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.

Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

In response to my cookie loving Instagram followers, here is the keenly awaited mini chocolate chip cookie recipe. 🙂

I have many many cookie recipes on my blog, but I haven’t created a new one for a while. I seem to keep going back to old favourites such as my amazingly delicious chocolate sable cookies, which unfailing get requested every few weeks. Even though those sables are hard to beat, sometimes a slightly less intense chocolate cookie is required, and this inspired me to get creative with a standard chocolate chip mix.

There are so many finishes to a chocolate chip cookie; some like them chewy, soft, crunchy, or crispy that it’s hard to know what makes a perfect variety. However, these mini chocolate chip cookies are pretty awesome with a deliciously more-ish soft and chewy texture with a crispy edge, almost hitting all the requirements of a an ideal chocolate chip recipe in one biscuit. My top tip is that the key is caster sugar for crisp and soft brown for chewy – combine the two and you have perfection!

I’ve made these mini, because it immediately makes them cuter, more desirable and well you can just eat more mini cookies which can only be a good thing when they’re this good 😉

Perfect mini chocolate chip cookies

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

 

makes about 30 or so

100g soft brown sugar

75g caster sugar

125g dairy-free margarine

1/2 tbsp vanilla essence

225g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

80g chocolate chips

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy
  2. Add the vanilla, flour and salt and mix well to form a soft dough. Stir in the milk and chocolate chips.
  3. Wrap and place in the fridge to firm up
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/gas mark 4. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  5. roll the dough into olive sized balls and place a little apart on the lined baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until puffed up and golden.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

 

Devil’s Food Cupcakes

img_0829Have you ever tried my Devil’s Food cake aka the best chocolate cake in the world? If you haven’t you are seriously missing out, it is so delicious that everyone asks for more! It’s deep, dark and chocolatey with an out of this world silky yet fudgy icing. Honestly, it’s totally divine 🙂

Anyway, these cupcakes are inspired by that cake and also by a fond childhood memory. We didn’t often have shop bought cakes at home, but sometimes I’d go to a friend’s house and they would serve up these little shop bought chocolate cupcakes with this fudgy, set icing. The kind of icing that was way nicer than the cake and also when you peeled off the liner, you were left with a zigzag imprint in the edge of the icing. There was something really pleasing about that! For some bizarre reason I was thinking about that icing the other day and how it would be really convenient for when you need to transport cupcakes; buttercream is just a nightmare if you’re putting the cakes in a box to take elsewhere. I’d always wondered how to make that icing and then it came to me – my wonderful Devil’s Food Icing sets beautifully and would be pretty awesome on a cupcake. Who’s going to say no to a rich chocolate cupcakes topped with out of this world fudgy icing?

So here they are, little Devil’s food Cupcakes ready for cake day, the first one of the school term, so I do hope they go down a storm. I so miss my weekly baking for Little S’s class that I’ve gone to town and made cinnamon swirl buns too. Hopefully that’ll keep everyone happy 🙂

Devils Food Chocolate Cupcakes

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

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makes 12-18

150g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

50g cocoa powder

200ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5
  2. Mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon juice, vanilla and oil. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the bicarb to the wet ingredients and stir.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix to thoroughly combine.
  6. 2/3 rds fill the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

Devils Food Icing

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

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enough to cover 12 cupcakes

2 tbsp dairy-free spread

1/2 tbsp dairy-free milk

1/2 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup

1/4 cup icing sugar

50g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Melt together the icing ingredients and simmer for a few minutes until thick and glossy. Let cool.
  2. Spread over the cupcakes and leave to set.

Savoury Pretzels

Snacks – I don’t think we’d get through a day without snacks and that’s always particularly apparent at the weekend or in the school holidays. Biscuits and cakes are all well and good but sometimes savoury is the only way to go. Crisps are great, everyone loves crisps right? But they’re not exactly filling and nutritious.

I have a small repertoire of interesting savoury options: sausage rolls, savoury scones, cheesy crackers etc but I’m always on the look out for new ideas which are not only suitable but pleasing to everyone. Then I spied some big pretzels for sale – now that looks like a good idea. Chewy, bread based and certainly filling. I’ve never really delved into the wonderful world of pretzels before but in doing some research it seems they’re often served with mustard. Bingo! Inspiration! So here’s my take on savoury pretzels, topped with a mustard glaze and because dips make everything better, served with a sweet mustard sauce. These certainly keep those hunger pangs at bay with a satisfying snack. They also make great tasty sandwich rolls 😋

Savoury Pretzels

(Dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian, can be vegan) contains mustard

makes 8-10

500g strong bread flour

7g dried fast action yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

300 ml warm water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (for the boiling water)

for the glaze:

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp mustard

1 tbsp oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda to form a dough and knead well until smooth silky and you can feel the gluten and firmed up the dough. Cover and leave to prove for at least one hour.
  2. Knock back and cut into 8-10 even sized pieces. Roll each one into a sausage shape with slightly tapered ends, then tie in a lose knot. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and let rise for another 30 minutes. 
  3. Preheat the over to 200 degrees centigrade
  4. Bring a pan of water to the boil, once boiling tip in the bicarbonate of soda and drop each knot into the boiling solution for about 5 seconds.
  5. Remove and place on an oiled baking sheet.
  6. Brush with a little of the glaze and bake for 15 minutes until deeply golden
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and bush with the remaining glaze and sprinkle over a little salt. Leave to cool.
  8. Serve fresh with a dip of equal parts honey/syrup and mustard pepped up with a dash of hot sauce.
  9. These pretzels also freeze well. Defrost thoroughly and then refresh in a hot oven for a few minutes.

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!)