairy free but then contain egg. Then the standard biscuits contain milk or traces, and nuts seem to pop up everywhere.

In an ideal world this box would have more variety, but since you can make all of these 4 varieties in just a few more minutes than making a single type, you can have a selection in no time at all! By all means add other fillings, but I find the marshmallow filled cookies are always some of the most requested, plus biscoff and chocolate is such a fantastic combination I just had to add that.

Chocolate Cookie Selection Box

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

makes 16 cookies

30g soft brown sugar (1/4 cup)
150g caster sugar (2/3 cup)
150ml cup sunflower oil, or other flavourless oil (2/3 cup)
60ml dairy-free milk (1/4 cup)
1 tbsp cornflour
190g cups plain flour (1 and 1/2 cups)
25g cup cocoa powder (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt

for the centres/flavours:
25g cup dairy-free choc chips, 2 marshmallows, halved, 2 tsp biscoff spread,12g white choc chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 Degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 3. 
  2. Whisk together the oil, milk, sugars, and cornflour. It will combine to form a smooth caramel.
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt. Mix well.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips
  5. Divide the mix into 4. Add white chocolate chips to one quarter.
  6. Roll each mix into tbsp sized balls.
  7. For the filled versions, flatten each ball and place the filling in the centre, then ring up the edges so the filling is completely surrounded by the dough.
  8. Place all the balls slightly apart on the lined baking sheets and flatten a little.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes
  10. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.

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

White Chocolate Cheesecake

Cheesecake of the diary-free variety is the most popular pudding in this household. It has even been requested instead of a birthday cake, which is quite some praise! We’ve always preferred Tofutti as the cream cheese substitute due to the smooth creamy texture and mild flavour. So many dairy-free cream cheeses seem to want to make their product ‘cheesy’ tasting which is (in my opinion) neither authentic nor nice. A conventional cream cheese has a mild, creamy and smooth nature which is not happily replaced by an overly cheesy tasting grainy affair! As you can tell, we’re quite particular about cream cheese substitutes, but that is only because so many of them are frankly awful. Sadly Tofutti is no longer available in the UK – when I last contacted them they were looking for a new distributor but it seems that it is another thing that’s Covid has got in the way of. I still do Tofutti google searches almost weekly but to no avail 😦

So needs must and we have had to make do with Violife which is probably the next best choice after Tofutti (although using it in a bagel like we did with Tofutti is maybe best avoided!).

I have made a delicious Ottolenghi white chocolate and honey cheesecake a few times and have really wanted to make the recipe ‘friendly’. In fact, the addition of white chocolate not only tempers any cheesiness but also gives a fantastic set cheesecake texture. All in all the combination of white chocolate and tart yogurt with the dairy-free cream cheese gives a wonderful finish and I’d thoroughly recommend giving it a go.

It may be January and the time for resolutions and health, but everything is so grim and bleak right now that a celebratory decadent white chocolate cheesecake is just the ticket! I’ve served mine with homemade blueberry compote but a drizzle of honey, or any fruity sauce would make a wonderful finishing touch.

White Chocolate Cheesecake

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

serves 6-8

125g ginger or biscoff biscuits, crushed

40g dairy-free margarine, melted

170g dairy-free cream cheese

50g dairy-free greek style yogurt

20g icing sugar, sifted

zest of 1/2 a lemon

100g dairy-free white chocolate, melted

  1. Mix the melted margarine with the crushed biscuits and press into the base of a spring-form tin. Place in the fridge to firm up
  2. Whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt, icing sugar and zest until totally smooth
  3. Stir in the melted white chocolate until fully combined
  4. Pour over the biscuit base and level off. Place in the fridge for a least an hour to set
  5. Remove the tin and serve in slices drizzled with fruit compote, sauce or a honey

Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

I’ve seen a lot of tempting bakes using candy canes this winter. There’s something about the eye catching red and white stripes that really sand out and make these bakes look all the more tempting.

I initially had visions of rolling chocolate truffles in crushed up candy canes but sadly the canes were a bit too soft and sticky once crushed and it didn’t work out. Then this idea popped into my mind – dark, cocoa rich cookies dipped in snowy white chocolate and then sprinkled with the crushed up candy canes. It turns out that it was a great idea – the flavours really work – bitter, sweet, smooth with crunchy bits that have a hint of peppermint. A bit like an after eight mint in cookie form! These could now be one of my favourite festive after dinner treats. 

For those who are less keen on a minty flavour profile, then these work just as well as simple white chocolate dipped chocolate cookies and decorated with some pretty sprinkles.

Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

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

 

makes 15-20

  • 115g or 1 cup of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsps cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of baking powder
  • 55g or 1/4 cup hard vegetable fat 
  • 55g or 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine 
  • 100g or 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • 30g dairy-free white chocolate
  • 1-2 candy canes, crushed and/or Christmas themed decorations
  1.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, cornflour, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, small rectangles work well.
  5. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes
  6. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  7. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie and half dip each cookie into the melted chocolate
  8. Place back onto the lined baking sheet, sprinkle with decorations or crushed up candy canes and leave to set

Pepparkakor – Swedish Ginger Thins

I always love a cooking challenge and so was happy to be asked for a Pepparkakor recipe. These Swedish Ginger thins are a Scandinavian Christmas must have and rightly deserve a place on my site.

I’ve only had the Anna brand ones, those very thin crisp flower shapes biscuits often found in health food shops. They always make me think fondly of my step-Grandmother who would always buy Anna’s Ginger thins and a variety of dried fruit for my girls to graze on when they were tiny. She was always very kind to me and made such an effort to cater for us, despite the dietary challenges.

These pepparkakor are a little less thin and crisp and not so dark in colour as I only had syrup available rather than the syrup and treacle required. But the spice is spot on and they make a lovely addition to the Christmas spread.

Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Thins)

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

makes 16-20

125g dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

50g caster sugar

40g soft-brown sugar

50g golden syrup (or ideally 25g treacle and 25g syrup)

35ml water

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugar and spices.
  2. Melt the syrup (or syrup and treacle) into the water
  3. Add the syrup mix and flour, bicarb and salt to the creamed margarine and mix to a soft dough.
  4. wrap and rest for a couple of hours in the fridge
  5. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade
  6. Roll out the dough to 2-3mm thick and stamp out festive shapes.
  7. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes until golden
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. These are best iced but if you don’t have time (like me) a little dusting of icing sugar is nice too 🙂

Mini Panettone

These days panettone is a big part of Christmas. Every food shop seems to have a huge pile of beautifully packed panettone flown straight from Italy. Since I started making homemade friendly panettone it has also become a family tradition for us.

This year I’ve decided to make mini panettone. After all, what could be more temping and cute than a perfect individual panettone?

This version is chocolate chip as I know that’s the flavour combination that’ll be devoured in this house, but you could easily swap the chocolate for dried fruit or mixed peel for a more traditional vibe.

If you can find proper mini-panettone cases to place in empty tin cans or panettone moulds, then you are luckier than me! I used the tulip type muffin liners placed in a deep muffin tin, which did a pretty good job.

Did you notice the mistletoe and the tag in the photos? Every year we and our neighbours have a mistletoe fairy who mysteriously leaves mistletoe with a tag in our letterboxes. We don’t know who it is, but it’s a lovely festive treat 🙂

Mini Panettone

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

makes 6

250g plain flour

30g caster sugar

1/2 tbsp yeast

1/4 tsp salt

100ml dairy-free milk, warmed to body temperature

25g cup dairy-free margarine, melted

Zest of 1 lemon and 1 clementine

30g cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl.
  2. Stir in the sugar, yeast and salt.
  3. Pour in the warm milk, margarine and zests and bring together to form a smooth and elastic dough.
  4. Knead in the chocolate until they are evenly distributed
  5. Leave in a warm place to double in size.
  6. Knock back and form into a smooth ball. Cut into 4 equal pieces, approximately 75g each
  7. Place in a lined muffin tins.
  8. Leave to rise again until it they’ve grown a lot. An hour in a warm place should be adequate
  9. Brush the top with oat milk and sprinkle with a pearl or chouquette sugar. (if you can’t find that use demerara)
  10. Place in a preheated oven and bake at 180 degrees centigrade fan/190 degrees centigrade non-fan/gas mark 5 for 20-25 minutes, until golden and cooked through (it will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.)
  11. Cool