Savoury Pretzels

Snacks – I don’t think we’d get through a day without snacks and that’s always particularly apparent at the weekend or in the school holidays. Biscuits and cakes are all well and good but sometimes savoury is the only way to go. Crisps are great, everyone loves crisps right? But they’re not exactly filling and nutritious.

I have a small repertoire of interesting savoury options: sausage rolls, savoury scones, cheesy crackers etc but I’m always on the look out for new ideas which are not only suitable but pleasing to everyone. Then I spied some big pretzels for sale – now that looks like a good idea. Chewy, bread based and certainly filling. I’ve never really delved into the wonderful world of pretzels before but in doing some research it seems they’re often served with mustard. Bingo! Inspiration! So here’s my take on savoury pretzels, topped with a mustard glaze and because dips make everything better, served with a sweet mustard sauce. These certainly keep those hunger pangs at bay with a satisfying snack. They also make great tasty sandwich rolls 😋

Savoury Pretzels

(Dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian, can be vegan) contains mustard

makes 8-10

500g strong bread flour

7g dried fast action yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

300 ml warm water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (for the boiling water)

for the glaze:

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp mustard

1 tbsp oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda to form a dough and knead well until smooth silky and you can feel the gluten and firmed up the dough. Cover and leave to prove for at least one hour.
  2. Knock back and cut into 8-10 even sized pieces. Roll each one into a sausage shape with slightly tapered ends, then tie in a lose knot. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and let rise for another 30 minutes. 
  3. Preheat the over to 200 degrees centigrade
  4. Bring a pan of water to the boil, once boiling tip in the bicarbonate of soda and drop each knot into the boiling solution for about 5 seconds.
  5. Remove and place on an oiled baking sheet.
  6. Brush with a little of the glaze and bake for 15 minutes until deeply golden
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and bush with the remaining glaze and sprinkle over a little salt. Leave to cool.
  8. Serve fresh with a dip of equal parts honey/syrup and mustard pepped up with a dash of hot sauce.
  9. These pretzels also freeze well. Defrost thoroughly and then refresh in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Strawberry Scones

The sun’s out and I feel inspired and buzzing with fresh ideas. There really isn’t anything like the end of Winter to make me feel ready to attack the spring and summer with gusto – it’s amazing what a bit of warmth and sunlight can do!

We had a lovely trip to see the sea of bluebells last weekend, which is a bit of a yearly tradition in my part of the country, which culminated with cool drinks in a National Trust cafe. All the other customers seemed to be tucking into cream teas (obviously it was drinks or nothing for us!), which got me thinking about making a batch of scones. Scones, with their association with cream teas and strawberry jam always seem rather summery to me, so perfect for my current vibe. So here is a cracking combination of scones and strawberries  so we can tuck into a cream tea at home.

I’d really recommend using freeze-dried berries in sweet recipes, as you get all the flavour and none of the ‘sog factor’, so there’s no need to adjust the indigents to factor in extra moisture.

 

Strawberry Scones

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

Makes about 20

450g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

75g dairy-free margarine

75g caster sugar

300 ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

1 tsp berry essence, if you have it

1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries , roughly chopped

To top: 2 tbsp oat milk 2 tbsp granulated sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/gas mark 6. Grease and flour 2 baking sheets.
  2. Rub the margarine into the flour, sugar and baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs. 
  3. Pour in the essence and dairy-free milk and very gently bring together to a soft dough. It’s very important not to work scone dough. Add the freeze dried berries.
  4. Gently pat out the dough until its about 1 inch thick. Using a 2inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds and place on the baking sheets Continue, gently bringing the dough back into a ball and cutting out, until all the dough has been used up.
  5. Brush the top of each with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with sugar Bake for about 20-25 minutes until starting to turn golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Twists – The Ultimate Easy Breakfast Pastry

As a family we struggle to find exciting breakfasts, and generally revert to good old toast or cereal. However, sometimes it’s nice to have an exciting, fancy breakfast; one that feels a little more luxurious than the usual. Sadly, it seems to me that most exciting breakfasts involve some combination of dairy, eggs or nuts, which is certainly not ideal in our household, and makes most exciting options out of bounds.

I always feel particularly bad when we go to France and the girls can’t tuck into a crisp flaky croissant or Pain au Chocolat like (it seems) everyone else. I have made my own rather successful Pain au Chocolat which are dairy-free but they do take a good few hours to laminate the layers, and I’m sure not many people have the time to make homemade viennoiserie too often. Personally, I think it’s a great way to spend a day, but then I’m a bit of a baking fanatic 😉

This recipe is essentially a quick an easy version of a chocolate filled breakfast pastry and is based on those chocolate twists you see in coffee shops or bakery counters. I think a twist is a very appealing pastry, with the filling peeping out of the turns between the layers of golden pastry. Served warm with a little dusting of icing sugar these chocolate twists are the perfect, easy breakfast pastry. They also freeze brilliantly, so I bake a batch to freeze then in the morning i place it frozen into the microwave for 20 seconds to thaw, then into the oven for 5 minutes to warm. Ta Da, the perfect fresh warm pastry for breakfast heaven!

Chocolate Twists

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

300ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine, such as Pure

450-500g plain flour

2 tsp dried yeast

50g or 1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp chocolate extract [optional] or vanilla essence

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free spread

50g dairy-free chocolate, finely chopped [optional]

  1. Melt the margarine and milk together – you want it to be warm and melted but not hot
  2.  In a bowl mix together the flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, cornflour and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk.
  3. Bring together to a soft dough and knead until its smooth and bounces back when prodded. Cover and let double in size
  4. Mix together the filling ingredients (except the chopped chocolate) to form a soft paste. Set aside.
  5. Knock back the risen dough and roll out to a large long rectangle
  6. Smear on the chocolate paste. Sprinkle over the chocolate pieces, then fold in half
  7. Cut into even slices and twist each one to form a lovely swirly pastry
  8. Place on lined and greased baking pans and cover and leave to rise again for another half an hour
  9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
  10. Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through
  11. Dust with icing sugar before serving

Dairy-free Pain au Chocolat – New Improved Recipe

 

One of the true joys of a French holiday are morning trips to the boulangerie to buy fresh crusty baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Every morning, little S would come and buy the fresh bread and pastries first thing and then look enviously at our pain au chocolat on the breakfast table. So I made a promise to make a batch on return.

Since last summer’s wonderful holiday in Corsica, I’ve got in the habit of regularly making friendly pain au chocolat for the girls. It’s been a mixed blessing, they’ve got rather used to freshly made viennoiserie for breakfast, so I end up making them often which takes time, but my croissant dough skiIlls have improved dramatically.

This new improved recipe has been gradually tweaked over the last year and I think we’ve finally got a jolly authentic, flaky and ‘buttery’ dough. The lamination has proved the tricky part of the recipe. Besides being the most time consuming aspect, I suffered for months with the layers simply disappearing which is really demoralising when you’ve spent hours putting them there in the first place! After some in-depth research it seems the crucial detail for lamination is that the fat content of the ‘butter replacement’ has to be around 82%. It’s that precise. In the UK our dairy-free margarines are predominantly water-based with fat coming way down the list of ingredients. If you use such a margarine the water just makes steam and you get a bready dough rather than buttery flaky layers. Makes total sense doesn’t it.

After much experimentation I’ve found that it works best to combine a mixture of dairy-free margarine such as Pure with a baking spread such as Stork (in the foil wrapper) and a touch of flour. This combination makes a great fat-rich butter substitute which also provides the right ‘buttery’ flavour.

Surely a good flaky Pain au Chocolat is possibly the most perfect breakfast item ever 🙂

Dairy-free Homemade Pain au Chocolat

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

makes 16

500g strong bread flour

90g caster sugar

10g instant yeast

10g salt

100ml dairy-free milk (I used Oatly)

250ml cold water

150g dairy-free margarine

150g baking fat

1 tbsp flour

160g dark dairy-free chocolate chopped into batons

a sprinkle of caster sugar

melted dairy-free margarine for brushing

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and yeast.
  2. Pour in the dairy-free milk and water and stir. Once come together, knead well to form a soft and springy dough (about 5-10 minutes).
  3. Cover and leave to rise for a couple of hours
  4. Meanwhile, put the dairy-free margarine on to some cling film, sprinkle with the flour and then top with the baking fat (making a kind of sandwich affair) and loosely wrap. Roll out to a square shape, and place in the fridge or freezer to harden.
  5. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough. Cut a cross on top of the dough ball and roll out the leaves (see photo below)
  6. Place the cooled ‘butter’ in the middle and fold the four flaps over the ‘butter’ making sure it is entirely encased with dough.
  7. Roll out and fold into thirds twice
  8. Place back in the fridge for thirty minutes or so, then roll out and fold back into thirds twice more. Repeat two or three times.
  9. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes more.
  10. Roll out to form a large rectangle. Cut into four long strips, halve each.
  11. Place a line of chocolate at one narrow end and roll over to cover. Add another chocolate baton and continue rolling up.
  12. Loosely cover with cling film and let rise on the baking tray for 30 minutes.
  13. Brush with the melted margarine and sprinkle with caster sugar
  14. Bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes 

 

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.

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