Quick Savoury Straws

Now it’s December we can officially get all Christmassy, which is really exciting as I have an ever expanding list of Christmas themed ideas which I need to get on with. Some of these have been on the back burner for some time, because if they don’t get posted before Christmas then they have to be kept til the following year. This is very frustrating when they’re fantastic recipes that need sharing! As you may have guessed, I have some knock-out sweet recipes lined up for the next few weeks, but here’s an easy savoury snack for the party season.

With so much festive time spent at home or visiting friends and family, the savoury snack has a crucial place for filling gaps between meals or to nibble on with drinks. In my view there’s nothing quite like something with a crispy crunch when you feel like a savoury snack. Having to avoid certain food stuffs really restricts the choices of savoury snacks available – of course no Christmas nuts in this house, no cheese based treats, indeed no Twiglets either – sad times!

Ok there is a choice of certain flavours and brands of crisps which we rely upon (we’re all big crisp fans in this household) and some popcorn brands are a good option but after that the choices get a little dull or difficult. So, the brief is a savoury snack which is easy to make, savoury and tempting too. Something that’s a little reminiscent of a cheese straw – light, crispy and oh so tangy? Welcome then  savoury stars which are irresistible savoury nibbles that are made in a flash. You may say, ‘oh I don’t like marmite so I’ll hate these’. Fair enough, but in my experience even marmite haters tend to enjoy these savoury crispy batons – it’s just a way of giving them a salty tang. I don’t tend to use ‘dairy-free’ cheese often, but on this occasion it does lift the taste to a new level. Make them any length/width you like – the photos show some that are long and elegant, some short and kind of chubby; all equally delicious.

 

Quick Savoury Straws

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

makes 20+

1/2 pack ready made puff pastry

1 tbsp marmite

a few drops of water

a sprinkle of dairy-free grated cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degreesC/gas mark 7
  2. Roll out the pastry, trying to make a nice even rectangle
  3. Thin the marmite with a few drops of water and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle with the dairy-free cheese. A couple of tbsp should be plenty.
  4. Fold the pastry in half and roll it out a little more.
  5. Cut 1cm thick strips and then twist a few times. Place on a lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and puffed up.
  7. They will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Chocolate Caramel Bars

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Next up in my series of homemade chocolate bars are a friendly version of my very, very favourite creamy dreamy Caramel. I’ve always loved the combination of sweet sticky runny caramel and smooth chocolate, it’s a match made in heaven. As a child I would always opt for a Cadburys Caramel if given a choice of chocolate, which gives you some insight into my fondness for chocolate and caramel! And I quite liked the bunny in the advert.

Free-from chocolate is ever improving in variety as well as taste, but I’ve never found anything like a caramel bar. Maybe there are some vegan versions but vegan chocolates are rarely suitable for dairy and nut allergies, so we’re left with only the more serious-looking slabs of free-from chocolate to (not) get excited about.

I know one of the things that my girls would most like to experience is a wider choice of chocolates, hence these experiments to make homemade versions. And they always prove popular. And of course, it’s a fun challenge to take on.

The inspiration for this recipe came from making a caramel sauce to serve with brownies. I made it earlier in the day and let it cool. That’s when I noticed that it had thickened nicely on cooling, to a very similar consistency to the filling of a famous brand’s Caramel bar. Bingo, lightbulb moment! Within minutes I was making the chocolate cases for the caramel, and they were ready for an after lunch treat. Honestly, homemade chocolates sound like a total faff, but they can be easy and the results are always thoroughly rewarding. The bars are top notch chocolate bars, with oozy sweet sticky caramel. My dream chocolate made friendly at last.

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Caramel Chocolate Bars

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

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1/2 cup dairy-free milk

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

1 cup sugar

2 tbsps syrup (golden or maple)

2 tbsps cornflour

a pinch of flaky salt (optional)

150g dark dairy-free chocolate

  1. First make the caramel filling. Pour the dairy-free milk into a sauce pan. Add the cornflour and gently dissolve over a low heat.
  2. Add the other ingredients (except the chocolate). Add salt if using.
  3. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened enough to easily coat the back of a spoon. Cool and set aside.IMG_3184

To make the bars:

  1. Start by tempering the chocolate. In a microwave or over a Bain Marie, only just melt the chocolate, then stir until all the pieces are melted. You need to bring it down to 31 degrees either by stirring in the bowl until the temp has reduced, adding a little unmelted chocolate or by pouring out onto a cold work top ( I have a marble board which is perfect for the job) and move it around with a palette knife until it has cooled and has turned beautifully shiny.
  2. Pour a blob into each mould and evenly coat all the sides, a small brand new paint brush may help. Leave to set for a few minutes and then paint on another layer (or preferably two more). Place in a cool spot to firm up.IMG_3191
  3. Spoon the cooled caramel into the coated moulds (there will be plenty leftover to use as a warm caramel sauce). Cover with a layer of chocolate, making sure all the gaps are sealed or the caramel will ooze out.IMG_3192
  4. Leave to set and then unmould and consume!IMG_3197

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

Caramel Crispy Bars

No word of a lie, these chocolate coated caramel crispy cakes are as addictive as a banned narcotic. I’ve made four batches in the past few weeks and before I could blink they’d all been hoovered up! You will make plenty of friends if you bring these to the cake sale – that’s if your new friends are quick enough to grab one before it’s too late. They only lasted a couple of minutes at yesterday’s charity bake sale… whole tray, gone in no time.

This is really my take on those Rice Krispie squares, which are sweet and gooey and for me: reminiscent of the treats a friend’s mum used to make with melted Mars Bars when I was young. It’s by no means guilt-free munching, but these bars are arguably healthier than those featuring melted Mars Bars and still just as delicious. I’ve combined syrup, sugar, Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread with vanilla for a wonderfully more-ish result that keeps you reaching for another.

I would definitely recommend a dark chocolate coating, any sweeter chocolate would push the needle on the sugar scale to overload, and besides the dark top contrasts so nicely with the lighter crispy base. This is most definitely another recipe to keep close to hand for those baking emergencies I was talking about last week.

Caramel Crispy Bars

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

 

makes about 16

120g caster sugar

170g golden syrup

100g Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g Rice Krispies

75g dairy-free dark chocolate

20g dairy-free margarine

  1. Melt together the sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the Lotus spread to make a thick smooth mixture.
  2. Stir in the Rice Krispies and ensure they are well covered with the gooey syrupy mix
  3. Press into a lined baking pan [a small brownie pan is ideal] and place in the fridge to firm up
  4. Melt together the chocolate and margarine. Pour over the caramel crispy cake and spread out. I like to make a pattern with a fork to make it look pretty!
  5. Leave to set and then slice into squares or rectangles.

 

Rocky Road Bars

Do you ever have baked goods emergencies? Sudden needs/requests for a sweet treat when time is pressing? They happen to me all the time! Is it just me??

Take one of these scenarios: there’s a last minute email that it’s a class-mates birthday and ‘can you just provide a safe alternative’; you decide to go on a picnic and the snack section of the larder is totally bare but you know that energy will be required to last the day; or it’s bedtime and they suddenly remember it’s cake day the next day. Well other mums I come across laugh about last minute trips to the corner shop or petrol station for something to fit the brief. That’s not really an option for us, unless I wanted to send in a bag of sweets, so, on goes the oven and the baking begins. Normally just when I’m feeling more like settling down with a nice chilled glass of wine 😉

The perfect option is a non-baked treat, one that can be whipped up with store cupboard ingredients, left to set in the fridge and then cut into squares. So coming up in the next week are a couple of absolutely blinding no- bake recipes. These generally seem to be some of the most popular things I make, so I’m guessing they’re pretty yummy. I’d advise to keep these recipes close to hand, for the last minute emergencies, and you can rock up with some wow goodies which are much finer that the petrol station offerings, the friendly option will certainly be the most popular!

First up is rocky road, certainly a childhood favourite for many, which never fails to please. My version has Rice Krispies as well as crushed up Bourbon biscuits for added crunch, mini marshmallows (use veggie or conventional whichever are your preference) for soft squidgy pillows and honeycomb pieces for little luxurious sweet nuggets to contrast with the rich dark chocolate.  These are little bites of pure indulgence – nothing healthy here I’m afraid, just little sweet delights!

Rocky Road Bars 

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

makes 20 or so

300g dairy-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped

120g dairy-free margarine

50g golden syrup

200g chocolate biscuits, roughly crushed (I used Tesco Bourbon biscuits that are dairy, egg and nut-free)

50g Rice Krispies

50g mini vegetarian marshmallows (or use normal if you’re not vegetarian/vegan)

50g honeycomb pieces

  1. Line a rectangular  brownie tin with non-stick parchment
  2. Melt together the chocolate, margarine and syrup, either in a microwave or over a bain marie
  3. Stir in the crushed biscuits, Rice Krispies, honeycomb and marshmallows.
  4. Evenly spread into the tin and press down.
  5. [Optional] scatter over some sprinkles for an extra dose of fun
  6. Leave to set in the fridge.
  7. Dust with icing sugar and cut into bars.

Strawberry Creams

One thing Little S dreams of but has never been able to indulge in is a box of chocolates. A pretty box filled with an array of beautiful chocolates with delicious fillings… well, who wouldn’t want such a thing? So I’m on a mission to make one for her birthday as a little surprise (Shhhh!)

We have a great fondness for Choices caramels, but they’re all one flavour which isn’t quite the same as the surprise and choice you get from a selection. I want to recreate the thrill of looking at the mini chocolate menu and choosing your favourite!

So these strawberry creams are the first in a series of filled chocolates and one of my very favourites. In my opinion the flavours of dark chocolate and berrry flavoured fondant are a match made in heaven. They’re also as simple as can be – as long as you have a chocolate mould and some patience you too can make shop worthy chocolates.

The fondant filling is simple: icing sugar (I used Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar as it’s totally safe and adds an extra oomph of flavour) mixed with a fresh strawberry purée, what could be easier!

Strawberry Creams

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

1 tbsp fresh strawberry puree (or maybe a little more)

1 cup icing sugar

100g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Melt the chocolate following the instructions here. It needs to be tempered to get a lovely shiny finish.
  2. Coat the moulds with the about 3/4s of the chocolate. Leave to set.
  3. Meanwhile make the strawberry fondant filling. It needs to be like very thick icing, so start with 1 tbsp of puree and add more if necessary.
  4. Pour the fondant into the set chocolate moulds.
  5. Cover with the remaining chocolate and leave to set.
  6. Try not to eat too many at once 😉