Dotty Cookies

Delicious syrup flavoured soft (or crunchy) cookies studded with colourful chocolate beans (a.k.a Smarties), these must surely be the most cheerful cookies around, and just perfect to celebrate the first signs of spring.

Is it just me, or has this winter been endless? I can’t even imagine not wearing a coat and sunshine seems to have been a rare occurrence for such a long time. Whilst I love the cosiness of Winter, I’m seriously craving a bit of light and heat, and seeing the leaves and blossom appear on the trees. Spring, we’re ready for you!

I’ve spent years trying to source ‘safe’ Smarties. Ages ago we could buy ‘Whizzers’ which were a variety of safe colourful chocolate beans and definitely filled the cheerful chocolate hole. Sadly they were discontinued and we’ve had no readily available alternative for a long long time. Sad days 😦

To my delight, I’ve recently come across two new varieties which are occasionally available in the UK. Chocolate No-No’s, made by No Whey Chocolates based in the US and Colourful Chocolate Beans made by Clarana in Germany. Chocolate No-No’s are my preference as they are top 8 free, whereas the Clarana beans are made in a factory which uses peanuts, milk, almonds and nuts and so poses a risk we’re not willing to take. They are the more authentic in taste and look so if you’re happy with a ‘may contain’ then they are probably the ones to opt for.

You may think it rather foolhardy to use two packs of these expensive and hard to source chocolate beans in a cookie recipe? Maybe, but i’ve wanted to make my own version of these colourful and full of fun cookies for such a long time, it seemed like a good use of this scare resourse. They remind me of the Spotty Cookies which always used to be sold in cafes and soft-play centres when my girls were tiny. I’d always see them admiring the pretty dotty cookies and feel sad that i had to hand over a boring box of raisins or some rice cakes instead. It may have been a wait but here is my Dotty Cookie recipe. The chocolate beans seem to remain slightly melted inside for a fair few hours which is a wonderful contrast to the crunchy sugar shell. These were gone in no time, so whilst it may have been a long wait, it was most definitely worth it!

If you don’t want to waste your smarties, these cookies work equally well with chocolate chips instead.

Dotty Cookies

(free-from milk, eggs, nuts, soya, sesame, vegetarian and vegan)

makes about 12

125g dairy-free margarine

80g caster sugar

3 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

180g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

approx. 100g chocolate beans [you’ll want 6 per cookie]

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/180 degrees Centigrade Fan Oven. Grease two cookie sheets and set aside
  2. Cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the syrup and vanilla.
  3. Sift in the flour , bicarbonate, baking powder and salt. Mix to form a soft dough.
  4. Roll into balls the size of ping pongs and gently flatten onto the baking tray
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and press the smarties into the top of the cookies, 6 per cookie is ideal.
  7. Return to the oven for minutes. Cool briefly on the trays before transferring to a wire rack.
  8. For a crunchier cookie, change the cooking times to 12 minutes plus another 2 with the beans on.

 

 

Tiramisu

Tiramisu has been on my list of ‘must recreate’ dishes for a really long time. I always really liked the coffee creaminess of tiramisu and it’s a pudding that I miss, although I think it fell slightly out of fashion in general.

I’ve been mulling over how to recreate the mascarpone and cream combo for ages. Cashews seem a popular choice to create a ‘cheesy’ alternative but we’re really not great fans. Even though Little S can now eat cashew nuts, I think soaked and blended cashews seem to only make a creamy nutty paste, which just isn’t quite right in my book. So I definitely wasn’t going to go down the cashew route. In my opinion coconut is similar in that it leaves behind an overpowering coconutty flavour and I didn’t want my tiramisu to have any unexpected coconutty taste. I was aiming for as authentic as possible a recreation, and I think this version is it.

Out of everyone who tasted my tiramisu the only comments that could improve it were that it needed more intense coffee flavour and some masala heat. I actually left out the masala as I was making it for the entire family (use vanilla if you don’t wish to use alcohol) and I used decaffeinated coffee and not quite enough of it. I know where I went wrong, but the recipe below has the mistakes corrected, but you may wish to add a splash more masala or soak the sponge for longer in stronger coffee to get an extra coffee and alcohol hit. The creaminess needs those strong flavours.

Rather than recreating the ladies fingers I baked a vanilla sponge and sliced it before dunking in the coffee. The resulting effect is spot on for tiramisu. The mascarpone and cream filling is a combination of sweetened soya cream cheese and soya whipping cream. This produces a cream which is both light and airy but with an extra richness and a greater stability. Once set in the fridge this Tiramisu lasts up to 3 or 4 days which is perfect as it does make a substantial quantity.

Tiramisu

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan. N.B. contains soya)

serves 10-12

for the sponge:

200g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a shallow baking tin with parchment
  3. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, bicarb, lemon, vanilla and oil.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combines.
  6. Pour into the lined tin and level off and bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

for the cream filling:

200ml dairy-free whipping cream

100ml dairy-free cream cheese

4 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tbsp masala wine (more if you wish)

  1. Whip the cream until light and fluffy, then add the cream cheese and sugar and whip until fully incorporated. Add the flavouring and whip again.

To assemble:

 1/2 cup freshly brewed espresso or very strong instant coffee

1-2 tbsp cocoa powder

  1. Slice the sponge into fingers and dunk in some freshly brewed strong coffee. The longer it’s absorbing, the stronger the coffee flavour
  2. Layer the ingredients into decorative bowls or a large rectangular serving dish.
  3. Start with soaked sponge, then a layer of the creamy cheese mixture and then a layer of cocoa powder. Repeat twice and finish with a heavy dusting of cocoa powder.
  4. Leave to set in the fridge and when ready to serve, slice into neat squares.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Valentines Day! I hope you are all enjoying spending time with your loved ones and have received little signs of appreciation for your love.

In honour of St Valentine’s Day and all things red, and to show some appreciation to all my lovely followers here is a red velvet cupcake recipe. I haven’t posted a cupcake recipe for an age, despite them always being one of my most requested baked items. I guess it’s the fact that when you have a cupcake, you get the whole thing, with the decoration complete – a perfect little mini cake for one, making it the ideal bake for handing to a loved one.

These red velvet cupcakes adorned with velvety white buttercream and freeze-dried strawberry powder are perfect for Valentine’s Day to fit in with the all things red theme. My red velvet cakes are not so red as I didn’t want to use too much food colouring – just double the amount for extra red if you wish!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

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

makes 20-24

375g self-raising flour

200g caster sugar

25g cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

200ml sunflower oil

300ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice (or vinegar)

1 tsp red food colouring gel or paste (use 2 for greater red effect)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and fill the cupcake trays with liners
  2. In a bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and bicarbonate of soda
  3. Mix together the milk, oil, vanilla, lemon and food colouring, pour into the dry ingredients and mix well
  4. Half fill the cupcake cases and bake for 15-17 minutes until a skewer comes out clean
  5. Cool on a wire rack, then decorate with the buttercream and a sprinkle of something red

Velvety White Buttercream 

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

enough to ice 24 cupcakes

12 tbsp vegetable fat (such as Trex)

3/4 cup dairy-free spread (such as Pure)

3 cups icing sugar, sifted

1/4 cup oat milk

  1. Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat. (the fat adds stability to the icing)
  2. Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the oat milk, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
  3. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.

 

 

Chocolate Pancakes with Rich Chocolate Sauce

Everyone loves pancakes, and it is essential to have a good few recipes for creating quick and exciting breakfasts or puddings, and obviously for Shrove Tuesday a.k.a. Pancake Day 🙂

It would be logical to presume it wouldn’t be possible to make nice pancakes without the milk and eggs, because in essence a pancake is just milk, eggs and flour. But you would be very wrong, it is in fact very easy to make delicious, authentic tasting and looking pancakes without any milk or eggs in sight. I have, mind, eaten some bad rubbery vegan pancakes along the way, but these are not them. These turn out as lovely light, puffy pancakes (yes no egg needed involved!). Perfect for eating from a stack and smothered in sauce.

We’re generally a sugar and lemon, or golden syrup household, but the picture on the cover of this month’s Waitrose food magazine of these chocolate pancakes tempted me in. Chocolate pancakes covered in chocolate sauce looked so deliciously double chocolatey good, that I had to have a tweak of the recipe to make it dairy and egg-free.

And they’re good. We had them as a dessert, as I am not sure I can cope with that rich chocolate sauce at breakfast time. But you never know! There’s a sinful breakfast right there if you want one.

Happy Pancake Day to all. I hope you enjoy these deliciously chocolatey pancakes as much as we did.

Chocolate Pancakes

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

makes approx 10-12 pancakes

1 cup plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 tbsp flavourless oil, I used sunflower

1 cup dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and salt.
  2. Pour in the oil and milk and whisk to make a smooth batter. If possible leave to rest for half an hour before using.
  3. Heat a frying pan to medium hot, wipe with a dab of oil and fry ladlefuls of the batter. You will know it’s time to turn them over because the bubbles will rise to the surface of the pancake showing it’s time to flip.
  4. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Rich Chocolate Sauce

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

50g dairy-free chocolate

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine

1 tbsp maple or golden syrup

2 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Gently melt all the ingredients together, either in a saucepan or in the microwave.

Tarte aux Framboises (Raspberry Tart)

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Happy New Year! 2018! The years seem to tick by pretty fast at the moment. However, they might be going by fast but I’ve decided that 2018 is going to be a good one – surely a little positive thinking should be able to encourage the year to start in a good direction.

It’s been a little quite on my blog in the last few months, i’ve been spending more time developing ideas and doing the actual cooking than the writing up, so I’m starting 2018 in a good place with ideas, plans and recipes a plenty.

There’s so much more buzz around free-from than when I started my blog nearly 6 years ago, and certainly many more products for sale (although I’d have to say the egg-free options are still sadly lacking) which is fantastic. But, it seems to me that lots of the products and recipes available fail to think about flavour or appearance. I don’t see why a free-from foodstuff should not be as pretty as a ‘conventional’ one and it should certainly taste as good. Someone kindly bought Big S some vegan cakes recently – they looked ok but oh my, I have never eaten anything so heavy or tasteless masquerading as a cake before! Why do people accept such offerings? Maybe deep-down inside many people think sweet treats can’t be really tasty without dairy or eggs?! Well, I’m telling you they can be (sometimes they can be far nicer!). Ok, they’re often not identical, but I’m on a mission to prove the friendly food can be delicious food – there’s no making do or missing out with my recipes!

 

This tarte aux framboise is a perfect example. I think it looks good (I hope you agree!) and it certainly tastes good – I ramped up the vanilla in the creme patisseriere to compensate for the richness which is lost when eggs are not used – so good I served it for our New Years Eve party. I don’t think anyone felt like they were eating an inferior ‘free-from alternative’ – job done 🙂

Whilst the delicate arranging of fruit makes this tart look complex it really is very simple – a crisp blind baked pastry case (shop bought shortcrust pastry is fine), a rich vanilla scented custard, fresh fruit and an apricot jam based glaze. All that is required is a little patient arranging and you have a pudding worthy of any patisserie window! p.s. note the difference between the next two photos – the apricot glaze really is the icing on the cake!

Tarte aux Framboises

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

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make one 12 inch tart

for the pastry case:

1 recipe shortcrust or 1pack of shortcrust pastry

  1. Follow this recipe substituting dairy-free margarine for the butter, or use shop bought that is dairy-free
  2. Roll out the pastry and line a tart tin. Fill with cling-film or parchment filled with baking beans. Bake at 200 degrees Centigrade (180 degrees Fan) for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further five minutes until golden. Cool.

for the creme patisseriere:

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2 tbsp plain flour

1/4 cup corn flour (cornstarch)

1 1/2 cups dairy-free milk

1/3 cup caster sugar

1tsp vanilla paste or extract or seeds from I vanilla pod

Salt

  1. Heat 1/2 cup of oat milk until almost boiling, then whisk in the flours until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Heat together the sugar and 1 cup of dairy-free milk until the sugar has melted.
  3. Keeping the mix over a low heat stir in the vanilla, pinch of salt and flour mix. Whisk over the heat until thickened.
  4. Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film (touching the top of the creme pat so no skin forms) and leave to cool

for the nappage (glaze):

1 tbsp apricot jam

1 tbsp water

  1. To make the nappage (apricot jam glaze) heat the apricot jam with 1 tbsp water (strain if lumpy) until bubbly and sticky.
  2. Brush over the fruit whilst hot

to assemble:

  1. Whisk the creme pat thoroughly and either pipe or spoon a 1/2 cm layer into the tart shell.
  2. Top with raspberries (whole or sliced in half) and bush with hot nappage.
  3. Leave to cool before eating.

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.