Blueberry muffins

I do have a fondness for blueberry muffins, they’re a great excuse to eat cake for breakfast, or anytime for that matter! Are blueberry muffins a little out of favour these days? They don’t seem to be on my radar anymore… maybe it’s because you don’t come across them often, or maybe it’s because I don’t get out very often these days 😂

Maybe it’s time to put the humble but rather delicious blueberry muffin centre stage once again? Well you can certainly do just that with these friendly versions. The sponge is light and fluffy just like a muffin should be, and once you’ve added a good handful of blueberries, the fruity tart morsels and delicate sponge make a stunning combination. If like in this house, some people have an aversion to fruit in baked goods, it’s pretty simple to divide the batter and add choc chips to half and blueberries to the other, then everyone is happy 😉

If using choc chips simply replace the lemon zest with 1 tsp vanilla extract and use a big handful of choc chips rather than the blueberries.

These muffins keep well for a few days in a loosely cover container, or freeze well if you’d rather 😀

Blueberry Muffins

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

makes 12

230g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp cornflour

Pinch of salt

170g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon (for the blueberry version)

200ml dairy free milk

70g dairy free margarine, melted

1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar

A big handful of blueberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade and line a muffin tray with paper liners.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together and add the zest if using.
  3. Combine the milk, melted margarine and vinegar and pour into the dry ingredients.
  4. Gently mix so the batter is a bit lumpy but there are no patches of raw flour.
  5. Stir in the blueberries.
  6. 2/3rds fill each muffin liner and bake for 15-20 minutes until we’ll risen and golden. Cool.

Tropical flapjacks

Sunny days call for not just food for outdoors but also bright tropical flavours, hence the inspiration for these deliciously lush oaty bars.

Flapjacks are one of the best packable foods- they’re sweet and delicious and stand up to be lugged about in a hot backpack, and even in the worse case scenario of them getting squashed they still make a rather delicious crumble. Besides they’re energy giving qualities are legendary and not surprising once you see the quantity of sugar and syrup they contain!

The tropical flavours are provided by a good dose of desiccated coconut, a handful of dried mango and a smidgen of pineapple juice, all topped with a optional squiggle of pineapple icing. It may be optional but it certainly looks nice!

Another of the beauties of flapjacks is that they freeze brilliantly. I often make a batch, portion them up and then freeze most wrapped in parchment. When it comes to making picnics or packed lunches you simply pop a frozen flapjack into a lunchbox first thing in the morning and by lunchtime you have a delicious fresh homebred treat.

Tropical Flapjacks

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

200g dairy free margarine (I use Pure soya or sunflower)

200g demerara sugar

180g golden syrup

2 tbsp pineapple juice

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt

50g dried mango, chopped

50g dessicated coconut (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup, pineapple juice and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats, coconut and dried mango
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Serve plain or top with a squiggle of pineapple icing (125g icing sugar mixed with 1 tbsp pineapple juice)

Victoria Sponge Cake Jars

I’m going to go a bit of a picnic theme over the next few recipes.

It’s June and sunny and so it’s just perfect to get outside and have a picnic kind of weather, and I feel the need for some more easily transportable goodies to take on days out. Some picnic foods make sense (sandwiches, bars and robust salads) but some things which are recommended for outings just don’t seem suitable. Books and magazines always suggest taking cakes on picnics, probably because they look appealing in the styled picnic photos but in my opinion cake never transports well, especially once it’s sat in the heat for a while and been jiggled about in a Tupperware box. Until now that is! With these delightfully tempting Victoria sponge cake jars you can have your cake and eat it, even on a hot picnic.

With these jars you get all the taste and elegant beauty of a Victoria sponge neatly squeezed into a jam jar, giving not only easy transportation but also the perfect individual servings. I’ve given two versions: one a traditional raspberry Victoria sponge and the other a more unconventional chocolate version. Take your pick, or do as I did and make two to please everyone 🙂

This sponge recipe is really fantastic; the yogurt and custard powder gives a taste and a structure is so authentic with none of the crumbliness that some egg-free sponges can suffer from. I hope you like it as much as we do 🙂

Obviously these jars can be dressed up anyway you like, add whatever additions you fancy and you’ll certainly have a show stopper dessert in your cool bag.

Victoria Sponge Cake Jars

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

For the sponge: (makes up to 8 jars worth)

185g self-raising flour

1 tbsp custard powder (or cornflour)

110g caster sugar

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

145ml dairy-free milk

1 tbsp dairy free yogurt

50g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 1 cake tin
  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 tin for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

for the icing: (enough for 4 jars, multiply as necessary)

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine

1 tbsp vegetable shortening (or just use 4 tbsp of dairy-free margarine in total)

200g icing sugar

1 tsp dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together the margarine and shortening and well combined and soft
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar and the milk until you have a light and fluffy buttercream

chocolate ganache drizzle: (for the chocolate version, enough for two jars)

20g dairy-free chocolate

1 tsp dairy-free margarine

1 tsp dairy-free milk

  1. Melt the ingredients together until you have a smooth ganache

To assemble:

  1. For the raspberry Victoria sponges: pipe in a dollop of buttercream, top with a circle of sponge (cut out using a cookie cutter so it fits snugly in the jar), top with 1 tsp raspberry jam and a swirl of buttercream, repeat.
  2. For the chocolate Victoria sponges: pipe in a dollop of buttercream, top with a circle of sponge (cut out using a cookie cutter so it fits snugly in the jar), top with a swirl of buttercream and a drizzle of ganache plus a few chocolate chips, repeat.

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 😊