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.

Homemade Speculaas Biscuits

I really love making biscuits, I think I like making them more than any other food. There’s something about it that I find relaxing and rewarding. Perhaps I should be listening to myself, maybe a cookie business is the way forward!

Anyway, I’m constantly on the look out for inspiration, be it in supermarkets, bakeries, magazines or online. Seeing something new to experiment with and recreate makes me happy, and happiness in certainly needed in the cold dark days of January. The inspiration for these speculaas biscuits comes from the gorgeous Ottolenghi cookbook ‘Sweet‘ which I got for my birthday. I’m a big fan of Yotam Ottolenghi and his food, and as you can imagine a recipe book of his sweet treats is right up my street. These homemade Lotus biscuits caught my eye straight away, and I have to say that with a few tweaks and experiments the resulting ‘friendly’ biscuits are spot on. The spice [and if you can get hold of genuine speculaas spice then all the better – The Speculaas Spice Company makes a really delicious spice blend or use this recipe to make your own] and crisp nature of the biscuits make them the ultimate accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee.

You may ask why bother when Lotus biscuits are ubiquitous all over Europe? Well, they may be easily found, but in my opinion homemade is generally best and these biscuits would win hands down in any ‘cookie-off’.

Homemade Speculaas Biscuits

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

 

makes about 30

220g plain flour

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1&1/2 – 2 tsp speculaas spice mix

pinch of salt

125g dairy-free margarine

160g soft light brown sugar

20-30ml dairy-free milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C/190 degrees C fan/Gas Mark 6
  2. Cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy, add 20ml dairy-free milk. The mix may split after this addition, if so add an handful of the flour.
  3. Sieve in the flour, spice, baking powder and salt and bring together to a firm dough. If it remains too crumbly add an extra splash of the milk.
  4. Roll out to the thickness of a pound coin and cut out shapes. Place slightly apart on lined baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes, turning the trays round half way through so they brown evenly. Cool on the trays before moving to a wire rack.
  5. These biscuits keep really well for about one week.

Tarte aux Framboises (Raspberry Tart)

1C94BECF-2554-4C8D-983E-81DEBCB553F1

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)

2779881B-F007-4138-9F62-2C45D6B9BF5C

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:

1C1FAB88-A96D-43B8-A970-81238E837C55

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.

Quick Savoury Straws

Now it’s December we can officially get all Christmassy, which is really exciting as I have an ever expanding list of Christmas themed ideas which I need to get on with. Some of these have been on the back burner for some time, because if they don’t get posted before Christmas then they have to be kept til the following year. This is very frustrating when they’re fantastic recipes that need sharing! As you may have guessed, I have some knock-out sweet recipes lined up for the next few weeks, but here’s an easy savoury snack for the party season.

With so much festive time spent at home or visiting friends and family, the savoury snack has a crucial place for filling gaps between meals or to nibble on with drinks. In my view there’s nothing quite like something with a crispy crunch when you feel like a savoury snack. Having to avoid certain food stuffs really restricts the choices of savoury snacks available – of course no Christmas nuts in this house, no cheese based treats, indeed no Twiglets either – sad times!

Ok there is a choice of certain flavours and brands of crisps which we rely upon (we’re all big crisp fans in this household) and some popcorn brands are a good option but after that the choices get a little dull or difficult. So, the brief is a savoury snack which is easy to make, savoury and tempting too. Something that’s a little reminiscent of a cheese straw – light, crispy and oh so tangy? Welcome then  savoury stars which are irresistible savoury nibbles that are made in a flash. You may say, ‘oh I don’t like marmite so I’ll hate these’. Fair enough, but in my experience even marmite haters tend to enjoy these savoury crispy batons – it’s just a way of giving them a salty tang. I don’t tend to use ‘dairy-free’ cheese often, but on this occasion it does lift the taste to a new level. Make them any length/width you like – the photos show some that are long and elegant, some short and kind of chubby; all equally delicious.

 

Quick Savoury Straws

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

makes 20+

1/2 pack ready made puff pastry

1 tbsp marmite

a few drops of water

a sprinkle of dairy-free grated cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degreesC/gas mark 7
  2. Roll out the pastry, trying to make a nice even rectangle
  3. Thin the marmite with a few drops of water and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle with the dairy-free cheese. A couple of tbsp should be plenty.
  4. Fold the pastry in half and roll it out a little more.
  5. Cut 1cm thick strips and then twist a few times. Place on a lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and puffed up.
  7. They will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.