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

Blueberry & Lemon Yo-Yo Cookies

Let’s get fresh, fruity and just right for the holidays. These yo-yo biscuits are are classic Antipodean staple and are perfect for warmer climes as they don’t have the tendency to melt like my favourite chocolate cookies! Talking of melting, this cookies have the wonderful melt in the mouth feels of very short shortbread, enhanced with a rich buttercream filling. It really is a wonderful combination.

I was in the mood for colour so concocted some delicate lemon biscuits (coloured with custard powder for a lovely yellow hue) and filled with bright purple blueberry filling. This biscuits will certainly get people talking, whilst also reaching for another one 🙂

Blueberry and Lemon Yo-Yo Cookies

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

makes about 20 sandwich biscuits

150g dairy-free margarine

65g icing sugar, sifted

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp lemon extract

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, zest and essence 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
  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 blueberry cream.

Blueberry Cream 

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

60g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

1 tbsp blueberry coulis

  1. Make the blueberry coulis by cooking down 100g blueberries with 2 tbsp sugar and 1 too lemon juice. Cook until eh blueberries have burst and the mix is saucy. Sieve to give a luscious sweet sauce.
  2. Whisk the margarine  with the icing sugar and  1 tbsp blueberry coulis until it is all incorporated. Place in the fridge to firm up before using.
  3. use the remaining blueberry coulis for ice cream, waffles or fruit salad

Easter Biscuits

 

Easter is such an exciting time of year; spring is finally upon us with all it’s delights of cheeping birds, frolicking lambs and beautiful flowers and it feels like everything is just starting again after the fallow winter months. Easter seems to literally put the spring into everyone’s steps, and we start to look forward again. I feel this in terms of cooking as well as nature, suddenly fresh inspiration hits and there are so many more options open to me. I can’t wait to use all those spring flavours in the next few months. 🙂

I have many Easter themed recipes on my blog, and not surprisingly lots of them feature a lot of chocolate. However, even though they’re a personal favourite, I’ve never made traditional Easter biscuits. These customary cookies are a celebration of Easter time combining a subtle ‘hot cross bun’ spice with pretty decoration or dried fruit. These biscuits lend themselves equally well to the addition of the traditional juicy currants and crunchy caster sugar topping, or the somewhat fancier crispy yet soft cover of pretty pastel hued icing. Serve these to make a nice change from the chocolate overload and everyone will be happy come Easter weekend!

Easter Biscuits

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

 

makes lots, at least 20 large cookies

300g plain flour

2 tbsps cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

115g vegetable fat (I used Trex)

115g dairy-free margarine (Pure)

225g sugar (either caster or granulated)

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

60ml dairy-free milk

60g currants (if making fruited variety)

  1. Sift together the flour, cornflour, spices, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, spread and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the dairy-free milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine. Stir in the currants if using.
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden round the edges
  5. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  6. if making the fruity variety, sprinkle with caster sugar whilst hot.

for the royal icing:

3 tbsps aquafaba (water from a tin of beans or chickpeas)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3 cups icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

dairy-free milk to thin the icing

food colouring as desired

  1. In a stand mixer, or an electric whisk, whisk together all the ingredients until a smooth thick paste is created.
  2. Colour as desired. I split the mixture into two, and then coloured each with natural food colouring.
  3. Thin each colour with a splash of milk to make the icing a good consistency to coat the biscuits (thick, but thin enough to pipe!)
  4. Pipe as desired
  5. Let set but leaving at room temperature for a good few hours. If you dare, return the iced biscuits to the oven for a couple of minutes for a smooth shiny finish and then leave to set.

Marshmallow Filled Chocolate Cookies

Cookies are a perennial favourite in this household, and for the majority chocolate wins every everytime. So as you can imagine, I spend a lot of time thinking up new exciting cookie ideas. I can think of a lots worse ways to spend my time!

So picture a deep, intense freshly baked chocolate cookie, with crisp edges and a soft and slightly chewy interior? Sounds good? Well, let me make it even better….. Now picture a deeply chocolatey freshly baked cookie, with crisp edges and a soft and slightly chewy interior, wrapped around a sweet vanilla melted marshmallow with has remained gooey even once it has set. That does sound better doesn’t it!

These mallow stuffed cookies are a revelation, they’ve quickly become a firm favourite. Little S took one into school in her packed lunch and her friends all asked for a nibble and then asked where to buy them. High praise indeed 🙂

Marshmallow Filled Chocolate Cookies

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan [if using vegan mallows])

makes about 9

200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar

115g (1/2 cup) dairy-free spread

2 tbsps golden syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder

150g (1and1/4 cups) plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:

standard size marshmallows

  1.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  2. Cream together the spread, sugar, syrup and vanilla. Sift in the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt and mix to a stiff dough.
  3. Take tablespoon or two sized amounts of the chocolate dough and pat out to a small round. Place a marshmallow in the middle of each and bring the sides up and around to form a chocolate ball with no gaps.
  4. Place on a lined cookie sheet and slightly press down with the fronts of a fork.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool for a couple more minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. These cookies keep well for a few days in a sealed container, and are lovely warmed for 20 seconds in a microwave before eating.