Lebkuchen

I’ve made it – 12 recipes of advent for Christmas 2021 completed just in time! At one point I didn’t think I’d get there, but somehow I have ended with plenty of recipes on hold until next Christmas! Wishing all my readers a very Happy, safe and healthy Christmas. Thank you for all the comments, views and interaction, and making it all seem worthwhile 🙂

I’ve wanted to recreate these traditional German gingerbread cookies for a while, as to me they seem extremely festive and quite exotic. I haven’t eaten many in my life so I’m hoping this is an authentic recreation to add to the festive repertoire. We found them to be how one would imagine an old-fashioned gingerbread cookie to be, which is no bad thing. Lebkuchen often have a heavy dosing of cloves but I didn’t have any in the cupboard, so I’ve opted for a touch of mixed spice for an extra Christmas vibe.

 You can ice with either the water/lemon icing that hardens to a crisp crust or with melted chocolate, or maybe both to please all tastes?

 

Lebkuchen

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

 Makes about 12

125g plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

50g soft brown sugar

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp mixed spice

2 tsp cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 tbsp flavourless oil

1 tbsp golden syrup (or honey)

70ml dairy-free milk

For the glaze:

50g icing sugar

1 tbsp water or lemon juice

And/or:

50g dark dairy-free chocolate, melted

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade fan/180 degrees centigrade non-fan. Line a cookie sheet with non-stick parchment.
  2. Mix together the first eight dry ingredients. Add the oil, syrup and milk and milk to form a soft dough.
  3. Roll out to 1cm thick and use festive cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Place spaced apart on the cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. When cool, mix together the glaze and/or melt the chocolate and coat the cookies.

 

Egg-free Vegetarian Christmas Stuffing

Stuffing is an essential part of Christmas lunch but it so often contains egg, nuts or other allergens (or meat and so I avoid it!). This year we’re having Christmas at home and I wanted to make some veg stuffing to add to the meal, so I’ve been playing around with flavours and binders , and finally I’ve come up with a combination I’m happy with.

These little stuffing balls based on breadcrumbs and are flavoured with onion, garlic and herbs, then given a savoury tang from some soy sauce and a couple of sneaky mushrooms (top hint: don’t tell the kids and they’ll happily eat them!) and bound with mustard. The mustard is the genius feature, you get flavour and punch whilst also binding the ingredients together. If you can’t have mustard then I’d recommend another similar condiment such as horseradish, or perhaps a sauce or even a vegan mayo.

 

I’ve chosen to make then as small balls and only a small amount, but do multiple as desired.

 

Egg-free Vegetarian Stuffing Balls

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

Makes 10 mini balls

 

2 slices of fresh bread, whizzed up into breadcrumbs

1 tbsp olive oil

½ onion

5 sage leaves, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 mushrooms, roughly chopped

Small handful parsley, chopped

½ tsp soy sauce

1 and ½ tsps. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

 

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until soft (5-10 minutes), stir in the mushrooms, sage, thyme and garlic and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are well cooked. Taste, season and cool.
  2. In a food processor, blend together the breadcrumbs with the fried onion and herb mix. Add the parsley and blend again. Add the soy sauce and mustard and pulse until it comes together. You want to keep some texture.
  3. Form into small balls and place in a baking dish that has been drizzled with oil. Cover the dish with foil.
  4. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade with foil on, then remove the foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you’d like them, These also freeze brilliantly once cooked. Just heat from frozen for 10-15 minutes, covered in foil.

Homemade Twiglets

You’ve gotta love Twiglets! Those gnarly little marmite flavoured sticks that are the perfect accompaniment to pre-dinner drinks. Probably a very British snack (they are flavoured with divisive marmite after all), I reckon anyone would have a hard time not enjoying these little savoury sticks.

Problem is they’re not safe for us, as they may contain milk, eggs and sesame. We’ve always bemoaned this as Big S loves marmite and they would have been the perfect non crisp snack for her. I just know she would love Twiglets.

So, I started thinking, could I recreate Twiglets just in time for Christmas? I wasn’t sure, but I did some research and came across a few recipes online. Good start, but these didn’t ring true to me – Twiglets are essentially very crunchy so simply baking a dough as these recipes opted for was not going to work, in my opinion. Then my mind turned to the little crunchy tomato taralli biscuits I made last year. They were super crunchy and moreish so maybe the same technique would work? Wow, it really did work! By adding the boiling stage before baking you get wonderfully crunchy little sticks that keep well and have just the right Twiglet crunch! It is essential to use the wholemeal flour as Twiglets have a wheaty taste as well as the marmite flavour. Even D, who is a true Twiglet expert said these little marmite sticks are incredibly authentic and delicious 🙂

It may be a faff to make your own Twiglets, but if you’ve missed them as much as us, it’s well worth the extra effort

Homemade Twiglets

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

makes about 80

125g wholemeal flour

1/2 tsp salt

40ml water

40ml extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp marmite

to glaze: 1 tsp marmite mixed with 1 tsp dairy-free milk, flaky salt crystals

  1. Stir in the salt into the flour. Add the marmite, olive oil and water and bring together to a soft dough.
  2. Knead until silky and smooth.
  3. Wrap and rest in the fridge for at least an hour
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade Fan, 190 degrees non-fan
  5. Grab small grape sized pieces of the dough and then roll into half cm wide sausages. Cut into stick lengths and try and make them uneven and gnarly. Place on the lined baking tray while you shape the rest.Bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop in the Twiglets, ten or so at a time and boil until the rise to the surface. This will take a minute or two.
  6. Place back on the lined baking sheet.
  7. Brush with the glaze and sprinkle with the salt. 
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy. 
  9. Cool on wire rack. These will get more crunchy as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a week (if they last that long!)

Spiced apple galette

This is the perfect last minute pudding for when you have nothing planned or unexpected guests. it’s maybe the easiest and prettiest tart you could make, and I guarantee everyone will be impressed by your fine pastry skills!

I’m not a particular fan of apple pie, but this galette is a class above and has a delicate refined taste.

I’ve added cinnamon and the biscoff spread for a Christmas vibe, but feel free to mix it up. Apples straight onto the pastry is good, as is a layer of apricot jam.

Spiced Apple Galette

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

makes 1 tart, which serves 4-6

  • 1 pack of puff pastry, shop bought is fine as long as its definitely dairy-free
  • 10g dairy-free margarine, melted
  • 1-2 crisp eating apples, I used Jazz apples
  • 2 tbsp Biscoff spread
  • 2 tbsps caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Icing sugar, to sprinkle
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6
  2. Roll out the pastry to 1/2 cm thick, then score round a dinner plate to make a perfect circle.
  3. Transfer to an un-greased baking sheet.
  4. Score a circular ring round the pastry, 1cm from the edge. Spread the Biscoff spread over the centre
  5. Quarter and core the apples (no need to peel unless you really want to), cut into very thin slices.
  6. Decoratively arrange the slices onto the pastry circle.
  7. Brush the pastry and apples with the melted margarine.
  8. Generously and evenly sprinkle the caster sugar and cinnamon over the top of the tart.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top and the pastry is cooked through.
  10. Dust the top with icing sugar. At this point you can blow torch the icing sugar to give an extra cramaleized top, but it’s fine if you want to miss out that extra step.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature with dairy-free ice cream, custard or pouring dairy-free cream.

Christmas Spice Cheesecakes

In my opinion no time of year is complete without it’s own cheesecake recipe. We really do love cheesecake in this household! I could have tried to include mincemeat, or clementine would have been nice but I know the younger members of the family are not fans of either of those. So what other Christmas addition could a cheesecake have? Well spice of course. Nothing says Christmas more than some warming spice whether in some gingerbread, mulled wine or even mince pies.

These cheesecakes we were a very big hit – the spice is on the form of ginger cookies in the base and Biscoff spread in the cheesecake layer. The result is delightful! In fact, by adding the Biscoff spread the cream cheese mixture gets a bit firmer, which is all the better for a no-bake cheesecake recipe. I find the addition of the yogurt is important to give a hint of sour that cuts through the sweet.

I’ve given the proportions for 4 individuals ramekins but I’d you want to make more, or one larger cake, just multiply as necessary.

Christmas Spice Cheesecakes

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

makes 4 individual ramekins

8 ginger biscuits, crushed

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

150g dairy-free cream cheese (I use 1 tub of Oatly cream spread)

1 tbsp dairy-free yogurt

2 tbsp icing sugar

3 tbsp smooth Biscoff spread

Christmas decorations of choice

  1. Mix together the crushed biscuits with the melted margarine, divide between the 4 ramekins and press down to form a firm base. Place in the fridge to set.
  2. Whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt, icing sugar and Biscoff spread until smooth and well combined. I find it easiest to use a food processor, but you can whisk it by hand.
  3. divide the mixture evenly between the four ramekins and level off. Chill. When read to serve add Christmas themed decorations and a sprinkle of glittery icing sugar, if you have any.

Matchmakers

I was thinking about Christmas confectionery when I was making the After Eight Bars, and it made me think of the sorts of gifts my mum, as a teacher, received from her pupils. Suddenly my mind was filled with thoughts of Matchmakers, Terry’s chocolate oranges and quality street. Ohh, i did like matchmakers. I’ve not thought about those crunchy chocolate sticks enhanced with flavoured sugar crystals for years, do they even still exist? Either way that thought was the inspiration I needed, I had to recreate Matchmakers. I thought they’d be tricky but actually they’re the easiest homemade chocolate recreation I’ve ever made. Basically tempered chocolate with added flavoured sugar crystals and then cooled quickly to get the right set/crunch. Even though I say it myself, these are a resounding success. I’m definitely going to make them often 🙂

Feel free to change the flavour, all you need is to sub the peppermint essence for orange, coffee, strawberry or caramel and you can recreate your favourite matchmaker flavour. I’d say this recipe makes about 16-20 sticks.

Matchmakers

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

2 tbsp Demerara sugar or course grained granulated sugar

1/2-1 tsp essence

85g dark dairy-free chocolate (i like Nomo)

  1. Add the essence to the sugar, stir well and leave to dry out for 10 or so minutes. I’d advise tasting the sugar once the essence is added, as you may want more depending on flavour.
  2. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment and place in the fridge, or better still, the freezer to chill.
  3. Melt the chocolate, following these directions. Let it cool so the sugar doesn’t melt.
  4. Stir in the sugar. Transfer to a piping bag, snip off the very tip and pipe long straight lines on the chilled and lined baking sheet. Immediately place in the fridge to set. They’ll be ready after 30 minutes or so.
  5. I’d recommend keeping these in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them.

Gingerbread Wreath

We’re big fans of gingerbread in this house, and especially this recipe, so it had to feature in some form of my 12 recipes of Advent 2021.

This recipe gives the most perfect soft or crispy results (depending on cooking time) and has just the right amount of sugar and spice. This year I’ve made the biscuits into a holly wreath as a stunning centre piece for the table. Although, we’ve already devoured this batch so i’m going to have to make another nearer Christmas! I’m thinking it would look rather lovely with some candles in the middle, in the centre of the Christmas table, what do you think?

Gingerbread Wreath

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

Makes 12-15
50g/ 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine
20g/ 2 tbsps dairy-free cream cheese
75g/ 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
2 tbsps golden syrup
20ml/ 1.5 tbsps dairy-free milk
170g/ 1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
icing sugar
roll out green fondant icing plus red icing for added berries

  1. Cream together the margarine, cream cheese, sugar, syrup and soya milk
  2. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger. Knead into a soft dough
  3. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into shapes with leaf shaped cookie cutters.
  4. Bake on a greased baking sheet for 10-12 minutes at 190 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5 (10 minutes for soft, 12 for crisp)
  5. Cool on the sheet a little before transferring to a wire rack
  6. Roll out the icing, dusting the surface with icing sugar and cut out with the same cookie cutter. Spread a little icing sugar/water mix in each cookie to attach the icing. Join the leaves together in a wreath shape and add some red roll our icing ‘berries’

After Eight Chocolate Bars

I know that After Eights (thin soft mint fondant filled chocolate crisps in little individual envelopes) are available all year round, but for me they seem very Christmassy. I think it’s probably because my mum was a teacher and she often received a couple of boxes as gifts from her students, along with some MatchMakers (ooh that’s an idea!) and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange!

I have made bars rather than thins mainly because I have some chocolate bar moulds and I thought they’d be more successful, but you could try with a larger tin, layering the chocolate, fondant and then chocolate. I reckon If you chill it well before cutting into squares you could get the desired After Eight effect. I’ll update you if i get a chance to make these again before Christmas!

I had been tempted to call these After Sevens as a nod to the fact that they’re a free-from version of an After Eight, but then you might not have known was I was talking about! The taste is really authentic, so I hope you really enjoy this recipe.


I used Sainsbury’s own brand fondant icing which is may contain tree nuts but not peanuts, so that’s good for us. If you’re looking for totally nut-free fondant then Nut Free MarketPlace sells some. It’s essential to use dark chocolate in this recipe to get the contrast of dark bitter chocolate and sweet minty centre.

After Eight Chocolate Bars

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

180g dark dairy-free chocolate

150g white fondant icing, grated

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp caster sugar

1/2 – 1 tsp mint essence.

  1. Melt 120g of the chocolate (using this technique) and use to coat the chocolate bar moulds, or the bottom of a square tin. Let fully set.
  2. Make a sugar syrup out of the water and caster sugar by melting the sugar into the water until completely dissolved. Add the peppermint essence.
  3. Pour half of the user syrup into the grated fondant and mix to form a paste, adding more syrup until you get the desired consistency. It needs to be runny enough to ooze but not so runny that it’s a liquid!
  4. Fill the moulds with the fondant filling, or cover the chocolate lined tin. Place in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Melt the remaining chocolate and spread over the exposed mint fondant and leave to set again.

Chocolate Tiffin Wreath Cake

Our family is divided over the issue of Christmas cake; I make one every year and some of the family devour it like there’s no tomorrow, and others would simply rather have anything else.

I’ll be making both a chocolate yule log and a traditional Christmas cake to please everyone, but I reckon this chocolate tiffin wreath cake will probably be the most popular offering. Not many can resist a good tiffin, and this version is particularly fine with plenty of fudgey chocolate filling mixed with a good selection of biscuits (plus no random bits of dried fruit which seem to give my children nightmares!)


You could easily make this is any cake tin, but if you have a bundt tin, you’ll get a fine wreath shape which immediately looks festive and rather tempting. I’ve been quite restrained and topped this with a white chocolate snowy like drizzle and some Christmas decorations, but i reckon you could go all out if that’s more your style 🙂

Chocolate Biscuit Tiffin Wreath Cake

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


170 g dairyfree chocolate
120g dairyfree margarine
3 tbsps golden or maple syrup
12 biscuits, roughly crushed ( I used Lotus )
20 g Rice Krispies
50g white chocolate
Christmas decorations

  1. Line a bundt tin or loaf tin with two layers of cling film
  2. Melt together the chocolate, margarine and syrup. Stir well to form a gorgeous truffle mixture
    Fold in the crushed biscuits.
  3. Pour into the lined mould and bring over the cling film so it is entirely covered. Press down firmly for a compacted centre and even top
  4. Place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to firm up
  5. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the top
    add decorations and leave to set

Snowball Cookies

These are my riff on those nutty, icing sugar or caster sugar coated almond sandies or Mexican wedding cookies, but made nut free. The white snowy coating of icing sugar makes these perfect for the Christmas season and they’d look gorgeous alongside some other cute little petit fours with a strong coffee at the end of Christmas lunch. Then again, these are delicious enough for anytime of day or year.

By leaving out the nuts you end up with a surprisingly soft filling that is subtly spiced, but enough to get a proper hint of Christmas. We found them remarkably moreish, and I hope you do too.

We might leave some of these out for Father Christmas this year, although the powdery sugary coating may make an awful mess on his lovely red suit, so don’t feel too bad if you devour them all before he arrives and you have to leave out a less exciting cookie!

I’m trying to post 12 recipes of Advent this year, so look out for more exciting festive themed recipes to come in the next few weeks. Any Christmas recipe you’re lacking and you’d like a recreation then get in touch and i’ll do my best 🙂


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


makes about 14-16

80g dairy-free margarine
80g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.2 tsp cinnamon
150g plain flour
pinch of salt
20-30g icing sugar to roll in

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan/180 degrees non-fan
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment
  3. Cream together the margarine and icing sugar until light and fluffy, add in the vanilla and cinnamon.
    sift in the flour and salt and combine to form a soft dough
  4. Roll into marble sized balls and placed, spaced apart on the line cookie sheet
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, until risen and a tiny hint of colour
  6. Cool for 5 minutes and then roll in the icing sugar, making sure they are liberally covered in the icing sugar ‘snow’