Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns

This time of year is just wrong without Hot Cross Buns. I eagerly await the criss crossed beauties appearing in the shops, and very year there’s a new variety to tempt and inspire. These days I wouldn’t buy a Hot Cross bun as I’ve not found any safe ones (I know vegan versions exist but they’re generally not free-from enough for us) and so come March I make batch after batch of buns. I’d really recommend giving it a go, they’re not hard to make and the satisfaction of a house filled with a spicy aroma and perfect buns appearing from the oven is second to none!

I’ve made many friendly hot cross buns and they’ve become a firm favourite, so much so that Little S has them for breakfast if she gets the chance. For some reason my children have an aversion to dried fruit, so I concocted this variation that appeals more to them.

The addition of chopped chocolate may be slightly unconventional, but the resulting buns are delightfully aromatic and tasty with the bonus prize of the chocolate going oozy and gooey when the buns are toasted. The added bonus is that they freeze beautifully. Simply defrost and then warm in an oven or toaster, and enjoy perfect hot cross buns anytime 🙂

Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns

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

 

makes 9-12

500g strong bread flour

1 tbsp dried yeast

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 or 2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

500ml warm dairy-free milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

100g dairy-free chocolate, chopped

for the crosses:

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp water

for the glaze:

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

  1.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and spices. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and dairy-free margarine, bring together to form a dough (adding more flour if too wet, or more liquid if too dry)
  2. Knead for about 5 mins until the dough is smooth
  3. Place in a bowl and cover, leave in a warm place to double in size
  4. Knock back, knead again and then form into 9-12 even sized balls. Place well spaced on a baking sheet lined with grease proof paper
  5. Leave to rise again for 10-20 minutes
  6. Mix together the water and flour to make a paste and pipe onto the top of the buns in crosses
  7. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  8. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  10. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

 

Jamaican Spiced Banana Bread

This time of  year is perfect for a culinary road trip, a way to pretend you’re in sunnier climes that the cold grey of February. Although to be fair it’s been pretty sunny this week, but not as sunny as the Caribbean where I’m taking you today (without leaving home).

We used to visit a small local farmers’ market when we lived in South London at which there was a family-run stall selling only home-made Jamaican loaves and breads. They were fabulous. I seem to remember one banana loaf being the perfect food after giving birth to my eldest. And they were vegan too – it was my first introduction to vegan cakes and how wonderful they can be. I’ve since searched and searched for a suitable recipe but not found one. The family in question stopped selling at this market, and we moved away from the area anyway. So here’s my take on a spiced banana bread… It’s really wholesome and tasty, with warm spices and tons of banana flavour, but still not quite like the one I remember. If you were that family who sold those spiced loaves at Abbeville Road farmer’ market, Clapham or know who they are, do get in touch. I’d happily travel to get hold of more!

The spicing in this recipe is quite mild so if you’re a spice fan I’d recommend doubling the spices for extra oomph! I particularly like the half banana on the top of the loaf, it certainly says what is in the tin, and a little crunchy sugar gives a nice contrast in texture, but both are totally optional and won’t alter the inherent spiced banana nature of the loaf.

Jamaican Spiced Banana Bread

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

 

makes 1 loaf

225g plain flour

2 heaped tsps baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g muscovado sugar

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

pinch of salt

1 tbsp rum or oat milk

1 tbsp Demerara sugar

A banana sliced lengthwise for decoration (optional)

Pearl or Demerara sugar for extra crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5. Line a loaf tin and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the mashed banana, sugar, oil and vanilla.
  3. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, bicarb, spices and salt.
  4. Mix to a dough, adding the rum/oat milk if it looks a bit dry.
  5. Pour into the loaf tin and sprinkle the top with the halved banana and some Demerara or pearl sugar
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden on top and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.
  8. To freeze, wrap well and freeze whole. Defrost at room temperature before unwrapping.

 

Mexican Chocolate Earthquake Cookies

I love these cookies – they’re rich, chocolaty, soft and scrumptious! I had a brief time before having children when I wanted to start a cookie business and back then these were some of my absolute favourites.

It does sometimes surprise me which recipes are most popular on my blog. Out of the 500+ recipes, it so often comes back to the same ones again and again. There are many winning recipes that don’t seem to get a second chance, maybe they’re just less known about and therefore less searched for? I first posted this recipe when I initially set up my blog in 2012, and I still absolutely love these cookies. Here I’ve added a variation using aquafaba, so you have a choice of aquafaba or flaxseeds as the binder. Do eat these cookies quickly, they’re best eaten warm for the oven. Or reheat for a couple of minutes before eating to enjoy the crisp exterior and soft cakey centre.

Mexican Chocolate Earthquake Cookies

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

makes about 24

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup melted dairy-free margarine

2 tbsps golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

use either:

1/3 cup oat milk and 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds

or use; 1/4 cup dairy-free milk and 3tbsp Aquafaba

100g melted dairy-free chocolate

250g plain flour

2 tbsps cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking powder

large pinch of salt

1 cup of icing sugar to roll dough in

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Sift the icing sugar onto a plate and set aside
  2. In a bowl mix the sugar, dairy-free margarine, syrup, vanilla, oat milk, flax seeds (or aquafaba) and melted chocolate
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. It should produce a soft dough
  4. Take tablespoons of mix and roll in the icing sugar. Place on a lined baking sheet and press down slightly
  5. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. Best eaten straight away, or next day will do (invite people over or send into school/work!)

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.

Gooey Chocolate Fudge Cake

Well, the summer and holidays seem well and truly over – it’s dark in the mornings and evenings and the leaves are turning golden with a vengeance. Time for thoughts to turn to comfort and cosy warming dishes to keep the spirits up, I think.

Chocolate fudge cake which is rich and gooey with a sticky chocolate glaze, surely that’s going to lift our spirits? This is a fabulous quick but indulgent recipe, perfect for an after-school treat which will be much needed in this first full week back. My, we’re all going to be tired come this Friday if this weekend was anything to go by!

This cake which is perfect as either a teatime treat or a wicked pudding with ice cream is a family favourite. It is a very simple recipe to make, and I’ve included the ingredients in grams and tablespoons so the younger members of the family can easily participate in making this moreish cake and still result in that all important wow factor. It is certainly gooey enough for the most diehard chocoholic – and who can resist a slice of gooey chocolate fudge cake…. I know I can’t.

Gooey Chocolate Fudge Cake 

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

 

makes a 2 lb loaf

9 tbsps dairy-free milk

1.5 tsps bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp vanilla essence

200g self-raising flour

4 tbsps cocoa powder

pinch of salt

4 tbsps granulated sugar

4 tbsps soft brown sugar

50g dairy-free margarine

4 tbsps golden syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Centigrade conventional oven/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a 2lb loaf tin (or 2 1lb tins, or half the mixture to make 1 1lb cake)
  3. Combine the dairy-free milk, bicarb and vanilla and set aside.
  4. Cream together the dairy-free spread and sugar. Mix in the syrup.
  5. Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt.
  6. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the soya milk mix, add too the creamed spread. When fully combined and smooth, fill the loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack.

Chocolate Fudge Icing 

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

 

make enough to cover 1 loaf

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

  1. Melt together the dairy-free margarine, milk, cocoa and sugar.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and bubble furiously for a minute or two, stirring all the time.
  3. Cool, stirring now and then. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Once cool, spread over the top of your cake.

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 😉