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.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Yogurt Loaf Cake

You might think that yogurt wouldn’t work in a dairy-free cake, but i’ve had great success using dairy-free yogurt to create a light and fluffy but also moist sponge.

This week’s inspiration was once again the Great British Bake Off, unfortunately they chose to make it dairy-week so i obviously had to flip that over into being non-dairy week! The choices were a cake including a cultured dairy-product, maids of hour or Mishhti (Indian sweets). neither Maids of Honour (custard tarts), or Mishti appealed so I went with the cultured dairy(free!) cake.

The beauty of using yogurt means the bicarb is activated without the need for any vinegar, giving a lovely delicate flavour that works well with this lemon and poppy seed version. The crumb is delicate but moist and would carry many flavour combinations with ease. This lemon is subtle (that was to encourage the youngest who isn’t a fan!) so if you like more lemon zing i would recommend adding a drizzle before the icing.

Lemon and Poppyseed Yogurt Cake

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

makes 1 loaf

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1 tbsp cornflour

2 tbsp poppy seeds

100g caster sugar

zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp lemon juice

100ml flavourless oil

125ml dairy-free yogurt

125ml dairy-free milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and line a loaf tin (I used a 2lb tin)
  2. Sift together the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt and cornflour.
  3. Stir in the sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds
  4. In a separate bowl mix together the oil, yogurt, lemon juice and milk. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to form a smooth batter
  5. Pour into the lined loaf tin, level off and bake for 45-55 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
  7. Drizzle with lemon syrup if you like it zingy
  8. Top with a water icing made with icing sugar and lemon juice

Wagamama – a truly great experience when eating out with allergies

I’m going to continue my ‘eating out with allergies’ series as it’s an area where I’m always looking for help and recommendations, so maybe my comments and reviews may help others too. Click on the ‘Eating Out’ tab for previous recommendations 🙂

I don’t know about you but eating out causes us some serious anxiety. Often we’ll think, oh wouldn’t it be nice to not have to cook for once and eat out instead. Then I spend ages trawling through the options online with the following thoughts running through my brain; ‘is there anything safe on offer, how seriously will they take our requirements, is it going to end badly, is it worth going out if it’s for something so simple and plain it would be easier to make it at home?’

More often than not we stick to one of our usual favoured chain restaurants which can seem more reliable in catering for allergies, or we just stay at home. Whilst it can be successful, the stress of trying a new location can simply be too much, tipping the meal from enjoyable to tense and uncomfortable. Little S often goes very quiet in restaurants, it’s like she isn’t at ease and is carrying a load of worries. Do any of you find this to?

Often the easiest and most relaxed way to guarantee a good safe meal is by staying at home, but that’s not so much fun….

When people first mentioned Wagamama as a good allergy friendly destination we inwardly scoffed – how could a Japanese style restaurant which actively sells a lot of food with sesame, peanuts and other nuts be suitable for us? So we dug our heels in and didn’t try it for ages. Then one opened near us and we took the plunge with Big S (just milk allergic so Japanese food is a fairly safe option) whilst Little S was on her first school residential (which had it’s own stresses, but that’s another story!)

Wow, were we impressed! The whole service is incredibly slick, and caters for allergies in a caring but professional manner. The manager is the only one who will take allergy orders, ensuring responsibility is taken by the person in charge and they always refer to the allergen menu which is a great reassurance. Big S can have a lot of items on the menu and now she’s a teen it’s fab to have a cool, safe and really popular restaurant she can head to with friends.

Little S’s options are fewer (free-from milk, eggs, peanuts and sesame) but still she can have an actual dish from the menu which is always fresh and tasty and doesn’t require us to bring bits from home, or for copious alterations to make it suitable. For reference Little S has the grilled chicken Katsu with Amai sauce and it’s been successful every time she’s had it (and that’s loads of times).

Children’s grilled chicken Katsu with Amai sauce

The only problem we’ve come across was the disappointment when the breadcrumbed chicken Katsu started to be cooked in the same oil as a dish containing cottage cheese, making it unsuitable if you have a dairy allergy. This was pointed out by a manager and then suddenly it all made sense why Big S had been sick a couple of times after eating the regular Katsu; there was a new dairy cross-contamination. This had been Big S’s favourite dish so she was mightily disappointed to forego her choice, but she’s got used to the grilled version now.

Grilled Chicken Katsu with sticky rice

Wagamama has grabbed with relish the rising popularity of vegan food and created an entire veggie and vegan menu, giving plant-based spins on their traditional favourites. This is a big bonus for me as a vegetarian as I’m more used to very little choice when eating out.

Vegetarian Yasai Katsu

So all in all, Wagamama is now a family favourite, relied upon for a safe and tasty restaurant experience. So much so we even visited a branch in Holland when we were struggling for safe options! If you haven’t, I’d recommend you to give it a go, it’s so nice not to have to cook every day!

Children’s Menu

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.

 

 

Light Fruit Cake in the style of a Genoa Cake or a French Cake aux Fruits

Sometimes I find inspiration is lacking and I find it hard to come up with new ideas – well, there are over 700 unique recipes on my site! Then along comes a whole season of inspiration in the form of the Great British Bake Off. It’s such a feel-good programme when there is so much doom and gloom in the news, that it adds a touch of good natured homely fun to each Tuesday evening. I have tried to bake along for the past few years, but my plans have often gone awry. This year, however, I’m really going to try to keep it up and provide you lovely people with a new friendly Bake Off inspired recipe each week.

For Week 1: cake week; the three bakes were fruit cake, Angel cake slices and a childhood themed showstopper. It’s still the school summer holidays so the showstopper was out of the question (not enough time!), angel cake slices have so far eluded me as genoise sponge is so egg heavy I’ve never been able to recreate an egg-free version. I do hope to get there one day (bear with me!), but for now the fruit cake was the right choice for me.

I don’t often make fruit cakes (except at Christmas) as my children can’t stand dried fruit, but I have a fondness for an occasional slice, especially if it’s the lighter styles, I’m no fan a dark heavy dense fruit cake!

This lovely light fruit loaf is inspired by French-style or Genoa cake recipes and gives a wonderful delicate but fruity cake. Delicious freshly baked, or lightly toasted the next day 🙂

Light Genoa Fruit Cake

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

makes 1 loaf cake

100g glace cherries

50g dates, stoned and roughly chopped

50g raisins

50g currants

1 tbsps brandy (or apple juice)

1 tsp cherry syrup (optional)

175g plain flour

1/2 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

35g dairy-free margarine

zest of 1 lemon

85g light Muscovado sugar

150ml dairy-free milk, warmed to hand hot temperature

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin
  2. Pour the brandy/apple juice over the dried fruit and leave to steep for at least half an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and mixed spice. Add the lemon zest.
  5. Rub in the dairy-free margarine, until the mix looks like fine breadcrumbs
  6. Stir in the sugar, and the dried fruits
  7. Add the bicarb to the warm milk and stir until dissolved
  8. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough
  9. Turn into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn the cake around and continue to bake for a further 15, or until a knife comes out clean.
  10. Cool on a wire rack.
  11. For added moisture pour over 1 tbsp extra brandy mixed with 1 tsp cherry syrup if you have any.
  12. Once cool brush with nappage (warmed equal parts apricot jam mixed with water) and decorate with extra halves place cherries