Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf

A good banana loaf recipe is a winning addition to any baking repertoire, and this update of a 2013 recipe, it’s one you definitely need in your life. I have others, but this loaf is a cut above the rest with the additions of Lotus Caramelised spread (you could use peanut butter), roasted bananas and large chunks of rich, dark chocolate. By all means use nuts or dried fruit instead of the chocolate, or even just leave them out, it will still work nicely, but make sure you roast the bananas for that extra special banana flavour. That’s the key to this one.

This is a beautiful loaf just plain, but if you want a bit of pizazz then i’d recommend either a water icing drizzle, or the extra special biscoff drizzle.

Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 1 2lb loaf

  • 100ml or 1/2 cup oat milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 125g or 1 cup plain flour
  • 85g or 3/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp flourless oil, I use sunflower
  • 2 medium roasted bananas, mashed
  • 75g or 1/3 cup Lotus caramelised spread
  • 50 g or 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (optional)
  • glaze: icing sugar and water, or 1 tbsp biscoff spread, 3 tbsp icing sugar and 1 tbsp water whisked til smooth

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4

– Halve the bananas lengthways and roast for 20-30 minutes. Mash and cool.

– Line or grease a 2 lb loaf tin

– Add the lemon juice to the oat milk and set aside.

– Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar.

– Add the bananas, caramelised spread and oil to the oat milk mix. Stir well

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the chopped chocolate (if using) and gently stir to make sure they’re evenly distributed.

– Fill the loaf tin with the mix.

– Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and a knife comes out clean.

– Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

– Drizzle with a simple water icing.

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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.

Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

I’ve seen a lot of tempting bakes using candy canes this winter. There’s something about the eye catching red and white stripes that really sand out and make these bakes look all the more tempting.

I initially had visions of rolling chocolate truffles in crushed up candy canes but sadly the canes were a bit too soft and sticky once crushed and it didn’t work out. Then this idea popped into my mind – dark, cocoa rich cookies dipped in snowy white chocolate and then sprinkled with the crushed up candy canes. It turns out that it was a great idea – the flavours really work – bitter, sweet, smooth with crunchy bits that have a hint of peppermint. A bit like an after eight mint in cookie form! These could now be one of my favourite festive after dinner treats. 

For those who are less keen on a minty flavour profile, then these work just as well as simple white chocolate dipped chocolate cookies and decorated with some pretty sprinkles.

Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

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

 

makes 15-20

  • 115g or 1 cup of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsps cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of baking powder
  • 55g or 1/4 cup hard vegetable fat 
  • 55g or 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine 
  • 100g or 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • 30g dairy-free white chocolate
  • 1-2 candy canes, crushed and/or Christmas themed decorations
  1.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, cornflour, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, small rectangles work well.
  5. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes
  6. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  7. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie and half dip each cookie into the melted chocolate
  8. Place back onto the lined baking sheet, sprinkle with decorations or crushed up candy canes and leave to set

Brownies with a Biscoff Swirl

Brownies are such a popular and useful sweet treat. They work equally well as a cake, snack or a pudding; we particularly like a warmed brownie with ice cream and caramel or magic chocolate sauce – mmmmm pure pudding heaven. Since it was chocolate week on the Bake Off and brownies were one of the challenges I had to post a brownie recipe. In the show the contestants went for decorated brownies which mainly ended up too sweet and sickly. In my opinion a brownie doesn’t feed much adornment – instead it’s all about the chocolate flavour.

However, this version with a subtle Biscoff swirl manages to look gorgeous and also enhance the flavour without overpowering the chocolate. Since these brownies are extra rich and decadent with plenty of melted chocolate stirred in, the sweet Biscoff swirl works a treat, adding a smooth sweetness than plays well against the chocolate. The resulting brownies are luxurious, intensely chocolatey with a super Biscoff swirl, what could be better?

Brownies with a Biscoff Swirl

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

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 chocolate, melted

4 tbsp Biscoff spread

  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)
  5. Transfer to the lined brownie tin and level off.
  6. warm the Biscoff spread so it becomes runnier, dollop over the brownie batter and using the handle of a wooden spoon swirl it though
  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.

Homemade Lindor style truffle filled chocolates – dairy-free

I think lockdown is a time for looking after yourself and others, for putting well-being and mental and physical health at the top of the agenda. What could be better a promoting a sense of feeling good than a luxury homemade chocolate to raise the spirits and feed the soul.

We decided on these Lindor style chocolate because i’d been given some and both girls were “ooh they look nice, I wish we could eat them’. Well these home-made versions are almost spot on – the filling is maybe a little softer than the originals, and the coating is darker but that’s my preference because then i can get a lovely shiny chocolate!

Enjoy, look after yourself and your tastebuds and stay safe and well x

Homemade Dairy-free Lindor Chocolates

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

makes about 20

for the shells:

150g dairy-free chocolate

for the truffle centres:

100g dairy-free chocolate, I used a creamy version

2 tbsps dairy-free mik

2 tbsps golden syrup

pinch of salt

The process:

  1. First make the truffles: Melt all the truffle ingredients in a microwave or over a bain-marie. Stir until smooth. Place bowl in the fridge for the ganache to fully set.
  2. Next start making the shells: first temper 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 degrees either by stirring in the bowl until the temp had reduced or 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.
  3. Pour a blob of chocolate 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 if it looks thin or has any gaps. Place in a cool spot to firm up.
  4. One the truffle mix is firm enough to spoon, fill each mould and then seal with a layer of melted chocolate.
  5. Leave to set and then unfold. We find it best to keep them in the fridge 🙂

Savoury Scones

I don’t know about you but rather than stockpiling I’m just trying to have enough food in the house at all times to cover all meals and snacks everyday (wow, there is a lot of cooking and eating going on!) as well as having some essential free-from ingredients available should we go into a two week isolation. There are a few products such as dairy-free milks and margarine that we would really struggle without, so I’m making sure I’ve got a few on standby.

It really is amazing the difference it makes with all family members eating all meals in the house everyday. I normally make most things from scratch, but I’m still finding it hard to keep coming up with interesting and exciting free-flowing meals, snacks and puddings!

Snacks are always difficult when living with a restricted diet, there are so many everyday items that are out of bounds and you can’t just live on crisps! These tangy scones are deliciously savoury and are perked up with marmite, nutritional yeast, and herbs. Pow! Flavour punch. Need a savoury bite fill empty tummies or to accompany that steaming bowl of soup? These fit the bill nicely.

Savoury scones

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

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makes 10

200g plain flour (1 3/4 cups)

1 1/2 tsps baking powder, levelled off

40g dairy-free spread

1 tbsp marmite mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water

1 tsp oregano

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

120 ml oat milk

glaze: 1 tsp marmite mixed with 1 tsp boiling water and 1 tbsp oat milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6. Oil and flour a baking sheet.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the oregano and the nutritional yeast.
  3. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Pour in the dairy-free milk and watery marmite mix. Bring together to form a soft dough.
  5. Turn out and very lightly knead. A light touch is essential for light and fluffy scones.
  6. Press out the dough to 2 inches high and cut out circles with a cookie cutter.
  7. Place on the baking sheet and brush with the glaze.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes until the scones have risen and golden.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

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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!

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!)