Stained Glass Gingerbread

 

I’ve always thought that ‘stained glass’ window biscuits with their jewelled sugary centres are the most beautiful cookie around, and without doubt perfect for Christmas. Traditionally made to adorn Christmas trees, where the fairy lights can glitter through the colourful centres, they’re also delightful as an extra special Christmas treat to eat. I don’t think they’d work nearly as well at other times of year and so this recipe is another that has been on the back burner ever since I didn’t get to write it up last Christmas!

No cookie can be more festive than gingerbread, it’s certainly what Father Christmas expects when he comes to our house, so that’s what I’ve chosen to surround the bejewelled centres. It may look tricky, but the stained glass effect is simply made from popping a boiled sweet into the hole in this biscuit before baking which melts to fill the gap and then hardens once the cookies are cooling. Do be very careful to either bake them directly onto a greased baking sheet or use non-stick paper. With one batch I made the mistake of using regular baking paper and the results weren’t pretty or easy to prise off at the end!

I’ve made a batch of jewel filled Christmas trees and also these super cute reindeers. Maybe you’ve seen this hack on Pinterest too? The idea is to use a gingerbread man cookie cutter, then turn it upside down to provide a shape that can be piped to look like a reindeer. The most perfect cute Christmas cookie.

Stained Glass Gingerbread Cookies

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

Makes 12-15 small cookies, 6-8 large

50g/ 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

20g/ 2 tbsps cream cheese (I used Tofutti)

75g/ 1/2 cup soft brown sugar

2 tbsps golden syrup

20ml/ 1.5 tbsps dairy-free milk

170g/ 1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 boiled sweet for each cookie

icing sugar

chocolate chips for the eyes

  1. Cream together the dairy-free margarine, dairy-free cream cheese, sugar, syrup and dairy-free milk
  2. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger
  3. Knead into a soft dough
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Stamp out a hole from each cookie.
  5. Place on a greased or lined (with non-stick baking paper) baking sheet and place a boiled sweet into each hole.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes at 190 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5 (10 minutes for soft, 12 for crisp)
  7. Cool on the sheet a little before transferring to a wire rack
  8. To make the reindeers, turn the gingerbread men on their heads and pipe on antlers and ears with icing, add chocolate chips for eyes.

Oreos – My Way and an issue with Tesco

 

I’m not sure if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook? (do follow the link in the sidebar if you’re interested). If you do, you might be aware of ‘cookie-gate’, with Tesco own brand Cookies and Cream Biscuits. If not, here’s a brief summery of the last nine months (it’s a very long and involved story so I won’t bore you with every detail)!

Oreos, the iconic American cream-filled cookies are vegan in the US, but for some bizarre reason they contain milk in the UK. However, Oreos seem to be everywhere, everyone eats them and my girls feel left out. Occasionally we’ll splash out on a ridiculously expensive imported US pack from somewhere like Urban Outfitters (oddly), but this is a very rare occurrence! So I was over the moon when I found the own brand Cookies and Cream biscuits in Tesco just before Christmas last year and couldn’t wait for us to taste test them.

Within seconds both girls had itchy mouths, tight throats and swelling lips. We administered antihistamine and everything was ok, but clearly there was something amiss with the ingredients in the cookies.

I contacted Tesco, returned the biscuits to store and an investigation took place. Well, they said an investigation took place. I was told that there were no nuts in the factory, and that milk didn’t produce that kind of allergic reaction (in their opinion milk allergy involves a stomach based reaction). That seemed the end of the matter for them, we hadn’t needed a doctor so I didn’t have any documents  to provide which they wanted for any escalation. Here’s a copy of the letter they sent…

Then months later in early summer I came across allergy forums where others had had reactions to the same biscuits, and most bizarrely had different responses from Tesco, first claiming that there were nuts used in the factory, then that milk was used on the same line but they cleaned thoroughly between, and finally last week the biscuits (all batches) were recalled because they do in fact contain milk!

We were shocked after being so clearly fobbed off to start with, and that they now admit the biscuits do contain milk which was undeclared (in fact denied). We’ve gone back to them for at least an explanation. I just hope that nobody had a serious reaction in the past months whilst the biscuits remained on sale.

So, to make up for ‘cookie-gate’, I have revamped and improved my Oreo recipe. Who needs shop bought when these are so so much nicer!

‘Oreos’

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

Makes approx. 24 sandwich biscuits

3/4 cup hard vegetable fat

1 cup of caster sugar

2 tsps vanilla extract

1/2 cup dairy-free milk

1and 1/2 cups plain flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tsps cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Filling

1/4 cup vegetable fat

1/4 cup dairy-free spread

2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Cream together the vegetable fat and sugar. When fluffy, add the dairy-free milk and vanilla. Mix well. If it looks like it’s split add a couple of tbsp of flour to the mix
  3. Sift in the remaining ingredients and bring together to a firm-ish dough.
  4. Place half on a sheet of baking paper, place more paper on top and roll out to 1/4-1/2cm thickness. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter and remove the ‘in between bits’. Transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on the tray for five minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  6. Repeat with remaining mixture until it’s all be used up.
  7. Meanwhile, make the filling. Whisk together the vegetable fat and dairy-free spread. Add the vanilla.
  8. Add the icing sugar in 1/2 cup measurements, until fully incorporated. It may look this breadcrumbs, so squeeze together to form a stiff paste.
  9. Roll out large grape size balls of filling and squish between two biscuits.

Homemade Dairy-free Digestive Biscuits

The latest in my ‘recreate a classic’ series, which I work on occasionally.

Digestives. We all know the digestive in the UK. They come as plain or chocolate covered. No plate of biscuits, selection box or office meeting is complete without a few of these tasty but wholesome biccies, and they’re normally the first to be eaten. There is something about the combination of wholewheat, and that sweet/salty balance which gives such a great all round flavour. Digestives are big hitters in the biscuit world.

It’s extremely difficult to come across dairyfree digestives. Doves Farm make some but otherwise they’re normally a no go for us. And that is how these experiments come about. How did mine turn out? Pretty close  I am happy to say. Dunk them if you are that way inclined (not me thanks!).

Dairy-free Digestive Biscuits

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

makes about 14

225g wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

100g icing sugar

120g dairy-free margarine

30ml dairy-free milk

50g dairy-free chocolate (for chocolate coated biscuits)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and icing sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  4. Stir in the milk and bring together to form a soft dough
  5. Using plenty of flour, roll out and stamp out circles.
  6. Place onto greaseproof paper and prick with a fork or skewer
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden.
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. For chocolate coated biscuits, melt the chocolate and spread over one side of the cooled biscuits, making an attractive pattern on top.

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.

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

 

Christmas Spiced Mini Shortbread Bites

 

vegan Christmas shortbread

I love the warm spices of Christmas, the gentle cosy hug of cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice. Not only do they make the house smell of Christmas while baking but they also make me feel like everything is right with the world. Well maybe that’s a bit much, but there’s definitely something emotionally warming with the subtle winters spices.

Since shortbread is such a great carrier of flavour and makes really yummy little biscuits I thought some spiced shortbread would go down a treat. I’ve made these extra Christmassy with red sprinkles and cut into bite sized morsels. They little sweet bites are perfect as a little snack with coffee, drinks or tea, or even as a homemade present. I think even Father Christmas might even like a few when he visits on Christmas Eve 🙂

egg-free, nut-free spiced shortbread

Christmas Spiced Mini Shortbread Bites

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

Christmas Spiced shortbread, dairy-free, egg-free

makes about 20

225g plain flour

75g soft brown sugar

150g dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/4 tsp salt

Christmassy sprinkles [optional]

  1. Heat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade/Gas mark 3
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment – Stir the sugar, spices and salt into the flour.
  3. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips (you need a light tough with shortbread). Squeeze together to form a crumbly dough.
  4. Roll out and then cover with the sprinkles. Roll out a little more and stamp out or cut out shapes. Place on the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Cool on a wire rack.

dairy-free Christmas shortbread