Rocky Road Cupcakes

Everyone loves a cute cupcake and I haven’t posted a recipe for one for absolutely ages – so here’s an extra special cupcake recipe to cheer up this rather damp and dreary July day!

I guess there is something a little more celebratory and special about having your own little complete cake with perfect icing and adornments.

When I was tiny, cupcakes were always called fairy cakes (I don’t know when they became known as cupcakes instead) and they were one of the first things I ever baked for my Brownie baking badge. Proud moment. In fact they were particularly delicious little cakes which for some reason I decided to top with bright yellow icing! These cupcakes are, I hope, a little more elegant and subtle looking.

The inspiration behind these is the ‘Rocky Road’ with its combination of chocolate, crunch and chew. So we have intensely chocolatey cakes, with a marshmallow baked inside for an extra mallow factor. These are vegetarian marshmallows which do go quite chewy so maybe leave them out if you’re serving these to any elderly relative with false teeth!

The icing is vanilla ‘buttercream’ which is then topped off with more marshmallows, honeycomb pieces, giant chocolate buttons and pomegranate hearts for some extra cuteness. I hope you like them, they’re certainly a knock-out flavour combination.

Rocky Road Cupcakes

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

 

makes 18-20

350g self-raising flour

200g caster sugar

50g cocoa powder

200ml sunflower oil

300ml oat milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

20 vegetarian marshmallows (I used Freedom Mallows) – optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5
  2. Mix together the oat 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, pop a mallow into the middle and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

 

for the vanilla buttercream:

enough to ice 24 cupcakes

1/4 cup solid vegetable fat (such as Trex)

3/4 cup dairy-free margarine (such as Pure)

3 cups icing sugar, sifted

1or 2 tbsp oat milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat.
  2. Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the oat milk and the vanilla, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
  3. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.
  4. Then decorate so they look pretty enough to eat!

Decorations:

Pomegranate Jelly Hearts from Biona

Honeycomb pieces from Waitrose

Freedom mallows from Holland and Barrett

Dairy-free chocolate buttons from Tesco

 

Dairy-free MilkyWay Chocolate Bars

Chocolate – it’s ubiquitous isn’t it? Everywhere you go there are tempting, brightly packaged chocolate treats enticing you to buy them… at the check out in most shops. Chocolate really must be the sweet treat of choice for most of the population…. and, I’m certainly a big fan.

The desirability of chocolate seems to start very young, even tiny tots are regularly seen clutching some child targeted chocolate bar, perhaps with the rest smeared over their face. Those chocolate wrappers are so bright and tempting.

Not only that, but any ‘family trail’ will have a chocolate treat at the end, most school prizes seem to be bars of chocolate, any seasonal date in the calendar has its own dedicated chocolate (easter, Christmas etc). So it’s everywhere. So it’s bit of a disappointment that you can’t enjoy the same sweetly seductive chocolate bars as your friends. It’s certainly a good way to feel different from your peers. I know it’s something Little s is feeling keenly at the moment, she often wonders what it would be like to pop into any old shop and scoop up an exciting and delicious chocolate bar. She sees people eating whatever bar it is and comments on how nice it looks.

Dairy-free chocolate bars are certainly improving and becoming more ‘fun’ looking, but often those vegan equivalents of well known brands ‘may contain milk’ – not helpful if you avoid ‘may contains’. I know the ‘may contain’ label is  a contentious issue (thanks again to that no-longer twitter follower who decided to rant at me about how may contains means nothing and I what did I know!) but we have always been advised to avoid may contains due to the risk they may pose. So once you’ve removed many of the exciting options you’re left with a meagre selection of fairly serious-looking bars which are only available in specialist shops – not quite like the chocolate display in the corner shop!

Armed with my trusty chocolate bar moulds I’ve experimented with a few bars and had some successes I’m rather proud of. I’m looking at you, gorgeous shiny KitKats but certainly there have been many experiments which I haven’t got quite right. Lately I’ve been experimenting with soft nougat and was intending to make a homemade Double Decker bar but my moulds are far too shallow for the double layer. So I ditched the crispy bottom layer (shame really because it tasted pretty nice) and ended up with a homemade MilkyWay. In the UK a MilkyWay is a soft nougat enrobed in chocolate, without the addition of caramel that the US version has. When I was growing up MilkyWays were particularly targeted towards children, so just the right kind of chocolate for me to recreate for the girls 🙂

The nougat isn’t hard to make but you will require a sugar thermometer for accurate temperature reading, and a silicone chocolate mould will certainly help to give the proper bar effect. My nougat is maybe a little softer than commercial nougat but keeping them in the fridge or even the freezer irons out that problem. It’s another recipe where I’ve used ‘aquafaba’ to good effect – something the world seems to have heard of now.

Dairy-free MilkyWay Bars

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

 

Makes 8-10

80ml/1/3 cup water

2/3 cup/80g liquid glucose

175g/1 cup caster sugar

50ml/just under 3 tbsp aquafaba

pinch of cream of tartar

40g dairy-free chocolate melted (optional)

for the coating:

100g dairy-free chocolate melted and tempered

  1. Line a baking tray (approx 30×20 cm) with foil and oil
  2. Place the sugar, water and glucose in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer until it reaches 116 degrees Centigrade or 240 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the aquafaba and the cream of tartar until you have peaks and lots of volume like a meringue mix.
  4. Also, melt the chocolate
  5. Once the sugar mixture has reached the correct temperature, slowly incorporate into the meringue mix. I poured it into my running KitchenAid using the paddle attachment. Stir in the melted chocolate if using.
  6. Pour into the greased baking tray and place in the fridge to set.
  7. Then melt and temper the chocolate (instructions here)
  8. Using three quarters of the chocolate, coat the moulds with the chocolate and leave to set
  9. Cut the nougat into batons – this is tricky and I’d recommend a quick freeze beforehand to make it easier – and place inside the chocolate coated moulds.
  10. Cover with the remaining chocolate and leave to set.
  11. Ideally keep in the fridge (or freezer of you are after a frozen treat) until ready to eat.

 

Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Sablé Biscuits, failed challenges and a fresh start.

 

Recently I’ve felt that my blog has gone off the boil, that my recipes were dull and not very inspiring, the photos were so-so and better resources could be found elsewhere. Maybe I needed a break, just to give it up or a fresh approach? These have been tough times in working out whether to invest any time and effort into creating and posting for my blog.

I think having a baked milk challenge approaching for both girls made me think that maybe it was becoming less relevant for myself too. Perhaps we had got to another stage of our journey that needed a new approach?

To be honest, we were rather surprised when the Doctor suggested a baked milk challenge at our most recent appointment – it seemed out of the blue since they both had sizeable wheals from the skin prick results and we have certainly never been on the cusp of any ‘advances’ before. Actually, although we’ve always been lucky enough to have had fantastic care from our allergy specialists, this year was different. The doctor was new and had a surprising approach, she wanted to discharge big S as she claimed that the appointments weren’t necessary and there was unlikely to be any further change at this stage. As most people who have tried know, it’s so hard to get under the care of a specialist that we really weren’t keen to lose this support. This particular doctor also said that skin prick tests were worthless and they should both have a baked milk challenge as it was the only way to really diagnose an allergy. I get her point to some extent, but those are not particularly helpful comments for the girls who have spent their entire lives having yearly skin prick tests!

Anyway she requested blood tests, about which Little S was rather nervous and tearful, hardly surprisingly as she’s previously had a difficult experience with a cannula involving lots of blood and bruises! I have to say that I was rather shocked by her response. She offered no compassion, despite being a paediatric doctor and said it was up to us if we had bloods taken, but if we did’t she’d write down that we refused her advice. I was dumbfounded, should a children’s doctor not have some understanding over the anxiety involved? Anyway, we did the bloods and Little S fainted as she stood up afterwards – it certainly was an eventful day.

Well the food challenge itself was the other week and in short: both girls failed. It was upsetting and a setback, but not unexpected either. Since the challenge my thoughts have turned back to my blog and why I started it in the first place, why I felt the desire to help others in a similar position, and how hard I’ve found it myself. I’ve also had some wonderful recent (and past) comments from readers, really lovely thoughts that have made me feel that all my experiments and recipes are of use. I feel reinvigorated and excited about creating and blogging! Expect a flurry of innovation (I hope) to follow.

I really think I’ve found the holy grail for egg and dairy free biscuits with this recipe. They’re the perfect combination of crisp crunch, turning to ‘buttery’ melt and chew. You couldn’t ask for much more from a biscuit texture.

The combination of raspberry and chocolate is always one that works, it’s tried and tested. Do try using freeze-dried fruits in your baking, they add so much of the flavour and character without any ‘sogginess’ that fresh fruit can bring.

It really is essential to chill the dough before baking – an hour will do, at a push 15 minutes in the freezer will suffice. But if at all possible, chill for as long as possible for the very best textured biscuits.

Raspberry and Chocolate Chip Sable Biscuits

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

makes about 12-15

90-100g chocolate, chopped

2 tbsp chopped freeze dried raspberries

100g plain flour

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

75g dairyfree margarine

85g caster sugar

1/2 tsp good quality flaky salt, such as fleur de sel

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugars and salt.
  2. Gently mix in the flour and bicarbonate and combine to form a soft dough. Stir in the chocolate pieces and freeze dried raspberries.
  3. Form into a sausage shape and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to chill, you want it to be as cold as possible.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade.
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice the cookie dough into 1cm slices and place well apart on the baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 11-12 minutes. They should have spread out nicely.
  7. Cool briefly on the sheets so they are stiff enough to move and then transfer to a wire rack.

Homemade Crunchie Bars – dairy-free

 

Thank Crunchie it’s (almost) Friday!

Whilst the range of dairy-free chocolate is getting better all the time, it pales in comparison to the ‘regular’ chocolate selection in any shop. So regular blog followers will know that every now and then I try to experiment with an everyday and iconic bar to enable the girls to get a taste of what their friends eat.

The most popular so far have been my dairy-free KitKats and Creme Eggs – I was pretty pleased with both of those (excuse the boast). This time I thought I’d experiment with Crunchie bars, yet another ‘classic’ and a childhood favourite.

Homeycomb in itself is pretty easy to make, and it’s lots of fun watching the caramel turn into a bubbling volcano of sugary foam ( but do be extremely careful as honeycomb is burning hot).

It’s also very easy to make uneven shards of honeycomb but I wondered how to make it into even bars like real crunchies. The answer is to pour the honeycomb into oiled silicone chocolate bar moulds and once set you have the most perfect honeycomb bars. Not that it makes any difference to the taste but as my goal is to recreate the original as best I can, it seems important.

I know original Crunchies are coated in milk chocolate but the dark chocolate contrasts really well with the ever-so-sweet honeycomb and actually makes a far better bar. Have fun dipping the honeycomb into the chocolate… messy but satisfying.

Dairy-free Homemade Crunchie Bars

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

makes 12 bars

200g caster sugar

 4 tbsp golden syrup

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g chocolate, melted

  1. Oil the chocolate moulds, or a baking tray with sides.
  2. Gently melt together the sugar and syrup (in a high sided saucepan which has plenty of spare space) until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a bubble and simmer until it turns lightly golden (this won’t take long).
  3. Remove from the heat and pour in the bicarbonate of soda, stir briefly to ensure the whole thing is foaming.
  4. Pour into the moulds or onto the baking tray. Leave to set.
  5. Un-mould or break into shards.
  6. Melt the chocolate and dip the bars/shards to totally cover.

 

Triple Chocolate Swirl Buns

triple chocolate swirl buns, dairy-free and egg-free

I love making sweet swirled buns, there’s something magical about using a yeasted dough and making the swirls, then watching them come’ alive’ in the oven. They’re also a fantastic bake because they’re simple but look mightily impressive. As I’ve mentioned before Little S’s class gets a home-baked treat every Friday partly so she can enjoy sharing nice treats that she can have with her friends and partly to install in her friends that ‘friendly’ foods are also delicious (and I get to bake too)!

Since everyone always loves chocolate I thought we’d bring a ray of sunshine to cold dark January with these rather exciting and original triple chocolate swirl buns. Whilst we all love cinnamon buns sometimes it’s nice for a bit of variety and triple chocolate certainly hits the mark. The dough is subtly flavoured with cocoa, the swirl is a sugary cocoa paste flecked with chunks of white chocolate and the whole thing is drizzled with dairy-free milk chocolate. It makes for a stunning combination both to look at and eat. These have now been declared an all time favourite by some recipients so they must be ok!

making swirl buns

Triple Chocolate Swirl Buns

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

vegan nut-free chocolate buns

100ml dairy-free yogurt, I used Alpo

220ml water

3 tbsp dairy-free spread, such as Pure

475g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tsp dried yeast

75g soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp chocolate extract [optional]

75g dairy-free white chocolate, finely chopped [optional]

For the glaze:

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp pearl sugar/sugar crystals

And/or:

50g dairy-free ‘milk’ chocolate, melted

  1. Melt the margarine and water together – you want it to be warm and melted but not hot, stir in the yogurt
  2. In a bowl mx together the flour, yeast, sugar, cornflour and salt
  3. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm liquid mix
  4. Bring together to a soft dough and knead until its smooth and bounces back when poked. Cover and let double in size in a warm place.
  5. Mix together the filling ingredients (except the chopped chocolate) and set aside.
  6. Knock back and roll out to a large rectangle. Spread on the chocolate filling. Sprinkle over the chopped white chocolate, then roll up tightly into a long sausage
  7. Cut into even slices, probably about 1.5-2cm each – I managed to get 25 small slices from mine
  8. Place on lined baking sheets, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise again for another half an hour. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
  9. Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through.
  10. Melt the brown sugar with the water and brush over the top and sprinkle with the pearl sugar (if using)
  11. Remove from the pans and peel off the paper. Drizzle with the melted chocolate if desired.

triple chocolate swirl yeasted buns

Chocolate Sablé Biscuits – best chocolate cookies ever.

 

the best ever vegan chocolate biscuit

Sometimes there is nothing like a chocolate cookie, it can be the ultimate sweet treat, but so often they’re not quite right, more average than awesome. These are in the realms of awesome. They’re the kind of biscuit that you take a bite of and immediately sigh saying ‘wow, these are good’. Deeply chocolatey, just the right kind of chewy… yep, they’re up there with the best. The fact I’ve made them three times in the past two weeks says something!

the best every dairy-free chocolate cookie

The origins of this biscuit comes from a Pierre Hermé recipe which I’ve tweaked and adapted to our requirements and tastes. But as one would expect from a master chocolatier these biscuits are a chocolate lover’s dream – they’re dark, rich, chocolatey, sweet but a little bit salty all at the same time, .

These tend not to last the day round here as hands swipe them straight off the tray.

the best ever egg-free dairy-free chocolate cookies

Chocolate Sablé Biscuits

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

chocolate sable, egg-free

makes about 12-15

90-100g chocolate, chopped (I use a mixture of dark and ‘milk’)

85g plain flour

15g good quality cocoa

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

75g dairyfree margarine

60g soft brown sugar

25g caster sugar

1/2 tsp good quality flaky salt, such as fleur de sel

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugars and salt. Stir in the chocolate pieces
  2. Gently mix in the flour, bicarbonate and cocoa and combine to form a soft dough.
  3. Form into a sausage shape and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to chill, you want it to be as cold as possible
  4. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice the cookie dough into 1cm slices and place well apart on the baking sheets
  6. Bake for 11-12 minutes. They should have spread out nicely.
  7. Cool briefly on the sheets so they are stiff enough to move and then transfer to a wire rack.

nut-free chocolate sable cookies