Caramel Crispy Bars

No word of a lie, these chocolate coated caramel crispy cakes are as addictive as a banned narcotic. I’ve made four batches in the past few weeks and before I could blink they’d all been hoovered up! You will make plenty of friends if you bring these to the cake sale – that’s if your new friends are quick enough to grab one before it’s too late. They only lasted a couple of minutes at yesterday’s charity bake sale… whole tray, gone in no time.

This is really my take on those Rice Krispie squares, which are sweet and gooey and for me: reminiscent of the treats a friend’s mum used to make with melted Mars Bars when I was young. It’s by no means guilt-free munching, but these bars are arguably healthier than those featuring melted Mars Bars and still just as delicious. I’ve combined syrup, sugar, Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread with vanilla for a wonderfully more-ish result that keeps you reaching for another.

I would definitely recommend a dark chocolate coating, any sweeter chocolate would push the needle on the sugar scale to overload, and besides the dark top contrasts so nicely with the lighter crispy base. This is most definitely another recipe to keep close to hand for those baking emergencies I was talking about last week.

Caramel Crispy Bars

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

 

makes about 16

120g caster sugar

170g golden syrup

100g Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g Rice Krispies

75g dairy-free dark chocolate

20g dairy-free margarine

  1. Melt together the sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the Lotus spread to make a thick smooth mixture.
  2. Stir in the Rice Krispies and ensure they are well covered with the gooey syrupy mix
  3. Press into a lined baking pan [a small brownie pan is ideal] and place in the fridge to firm up
  4. Melt together the chocolate and margarine. Pour over the caramel crispy cake and spread out. I like to make a pattern with a fork to make it look pretty!
  5. Leave to set and then slice into squares or rectangles.

 

Rocky Road Bars

Do you ever have baked goods emergencies? Sudden needs/requests for a sweet treat when time is pressing? They happen to me all the time! Is it just me??

Take one of these scenarios: there’s a last minute email that it’s a class-mates birthday and ‘can you just provide a safe alternative’; you decide to go on a picnic and the snack section of the larder is totally bare but you know that energy will be required to last the day; or it’s bedtime and they suddenly remember it’s cake day the next day. Well other mums I come across laugh about last minute trips to the corner shop or petrol station for something to fit the brief. That’s not really an option for us, unless I wanted to send in a bag of sweets, so, on goes the oven and the baking begins. Normally just when I’m feeling more like settling down with a nice chilled glass of wine 😉

The perfect option is a non-baked treat, one that can be whipped up with store cupboard ingredients, left to set in the fridge and then cut into squares. So coming up in the next week are a couple of absolutely blinding no- bake recipes. These generally seem to be some of the most popular things I make, so I’m guessing they’re pretty yummy. I’d advise to keep these recipes close to hand, for the last minute emergencies, and you can rock up with some wow goodies which are much finer that the petrol station offerings, the friendly option will certainly be the most popular!

First up is rocky road, certainly a childhood favourite for many, which never fails to please. My version has Rice Krispies as well as crushed up Bourbon biscuits for added crunch, mini marshmallows (use veggie or conventional whichever are your preference) for soft squidgy pillows and honeycomb pieces for little luxurious sweet nuggets to contrast with the rich dark chocolate.  These are little bites of pure indulgence – nothing healthy here I’m afraid, just little sweet delights!

Rocky Road Bars 

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

makes 20 or so

300g dairy-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped

120g dairy-free margarine

50g golden syrup

200g chocolate biscuits, roughly crushed (I used Tesco Bourbon biscuits that are dairy, egg and nut-free)

50g Rice Krispies

50g mini vegetarian marshmallows (or use normal if you’re not vegetarian/vegan)

50g honeycomb pieces

  1. Line a rectangular  brownie tin with non-stick parchment
  2. Melt together the chocolate, margarine and syrup, either in a microwave or over a bain marie
  3. Stir in the crushed biscuits, Rice Krispies, honeycomb and marshmallows.
  4. Evenly spread into the tin and press down.
  5. [Optional] scatter over some sprinkles for an extra dose of fun
  6. Leave to set in the fridge.
  7. Dust with icing sugar and cut into bars.

Gooey Chocolate Fudge Cake

Well, the summer and holidays seem well and truly over – it’s dark in the mornings and evenings and the leaves are turning golden with a vengeance. Time for thoughts to turn to comfort and cosy warming dishes to keep the spirits up, I think.

Chocolate fudge cake which is rich and gooey with a sticky chocolate glaze, surely that’s going to lift our spirits? This is a fabulous quick but indulgent recipe, perfect for an after-school treat which will be much needed in this first full week back. My, we’re all going to be tired come this Friday if this weekend was anything to go by!

This cake which is perfect as either a teatime treat or a wicked pudding with ice cream is a family favourite. It is a very simple recipe to make, and I’ve included the ingredients in grams and tablespoons so the younger members of the family can easily participate in making this moreish cake and still result in that all important wow factor. It is certainly gooey enough for the most diehard chocoholic – and who can resist a slice of gooey chocolate fudge cake…. I know I can’t.

Gooey Chocolate Fudge Cake 

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

 

makes a 2 lb loaf

9 tbsps dairy-free milk

1.5 tsps bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp vanilla essence

200g self-raising flour

4 tbsps cocoa powder

4 tbsps granulated sugar

4 tbsps soft brown sugar

50g dairy-free margarine

4 tbsps golden syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a 2lb loaf tin (or 2 1lb tins, or half the mixture to make 1 1lb cake)
  3. Combine the dairy-free milk, bicarb and vanilla and set aside.
  4. Cream together the dairy-free spread and sugar. Mix in the syrup.
  5. Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt.
  6. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the soya milk mix, add too the creamed spread. When fully combined and smooth, fill the loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack.

Chocolate Fudge Icing 

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

 

make enough to cover 1 loaf

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

  1. Melt together the dairy-free margarine, milk, cocoa and sugar.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and bubble furiously for a minute or two, stirring all the time.
  3. Cool, stirring now and then. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Once cool, spread over the top of your cake.

Strawberry Creams

One thing Little S dreams of but has never been able to indulge in is a box of chocolates. A pretty box filled with an array of beautiful chocolates with delicious fillings… well, who wouldn’t want such a thing? So I’m on a mission to make one for her birthday as a little surprise (Shhhh!)

We have a great fondness for Choices caramels, but they’re all one flavour which isn’t quite the same as the surprise and choice you get from a selection. I want to recreate the thrill of looking at the mini chocolate menu and choosing your favourite!

So these strawberry creams are the first in a series of filled chocolates and one of my very favourites. In my opinion the flavours of dark chocolate and berrry flavoured fondant are a match made in heaven. They’re also as simple as can be – as long as you have a chocolate mould and some patience you too can make shop worthy chocolates.

The fondant filling is simple: icing sugar (I used Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar as it’s totally safe and adds an extra oomph of flavour) mixed with a fresh strawberry purée, what could be easier!

Strawberry Creams

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

1 tbsp fresh strawberry puree (or maybe a little more)

1 cup icing sugar

100g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Melt the chocolate following the instructions here. It needs to be tempered to get a lovely shiny finish.
  2. Coat the moulds with the about 3/4s of the chocolate. Leave to set.
  3. Meanwhile make the strawberry fondant filling. It needs to be like very thick icing, so start with 1 tbsp of puree and add more if necessary.
  4. Pour the fondant into the set chocolate moulds.
  5. Cover with the remaining chocolate and leave to set.
  6. Try not to eat too many at once 😉

 

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.