Mini chocolate fudge loaf cakes

Can you believe that the summer holidays are over? At the start they always seem like they’ll go on forever, but in the end they rush by and before you know it it’s September and the start of a new, an extremely long term. Whilst there is an excitement of the new school year it always makes me feel a bit nostalgic, that summer is over and I feel sad at any lost opportunities and just the freedom of weeks of holiday stretching out before us.

But rather than focusing on what has ended, let’s focus on the new beginnings and the fantastic things to come this year. If anything deserves some celebratory cakes then that does! So to mark this new start and hope it’s going to be a great one, here are some rather fabulous mini chocolate fudge loaf cakes to welcome everyone home from the first day back. I don’t think there is much better than being welcomed home by a wonderfully yummy freshly baked treat. These are so delicious you might want to make more than the 4 in the recipe, as they’ll make not only a wonderfully rich and fudgy teatime treat but also a rather special pudding with the addition of some vanilla ice cream or dairy-free whipped chantilly cream.

Mini Chocolate Fudge Loaf Cakes

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

makes one 4 mini loaf cakes, multiple as necessary

  • 120ml or 1/2 cup hot water
  • 25g or 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 120ml or 1/2 cup dairy-free milk
  • 85g or 1/4 cup golden syrup, or maple syrup
  • 60ml or 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla
  • 135g or 1 cup plain flour
  • 55g or 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt

for the icing:

  • 1/4 cup/ 60g dairy-free margarine
  • 1 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • 1/2 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 100g dairy-free dark chocolate

– Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Centigrade/ Gas mark 4

– Grease and line a loose bottomed cake-tin

– Whisk together the hot water and cocoa

– Mix in the milk, golden syrup, oil, vinegar and vanilla

– Stir in the sugar

– Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt

– Mix to form a very sloppy mix, with no lumps

– Pour into the mini loaf cases and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

– Cool in the tin, before removing and transferring to a wire rack.

– Meanwhile, melt together the icing ingredients and simmer for a few minutes until thick and glossy. Let cool.

– Pour the icing over the cooled cakes so they have a nice thick topping.

– Decorate if desired and leave to set.

Hales of Cartmel, Cumbria

We sadly had to postpone our longed for holiday to the Greek Islands due to COVID and have ended up in the Lake District. It’s stunning and we’ve always meant to visit but it really isn’t a hot and sunny Mediterranean holiday – that’ll have to wait until things return to a bit more like normal. We also seemed to time it extremely badly, after two weeks of scorching weather it’s been chilly, unbelievably wet at times and generally ridiculously changeable! But maybe it’s often like that in The Lakes and I guess it wouldn’t be so wonderfully green and verdant if it didn’t rain a lot 😉

We’ve done a lot of the Southern Lakes including Coniston, Windermere and a fell or two and had to have a trip to Cartmel, the home of both l’Enclume and sticky toffee pudding. Sadly a trip to L’Enclume was not on our itinerary but I did get sticky toffee pudding for presents (I’ll also make my own friendly sticky toffee pudding when we get home 😊).

Cartmel is a gorgeous picture perfect Cumbrian village and a lovely place to wander about, but the highlight turned out to be Hales of Cartmel. As usual with ice cream parlours we thought it it would be a ‘oh wouldn’t that be nice’ and then move along. But Little S spied a whole list of vegan Ice creams on offer, so it was certainly worth going in and asking. Sadly on our first visit it was closing time so we had to come back the next day. Oh my we were pleased we had! The owner was so knowledgable and well informed. She has a whole range of vegan ice creams and knew exactly how they were made, with a full run down of how the ice cream machines were thoroughly cleaned between batches. As soon as we mentioned allergies the first thing she did (without prompting) was to go and thoroughly wash the scoop and fetch fresh hot water for cleaning between portions, now that’s the sort of service that makes us feel confident and happy!

Not only were there ice creams, but also a whole list of safe sorbets ranging from lemon to the rather lovely sounding passionfruit and pineapple. All these were made by Luxury Lakes Ice Cream. There were safe cones on offer and even a warning given over some varieties which were made in a facility that handles allergens, plus a variety of safe toppings from marshmallows to sherbet and sprinkles. Again the owner knew immediately which toppings were allergy safe and I even noticed that she kept these in a closed box to avoid any cross-contamination. Why can’t more establishments have care and attention to detail like this?

We were in ice cream heaven! It was such a joy to have a wonderfully allergy aware owner, safe ice cream and an abundance of choice! Since Yorica sadly shut down we haven’t had the joy of an ice cream parlour with a choice, and this find was so exciting we talked about our choices for most of the day and made a return visit for the pure joy of another ice cream 🙂

As we’re so unused to choice it was almost overwhelming, with a stunning array from the usual strawberry, vanilla and chocolate to the more exciting Biscoff, tiramisu and thunder and lightning which was by far our favourite. After all who can resist vanilla ice cream swirled with honeycomb and chocolate sauce?

So if you are visiting the Lakes and are anywhere near Cartmel I would thoroughly recommend a visit even if it’s just a pick up a delicious allergy-friendly ice cream.

Savoury Palmiers

What’s better than a crispy savoury snack? Not much if this household is to go by! Well these are an easy and rather moreish addition to your repertoire and the ideal accompaniment to drinks or to nibble on whilst watching a film.

Using up only half a pack of puff pastry and a few store cupboard essentials, they’re basically leftovers!

Savoury Palmiers

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

1/2 pack puff pastry

1/2 pack puff pastry (ready rolled is the easiest)

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

2tbsp tomato purée (preferably sundried)

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment
  2. Sprinkle the pastry with oregano and chilli flakes and roll out the pastry to a neat rectangle (see below for images of the steps)
  3. Turn the dough over and spread with the tomato puree and sprinkle over the nutritional yeast
  4. Fold up by bringing the sides to meet in the middle and then repeat. Cut into 1/2 cm slices and place spaced out on a baking sheet. Ideally pull out the ends to make little ears.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Cool and enjoy.

Teriyaki aubergine

*** Disclaimer – this is a sponsored post. I received a free bottle of Hon Mirin and took part in an online cook along. The recipe posted in this post is from the Sozai Cooking School and not my own. However, the comments and recommendations are my own***

I’ve always wanted to know how to make a good and authentic teriyaki sauce especially as Big S has become a fan of Asian flavours, but when I’ve made versions before the resulting dishes were a bit too sweet and sickly. So I was delighted to be asked to take part in an online cook along sponsored by Hakutsuru Hon Mirin and which promised the ultimate teriyaki. 

It was a really fascinating couple of hours. I knew nothing about Mirin before the class other than the name! Now I feel that I have a little insight into this really interesting ingredient and I hope to use it in a variety of dishes. Hon Mirin is apparently very popular in Japan but hardly heard of in Europe, hence this event to celebrate Hon Mirin’s global launch. Hon Mirin (with Hon meaning real) is a sweet rice seasoning/alcohol made from glutinous rice, rice koi and alcohol. It has a pleasant sweet taste, a bit like a sweet sherry and none of the additional salt you get in cheaper alternatives.  It also has the advantage of being allergen free and contains no artificial ingredients – perfect for us. 🙂

Having used this mellow alcohol in a couple of dishes (we made minstrone soup and teriyaki) I would really recommend searching out a bottle for your store cupboard (and I’m really not saying that because I got a free bottle!). It really did add a lovely umami richness to both dishes and the shine in the teriyaki sauce was outstanding. Right now, Hon Mirin is only available on the TK Trading website, but hopefully it’ll become more widely available as more people come across it’s versatility. I really didn’t think it would add much to a minestrone soup but actually the mellow sweetness was a nice addition that enhanced the tomato flavour.

If you’re interested in learning more Japanese cooking skills then do check out the Sozai cooking school which runs lots of interesting online cook alongs, the instructor in my class was really knowledgeable and a great teacher.

I’m posting the teriyaki aubergine recipe from the Sozai cooking school, but if you wanted to use chicken or salmon, simple cut into bite sized pieces and then follow the instructions below.

Teriyaki Aubergine

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

serves 2

7 tbsp Hon Mirin

2 tbsp water

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 aubergine, sliced in half lengthways

1-2 tbsp cornflour

  1. Mix together the Hon Mirin, water and soya sauce and set aside
  2. Score the aubergine flesh and then dust all sides with cornflour
  3. Heat some flavourless oil on a medium to high heat and cook the aubergine on both sides until golden and throughly cooked through. This will take 5 or so minute son each side. Remove from the pan.
  4. Wipe out the pan to remove any excess cornflour. Return the aubergine to the pan and add the teriyaki sauce. Cook on a medium to high heat, basting the aubergine until the sauce has reduced and you have a sticky soft aubergine.
  5. Serve with rice and steamed green veg.

Pepparkakor – Swedish Ginger Thins

I always love a cooking challenge and so was happy to be asked for a Pepparkakor recipe. These Swedish Ginger thins are a Scandinavian Christmas must have and rightly deserve a place on my site.

I’ve only had the Anna brand ones, those very thin crisp flower shapes biscuits often found in health food shops. They always make me think fondly of my step-Grandmother who would always buy Anna’s Ginger thins and a variety of dried fruit for my girls to graze on when they were tiny. She was always very kind to me and made such an effort to cater for us, despite the dietary challenges.

These pepparkakor are a little less thin and crisp and not so dark in colour as I only had syrup available rather than the syrup and treacle required. But the spice is spot on and they make a lovely addition to the Christmas spread.

Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Thins)

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

makes 16-20

125g dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

50g caster sugar

40g soft-brown sugar

50g golden syrup (or ideally 25g treacle and 25g syrup)

35ml water

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugar and spices.
  2. Melt the syrup (or syrup and treacle) into the water
  3. Add the syrup mix and flour, bicarb and salt to the creamed margarine and mix to a soft dough.
  4. wrap and rest for a couple of hours in the fridge
  5. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade
  6. Roll out the dough to 2-3mm thick and stamp out festive shapes.
  7. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes until golden
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. These are best iced but if you don’t have time (like me) a little dusting of icing sugar is nice too 🙂

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pâte de Fruits (Fruit Jellies)

I’ve always loved to make homemade sweets, and as pate de fruits are such an essential part of Christmas (especially for the French side of the family) these homemade fruit jellies are the perfect addition to my 12 days of Christmas.

If you’re not familiar with pate de fruits they’re a fruity jelly sweet, like a soft fruit pastille, covered in sugar. Made with fruit juice, sugar and pectin they’re naturally vegetarian and allergy friendly despite being not particularly healthy. But then again it’s Christmas and it’s time for luxury and indulgence.

Making homemade sweets seems like the height of luxury and difficult techniques, but these are super simple and you end up with some beautiful 100% natural pure fruit pastilles. One batch makes enough for well over 50 jellies, making it easy to have some for our Christmas treats as well as an addition to my homemade hampers. As long as they’re kept in an airtight container they will keep for months.

This recipe is adapted from the fabulous book on preserving by Pam the Jam. I’d thoroughly recommend seeking it out if you enjoy delicious and exciting preserving. I’ve chosen a combination of pomegranate and grenadine as it felt suitably festive and packs a punch of flavour, but you can easily swap any juice you’d like.

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pate de Fruits

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

makes 50-100 jellies

500ml pure pomegranate juice

juice of 1 lime

3 tbsp grenadine

450g granulated sugar

15g pectin

75g glucose syrup

1 tsp flavourless oil

  1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment
  2. Pour the juices and syrup into a deep saucepan.
  3. Stir the pectin powder into half of the sugar. Sprinkle over the juice and stir, heating gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar, the glucose syrup and oil. Let the sugar dissolve. Then bring to a rolling boil.
  5. You want the temperature to reach 108 degrees Centigrade. This will take 10-15 minutes and you will notice the bubbles changing as the mixture heats. Be sure to scrape down the sides whilst the mixture is bubbling.
  6. As soon as it reached 108 degrees Centigrade, take the pan off the heat and pour into the lined tin.
  7. Leave to cool, then cover with baking parchment. Once fully cold and set cut into pretty shapes. Squares or triangles are the most efficient but I like using mini cookie cutters to stamp out little shapes.
  8. Roll each shape in caster sugar and then store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

Triple Chocolate Christmas Tree Brownies

In my opinion there is never the wrong time for a super chocolatey brownie, even at Christmas time when nearly everything is spiced with ginger and cinnamon. Surely an overindulgent chocolate treat always hits the spot? Ok, the Christmas tree aspect of these brownies may be a bit of a gimmick but they’re super cute and add to the festive cheer.

I’d say these are knock out brownies, they’re jam packed full of three types of chocolate plus cocoa powder which gives a deep, rich flavour and a super fudgey texture. Some egg-free brownies can miss the mark on the dense fudge like texture, but that is certainly not the case here. Look at that rich truffle-like texture in the photo below to get an idea of the texture you’ll end up with.

By all means, serve traditional squares with no added adornment. As you can see from he picture below, they make pretty spectacular brownies.

But if you fancy cutting them into triangles, adding a candy cane trunk and some icing and sprinkles, then you’ll have some rather delightful little Christmas trees to serve 🎄

Triple Chocolate Christmas Tree Brownies

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

makes 12 good sized brownies

4 tbsp cocoa powder

150g self-raising flour

110g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 tbsp flavourless oil, I use sunflower

250ml dairy-free milk

100g dairy-free dark chocolate, melted

40g white chocolate chips

40g ‘creamy’ chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Line a brownie tin with parchment
  2. In a bowl, mix together the cocoa, self-raising flour, caster sugar and salt.
  3. Pour in the oil, milk and vanilla and mix to form a smooth batter
  4. Stir in the melted chocolate (this will make the batter much stiffer). Add half the white chocolate and ‘creamy’ chocolate chips to the batter and stir through.
  5. Transfer to the lined brownie tin and level off.
  6. Sprinkle over the remaining chocolate chips
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. It should be a bit gooey looking in the middle. Cool fully in the tin before cutting into portions. For extra fudge texture, place int he fridge before cutting and eating.
  8. For Christmas Trees, cut into triangles. Cut a candy cane into sections and use as a trunk. Decorate with a squiggle of water icing and some Christmas themed decoration.

Mini Christmas Muffins (with a mince pie version)

Mini muffins are such a great bake. Tasty, moreish and bite sized. I like to pop a couple into a lunchbox for a tasty sweet treat, or have a platter ready to welcome everyone home.

These mini muffins taste like Christmas; spiced with cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg and clementine zest. I think they’ll make a lovely treat to leave out for Father Christmas or as a Festive treat with hot chocolate while snuggled on the sofa in pyjamas.

I added a filling of mincemeat to half the mix to make mince pie muffins – and very nice they were too. Although I was the only family member to try those – everyone else hates mince pies!

 

 

Christmas Spice Mini Muffins/Mince Pie Muffins

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

Makes 24 mini or 6 large

120g or 1 cup plain flour

75g or 1/3rds cup soft brown 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 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp mixe spice

a pinch of ground nutmeg

zest of 1/2 clementine

(optional) 1/2 tsp mincemeat for each mini muffin 

water icing and Christmas decorations

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Line a muffin tin
  2. In a bowl mix together the milk, yogurt, vanilla and melted dairy-free margarine. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, spices and zest. 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. 2/3rds fill each muffin liner. (for the mince pie version, 1/3rd fill then add the mincemeat and then top with the other 1/3rd of muffin mix)
  6. 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.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.
  8. Either leave plain or top with water icing (add just enough water a few drops at a time to make a very thick icing) and Christmas decorations

Christmas Biscoff and Chocolate Truffle Pots

These little chocolate pots are a genius, quick and fail safe recipe. You can make them in minutes but people are always wowed by the rich decadent result. They’re basically my version of those little Gu pots that everyone seems to love. They may look tiny, and they are pretty small but they’re so rich you really don’t need much to feel like you’ve had a satisfying pudding.

These are perfect for that special occasion when you’ve not got a suitable pudding – a few staple ingredients and a couple of minutes later (with half an hour or so chilling time in the fridge) you have a rich and delicious delight.

This is my Christmas version with a layer of biscoff spread underneath to add that festive spice vibe and then topped with festive sprinkles. I guarantee that these will go down a storm!

Christmas Chocolate and Biscoff Truffle Pots

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

serves 4

125g dairy-free chocolate, such as Nomo

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine, such as Pure

60ml cup dairy-free cream, I used Oatly

6 tsp Biscoff spread

Sprinkles to decorate

  1. Place all the ingredients (except the biscoff spread) in a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat (or in a microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for 45 seconds).
  2. Stir until smooth and unctuous.
  3. Place 1 tsp of biscoff spread at the bottom of each glass or ramekin
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the top. Tap on the work surface to get rid of any little bubbles.
  5. Add festive sprinkles
  6. Chill until ready to eat. (I like to remove them from the fridge about 10 minutes before eating for a more velvety texture, straight out of the fridge they’re more like a truffle)

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