Triple chocolate hot cross buns

My it’s been a long hard Winter! But at last things are starting to look brighter and the first signs of spring are hitting at the same time as an early Easter. It’s such a joy to see the spring flowers burst through and the first real warm sunshine of the year. It seems like a hopeful time.

Easter means plenty of hot cross buns and chocolate so why not combine both to get the best of both worlds! I really enjoy making hot cross buns, they’re pretty simple but there’s something magical about the soft dough, sweet spice and gorgeous shine.

I have a lot of flavour varieties on my site (just put hot cross buns in the search bar!) but these are particularly rich and decadent so I would urge you to give them a go. Plus the white cross on the dark chocolate dough is particularly striking!

The big question is what variety next? I’m thinking a savoury version (inspired by those cheese and marmite/cheese and chilli ones from M&S), so what this space as I’ll hopefully be able to develop it before next weekend!

Triple Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

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

makes 9-12

460g strong bread flour

40g cocoa powder

1 tbsp dried yeast

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice

400ml warm dairy-free milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

100g dairy-free chocolate chips (I used a combination of milk, dark and white)

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, cocoa, yeast, sugar, salt and spice. 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. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 15-20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  7. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  9. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.
Caramel muffins

Caramel Muffins

When I last visited the supermarket (how is it that a simple trip to the supermarket is now the most exciting part of the week), I spied a sign for a delicious looking caramel muffin in the coffee shop window. Now a caramel muffin sounds like a great idea, why haven’t i thought of that before? It’s funny how I usually get inspiration from so many different places, now it’s either from a screen or a brief trip out of the house. I do hope that when this is all over we don’t take simple luxuries, like eating out, browsing the shops or just the signs of bustling life for granted.

Since we as family have become rather fond of the new caramel filled Nomo bars (simply the best free-from alternative to a Cadbury’s Caramel that you are likely to find), I had the idea of stuffing the muffins with a square to give a gooey caramel chocolatey centre. This results in a filling that remains gooey even once the muffins have cooled, and an oozy chocolatey caramel simply has to be a good idea. These muffins don’t need the icing, but it does add a bit of extravagance that is very welcome in the rather dismal winter of 2021.

Caramel Muffins

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

makes 6 large muffins

20g caster sugar

25g soft brown sugar

1/2 tbsp baking powder

125g plain flour

pinch of salt

55g dairy-free margarine, melted

75ml dairy-free milk

75ml dairy-free yogurt

30ml golden or maple syrup

1/2 tsp caramel essence (optional)

6 squares of Nomo caramel filled chocolate 

for the icing:

40g dairy-free margarine

80g icing sugar

splash of dairy-free milk

  1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade. Fill a muffin tray with liners.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour in the wet ingredients and combine. You do not want any clumps of raw flour but do not over-mix, a little lumpy is good.
  3. 1/4 fill the liners and then place a square of the chocolate in the middle. Cover with the remaining muffin mix.
  4. I topped mine with some Demerara sugar, but it’s not necessary
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden and a knife comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. If icing, whisk together the icing ingredients and pipe rosettes on the top of each muffin, topped with another square of caramel chocolate if you wish.

Homemade chocolate cookie selection box

Those pretty selection boxes of chocolates or cookies always look so tempting. I think they’re often a little disappointing but they always look like you want to dive in and choose some sweet delight.

Since my mission is always to recreate those delicacies that are not available if you’re avoiding certain foods and so a selection box had to be there! While you can get some free from chocolate boxes these days, I have never seen a friendly biscuit selection box. In fact biscuits are one of the hardest products to buy if you’re dairy, egg and nut free. Most free-from varieties are gluten-free and dairy free but then contain egg. Then the standard biscuits contain milk or traces, and nuts seem to pop up everywhere.

In an ideal world this box would have more variety, but since you can make all of these 4 varieties in just a few more minutes than making a single type, you can have a selection in no time at all! By all means add other fillings, but I find the marshmallow filled cookies are always some of the most requested, plus biscoff and chocolate is such a fantastic combination I just had to add that.

Chocolate Cookie Selection Box

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

makes 16 cookies

30g soft brown sugar (1/4 cup)
150g caster sugar (2/3 cup)
150ml cup sunflower oil, or other flavourless oil (2/3 cup)
60ml dairy-free milk (1/4 cup)
1 tbsp cornflour
190g cups plain flour (1 and 1/2 cups)
25g cup cocoa powder (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt

for the centres/flavours:
25g cup dairy-free choc chips, 2 marshmallows, halved, 2 tsp biscoff spread,12g white choc chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 Degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 3. 
  2. Whisk together the oil, milk, sugars, and cornflour. It will combine to form a smooth caramel.
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt. Mix well.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips
  5. Divide the mix into 4. Add white chocolate chips to one quarter.
  6. Roll each mix into tbsp sized balls.
  7. For the filled versions, flatten each ball and place the filling in the centre, then ring up the edges so the filling is completely surrounded by the dough.
  8. Place all the balls slightly apart on the lined baking sheets and flatten a little.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes
  10. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.

White Chocolate Cheesecake

Cheesecake of the diary-free variety is the most popular pudding in this household. It has even been requested instead of a birthday cake, which is quite some praise! We’ve always preferred Tofutti as the cream cheese substitute due to the smooth creamy texture and mild flavour. So many dairy-free cream cheeses seem to want to make their product ‘cheesy’ tasting which is (in my opinion) neither authentic nor nice. A conventional cream cheese has a mild, creamy and smooth nature which is not happily replaced by an overly cheesy tasting grainy affair! As you can tell, we’re quite particular about cream cheese substitutes, but that is only because so many of them are frankly awful. Sadly Tofutti is no longer available in the UK – when I last contacted them they were looking for a new distributor but it seems that it is another thing that’s Covid has got in the way of. I still do Tofutti google searches almost weekly but to no avail 😦

So needs must and we have had to make do with Violife which is probably the next best choice after Tofutti (although using it in a bagel like we did with Tofutti is maybe best avoided!).

I have made a delicious Ottolenghi white chocolate and honey cheesecake a few times and have really wanted to make the recipe ‘friendly’. In fact, the addition of white chocolate not only tempers any cheesiness but also gives a fantastic set cheesecake texture. All in all the combination of white chocolate and tart yogurt with the dairy-free cream cheese gives a wonderful finish and I’d thoroughly recommend giving it a go.

It may be January and the time for resolutions and health, but everything is so grim and bleak right now that a celebratory decadent white chocolate cheesecake is just the ticket! I’ve served mine with homemade blueberry compote but a drizzle of honey, or any fruity sauce would make a wonderful finishing touch.

White Chocolate Cheesecake

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

serves 6-8

125g ginger or biscoff biscuits, crushed

40g dairy-free margarine, melted

170g dairy-free cream cheese

50g dairy-free greek style yogurt

20g icing sugar, sifted

zest of 1/2 a lemon

100g dairy-free white chocolate, melted

  1. Mix the melted margarine with the crushed biscuits and press into the base of a spring-form tin. Place in the fridge to firm up
  2. Whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt, icing sugar and zest until totally smooth
  3. Stir in the melted white chocolate until fully combined
  4. Pour over the biscuit base and level off. Place in the fridge for a least an hour to set
  5. Remove the tin and serve in slices drizzled with fruit compote, sauce or a honey

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

Mini Panettone

These days panettone is a big part of Christmas. Every food shop seems to have a huge pile of beautifully packed panettone flown straight from Italy. Since I started making homemade friendly panettone it has also become a family tradition for us.

This year I’ve decided to make mini panettone. After all, what could be more temping and cute than a perfect individual panettone?

This version is chocolate chip as I know that’s the flavour combination that’ll be devoured in this house, but you could easily swap the chocolate for dried fruit or mixed peel for a more traditional vibe.

If you can find proper mini-panettone cases to place in empty tin cans or panettone moulds, then you are luckier than me! I used the tulip type muffin liners placed in a deep muffin tin, which did a pretty good job.

Did you notice the mistletoe and the tag in the photos? Every year we and our neighbours have a mistletoe fairy who mysteriously leaves mistletoe with a tag in our letterboxes. We don’t know who it is, but it’s a lovely festive treat 🙂

Mini Panettone

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

makes 6

250g plain flour

30g caster sugar

1/2 tbsp yeast

1/4 tsp salt

100ml dairy-free milk, warmed to body temperature

25g cup dairy-free margarine, melted

Zest of 1 lemon and 1 clementine

30g cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl.
  2. Stir in the sugar, yeast and salt.
  3. Pour in the warm milk, margarine and zests and bring together to form a smooth and elastic dough.
  4. Knead in the chocolate until they are evenly distributed
  5. Leave in a warm place to double in size.
  6. Knock back and form into a smooth ball. Cut into 4 equal pieces, approximately 75g each
  7. Place in a lined muffin tins.
  8. Leave to rise again until it they’ve grown a lot. An hour in a warm place should be adequate
  9. Brush the top with oat milk and sprinkle with a pearl or chouquette sugar. (if you can’t find that use demerara)
  10. Place in a preheated oven and bake at 180 degrees centigrade fan/190 degrees centigrade non-fan/gas mark 5 for 20-25 minutes, until golden and cooked through (it will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.)
  11. Cool