Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

I’ve seen a lot of tempting bakes using candy canes this winter. There’s something about the eye catching red and white stripes that really sand out and make these bakes look all the more tempting.

I initially had visions of rolling chocolate truffles in crushed up candy canes but sadly the canes were a bit too soft and sticky once crushed and it didn’t work out. Then this idea popped into my mind – dark, cocoa rich cookies dipped in snowy white chocolate and then sprinkled with the crushed up candy canes. It turns out that it was a great idea – the flavours really work – bitter, sweet, smooth with crunchy bits that have a hint of peppermint. A bit like an after eight mint in cookie form! These could now be one of my favourite festive after dinner treats. 

For those who are less keen on a minty flavour profile, then these work just as well as simple white chocolate dipped chocolate cookies and decorated with some pretty sprinkles.

Chocolate and Candy Cane Biscuits

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

 

makes 15-20

  • 115g or 1 cup of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsps cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of baking powder
  • 55g or 1/4 cup hard vegetable fat 
  • 55g or 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine 
  • 100g or 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • 30g dairy-free white chocolate
  • 1-2 candy canes, crushed and/or Christmas themed decorations
  1.  Sift together the flour, cocoa, cornflour, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters, small rectangles work well.
  5. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes
  6. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  7. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie and half dip each cookie into the melted chocolate
  8. Place back onto the lined baking sheet, sprinkle with decorations or crushed up candy canes and leave to set

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pâte de Fruits (Fruit Jellies)

I’ve always loved to make homemade sweets, and as pate de fruits are such an essential part of Christmas (especially for the French side of the family) these homemade fruit jellies are the perfect addition to my 12 days of Christmas.

If you’re not familiar with pate de fruits they’re a fruity jelly sweet, like a soft fruit pastille, covered in sugar. Made with fruit juice, sugar and pectin they’re naturally vegetarian and allergy friendly despite being not particularly healthy. But then again it’s Christmas and it’s time for luxury and indulgence.

Making homemade sweets seems like the height of luxury and difficult techniques, but these are super simple and you end up with some beautiful 100% natural pure fruit pastilles. One batch makes enough for well over 50 jellies, making it easy to have some for our Christmas treats as well as an addition to my homemade hampers. As long as they’re kept in an airtight container they will keep for months.

This recipe is adapted from the fabulous book on preserving by Pam the Jam. I’d thoroughly recommend seeking it out if you enjoy delicious and exciting preserving. I’ve chosen a combination of pomegranate and grenadine as it felt suitably festive and packs a punch of flavour, but you can easily swap any juice you’d like.

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pate de Fruits

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

makes 50-100 jellies

500ml pure pomegranate juice

juice of 1 lime

3 tbsp grenadine

450g granulated sugar

15g pectin

75g glucose syrup

1 tsp flavourless oil

  1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment
  2. Pour the juices and syrup into a deep saucepan.
  3. Stir the pectin powder into half of the sugar. Sprinkle over the juice and stir, heating gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar, the glucose syrup and oil. Let the sugar dissolve. Then bring to a rolling boil.
  5. You want the temperature to reach 108 degrees Centigrade. This will take 10-15 minutes and you will notice the bubbles changing as the mixture heats. Be sure to scrape down the sides whilst the mixture is bubbling.
  6. As soon as it reached 108 degrees Centigrade, take the pan off the heat and pour into the lined tin.
  7. Leave to cool, then cover with baking parchment. Once fully cold and set cut into pretty shapes. Squares or triangles are the most efficient but I like using mini cookie cutters to stamp out little shapes.
  8. Roll each shape in caster sugar and then store in an airtight container until ready to eat.

Dairy-free Summer Berry Fro-Yo

Wow, what a scorcher! It’s sweltering here so we need as much cooling down as possible. In the UK we’re not really set up for true heat, so rather than having the benefit of air conditioning everywhere, we’ve got to get by with cold drinks and doing as little hot cooking as possible.

While there are so many fantastic dairy-free ice creams available these days (how things have changed in the past 10 years or so!), sometimes you need something a bit lighter and fresher. This simple three ingredient summer berry ‘fro-yo’ is light, refreshing, and yet creamy and utterly delicious. It takes only minutes to prepare followed by a couple of hours in the freezer, and there you have the perfect refreshing summer pudding.

Not only does it involve just three ingredients but they are ones that that you are likely to have in,  which means a beautiful frozen dessert is always within reach. By all means use any frozen fruit you have to hand, but the tartness of the berries gives an extra cooling tang which is welcome on a mid-30 degrees kind of day!

Dairy-free Summer Berry Fro-Yo

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

serves 4

250g frozen berries

2-4 tbsps icing sugar

1 tbsp water

250g dairy-free yogurt, ideally Greek style

  1. In a food processor or high speed blender blitz together the frozen berries and icing sugar and 1 tbsp water. You will end up with a granular paste.
  2. Add the Greek-style yogurt and blitz until smooth and uniform. Freeze for an hour. Stir and freeze for another hour. Easy, no? Enjoy 😊

 

 

Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cake

I have a particular nostalgic fondness for vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream. It may be an unusual combination but it’s one my mum used to make for birthday cakes; I particularly remember a wonderful hedgehog cake decorated with mini chocolate flakes! I do urge you to give it a go, it may be unconventional but vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream totally works. The dark bitterness of the chocolate tempers the sweet sponge and the colour contrast adds to the delight.

There are a lot of so-so egg and dairy-free cake recipes out there, particularly vanilla flavoured ones. So often they can be a bit crumbly and dry, or worse flat and rubbery. I’m obviously not counting my own recipes in that assessment (ha ha!) but I have come across some depressingly bad specimens over the years. There is a tendency for vegan cakes to be ‘ok’ rather than delicious, particularly shop bought versions. This vanilla sponge on the other hand is utterly perfect – it’s light and fluffy, but in no way dry and crumbly. It’s so good you’d be forgiven for questioning whether it is vegan! The custard powder is crucial for giving a wonderful crumb and vanilla flavour but if you can’t find it (not all is dairy-free so make sure you check) you can sub cornflour and an extra tsp of vanilla.

Perfect Chocolate and Vanilla Cake

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

makes one sandwich cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder

220g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

290ml dairy-free milk

2 tbsps dairy-free yogurt

100g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine, yogurt and vanilla.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool in the cake tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack

for the chocolate buttercream:

40g dairy-free margarine

15g vegetable fat such as Trex

300g icing sugar

30g cocoa powder

2 and 1/2 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together all the ingredients to make a smooth and fluffy icing
  2. Sandwich the cakes together with the icing and then cover the entire cake with the remaining icing.
  3. Cover with a generous amount of sprinkles

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.

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels – (with a savoury variation too)

I’ve always meant to make pretzels but never got round to it, until now! I’m doing a lockdown cookbook challenge lockdowncookbookchallenge on Instagram whereby one of us picks a random cookbook from the shelves and I have to cook at least two recipes from it. Why don’t you join? it’s really fun, a great way to get inspiration and the nudge you need to dip into some of those less used cookbooks.

One of the recent picks was Scandilicious by Signe Johansen, its a cookbook I really like but one that I haven’t picked up in years. By dipping in I can immediately remember recipes I’ve tried and see the ones I’ve page marked but never got round to trying. It’s a great way to fire up that imagination. Pretzels was just one of those and so here is my adapted recipe, made into a sweet sugar and cinnamon coated creation to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Think the taste of a doughnut but in a healthier, slightly chewier format – delicious!

I’ve added a tip at the end to make savoury pretzels too – I made a batch of 12 and had 4 sweet, 4 salty and 4 coated in poppy seeds – combining a sweet treat with some lovely fresh rolls and freeze brilliantly – win win! 🙂

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

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

makes 12

500g strong bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp fast action dried yeast

2 tbsp maple syrup or golden syrup

1 tbsp oil

250-300ml water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

(for savoury, generous sprinkling of crystal sea salt or a  handful of poppy seeds)

  1. Pour the flour and salt into a bowl, add the yeast.
  2. Pour in the syrup, oil and 250-300ml water, bring together to a soft but not sticky dough and then knead until silky smooth and bouncy. This will take up to 10 minutes. Cover and leave to prove. You want the dough to double in size and this will take 1-2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade fan/220 degrees non fan
  4. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces roll into loose balls, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Take each ball, roll into a sausage shape and then twist into a pretzel knot. Keep the made knots covered with a tea towel.
  6. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, pour in the bicarb and then add the pretzel knots in threes cooking for 30 seconds on each side. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet. Continue until all the knots have been boiled in the bicarb mix.
  7. For savoury pretzels sprinkle them whilst they are still damp with the salt and/or poppy seeds. For sweet leave ungarnished.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they have risen and have a lovely burnished bronzed appearance.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  10. To make the sweet pretzels: mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Brush each cooled pretzel with melted margarine and then roll in the cinnamon suagr until they are completely coated. Eat as soon as possible and try not to lick your lips!