Mocha Biscotti

This year I’m intending on making lots of my Christmas presents, well that’s the plan! I’ll have to see if life, work and the new puppy let that happen…

To me it seems like this is the right time to take a little step away from consumerism and reconnect with the the homemade. I also think it makes the festive season seem particularly special; that extra effort in making gifts for people adds an extra touch of love and I hope makes both the giver and receiver equally happy.

Along with the jams, chutneys and chocolate truffles (I’ve got a cracking new recipe coming up next), these biscotti make a wonderful gift. They keep well and are just perfect with coffee or something stronger 😉 over the festive season.

Biscotti may seem tricky to make but in reality they just need a little extra time to be double baked, first as a large log and then sliced. The resulting crispy slices keep well and are robust enough to make fantastic gifts.

I’ve given these biscotti a mocha flavour which i think works particularly well when it’s cold and dark; there’s something so cosy about the combination of coffee and chocolate. Don’t worry about it being an ‘adult’ taste, it works wonderfully with decaf and it’s more a tinge of coffee rather than a full whack in the chops!

Mocha Biscotti

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

makes about 24 biscotti

250g or 2 cups plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

pinch of salt

200g or 1 cup caster sugar

50g dairy-free chocolate, chopped

120ml sunflower oil

120ml dairy-free milk (made up of 1tbsp instant coffee powder and 1 tbsp hot water topped up to 120ml with dairy-free milk)

30g dairy-free chocolate, melted (to drizzle on top)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4
  2. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar and chocolate chips.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, dairy-free milk mix. Bring together to a wet and sticky dough.
  5. Form into one or two log shapes on the lined baking sheet. (they spread out quite  a lot so make them smaller than you think unless you want long biscotti!) Brush with the dairy-free milk.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and starting to turn golden around the edges.
  7. Cool briefly, then cut into even slices. Return to the baking sheet and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, turn the slices over and cook for 5-10 minutes more. You want a uniform slightly golden tinge, but no particularly dark areas.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, drizzle or dip into the melted chocolate
  9. These keep well, in an airtight container for a week or so.

 

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.

Luxury Dairy-free Twix Bars

The ‘free-from’ chocolate ranges are constantly improving and getting more exciting (thank you Nomo and MooFree), but there is still a real lack of the kind of interesting chocolate bars you can buy in any convenience store or supermarket. Think KitKat, Mars Bar, Milky Way or Twix; the kind of bar that people will grab at the counter in a petrol station, where is the alternative for these? Since week 2 of The Great British Bake Off 2019 BakeAlong is biscuit week, I’ve decided to update my previous Twix recipe with a more deluxe version, and wow is it good!

This week’s choices on the show were: a chocolate-coated biscuit bar, fig rolls or a biscuit-based 3D showstopper. Well I ruled out fig rolls as I knew no-one would eat them in my house, so that’s just a waste, I didn’t have time for a 3D showstopper, and I love working with chocolate, so my choice was a no brainer! The challenge spec was that despite being chocolate-coated, the biscuit had to be the star of the show, so my thoughts immediately turned to using my chocolate sable biscuits which really are probably the best biscuits I’ve ever made. (They’re also a constant request in this house, so they really must be good!)

My previous Twix recipe is perfectly nice, but it used condensed soya milk which is hard to come by, whereas this deluxe recipe uses more standard store cupboard ingredients and gives a far more luxurious finish. I use Nomo dark chocolate as I love the shiny finish you get by treating it right, and I think the slightly bitter chocolate combines well with the sweet caramel filling. To be more traditional and authentic to a regular Twix Bar you could always use the creamy version.

It may seem like a complex recipe, but each of the three distinct steps are fairly simple, so with just a bit of time you can end up with some showstopper results in both taste and appearance.

Luxury Twix Bars

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

makes 12 fingers

for the chocolate coating:

250g dairy-free dark chocolate, my preference is for Nomo/Kinnerton

35g dairy-free white chocolate, for decoration

for the caramel layer:

 

1/2 cup oat cream

1/2 cup granulated suagr

2 tbsp dairyfree margarine

1/4 cup golden syrup

pinch good quality salt, such as ‘fleur de sel’

  1. Line a baking tray with parchment and oil well.
  2. Melt together the oat cream and dairy-free margarine. Set aside.
  3. Pour the syrup and sugar into a saucepan. Heat to melt the sugar.
  4. Stir in the cream and spread mixture.
  5. Heat to 240 degrees Fahrenheit or 115 degrees Centigrade (or to between soft and hard ball stage).
  6. Pour onto the oiled parchment, sprinkle with the salt and leave to set (an hour or two should suffice)
  7. Peel off the paper and using scissors cut into rectangles

For the biscuit layer:

 

45g plain flour

7g good quality cocoa

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

35g dairyfree margarine

30g soft brown sugar

12g caster sugar

pinch good quality flaky salt, such as fleur de sel

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugars and salt.
  2. Gently mix in the flour, bicarbonate and cocoa and combine to form a soft dough.
  3. 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 a baking sheet with parchment. roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm, cut rough rectangles which are about double the size of the eventual bars
  6. Bake for 7-8 minutes. They should have spread out nicely.
  7. Cool briefly on the sheets then cut into rectangles to fit into the moulds

The process:

  1. Start by tempering the chocolate. If you don’t know how to do this, the method is here.
  2. Pour a blob into each mould and evenly coat all the sides, a small brand new paint brush may help. Leave to set for a few minutes and then paint on another layer (or preferably two more). Place in a cool spot to firm up.
  3. Place a rectangle of caramel into each bar
  4. Top with a rectangle of cooled biscuit
  5. Coat with the remaining chocolate and place back in the fridge to set.
  6. Un-mould and decorate with melted white chocolate

Rich Chocolate Truffle Pots

Rich, decadent and very chocolatey truffle pots – think those little Gu pudding pots you can buy, but tastier, friendly and with only three ingredients! These totally fit the bill of emergency easy but utterly delicious pudding option! They set nicely after an hour or two in the fridge, but are still rather delicious if eaten whilst still oozy.

This recipe was inspired by one by Celia Brooks Brown in “Entertaining Vegetarians”

Rich Chocolate Truffle Pots

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

 

serves 4

125g dairy-free chocolate, such as Nomo

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine, such as Pure

2/3rds cup dairy-free cream, I used Oatly

  1. Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat (or in a microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for 45 seconds).
  2. Stir until smooth and unctuous.
  3. Pour into small glasses/shot glasses/small ramekins. Top on the work surface to get rid of any little bubbles.
  4. Chill until ready to eat.

 

 

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

I haven’t posted a cupcake recipe for an age. I don’t know why because I’m often making them, tinkering away with the flavours and designs, and they always go down a treat.

These were inspired by our current new obsession, caramel chocolate. We used to buy those delicious Choices caramel chocolates all the time as a special treat but I haven’t seen them for sale in ages. Have they been discontinued? Sad times if so as they were truly scrumptious.

Luckily the new Nomo brand from Kinnerton has come to our rescue with these utterly moreish caramel chocolate bars. I slightly miss the oozy caramel filling but the taste of these is spot on gorgeous and besides you can’t have everything!

So here we have chocolate caramel cupcakes – enjoy 😊

(I must apologise about the piping though, my last piping bag split so I had to improvise, hence all the varying and unusual looks! They still taste great though 😀 )

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

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

makes 12

175g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

25g cocoa powder

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp caramel essence

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5
  2. Mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon juice, essence 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.

Caramel Chocolate Buttercream 

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

Enough to spread on 12 cupcakes, double the mix to pipe luscious mounds of buttercream!

1/3 cup dairy-free margarine
2 tbsps vegetable fat such as Trex
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp caramel essence plus a splash of dairy-free milk

  1.  Whisk together the fats.
  2. Add the cocoa and whisk well.
  3. Whisk in the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, adding the essence and a splash or so of milk.
  4. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.
  5. top with 1/2 a square of Nomo Caramel Chocolate

 

Rich Chocolate Sorbet

It’s not often that we swelter like this – well that used to be the case, who knows for the future 😦

All anyone is thinking or talking about is the heat! I do love how us Brits are totally obsessed with the weather and talk above it over any other ongoing national crisis.

Even I, with my constant baking and cooking, have had to turn off the oven to cope with the extreme heat. But that won’t stop me experimenting and tinkering with flavours 😉

After a little hiccup from the new divine Nomo chocolate (made by Kinnerton so safely free-from) the other week where they copied and pasted some of my old recipes onto their website without crediting me, I have been gifted a year’s supply of chocolate. [p.s I have not been paid in any way for this recipe, the free chocolate was due to their mistake and I’m making full use of it!] In fact we now have so much chocolate in the house that I’m having to cook with it even more than usual, and usual is really really often! I was so disappointed when I first noticed they had used my recipes without asking or crediting, but delighted that they have turned out to be the brand I hoped they were; there are now full credits on the website and they’ve suggested future collaboration which i’m really excited about 🙂

So with masses of chocolate to happily get through and a heatwave in progress, my thoughts turned to chocolate sorbet. As I’ve mentioned before we’re big sorbet fans in this household and the thought of turning some delicious chocolate into a light, fresh and refreshing pudding seemed just right.

It turns out that chocolate sorbet is totally delicious. It’s lighter than ice cream, full of chocolate flavour and quicker to set than fruity sorbets. I made the mix at lunchtime and it was acceptably frozen by the evening (see the final photo after the recipe), even better by the next day or later in the week. I don’t have an ice cream maker to churn the sorbet so my version is a little grainy, but I actually find that quite pleasant as the grainy bits are like tiny chocolate chips, giving both added flavour and texture.

Chocolate Sorbet

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

serves 6

200g caster sugar

40g cocoa powder

400ml water

70g dairy-free chocolate, finely chopped

  1. mix together the sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan. Pour in the water gradually to avoid any lumps of cocoa
  2. Dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes to make a chocolate sugar syrup.
  3. place the finely chopped chocolate into a bowl, and slowly pour over the sugar syrup. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Cool.
  4. Pour into a Tupperware box and place in the freezer. Every couple of hours stir through with a fork to get rid of any large ice crystals. Once a sorbet texture is obtained, simply keep in the freezer ready to scoop.
  5. or, cool the chocolate mix, then pour into your ice cream machine and churn as indicated by the manufacturers instructions.