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.

Light Fruit Cake in the style of a Genoa Cake or a French Cake aux Fruits

Sometimes I find inspiration is lacking and I find it hard to come up with new ideas – well, there are over 700 unique recipes on my site! Then along comes a whole season of inspiration in the form of the Great British Bake Off. It’s such a feel-good programme when there is so much doom and gloom in the news, that it adds a touch of good natured homely fun to each Tuesday evening. I have tried to bake along for the past few years, but my plans have often gone awry. This year, however, I’m really going to try to keep it up and provide you lovely people with a new friendly Bake Off inspired recipe each week.

For Week 1: cake week; the three bakes were fruit cake, Angel cake slices and a childhood themed showstopper. It’s still the school summer holidays so the showstopper was out of the question (not enough time!), angel cake slices have so far eluded me as genoise sponge is so egg heavy I’ve never been able to recreate an egg-free version. I do hope to get there one day (bear with me!), but for now the fruit cake was the right choice for me.

I don’t often make fruit cakes (except at Christmas) as my children can’t stand dried fruit, but I have a fondness for an occasional slice, especially if it’s the lighter styles, I’m no fan a dark heavy dense fruit cake!

This lovely light fruit loaf is inspired by French-style or Genoa cake recipes and gives a wonderful delicate but fruity cake. Delicious freshly baked, or lightly toasted the next day 🙂

Light Genoa Fruit Cake

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

makes 1 loaf cake

100g glace cherries

50g dates, stoned and roughly chopped

50g raisins

50g currants

1 tbsps brandy (or apple juice)

1 tsp cherry syrup (optional)

175g plain flour

1/2 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

35g dairy-free margarine

zest of 1 lemon

85g light Muscovado sugar

150ml dairy-free milk, warmed to hand hot temperature

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin
  2. Pour the brandy/apple juice over the dried fruit and leave to steep for at least half an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and mixed spice. Add the lemon zest.
  5. Rub in the dairy-free margarine, until the mix looks like fine breadcrumbs
  6. Stir in the sugar, and the dried fruits
  7. Add the bicarb to the warm milk and stir until dissolved
  8. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough
  9. Turn into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn the cake around and continue to bake for a further 15, or until a knife comes out clean.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.
  11. For added moisture pour over 1 tbsp extra brandy mixed with 1 tsp cherry syrup if you have any.
  12. Once cool brush with nappage (warmed equal parts apricot jam mixed with water) and decorate with extra halves place cherries

English Muffins

English muffins were always our saviour, a safe breakfast or bun option that was mostly readily available. Sadly over time , the safe brands have all started to add milk to their ingredients and now all of the easily available ones contain milk. Sad days for us, as it is yet another product we can no longer depend on being able to buy. I also find it a bizarre time for companies to start adding milk to the ingredients when there is an increasing interest in dairy-free and vegan is the new big thing!

So it was time to either miss out or start making them myself, and I obviously went for the making them myself option. I just can’t stop baking and cooking! It’s not the same, and ideally it’s nice to have some products we can buy, but needs must.

I have to say they’re pretty easy to make, the results are shop worthy and they freeze beautifully, so maybe we can return to the days to always having English muffins on hand.

English Muffins

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

makes 8-10 muffins

400g plain flour

1 tbsp fast-action dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 and 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

100ml dairy-free milk

25ml sunflower oil

125-150ml water

polenta for dusting, plus a little more flour

  1. Place the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Pour in the oil, milk and 125ml water. Mix to form a dough adding the extra 25ml water if needed.
  3. Knead until smooth, bouncy and silky. About 10 minutes by hand, 5 minutes by machine.
  4. Place into a bowl, cover and leave to rise for at least an hour. You want the mixture to have basically doubled in size.
  5. Knock back. Dust the kitchen surface with flour and polenta and roll out to a thickness of about 2 cm. Cut out circles using a cutter any size from 8 -12 cm.
  6. Rest on a floured/polenta covered board whilst you heat the pan.
  7. Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan on low until it has an even heat, this will take a good 5-10 minutes.
  8. Cook the muffins until golden on each side and no longer doughy in the middle which will take up to 10 minutes on each side.
  9. Store in an airtight container or freeze once cool for extra freshness,

Fudge Brownies

Is there anything more delicious that a rich, fudge brownie? Personally, I can’t think of many more pleasing desserts than a warm fudge brownie topped with ice cream and caramel or chocolate sauce; I’m even salivating at the thought of it!

I was having coffee with a friend recently and she had a brownie with her cappuccino. I had a little taste as she was raving about it but I found it bland and stodgy, certainly not the brownie of my dreams.  I felt like I had thrown down the gauntlet to myself to make a far superior, friendly brownie. Some brownies are cake, some are dense, and some like these beauties are rich, fudgy and very very full of chocolate. It turns out I like these types the best 🙂

This recipe replies on lots of melted chocolate for richness and soft brown sugar for a fudge flavour. The middle it dense and gooey, the top slightly crispy, surely the profile of a perfect brownie.

I recommend warming these for 10 seconds in a microwave before eating with ice cream and warm sauce for the ultimate indulgence.

Fudge Brownies

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

makes 9 good sized brownies

100g dairy-free chocolate

60g dairy-free margarine

110g soft brown sugar

100ml dairy-free milk

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tsp vanilla

100g plain flour

4 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

  1. Line an 20cm/8inch square baking tin with parchment. preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade
  2. Melt together the chocolate and margarine either in a microwave or over a Bain-marie. Stir until smooth
  3. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Whisk together the cornflour, milk and vanilla and pour into the chocolate. Combine thoroughly.
  5. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into the chocolate mix and gently fold until you have a smooth batter.
  6. Pour into the tin and level off. Bake for 18 minutes or until a knife comes out almost clean, a few moist crumbs are ok.
  7. Cool in the pan and then cut into 9 squares.

Easter Biscuits

 

Easter is such an exciting time of year; spring is finally upon us with all it’s delights of cheeping birds, frolicking lambs and beautiful flowers and it feels like everything is just starting again after the fallow winter months. Easter seems to literally put the spring into everyone’s steps, and we start to look forward again. I feel this in terms of cooking as well as nature, suddenly fresh inspiration hits and there are so many more options open to me. I can’t wait to use all those spring flavours in the next few months. 🙂

I have many Easter themed recipes on my blog, and not surprisingly lots of them feature a lot of chocolate. However, even though they’re a personal favourite, I’ve never made traditional Easter biscuits. These customary cookies are a celebration of Easter time combining a subtle ‘hot cross bun’ spice with pretty decoration or dried fruit. These biscuits lend themselves equally well to the addition of the traditional juicy currants and crunchy caster sugar topping, or the somewhat fancier crispy yet soft cover of pretty pastel hued icing. Serve these to make a nice change from the chocolate overload and everyone will be happy come Easter weekend!

Easter Biscuits

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

 

makes lots, at least 20 large cookies

300g plain flour

2 tbsps cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

115g vegetable fat (I used Trex)

115g dairy-free margarine (Pure)

225g sugar (either caster or granulated)

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

60ml dairy-free milk

60g currants (if making fruited variety)

  1. Sift together the flour, cornflour, spices, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, spread and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the dairy-free milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine. Stir in the currants if using.
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden round the edges
  5. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  6. if making the fruity variety, sprinkle with caster sugar whilst hot.

for the royal icing:

3 tbsps aquafaba (water from a tin of beans or chickpeas)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3 cups icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

dairy-free milk to thin the icing

food colouring as desired

  1. In a stand mixer, or an electric whisk, whisk together all the ingredients until a smooth thick paste is created.
  2. Colour as desired. I split the mixture into two, and then coloured each with natural food colouring.
  3. Thin each colour with a splash of milk to make the icing a good consistency to coat the biscuits (thick, but thin enough to pipe!)
  4. Pipe as desired
  5. Let set but leaving at room temperature for a good few hours. If you dare, return the iced biscuits to the oven for a couple of minutes for a smooth shiny finish and then leave to set.

Tarte aux Framboises (Raspberry Tart)

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I’ve updated this delicious celebratory tart with a far better Creme Patissiere recipe. One of my lovely followers has a daughter who is using this recipe for her GSCE food tech exam. I’m so proud and happy that she is using one of my recipes! Anyway, they were having problems with the original recipe and the creme pat was ending up lumpy. Seriously not good, and I felt so bad that one of my recipes was failing at such a crucial time. So, the recipe has been tested and tweaked and we now have a creme pat that is as smooth as you like. Good Luck Charlotte, I hope the teachers like the result 🙂

There’s so much more buzz around free-from than when I started my blog 7 years ago, and certainly many more products for sale (although I’d have to say the egg-free options are still sadly lacking) which is fantastic. But, it seems to me that lots of the products and recipes available fail to think about flavour or appearance. I don’t see why a free-from foodstuff should not be as pretty as a ‘conventional’ one and it should certainly taste as good. I bought some highly recommended ‘freeform’ doughnuts recently – they looked great but oh my, I have never eaten anything so heavy or unappealing masquerading as a doughnut before! In fact both girls took a bite and threw them straight in the bin, which was especially galling as they’d cost a pretty penny! Why do people accept such offerings? Maybe deep-down inside many people think sweet treats can’t be really tasty without dairy or eggs?! Well, I’m telling you they can be (sometimes they can be far nicer!). Ok, they’re often not identical, but I’m on a mission to prove the friendly food can be delicious food – there’s no making do or missing out with my recipes!

This tarte aux framboise is a perfect example. I think it looks good (I hope you agree!) and it certainly tastes good – I ramped up the vanilla in the creme patisseriere to compensate for the richness which is lost when eggs are not used. I don’t think anyone feels like they were eating an inferior ‘free-from alternative’ –  so job done 🙂

Whilst the delicate arranging of fruit makes this tart look complex it really is very simple – a crisp blind baked pastry case (shop bought shortcrust pastry is fine), a rich vanilla scented custard, fresh fruit and an apricot jam based glaze. All that is required is a little patient arranging and you have a pudding worthy of any patisserie window! p.s. note the difference between the next two photos – the apricot glaze really is the icing on the cake!

Tarte aux Framboises

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

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make one 12 inch tart

for the pastry case:

1 recipe shortcrust or 1pack of shortcrust pastry

  1. Follow this recipe substituting dairy-free margarine for the butter, or use shop bought that is dairy-free
  2. Roll out the pastry and line a tart tin. Fill with cling-film or parchment filled with baking beans. Bake at 200 degrees Centigrade (180 degrees Fan) for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further five minutes until golden. Cool.

for the creme patisseriere:

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1/2 cup corn flour (cornstarch)

2 cups dairy-free milk

1/3-1/2 cup caster sugar (depending on how sweet your tooth is)

1tsp vanilla paste or extract or seeds from I vanilla pod

Salt, a pinch

  1. Pour the milk, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan. Heat until hot but not boiling.
  2. Pour the cornflour into a bowl, stir in a small amount of the hot milk mixture to make a smooth paste. Then add the rest of the milk mixture and stir well.
  3. Return to the saucepan and stir continuously whilst heating. It will initially look like it’ll become lumpy, but these will disappear as it gets thicker. You want it to be thick enough to be able to be piped.
  4. Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film (touching the top of the creme pat so no skin forms) and leave to cool

for the nappage (glaze):

1 tbsp apricot jam

1 tbsp water

  1. To make the nappage (apricot jam glaze) heat the apricot jam with 1 tbsp water (strain if lumpy) until bubbly and sticky.
  2. Brush over the fruit whilst hot

to assemble:

  1. Whisk the creme pat thoroughly and either pipe or spoon a 1/2 cm layer into the tart shell.
  2. Top with raspberries (whole or sliced in half) and bush with hot nappage.
  3. Leave to cool before eating.