Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-Yo Cookies

What crazy and unpresidented  times we are living through! I don’t think that even a few weeks we could have imagined lock down, and certainly not lock down for 1/4 of the world’s population. We didn’t know what social distancing meant, loo roll and pasta shortages were something we couldn’t imagine and coronavirus was nowhere near home. At times it seems like we’re living through a badly written disaster movie, if only a super hero would come and save us all. Although on this occasion the super heroes will be the medical staff who are looking after the sick and putting their own health in danger.

A few days ago I was reading the news all the time and feeling pretty anxious, upset and overwhelmed about the whole situation. It all looked so bleak. Now, I’ve decided to step away from the news, just dip in occasionally and instead focus on cooking. I’ve certainly got enough time to develop those recipes that have been on the back burner! I also have lots of ideas for using simple store cupboard ingredients to make delicious tasty meals, so keep tuned for some exciting cooking and baking ideas.

But first, I think we need some sweet luxury, something pretty, tempting, and delicious to add a ray of sunshine into the otherwise bleak outlook.

These Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-yo cookies are not only as pretty as a picture, but sweet and crumbly with a super rich chocolate filling. The sort of cookie to give a metaphorical hug (just what we need right now) whilst having a hot drink. Do be careful with Bird’s custard powder, some is safe and some contains milk. If you can’t find the safe one just sub for cornflour.

Stay safe everyone x

Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-Yo Cookies

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

makes about 20 sandwich biscuits

150g dairy-free margarine

65g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla essence

pinch of salt

55g custard powder or cornflour

175g plain flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment
  3. Beat together the margarine, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the flours and salt to form a very soft, but not sticky dough.
  5. Make large marble sized balls and place on the baking sheet (try to make an even number). Flatten with the back of a fork.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes until only a hint of colour on the edges
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  8. Once completely cool, sandwich together with the chocolate cream.
  9. Dust with icing sugar if desired

Chocolate Cream

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

60g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

1 tsp dairy-free milk (if needed)

25g melted dairy-free chocolate

    1. Whisk the margarine  with the icing sugar until it is all incorporated, adding the milk if the mixture is too stiff. Stir in the melted chocolate.

Brandy Snaps

Brandy snaps are an essential part of Christmas – i can’t imagine eating them at any other time of year! They’re also a perfect easy recipe to make in a rush, or with the children to keep them entertained in the days running up to Christmas. We’re going to fill them with dairy-free whipped cream and devour them for a special pudding.

Sweet crunchy exterior filled with soft cream, what could be more indulgent!

 

Brandy Snaps

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

Makes about 16

75g dairy-free margarine

80g light muscovado sugar

70g golden syrup

80g plain flour

1/2 tsp ginger

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp brandy

  1. Melt together the margarine, sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Place the flour, spice and lemon zest in a mixing bowl. Pour in the meted sugar mix and add the brandy (or use apple juice instead). Stir well to form a very sloppy dough.
  3. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment and preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  4. Place teaspoons of the mix onto the lined sheet, and spread into a thin circle
  5. Bake for 7-8 minutes until turning golden. Cool on the sheet for one minute and then loosely wrap around a wooden spoon handle to form a tube. Leave to cool. Repeat with the rest of the mix.
  6. Serve filled with cream (just before serving) and dusted with icing sugar
  7. These snaps keep well for a few days in an airtight container as long as you only fill them when you’re ready to devour them!

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

I can’t think of a better time to make homemade chocolates than Christmas. They’re little cosy luxuries that fit perfectly with the festive season; either as an edible gift or simply a after-dinner (or anytime) treat.

You know, I do get my inspiration from funny places! The other week I was going out at lunchtime at work and walked past a doughnut shop. To be honest, they didn’t look too appealing, just over the top super sugary giant confections, but the chocolate and Biscoff variety caught my eye. I know it’s a winning combo and suddenly the idea of Biscoff flavoured chocolate truffles, rolled in Biscoff biscuit crumbs came to mind. I immediately started planning my experiments, working out the exact details of the recipe. I was correct, it’s a fabulous and rather morish combination. The mix of dark chocolate with sweet spicy Biscoff gives a wonderful warm hug of wintery spice in a luxurious chocolate truffle case.

It’s not easy to find nice dairy-free chocolate truffles, so I’m planning on making boxes filled with these, original and lemon truffles as Christmas gifts – i reckon they’ll go down a treat 🙂

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

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

makes approx. 15 truffles

110g dairy-free dark chocolate

2 tbsps dairy-free cream

1 tbsp golden or maple syrup

1 tbsp Lotus Biscoff spread

6 Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed

  1. Melt the chocolate over a bain marie, or in a microwave. Stir until silky and glossy with no lumps.
  2. Stir in the dairy-free cream, syrup and biscoff spread.
  3. Leave in the fridge for at least half an hour to partially set.
  4. Pour the crushed biscuits into a shallow bowl.
  5. Roll into grape sized balls and coat in the biscuit crumbs.
  6. Keep covered at room temperature until ready to eat!

Mocha Biscotti

This year I’m intending on making lots of my Christmas presents, well that’s the plan! I’ll have to see if life, work and the new puppy let that happen…

To me it seems like this is the right time to take a little step away from consumerism and reconnect with the the homemade. I also think it makes the festive season seem particularly special; that extra effort in making gifts for people adds an extra touch of love and I hope makes both the giver and receiver equally happy.

Along with the jams, chutneys and chocolate truffles (I’ve got a cracking new recipe coming up next), these biscotti make a wonderful gift. They keep well and are just perfect with coffee or something stronger 😉 over the festive season.

Biscotti may seem tricky to make but in reality they just need a little extra time to be double baked, first as a large log and then sliced. The resulting crispy slices keep well and are robust enough to make fantastic gifts.

I’ve given these biscotti a mocha flavour which i think works particularly well when it’s cold and dark; there’s something so cosy about the combination of coffee and chocolate. Don’t worry about it being an ‘adult’ taste, it works wonderfully with decaf and it’s more a tinge of coffee rather than a full whack in the chops!

Mocha Biscotti

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

makes about 24 biscotti

250g or 2 cups plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

pinch of salt

200g or 1 cup caster sugar

50g dairy-free chocolate, chopped

120ml sunflower oil

120ml dairy-free milk (made up of 1tbsp instant coffee powder and 1 tbsp hot water topped up to 120ml with dairy-free milk)

30g dairy-free chocolate, melted (to drizzle on top)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4
  2. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar and chocolate chips.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, dairy-free milk mix. Bring together to a wet and sticky dough.
  5. Form into one or two log shapes on the lined baking sheet. (they spread out quite  a lot so make them smaller than you think unless you want long biscotti!) Brush with the dairy-free milk.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and starting to turn golden around the edges.
  7. Cool briefly, then cut into even slices. Return to the baking sheet and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, turn the slices over and cook for 5-10 minutes more. You want a uniform slightly golden tinge, but no particularly dark areas.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, drizzle or dip into the melted chocolate
  9. These keep well, in an airtight container for a week or so.

 

Bonfire or Christmas Spice Scones

I’m not one for a milky coffee but I do like the sound of the seasonal varieties that are sold in the big golf shop chains. Bonfire and pumpkin spice sounds so warm and appealing and just the right kind of taste for these cold winter months. So to avoid missing out, I’ve added the same warm spices to these delightfully light and fluffy spiced clouds of pure pleasure!

After the awful scones we had in a 5*hotel (see previous post!) I felt I had to post a better recipe  – One Aldwych if you’re reading look here for a good dairy and egg-free scone recipe 😉 These scones are spot on every time, light, fluffy and delicate; absolutely nothing like the almost inedible hard biscuits we got in the fancy tea!

I’ve provided two different spice varieties; one more autumnal and the other with a bit more of a Christmas feel but adding clementine and lemon zest to the mix.

Spiced Scones

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

Makes about 12

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch ground cardamon

(zest of 1 lemon and 1 clementine for Christmas spice)

220g plain flour

1 and 1/2 tsps baking powder

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Pinch of salt

Up to 100ml dairy-free milk

1-2 tbsps Demerara sugar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Grease and flour a baking sheet
  3. Mix together all the spices (plus zests if making Christmas spice)
  4. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and most of the spice mix spices. Rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Pour in some of the dairy-free milk. Gently bring together to form a soft dough (do NOT knead or you’ll end up with rock hard scones!). Add more milk if necessary.
  6. Gently pat out to a circle about 5cm thick. Stamp our circles and place on the baking sheet. Gather up the remaining dough, pat out again and stamp out more circles until all the dough is used up
  7. Brush the tops with dairy-free milk and sprinkle over some Demerara sugar and the remaining spice mix
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and golden on the tops and bottoms
  9. Cool on a wire rack

The Best Ever Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies and the worries of school trips

My thinking is that in the U.K. a cookie, by definition, is a chocolate chip variety, a nod to the giant soft but chewy versions of our American friends, rather than a firmer crunchy British biscuit. These chocolate studded beauties sit right on the cusp between an English biscuit (crunchy, sweet, sometimes dunked) and the all the more soft and gooey American counterpart. I have to say I like both crunchy biscuits and softer cookies, so these tick all the boxes – crisp round the edges, soft and yielding in the centre with more chocolate than you could hope for. Surely the ultimate in sweet comfort food, and that’s certainly what we need this half term with two school trips in progress.

My stress levels have been high for months ever since these trips came on the horizon. Clearly school trips are fantastic experiences, are great at promoting independence and growth and well, I wouldn’t want the girls to miss out. But factor in no only missing them dreadfully but also food allergies and the worries about safe food, then you have the ingredients for a stressful time!

These aren’t the first school trips, they have both been on them before. However, other than a French trip for Big S where the hotel refused to give her any food as there had been a serious allergic reaction in the region (my that was one tricky trip!) they have generally been to residential venues which are set up to cater for schools, and so generally pretty on the case for catering for everyone. Food might not have been fantastic (and there have often been some problems) but at least it’s been safe and each time I’ve spoken to the chef involved who has cooked all the meals. So there has always been a sense of being as prepared as possible.

These trips are a whole different scenario. Both girls are going some distance, staying in hotels and eating at different places every day – we would never dream of doing this kind of holiday as a family! Even the thought of staying in a hotel for more than one night seems out of the question, and then eating at places like leisure centres and bowling complexes – it’s a big no way!

I have done everything I can – contacting the hotels and the chef, going through every meal, checking options, providing alternatives and snacks. But it’s still a big worry. It’s hard to hand over control and totally trust others when you’re asking them to be so vigilant to one child when they have a whole group to look after. Luckily both girls are sensible and if anything will come home starving having eaten very little, but it does make me sad that they don’t have the freedom and carefreeness of their friends.

Anyway, these cookies are to help us through the next two weeks, to give us all a metaphorical hug when the stress is feeling a bit too much. Hopefully, they can do the same for you and your family and friends when you need a big cuddle.

The Best Ever Tripe Chocolate Cookies

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

 

makes about 24

150g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

70g soft brown sugar

big pinch of bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

200g plain flour

85g dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped

85g dairy-free ‘milk’ chocolate, chopped

30g dairy-free white chocolate, chopped

  1. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy
  2. Sift in the flour, bicarb and salt and bring together to a soft dough
  3. Stir in the chocolate chunks
  4. Form into a sausage shape, wrap and chill in the fridge. If you like you can freeze at this point, then slice and bake the dough from frozen, adding one extra minute to the cooking time
  5. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Line baking sheets with parchment
  6. Cut 1cm slices of dough and place well apart on the lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They should be just turning golden at the edges but still soft in the centre.
  8. Cool for a few minutes on the baking tray to firm up, then more to a wire rack.