Berry crumble bars

img_1483It’s suddenly got to that time of year -Winter is most certainly here but it’s not quite Christmas! It may be the craziest year ever with days of lockdown merging into months, ever more depressing news and stress everywhere, but there is still something joyful and comforting in the seasons. I’ve always felt so lucky to live somewhere where years are marked by definite seasons, I think I’d really miss them if I lived somewhere with wet and dry instead.

Winter has its downsides (I’m mainly talking about the dark and the annoying habit of house spiders to scuttle about) but the beauty of the colourful leaves, the bounty of the harvest and the delight of a beautiful chilly morning easily out way them.

It’s time to get cosy, to eat comfort food and delight in the low sun and long shadows. These berry crumble bars are the perfect early Winter treat; comforting but with the remains of summer in the form of the berry jam filling. By all means use a different jam, but I find a berry jam adds a beautiful red band as well as a fresh tartness that brings the shortbread and crumble alive. Although it would be a travesty to only eat them in the Winter – big S has pronounced these her favourite sweet thing I’ve ever baked! That must be saying something as I bake new things all the time!

I’ve made these with both a simple crumble topping, or a fancier crumble and candied seed topping. Both are delicious, just pick the variety you’d prefer.

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Berry Crmble Bars with Candied Seeds
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Berry crumble bars with just the crumble topping

This recipe is inspired and adapted from one in the original Ottolenghi cookbook. I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit obsessed with Ottolenghi and his amazing flavour filled food, so I was dleighted to be able to adapt one of his delicious recipes to cater for us as a family. I have a few others up my sleeve, so keep watching 🙂

I like to serve these in packed lunches wrapped in paper, for a teatime treat or even warmed slightly and served with custard for an autumnal pudding. They’d even work for a breakfast if you were inclined!

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Berry Crumble Bars (with optional candied seed topping)

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

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makes 12 good sized bars

120g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

60g caster sugar

pinch of salt

75g oats

100g dairy-free margarine

5 or 6 tbsp jam (about half a jar)

for a crumble top:

60g plain flour

40g oats

10g pumpkin seeds (optional)

30g dairy-free margarine

25g demarara sugar

for the candied seeds:

30g 0ats

30g pumpkin seeds

30g sunflower seeds

30g caster sugar

30g dairy-free margarine

20ml dairy free milk

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Line a square baking tin with non-stick baking paper
  2. Pour the flour, baking owder, salt, caster sugar and oats into a bowl. Cut the margarine into small cubes and add to the bowl. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips until it ressembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Lightly press the mix into the base of the lined tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  4. Whilst the base is cooking make the crumble top: place the flour, oats, seeds (if using) and demarara sugar into a bowl. Again rub in the margarine until you have a craggy crumble. Set aside.
  5. To make the candied seeds (if using): melt together the margarine, milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the oats and seeds.
  6. Once the base has cooled a little, spread over the jam in an even layer.
  7. (if using candied seeds) Spead the seeds over the jam.
  8. Sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. 
  10. Let cool fully befre cutting into square.
  11. These bars keep for a good week in an airtight container.img_1481

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

Every thought of having a cookie for breakfast? Maybe you’ve been in a rush, missed your breakfast slot and that cookie looks especially tempting to have alongside a cup of coffee? Well, if that’s the case then these cookies are for you! Combining all the deliciousness of a chocolate chip cookie with crisp and crunchy cornflakes, these cookies are a match made in heaven (for any time of the day). Besides both cookies and cereal go with (dairy-free) milk so it has to be a good idea 🙂

I was looking for cookie inspiration, because you always need a new recipe to try, right? These Afghan cookies came to mind (not only because they’re very tasty and I haven’t made them for a while, but also New Zealand is probably one place it would be great to be right now) and I started thinking about how breakfast cereal should be used more in cooking. It has such unique taste and texture and most people have some box of cereal hanging about in their larder. It turns out it’s a fabulous addition to a cookie recipe; adding a crispy crunchy cornflake coating to a soft sweet, chocolate laced cookie takes the cookie to whole new dimension.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

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

makes 12-14

110g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

225g plain flour

50g chocolate chips

50g cornflakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade (160 degrees Centigrade fan). Line two cookie sheets with baking paper
  2. Pour the cornflakes into a shallow bowl and set aside
  3. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Whisk in the cornflour, milk and vanilla.
  5. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and stir to make a soft but not sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Roll into golf ball sized rounds and slightly flatten. Roll in the cornflakes to coat (I say roll but you will more likely have to press the cornflakes into the dough to make sure they stick). Place spread apart onto the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes until turning slightly golden around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets until they’ve firmed up and then move to a wire rack to enjoy.
  7. These will last for a good few days in a sealed container.

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels – (with a savoury variation too)

I’ve always meant to make pretzels but never got round to it, until now! I’m doing a lockdown cookbook challenge lockdowncookbookchallenge on Instagram whereby one of us picks a random cookbook from the shelves and I have to cook at least two recipes from it. Why don’t you join? it’s really fun, a great way to get inspiration and the nudge you need to dip into some of those less used cookbooks.

One of the recent picks was Scandilicious by Signe Johansen, its a cookbook I really like but one that I haven’t picked up in years. By dipping in I can immediately remember recipes I’ve tried and see the ones I’ve page marked but never got round to trying. It’s a great way to fire up that imagination. Pretzels was just one of those and so here is my adapted recipe, made into a sweet sugar and cinnamon coated creation to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Think the taste of a doughnut but in a healthier, slightly chewier format – delicious!

I’ve added a tip at the end to make savoury pretzels too – I made a batch of 12 and had 4 sweet, 4 salty and 4 coated in poppy seeds – combining a sweet treat with some lovely fresh rolls and freeze brilliantly – win win! 🙂

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

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

makes 12

500g strong bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp fast action dried yeast

2 tbsp maple syrup or golden syrup

1 tbsp oil

250-300ml water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

(for savoury, generous sprinkling of crystal sea salt or a  handful of poppy seeds)

  1. Pour the flour and salt into a bowl, add the yeast.
  2. Pour in the syrup, oil and 250-300ml water, bring together to a soft but not sticky dough and then knead until silky smooth and bouncy. This will take up to 10 minutes. Cover and leave to prove. You want the dough to double in size and this will take 1-2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade fan/220 degrees non fan
  4. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces roll into loose balls, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Take each ball, roll into a sausage shape and then twist into a pretzel knot. Keep the made knots covered with a tea towel.
  6. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, pour in the bicarb and then add the pretzel knots in threes cooking for 30 seconds on each side. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet. Continue until all the knots have been boiled in the bicarb mix.
  7. For savoury pretzels sprinkle them whilst they are still damp with the salt and/or poppy seeds. For sweet leave ungarnished.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they have risen and have a lovely burnished bronzed appearance.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  10. To make the sweet pretzels: mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Brush each cooled pretzel with melted margarine and then roll in the cinnamon suagr until they are completely coated. Eat as soon as possible and try not to lick your lips!

 

Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Here’s yet another great recipe for lockdown, and one that is easy and perfect to make with your children. This is a recreation of those mini choc chip muffins you see in boxes in the bakery section of the supermarket that always look so appealing but are out of bounds if you have a restricted diet. They make the perfect little sweet treat to get you through these long days at home. They also only use a small amount of flour so are ideal if your stocks are running low.

I use chocolate chips because I know they’re unfailingly popular in this household, but blueberries or dried fruit would work just as well. If you want more detailed instructions check out my first ever video on YouTube 🙂                  Vegan Mini Muffins               

The beauty of this recipe is not only bite sized tasty treats but also ones that freeze brilliantly. I make a batch, freeze and then pop a couple frozen into a packed lunch and they defrost in time for lunch!

Mini Chocolate Chip Muffins

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

Makes 24 mini or 6 large

120g or 1 cup plain flour

75g or 1/3rds cup sugar

1/2 tbsp baking powder

large pinch salt

55g or 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, melted

75ml or 1/3rd cup dairy-free milk

125g or 1/2 cup dairy-free yogurt

1/2 tsp vanilla

75g dairy-free chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Line a muffin pan
  2. In a bowl mix together the milk, yogurt, vanilla and melted dairy-free margarine. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until combined (make sure you don’t over mix).
  5. Gently stir in the chocolate chips
  6. 2/3rds fill each muffin liner.
  7. Bake for 12-14 minutes for mini muffins or 20-25 minutes for large ones, until golden on top and a knife comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack.

 

Decadent Chocolate Braid

With days starting to merge into each other in Coronavirus lockdown (and it’s only day 9!) I’m determined to somehow make each day different and special.

It may be an annoyance , a bit scary and frankly a bit like living through a disaster movie, but there are also positives we need to focus on to stop feeling overwhelmed by the situation. It’s an enforced opportunity to take a pause, to reconnect as a family and focus on the simpler things in life: I’m really enjoying seeing my mum and brother on ‘Houseparty’ a few times each day, being creative with the food and resources we have in the house and trying to make our food as exciting as possible.

This chocolate braid is a fabulous recipe – it’s quick and easy but looks impressive and tastes totally luxurious. It would make a very indulgent breakfast if you’re missing pain au chocolat, a seriously good pudding with cream or ice cream, or just a naughty work from home snack!

Decadent Chocolate Braid

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

serves 4-6

1/2 pack of puff pastry, ready rolled is easiest as it’s nice an rectangular!

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine

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

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade and line a baking sheet with baking paper
  2. Mix together the caster sugar, margarine, cocoa powder to form a soft paste. Set aside.
  3. Roll or unfold the pastry. Imagine it is 3 columns and spread the chocolate paste over the middle column leaving a little gap at each end. Sprinkle over the chopped chocolate
  4. Cut the edge columns with diagonal slices, 1cm apart the whole way down. This should mean you get to remove a triangle at the top.
  5. Fold over the top flap of pastry and then alternating sides, cross over a pastry ribbon from each side until you get to the bottom
  6. Brush with dairy free milk and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and puffed up
  7. Cool and then dust liberally with icing sugar

 

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,