Ginger Cream Yo-Yo Biscuits

Woo hoo, it’s December! After the longest year in living memory we’re finally getting to the fun end bit. I’m going to try and add some extra cheer to this festive season (and my, we need some extra cheer this year!) with an exciting ‘12 days of Blogmas’ and a whole bunch of new delicious festive recipes.

There is something so exciting about all the baking opportunities in the lead up to Christmas – I just love making sparkly tasty treats and beautifully packaged homemade gifts. Well, who doesn’t like some extra sparkle and glitter?

Like lots of people, we’ve decided to do Christmas big time this year, all whilst remaining in our little family bubble. That means less large family gatherings and more Christmas themed food, fun games and decorating big time!!

I’m kicking off Day 1 of ‘Blogmas’ with  these delightful ginger cream yo-yo biscuits. Heavily spiced crumbly biscuits sandwiches together with a lemon scented cheesecake cream. What’s not to like with that combination? These are a perfect start to December, ideally enjoyed with a steaming hot drink and sitting by a roaring open fire.

Ginger Cream Yo-yo Biscuits

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

makes about 12 sandwich biscuits

150g dairy-free margarine

65g soft brown sugar

2 tsp ground ginger

pinch of salt

55g custard powder or cornflour

175g plain flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment
  3. Beat together the margarine, sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the flours, spice and salt to form a very soft, but not sticky dough.
  5. Make large marble sized balls and place on the baking sheet (try to make an even number). Flatten with the back of a fork.
  6. Bake for 15-17 minutes
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  8. Once completely cool, sandwich together with the cream.

Lemon Cheesecake Cream

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

25g dairy-free cream cheese

40g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

zest of 1/2 a lemon

1 tsp lemon juice

  1. Whisk the margarine and cream cheese with the icing sugar, zest and juice until it is all incorporated. Place in the fridge to firm up before using.

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

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.

Quick fix biscoff twix

I came across this idea of making a Twix style bar and topping it with Lotus Biscoff spread rather than caramel and immediately had to make a friendly version. Twix bars are sadly missing from our free-from lives and since crunch, Biscoff and chocolate are a match made in heaven, we needed them in our lives as soon as possible. I’ve used dark chocolate as I think it contrasts better with the sweet Biscoff spread, but feel free to use your favourite kind of chocolate.

You basically make some shortbread fingers, top with a good helping of Biscoff spread and then liberally coat in chocolate – what could be simpler? You could make these in moulds for added beauty, but these bars were all about speed and there’s something cosy and comforting about the free form homemade style!

Quick Fix Biscoff Twix Bars

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

makes approx 20 shortbread fingers, half of which will get a Biscoff and chocolate top

  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 150g dairy-free margarine (I used Pure sunflower)
  • 1 vanilla pod (I left it out as didn’t have one, but it’s much nicer with)
  • half a jar of biscoff spread
  • 120g dairy-free chocolate
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment
  3. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar and vanilla
  4. Add the dairy-free spread and rub in with fingers. Once it starts to combine, bring together to form a soft dough.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1cm thickness.
  6. Cut into even sized finger shapes
  7. Place on the lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Then turn the baking sheet round and bake for another 10 minutes.
  8. Once the shortbread is golden brown remove from oven. Cool on the baking sheet.
  9. Place the Biscoff spread into a piping bag and pipe a stripe onto of each finger
  10. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or a microwave and coat each biscoff finger with an even coating of chocolate and then leave to set

Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cake

I have a particular nostalgic fondness for vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream. It may be an unusual combination but it’s one my mum used to make for birthday cakes; I particularly remember a wonderful hedgehog cake decorated with mini chocolate flakes! I do urge you to give it a go, it may be unconventional but vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream totally works. The dark bitterness of the chocolate tempers the sweet sponge and the colour contrast adds to the delight.

There are a lot of so-so egg and dairy-free cake recipes out there, particularly vanilla flavoured ones. So often they can be a bit crumbly and dry, or worse flat and rubbery. I’m obviously not counting my own recipes in that assessment (ha ha!) but I have come across some depressingly bad specimens over the years. There is a tendency for vegan cakes to be ‘ok’ rather than delicious, particularly shop bought versions. This vanilla sponge on the other hand is utterly perfect – it’s light and fluffy, but in no way dry and crumbly. It’s so good you’d be forgiven for questioning whether it is vegan! The custard powder is crucial for giving a wonderful crumb and vanilla flavour but if you can’t find it (not all is dairy-free so make sure you check) you can sub cornflour and an extra tsp of vanilla.

Perfect Chocolate and Vanilla Cake

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

makes one sandwich cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder

220g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

290ml dairy-free milk

2 tbsps dairy-free yogurt

100g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine, yogurt and vanilla.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool in the cake tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack

for the chocolate buttercream:

40g dairy-free margarine

15g vegetable fat such as Trex

300g icing sugar

30g cocoa powder

2 and 1/2 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together all the ingredients to make a smooth and fluffy icing
  2. Sandwich the cakes together with the icing and then cover the entire cake with the remaining icing.
  3. Cover with a generous amount of sprinkles

Pizza Breadsticks

For us lockdown has been a lot about food! Either desperately searching for items that have been of stock, suddenly changing my shopping habits to a once weekly shop without the tops ups and visits to various other supermarkets to get the items we need, making what seems like constant meals and snacks or making fun from a cookbook challenge or Friday evening restaurant at home nights.

I probably think about food more than most in having to cook for a variety of different diets, writing a blog and generally being obsessed with cooking, but that seems to have increased in lockdown! I had intended to write up more recipes, but have ended up making the dishes but not having the time to write them up…. there’s now a backlog so I’ll try and post more in the next few weeks 🙂

One thing I’m constantly searching for new snack recipes to make for the family. By avoiding milk, eggs, nuts and seeds our snack options always seem limited, but everyone needs a good snack, right? These pizza breadsticks are a really good addition, and I’d recommend them to take on a picnic or snack on with an aperitif – we had them with our ‘mocktails’ before our French bistro restaurant at home night and they went down a treat. You can either make 12 bigger softer breadsticks, or 24 smaller, crispier ones, simply make smaller and twice as many from the dough for the crunchier versions – the choice is yours!

Pizza Breadsticks

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

Makes 12 or 24 sticks

250g strong white bread flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp fast action dried yeast

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

150ml tepid water

2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsps tomato puree (if you can find sun-dried tomato puree all the better)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and salt.
  2. Make a ‘well’ in the middle and pour in the water and 1 tbsp oil.
  3. Mix until it comes together to form a dough. Then knead until smooth and the dough springs back when you press it.
  4. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 1 hour.
  5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and turn the oven on to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6
  6. In a small bowl mix together the tomato puree, oil, garlic powder, oregano and additional salt, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and knock back the dough. Knead for a couple of minutes.
  8. Divide into 12 (or 24) even sized pieces.
  9. Roll each out into a long thin (or short thin for the smaller sticks) sausage shape and place on the parchment lined baking sheet. They don’t have to be perfect.
  10. Brush with the tomato puree mix.
  11. Cover lightly with a clean tea-towel and leave to rise for about half an hour.
  12. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they’re turning golden and sound hollow when tapped.
  13. Cool on a wire rack.
  14. Best eaten fresh.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

Every thought of having a cookie for breakfast? Maybe you’ve been in a rush, missed your breakfast slot and that cookie looks especially tempting to have alongside a cup of coffee? Well, if that’s the case then these cookies are for you! Combining all the deliciousness of a chocolate chip cookie with crisp and crunchy cornflakes, these cookies are a match made in heaven (for any time of the day). Besides both cookies and cereal go with (dairy-free) milk so it has to be a good idea 🙂

I was looking for cookie inspiration, because you always need a new recipe to try, right? These Afghan cookies came to mind (not only because they’re very tasty and I haven’t made them for a while, but also New Zealand is probably one place it would be great to be right now) and I started thinking about how breakfast cereal should be used more in cooking. It has such unique taste and texture and most people have some box of cereal hanging about in their larder. It turns out it’s a fabulous addition to a cookie recipe; adding a crispy crunchy cornflake coating to a soft sweet, chocolate laced cookie takes the cookie to whole new dimension.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

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

makes 12-14

110g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

225g plain flour

50g chocolate chips

50g cornflakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade (160 degrees Centigrade fan). Line two cookie sheets with baking paper
  2. Pour the cornflakes into a shallow bowl and set aside
  3. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Whisk in the cornflour, milk and vanilla.
  5. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and stir to make a soft but not sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Roll into golf ball sized rounds and slightly flatten. Roll in the cornflakes to coat (I say roll but you will more likely have to press the cornflakes into the dough to make sure they stick). Place spread apart onto the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes until turning slightly golden around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets until they’ve firmed up and then move to a wire rack to enjoy.
  7. These will last for a good few days in a sealed container.

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?

Check out my YouTube video if you’d like to bake along 🙂                            Devil’s Food Cupcakes

 

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.

Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

These are my recreation of those mini muffins people buy in tubs from the supermarket! They’ve always looks so useful and appealing, but are sadly not suitable for us.

Both girls tried to eat school lunches for ages, but we came to realise that whilst the schools really tried, the lack of choice and the fact it often wasn’t to their taste, meant they both hardly ate any lunch. I think the difficulty is that the schools have to cater for everyone and so there ended up being one generic ‘free-from’ meal which hardly compared to the exciting options everyone else was tucking into!

So we have moved to packed lunches which means they both definitely eat something, but it is hard to find interesting, different things to include (especially as they generally like different things!). There’s so few shop bought options, and luckily since I love to bake, I try and make a variety of different tasty sweet treats to add. These muffins totally fit that bill; not only are they lunch box sized, but you can also freeze them and add them frozen to defrost for lunch time – a total godsend on busy work/school days!

Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

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

makes about 36-48 depending on the size of your mini-muffin tin

2 cups plain flour

2/3 rds cup caster sugar

1 tbsps baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsps cocoa powder

1/2 cup melted dairy free margarine

2/3 rds cup dairy free milk

1 cup dairy free yogurt

1/3 cup dairy free chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Stir in most of the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips
  3. Combine the wet ingredients; melted margarine, milk and yogurt. Pour the wet into the dry and gently mix until it is just combined with no lumps of raw flour remaining.
  4. 1/2 to 2/3rds fill each muffin case (depending if you want a muffin top or just a domed mini muffin) and then top each with a couple of choc chip/lumps of choc to give an appealing finish
  5. Bake for 12 minutes until they are puffed up and a knife comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. One cool eat, keep in a tin or freeze.

Stollen (egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free)

I have a fondness for Stollen and it’s been on my Christmas recipe to-do list for some years. Somehow it’s always felt a little out of reach to make it friendly enough for the family. Clearly any yeasted dough filled with marzipan doesn’t fit the nut-free criteria! Then I came across this recipe for nut-free marzipan and all the pieces fell into place – friendly Stollen here we come!

Stollen

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

 

makes one Stollen

100g mixture of dried fruit and candied citrus peel

90ml apple juice

1 tbsp fast-action dried yeast

250g flour

50g caster sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine

60ml dairy-free milk

125g marzipan or nut-free marzipan

1 tbsp melted dairy-free margarine

icing sugar to dust

  1. Soak the dried fruit and citrus peel in the apple juice for at least half an hour
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and spices. Rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the dairy-free milk and dried fruit and the juice they’re soaked in. Bring to a dough and then knead until smooth.
  3. Cover the bowl and leave double in size which will probably take an hour or two.
  4. Knock back and roll out to a rectangle. Roll the marzipan into a sausage and place in the middle of the rectangle of dough.
  5. Fold it up and then use the side of your hand to make an indentation down the length of the dough. Transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover and leave to rise for at least half an hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes until risen and golden all over.
  9. Remove from the oven, brush with melted margarine and generously dust with icing sugar