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

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

Since I seem to be on a cereal tip at the moment, here’s another cookie recipe featuring cornflakes.An update of a recipe first posted way back in 2016 these cookies definitely worthy of making, not just sitting way back in my old blog posts.

First created after a bit of research into International cookies and to help ‘ Spring cleaning’ my larder, using up bits and bobs that had been lurking at the back of the shelves. As you can imagine, my larder is pretty stuffed with ingredients, so any additional space is always most welcome. So, that large half-used pack of cornflakes was definitely in my sights. It was using up far too much space! And that cookie jar needed filling.

Apparently chocolate cornflake cookies, also known as Afghan cookies are extremely popular in New Zealand. Worth investigating, I thought. The traditional Afghan cookie is a chocolate cookie, studded with crunchy cornflakes, topped with a rich ganache and with a walnut sitting on top. I’m obviously going to skip the walnuts, but the rest is pretty much fitting the brief. There are many theories as to the origins of the name because these cookies are all Kiwi rather than Afghan. One is that they might have been sent to soldiers fighting in the second Afghan war in the 19th Century by their wives back in New Zealand. Like a predecessor to the more universally known Anzac cookies. Or another theory is that they could just look like the mountainous landscape of Afghanistan.

I hope you like these crunchy chocolatey biscuits – they went down a treat here

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

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

 

200g dairy-free margarine

50g soft brown sugar

50g caster sugar

175g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1tbsp dairy-free milk

50g cornflakes

  1. Cream together the margarine and sugars.
  2. Stir in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Adding the dairy-free milk to slacken the mixture and making it easier to combine.
  3. Gently stir in the cornflakes, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  4. Place tablespoons of the mixture into a lined baking sheet, with enough room to spread. Flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade
  6. Cool on a wire rack

For the icing:

1tbsp water

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsps dairy-free margarine

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

  1. Melt together the water, caster sugar, vanilla and  margarine. Bring to a bubbling syrup and then pour in the cocoa powder and icing sugar. Stir to form glossy icing.
  2. Spread over the cookies and leave to set.

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.

Perfect Double Chocolate Cookies

How are you getting on in lockdown? Firstly, I hope you are safe and well, your loved ones are well and safe. Are you struggling, feeling anxious and restless with having to stay in? Or are you enjoying the chance to slow down and spend time at home? I have to admit I’m quite liking it – i love spending time tinkering around with recipes in the kitchen, so it’s the perfect excuse to cook more than usual! But I am missing seeing my family and friends in person, and the usual freedoms we enjoy.

I’d really recommend trying these cookies; not only are they a doddle to make but they also give perfect results – crispy edges, chewy centres and bags of chocolate flavour. I’d say they’re a great big bear hug of a biscuit; we all need a big reassuring hug right now but we’ll have to do with a cookie shaped one instead!

If you’d like to cook along or would like further instructions check out the video on my YouTube channel perfect double chocolate cookies

Perfect Double Chocolate Cookies

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

makes 12-18

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
50g cup dairy-free choc chips (1/3 cup)

  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. Roll into tbsp sized balls, place slightly apart on the baking sheets and flatten a little.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes
  7. Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.

Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-Yo Cookies

What crazy and unpresidented  times we are living through! I don’t think that even a few weeks we could have imagined lock down, and certainly not lock down for 1/4 of the world’s population. We didn’t know what social distancing meant, loo roll and pasta shortages were something we couldn’t imagine and coronavirus was nowhere near home. At times it seems like we’re living through a badly written disaster movie, if only a super hero would come and save us all. Although on this occasion the super heroes will be the medical staff who are looking after the sick and putting their own health in danger.

A few days ago I was reading the news all the time and feeling pretty anxious, upset and overwhelmed about the whole situation. It all looked so bleak. Now, I’ve decided to step away from the news, just dip in occasionally and instead focus on cooking. I’ve certainly got enough time to develop those recipes that have been on the back burner! I also have lots of ideas for using simple store cupboard ingredients to make delicious tasty meals, so keep tuned for some exciting cooking and baking ideas.

But first, I think we need some sweet luxury, something pretty, tempting, and delicious to add a ray of sunshine into the otherwise bleak outlook.

These Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-yo cookies are not only as pretty as a picture, but sweet and crumbly with a super rich chocolate filling. The sort of cookie to give a metaphorical hug (just what we need right now) whilst having a hot drink. Do be careful with Bird’s custard powder, some is safe and some contains milk. If you can’t find the safe one just sub for cornflour.

Stay safe everyone x

Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-Yo Cookies

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

makes about 20 sandwich biscuits

150g dairy-free margarine

65g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla essence

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 and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the flours 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 12 minutes until only a hint of colour on the edges
  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 chocolate cream.
  9. Dust with icing sugar if desired

Chocolate Cream

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

60g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

1 tsp dairy-free milk (if needed)

25g melted dairy-free chocolate

    1. Whisk the margarine  with the icing sugar until it is all incorporated, adding the milk if the mixture is too stiff. Stir in the melted chocolate.

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.