Pain Perdu aka French Toast

Pain perdu, French toast, gypsy toast, eggy bread – whatever you call it, this dish is a brilliant one to have in your repertoire. Basically, it’s a batter soaked stale bread made into a sweet or savoury dish, perfect for a quick breakfast, brunch, lunch, pudding or snack. Plus it’s a great way to use up some state bread, you can’t argue with a recipe that does that!

I’ve been attending a plant-based patisserie course to extend my knowledge and I’ve learnt so much, it’s been just brilliant and it’s really going to enhance my recipes 😊 

Last week we made brioche with no butter or eggs – I’ve made a brioche before but the techniques I’ve recently learnt give a much improved rich, but light result and it was the perfect bread to turn into a platter of pain perdu. Like many home baked breads, it went stale fast – making it the perfect vehicle for this new improved recipe.

Dairy-free and egg-free brioche

Don’t worry if you don’t have homemade plant-based brioche on hand (I’m sure not many people will!), any slightly stale sliced bread will do. You’d think you might miss the eggs in an ‘eggy bread’ recipe, but as the principle is soaking the bread in a batter (and pancakes work pretty well being egg-free), this recipe is equally successful. In fact, this recipe just uses some leftovers (stale bread) plus a few store cupboard essentials to combine to make a rather superior dish. If you don’t have any stale bread, just cut some slices an hour or so early and leave out to air dry and you’re good to go.

I’ve flavoured my batter with cinnamon but you don’t have to if you’d rather no spice, or vanilla would be rather lovely too. Serve your pain perdu with berries, a sprinkle of icing sugar and a squeeze of honey or syrup for a delightful quick and easy sweet treat.

Pain Perdu

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

30g flour

20g cornflour

30g caster sugar

½ tsp cinnamon (optional)

Pinch of salt

120g dairy-free milk

6-8 slices of slightly stale bread

  1. Sift the flour and cornflour into a shallow bowl, stir in the sugar, salt and cinnamon (if using).
  2. Pour in 1/3rd of the milk whisking together to make a paste, then add the rest in two further additions. This helps avoid lumps forming in the batter – you can of course add the milk in one go if you’re not so bothered about a few small lumps! Let the batter rest for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Place a frying pan on the heat to warm up.
  4. Place the bread slices in the batter, letting them soak up the batter for a couple of minutes before turning over and making sure both sides are drenched in batter.
  5. Melt a knob of vegan butter or 1 tsp of oil in the pan. Drop in a drip of the batter, if it sizzles then you’re ready to add the batter soaked bread
  6. Fry the slices until golden on each side.
  7. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and drizzled with syrup. A garnish of berries is also rather nice.

Vanilla Sprinkle Cookies (with or without a chocolate cream filling)

Yay, it’s Spring at last. Suddenly there’s light, warmth and colour popping up all over the place. If feels like a new start and I have this urge to add colour and flavour to my bakes.

I’ve got some exciting ideas with raspberry and lemon, but first up are these fun, extremely happy and colourful vanilla sprinkle cookies. How could a batch of these not make you smile and improve your day? Great as they are on their own, and they really are delicious, you can always make them even better with a wonderfully chocolate cream filling. Surely a filling improves any cookie, and with the sprinkle decoration and the chocolate heavy centre you’ve got a match made in heaven. These cookies do spread out quite a bit in the baking so mine are large, if you want to make small versions make the balls of dough olive sized and reduce the baking to around 8 minutes

 

Vanilla Sprinkle Cookies (with or without a chocolate cream filling)

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

 

Makes 10-12

112g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

155g plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

Quite a lot of sprinkles – I used half a tube!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment
  3. In a large bowl cream together the margarine, sugar and vanilla until well combined and lighter in colour.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt and mix to form a soft dough.
  5. Break off walnut sized pieces and roll in a bowl of sprinkles until totally covered
  6. Place well-spaced apart on the lined baking sheet
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until starting to turn golden.
  8. Let firm up on the baking tray and then move to a wire rack to fully cool
  9. Eat as they are or fill with the delicious chocolate cream (recipe below)

 

Chocolate Cream

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-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.
  2. Stir in the melted chocolate.

Sensational Scones

You’ve got to love scones; light, fluffy, just sweet enough and the perfect carrier for a delicious topping. No proper afternoon tea is right without a batch of warm scones, and this recipe always goes down a storm. You can even freeze them, defrost, pop into the oven for a couple of minutes and then you can have an elegant afternoon tea in a flash.

When we had our stressful tea at Pan Pacific we met Cherish Finden and she said that scones were the most difficult thing to recreate free-from. Now these aren’t gluten-free (but I know others who make them gluten-free), but I can assure you that these are just as good as a traditional scone. Go on, give them a go and let me know what you think?


The most crucial part of scone making is a light touch – you must add air whilst rubbing in the margarine and definitely no kneading! Just very lightly bring together the dough and you’ll have some sensational scones. Just add some jam and dairy-free whipped cream and you can have a sensational tea at home.


Sensational Scones

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

  • makes 10-12
    • 450g plain flour
    • 3 tsps baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 75g dairy-free margarine
    • 70g soft brown sugar
    • 300ml dairy-free milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
    • 2 tbsp Demerara or granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the salt. Stir in the sugar.
  3. With your fingertips, gently rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and vanilla essence (if using).
  5. Bring together to a very soft, sticky dough. Turn onto a floured surface and very gently bring together to a soft, smooth dough.
  6. Pat out with your fingers until 3 cm thick.– Cut out with a well-floured 6cm cookie cutter (or whatever size you choose)
  7. Place on an oiled and floured baking sheet. Brush the tops with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with Demerara or granulated sugar.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top.– Cool on a wire rack.

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

These are not just any cupcakes, these are the very best chocolate cupcakes. A deep chocolate flavoured light and fluffy sponge, topped with a rich and intense chocolate buttercream, even Marks & Spencer’s would market these as the best! If you’re stuck a home today due to the massive storm, you might want to make these (you’ll likely have all the ingredients in) and cheer everyone up.

I’ve got out of the habit of making cupcakes; I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I don’t so often cook for whole classes of children anymore. I used to bake a sweet treat for the girls classes every Friday when they were in junior school, now it’s more like once a term and cookies often trump cupcakes because they’re so much easier to transport. But there is nothing like a good cupcake, and these double chocolate delights are a class above. 

This recipe serves 6 or so, just the right amount for a houseful on a Friday night after school, but you could easily multiply the recipe if you have more to feed – after all, no-one would want to miss one of these!

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

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

 

Makes 6-8 cupcakes

150ml dairy-free milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g dairy-free margarine, melted

140g self-raising flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. In a jug combine the milk, lemon juice, vanilla (if using) and bicarb. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dairy-free margarine, set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa and salt. Stir in the sugar
  5. Pour the melted margarine into the milk mixture and give it a good stir. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together to form a smooth batter. 
  6. 2/3rds fill each cupcake liner and bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

 For the chocolate buttercream:

enough to generously cover the 6-8 cupcakes in the recipe above

75g dairy-free margarine

250g icing sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

½ tbsp dairy-free milk

 

  1. Whisk the margarine until it is light and fluffy
  2. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and dairy-free milk and whisk until you have a light buttercream.
  3. Pipe or spread a generous amount onto the top of each cooled cupcake

Iced Buns

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2014 photo!

Here we have another updated recipe. I rarely make Iced Buns but this has been another recipe that has gathered a lot of great comments and likes over the years, so it needed revisiting, updating and embellishing with some shiny new photos! (Although I have kept one of the previous photos just for my own nostalgia – haven’t cameras improved over the past years!)

Iced buns, viewed in the window of any English bakery, are a must for a collection of comfort food. For some reason they make me think of roaring fires and cosy knitwear – odd I know! Apparently some iced buns found in supermarkets are dairy-free, but I’ve never found any that are also nut-free – if you know of any safe brands please let me know?

Anyway, these iced buns are the perfect tea time treat, and this recipe will give you authentic but friendly buns to please your friends and family. They certainly go down a treat in this house 🙂

Iced Buns 

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

makes 6

  • 150ml dairy-free milk
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 260g strong bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3g or 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 50g caster sugar

for the icing:

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water

– Melt the margarine into the milk (don’t make it more than tepid though)
– Place the flour, salt, yeast and caster sugar in a bowl and pour in the warmed milk and margarine mixture.
– Bring to a dough and knead until smooth and bounces back when you press a finger onto the surface.
– Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to double in size in a warm place.
– Divide into 6 even sized pieces and form into balls, then roll out to sausage shapes, trying to make them nice and even.
– Place about 1cm apart on a lined baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes
– Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade/180 degrees fan, or gas mark 4
– Bake for 15 minutes until golden, risen and they sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

– Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and water to form a very thick, smooth icing. Start by adding 1 tbsp of water and gradually add more as required.
– Once the buns are cool top with the thick water icing.

Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf

A good banana loaf recipe is a winning addition to any baking repertoire, and this update of a 2013 recipe, it’s one you definitely need in your life. I have others, but this loaf is a cut above the rest with the additions of Lotus Caramelised spread (you could use peanut butter), roasted bananas and large chunks of rich, dark chocolate. By all means use nuts or dried fruit instead of the chocolate, or even just leave them out, it will still work nicely, but make sure you roast the bananas for that extra special banana flavour. That’s the key to this one.

This is a beautiful loaf just plain, but if you want a bit of pizazz then i’d recommend either a water icing drizzle, or the extra special biscoff drizzle.

Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

IMG_4054

makes 1 2lb loaf

  • 100ml or 1/2 cup oat milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 125g or 1 cup plain flour
  • 85g or 3/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp flourless oil, I use sunflower
  • 2 medium roasted bananas, mashed
  • 75g or 1/3 cup Lotus caramelised spread
  • 50 g or 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (optional)
  • glaze: icing sugar and water, or 1 tbsp biscoff spread, 3 tbsp icing sugar and 1 tbsp water whisked til smooth

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4

– Halve the bananas lengthways and roast for 20-30 minutes. Mash and cool.

– Line or grease a 2 lb loaf tin

– Add the lemon juice to the oat milk and set aside.

– Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar.

– Add the bananas, caramelised spread and oil to the oat milk mix. Stir well

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the chopped chocolate (if using) and gently stir to make sure they’re evenly distributed.

– Fill the loaf tin with the mix.

– Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and a knife comes out clean.

– Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

– Drizzle with a simple water icing.

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Samosa Santa’s Sacks

I used to make Santa’s sacks for the girls every year in the run up to Christmas. Back when they were much younger with less sophisticated taste buds I made them filled with mashed potato and sweetcorn to represent the gold coins/toys in Santa’s sack. Every year they’d eagerly await the roll out of Christmas cooking with iced gingerbread, yule log and Santa’s sacks all top of the wish list!

 Whilst they still get the same excitement from the introduction of Christmas foods, this year I’ve decided to make Santa’s sacks more flavourful, and worthy of starter position in our Christmas lunch. We love homemade samosas, so I’ve filled the little parcels with a gorgeous curried pea and potato mix and I am going to serve them with a swoosh of mango chutney. If you don’t want to make sacks the filling makes a fabulous traditional samosas which can be baked and then frozen to reheat at a later date.

Another great starter for Christmas day are my cauliflower cocktails (a.k.a. veggie prawn cocktails), especially if you like a slightly retro vibe! What starters are you having on the big day?

Samosa Santa’s Sacks

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

Makes about 15-20

2 baking potatoes

1 tbsp oil

1 onion, finely shopped

1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

3cm ginger, finely chopped or grated

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp garam masala

¼ tsp chilli powder (optional)

½ tsp amchoor (or use 1 tsp lemon juice)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp water

1 cup cooked peas

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

1 pack filo pastry

 see the photos below for the processes…

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade non fan/180 degrees fan. Bake the two potatoes for an hour or so until totally cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions and mustard seeds until starting to turn golden. Add the ginger and continue to sauté. 
  3. Add all the spices and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the water and stir, turn off the heat.
  4. Scoop the potato out of the jackets and roughly mash. Stir in the onion mix and add the cooked peas. Mix well and taste, adding more salt and/or lemon juice as required
  5. Cut the filo into squares about 15cm squared. Place one sheet on the work surface, brush with the margarine, place another square onto at an angle so it looks vaguely star shaped. Brush with the margarine.
  6. Place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of the filo star, bring up the edges and pinch together to form a parcel shape. Transfer to a baking sheet and brush with more melted margarine. Repeat until all the filling has been used up.
  7. Either chill at this point and cook later. Or, bake for 15 minutes until golden and crisp. Tie a chive around the neck of the sack if you wish and then serve with condiments of choice.

Nut-free Pecan Pie

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? For us it’s familiar from cinema but not in real life. But I find celebrations are always a great source of inspiration, and I felt that it would be a good way to grab some inspiration before we’re full steam ahead in the preparations for Christmas!

I was researching recipes to recreate for a friendly Thanksgiving and came across a pecan pie. Then a little light bulb went on, don’t pretzels looks a little like pecans? Well, maybe it just me that’s seen that connection! Perhaps, I could recreate all the yumminess of a pecan pie with no nuts? I really wasn’t sure it would work, but it seems people have made dairy and egg free pecan pies, so if I add that concept to my pretzel instead of pecan idea, then we might have a plan!

First I needed some sweet pastry, but I also wanted some added flavour (without added nuts), so I’ve included some blitzed up Biscoff biscuit crumbs to add a sweet spicy taste. It actually works wonderfully. Who’d have thought biscuit crumbs in a pastry dough would be a good idea.

The filling is loosely based upon the vegan pecan pie recipes I found during my research – combining silken tofu with soft brown sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon. Plus some added crushed pretzels for crunch.

The resulting pretzel ‘pecan’ pie has worked far better than I expected; the filling is sweet but spicy with a good texture and the topping of pretzels gives a salty crunch which contrasts brilliantly. I urge you to give this nut, egg and dairy free ‘pecan’ pie a go, hopefully you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as we were, even our American guest approved. 🙂 I might even be tempted to pretend we celebrate Thanksgiving just to bake another one this week!

Biscoff Sweet Pastry

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

 Makes 1 tart case

 

150g plain flour

50g Biscoff biscuits (about 6) blitzed to a powder

40g icing sugar

Pinch of salt

45g vegetable fat

45g dairy-free margarine

4-6 tsp cold water

 

  1. Mix together the flour, salt, biscuit crumbs and icing sugar
  2. Rub in the fats until you have a texture that resembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Add the cold water, 1 tsp at a time to form a dough, knead lightly until you have a smooth ball.
  4. Between 2 sheets of baking paper, roll out so it’s big enough to cover the tart tin. Place in the fridge and chill well (the colder the better)
  5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  6. Line the tart tin with the pastry, if it cracks (it’s delicate dough) just press some dough into any gaps. Fill with parchment and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans, prick the base with a fork and bake for another 10 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool.

 

Nut-free Pean Pie

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

 Fills one tart case

 

200g silken tofu

150g soft brown sugar

100ml maple syrup

2 tbsp flavourless oil

1 and ½ tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp cornflour

44g pretzels (this was 2 mini bags but around 40-50g is a good amount)

 

  1. Melt the sugar, syrup and oil together until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Cool.
  2. Blend together the tofu with all the ingredients except the pretzels, until you have a smooth mixture. Roughly crush have the pretzels and stir through
  3. Pour into the tart case and top with the remaining pretzels
  4. Bake at 170 degrees Centigrade for around 45 minutes Keep an eye on the pastry, if it starts getting too dark, loosely cover with foil
  5. Leave to cool. The texture firms up over time and I’d say next day is perfect.

No bake cookies and cream cheesecake

Cheesecake, albeit a dairy-free version is the most popular pudding in this household, in fact it’s always been one of my favourites ever since I was a child, however our preference is always a no-bake version. The close textured, some might say cleggy consistency of the baked version is less to my taste, whereas the no bake type has a freshness that I particularly like. It’s also a breeze to make which is always a bonus!

We always preferred Tofutti for cheesecakes as the texture and subtle sweetness was exactly right, but sadly we haven’t been able to buy any in the UK for a couple of years. We tried to make do with other brands for a while but they were never quite right, often with too much of a fake cheesy flavour for our liking. However, since Oatly have released their creamy spread we have a firm new favourite. In my opinion it’s a fantastic creamy cheese alternative, mild yet creamy and a brilliant spread to use in a cheesecake. Combine this with dairy-free whippable cream and you have a cheesecake with the texture of clouds – utterly divine.

Another fairly new find has been the Tesco free-from bourbons – Little S used to love Tesco bourbon biscuits so much but they sadly changed the recipe and they now have a sesame warning, which is too much of a risk for Little S so we have to avoid her favourite biscuits – sad days 😦

Luckily, Tesco have produced a new free-from version, they’re not quite the same but a pretty good substitute and they’ve made us very happy. Combined these crushed up chocolate cookies with the cloud like cheesecake mix and you have a heavenly dessert. Go on, make it this bank holiday weekend and you’ll have some very happy family or guests 🙂

No Bake Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

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

makes 1 cake

200g cookies, 150g finely crushed for the base 50g roughly crushed for the filling and topping

50g dairy-free margarine

4-5tbsp icing sugar, to taste

1 tub Oatly creamy spread

I carton whippable oatly cream

  1. Crush the cookies, trying to keep some a little bigger for mine through the cheesecake. Place 150g of the crushed cookies into a bowl, add the melted margarine and stir. Press into the bottom of a tin (springform is easiest) and place in the fridge to set
  2. Whip the Oatly whipping cream until it is the texture of whipped cream, add the icing sugar and creamy spread and whip until it’s all beautifully combined.
  3. Take a few spoonfuls aside and place into a piping bag if you wish to decorate with rosettes.
  4. Fold the remaining crushed cookies into the cheesecake. Spoon onto the chilled base and smooth over. Place in the fridge for at least half an hour to set.
  5. Remove the tin and decorate with any remaining cookie crumbs and rosettes of whipped cream.
  6. This cheesecake keeps in the fridge for about 3 days

Sticky Marmalade Cake

Have you been making marmalade? It seems like the thing to do in January. The Seville oranges hit the shelves after Christmas and then suddenly everyone is making marmalade. 
I jumped onto the marmalade bandwagon and made some rather tart but tasty grapefruit marmalade this year and have ended up with so many jars that I’m not quite sure what to do with it all. But it is a very rewarding and thrifty thing to make, with just a few citrus fruits, a ton of sugar and some water and you end up copious amounts of the sticky orange stuff. I used 3 grapefruits and 2 lemons and have ended up with 7 jars of Paddington’s favourite!
In usual times I’d give the jars to friends and family, but as you can’t really see anyone right now and everyone is simply stuck at home, the pantry shelves are groaning with jars of freshly made marmalade! So it is officially operation use up the marmalade. Obviously it’s great on toast, works well in marinades and sauces or for when you want a sweet dish to not be too sweet, such as in a cake or biscuits. 

This marmalade cake is a fantastic combination of sweet sponge with the bitter hints of marmalade running through it, topped with a sweet icing which also has a bitter marmalade edge. You might say it’s a more grown up kind of cake, one that is more akin to accompanying a cup of tea than to a children’s tea party.

Sticky Marmalade Cake

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

makes 1 loaf cake

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1 tbsp cornflour

100g caster sugar

1 tbsp orange or lemon juice

100ml flavourless oil

100ml dairy-free yogurt

125ml dairy-free milk

4 tbsp marmalade

for the icing:

100g icing sugar

1 tbsp warm water

1 tbsp marmalade

  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. Stir in the sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the oil, yogurt, lemon juice, milk and marmalade. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to form a smooth batter (there will obviously be some lumps from the peel in the marmalade)
  4. Pour into the lined loaf tin, level off and bake for 45-55 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Mix together the icing ingredients and drizzle over the cake adding a few extra pieces of marmalade peel