Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

These are my recreation of those mini muffins people buy in tubs from the supermarket! They’ve always looks so useful and appealing, but are sadly not suitable for us.

Both girls tried to eat school lunches for ages, but we came to realise that whilst the schools really tried, the lack of choice and the fact it often wasn’t to their taste, meant they both hardly ate any lunch. I think the difficulty is that the schools have to cater for everyone and so there ended up being one generic ‘free-from’ meal which hardly compared to the exciting options everyone else was tucking into!

So we have moved to packed lunches which means they both definitely eat something, but it is hard to find interesting, different things to include (especially as they generally like different things!). There’s so few shop bought options, and luckily since I love to bake, I try and make a variety of different tasty sweet treats to add. These muffins totally fit that bill; not only are they lunch box sized, but you can also freeze them and add them frozen to defrost for lunch time – a total godsend on busy work/school days!

Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

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

makes about 36-48 depending on the size of your mini-muffin tin

2 cups plain flour

2/3 rds cup caster sugar

1 tbsps baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsps cocoa powder

1/2 cup melted dairy free margarine

2/3 rds cup dairy free milk

1 cup dairy free yogurt

1/3 cup dairy free chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Stir in most of the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips
  3. Combine the wet ingredients; melted margarine, milk and yogurt. Pour the wet into the dry and gently mix until it is just combined with no lumps of raw flour remaining.
  4. 1/2 to 2/3rds fill each muffin case (depending if you want a muffin top or just a domed mini muffin) and then top each with a couple of choc chip/lumps of choc to give an appealing finish
  5. Bake for 12 minutes until they are puffed up and a knife comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. One cool eat, keep in a tin or freeze.

Stollen (egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free)

I have a fondness for Stollen and it’s been on my Christmas recipe to-do list for some years. Somehow it’s always felt a little out of reach to make it friendly enough for the family. Clearly any yeasted dough filled with marzipan doesn’t fit the nut-free criteria! Then I came across this recipe for nut-free marzipan and all the pieces fell into place – friendly Stollen here we come!

Stollen

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

 

makes one Stollen

100g mixture of dried fruit and candied citrus peel

90ml apple juice

1 tbsp fast-action dried yeast

250g flour

50g caster sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine

60ml dairy-free milk

125g marzipan or nut-free marzipan

1 tbsp melted dairy-free margarine

icing sugar to dust

  1. Soak the dried fruit and citrus peel in the apple juice for at least half an hour
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and spices. Rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the dairy-free milk and dried fruit and the juice they’re soaked in. Bring to a dough and then knead until smooth.
  3. Cover the bowl and leave double in size which will probably take an hour or two.
  4. Knock back and roll out to a rectangle. Roll the marzipan into a sausage and place in the middle of the rectangle of dough.
  5. Fold it up and then use the side of your hand to make an indentation down the length of the dough. Transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover and leave to rise for at least half an hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes until risen and golden all over.
  9. Remove from the oven, brush with melted margarine and generously dust with icing sugar

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

I can’t think of a better time to make homemade chocolates than Christmas. They’re little cosy luxuries that fit perfectly with the festive season; either as an edible gift or simply a after-dinner (or anytime) treat.

You know, I do get my inspiration from funny places! The other week I was going out at lunchtime at work and walked past a doughnut shop. To be honest, they didn’t look too appealing, just over the top super sugary giant confections, but the chocolate and Biscoff variety caught my eye. I know it’s a winning combo and suddenly the idea of Biscoff flavoured chocolate truffles, rolled in Biscoff biscuit crumbs came to mind. I immediately started planning my experiments, working out the exact details of the recipe. I was correct, it’s a fabulous and rather morish combination. The mix of dark chocolate with sweet spicy Biscoff gives a wonderful warm hug of wintery spice in a luxurious chocolate truffle case.

It’s not easy to find nice dairy-free chocolate truffles, so I’m planning on making boxes filled with these, original and lemon truffles as Christmas gifts – i reckon they’ll go down a treat 🙂

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

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

makes approx. 15 truffles

110g dairy-free dark chocolate

2 tbsps dairy-free cream

1 tbsp golden or maple syrup

1 tbsp Lotus Biscoff spread

6 Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed

  1. Melt the chocolate over a bain marie, or in a microwave. Stir until silky and glossy with no lumps.
  2. Stir in the dairy-free cream, syrup and biscoff spread.
  3. Leave in the fridge for at least half an hour to partially set.
  4. Pour the crushed biscuits into a shallow bowl.
  5. Roll into grape sized balls and coat in the biscuit crumbs.
  6. Keep covered at room temperature until ready to eat!

Mocha Biscotti

This year I’m intending on making lots of my Christmas presents, well that’s the plan! I’ll have to see if life, work and the new puppy let that happen…

To me it seems like this is the right time to take a little step away from consumerism and reconnect with the the homemade. I also think it makes the festive season seem particularly special; that extra effort in making gifts for people adds an extra touch of love and I hope makes both the giver and receiver equally happy.

Along with the jams, chutneys and chocolate truffles (I’ve got a cracking new recipe coming up next), these biscotti make a wonderful gift. They keep well and are just perfect with coffee or something stronger 😉 over the festive season.

Biscotti may seem tricky to make but in reality they just need a little extra time to be double baked, first as a large log and then sliced. The resulting crispy slices keep well and are robust enough to make fantastic gifts.

I’ve given these biscotti a mocha flavour which i think works particularly well when it’s cold and dark; there’s something so cosy about the combination of coffee and chocolate. Don’t worry about it being an ‘adult’ taste, it works wonderfully with decaf and it’s more a tinge of coffee rather than a full whack in the chops!

Mocha Biscotti

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

makes about 24 biscotti

250g or 2 cups plain flour

2 tsps baking powder

pinch of salt

200g or 1 cup caster sugar

50g dairy-free chocolate, chopped

120ml sunflower oil

120ml dairy-free milk (made up of 1tbsp instant coffee powder and 1 tbsp hot water topped up to 120ml with dairy-free milk)

30g dairy-free chocolate, melted (to drizzle on top)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4
  2. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar and chocolate chips.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, dairy-free milk mix. Bring together to a wet and sticky dough.
  5. Form into one or two log shapes on the lined baking sheet. (they spread out quite  a lot so make them smaller than you think unless you want long biscotti!) Brush with the dairy-free milk.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cooked through and starting to turn golden around the edges.
  7. Cool briefly, then cut into even slices. Return to the baking sheet and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, turn the slices over and cook for 5-10 minutes more. You want a uniform slightly golden tinge, but no particularly dark areas.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, drizzle or dip into the melted chocolate
  9. These keep well, in an airtight container for a week or so.

 

Bonfire or Christmas Spice Scones

I’m not one for a milky coffee but I do like the sound of the seasonal varieties that are sold in the big golf shop chains. Bonfire and pumpkin spice sounds so warm and appealing and just the right kind of taste for these cold winter months. So to avoid missing out, I’ve added the same warm spices to these delightfully light and fluffy spiced clouds of pure pleasure!

After the awful scones we had in a 5*hotel (see previous post!) I felt I had to post a better recipe  – One Aldwych if you’re reading look here for a good dairy and egg-free scone recipe 😉 These scones are spot on every time, light, fluffy and delicate; absolutely nothing like the almost inedible hard biscuits we got in the fancy tea!

I’ve provided two different spice varieties; one more autumnal and the other with a bit more of a Christmas feel but adding clementine and lemon zest to the mix.

Spiced Scones

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

Makes about 12

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch ground cardamon

(zest of 1 lemon and 1 clementine for Christmas spice)

220g plain flour

1 and 1/2 tsps baking powder

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Pinch of salt

Up to 100ml dairy-free milk

1-2 tbsps Demerara sugar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Grease and flour a baking sheet
  3. Mix together all the spices (plus zests if making Christmas spice)
  4. Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and most of the spice mix spices. Rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Pour in some of the dairy-free milk. Gently bring together to form a soft dough (do NOT knead or you’ll end up with rock hard scones!). Add more milk if necessary.
  6. Gently pat out to a circle about 5cm thick. Stamp our circles and place on the baking sheet. Gather up the remaining dough, pat out again and stamp out more circles until all the dough is used up
  7. Brush the tops with dairy-free milk and sprinkle over some Demerara sugar and the remaining spice mix
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and golden on the tops and bottoms
  9. Cool on a wire rack

Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych, London

It’s rare that my girls get to go out for a real fancy treat, one that is food based but also worth getting dressed up for! We’ve previously had a wonderful Afternoon tea at The Langham and have often talked about some of the delicacies we came across. So, to have a repeat experience but in a new venue I did masses of research. There really aren’t that many choices, a fair few offer you a vegan tea option but once you’ve taken out all the nuts and seeds there are less options available, and whilst my girls may be dairy or dairy and egg free, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to eat the vegan menu.

In my research I came across a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea at One Aldywch. This sounded both exciting and a possibility as they specifically stated that they could cater for any dietary requirement, if given notice. I contacted the hotel and was given a very welcoming contact, who checked with the chefs and confirmed we could be catered for. It sounded so exciting and we couldn’t wait for our tea featuring “fizzy lifting drinks, snowberry jam, chocolate milkshake mixed by waterfall”.

I have to say I’ve really struggled with whether to post this review as I don’t like to be negative, but honesty is the best way and we found the whole experience so deeply disappointing.

The hotel is lovely, with a modern feel and some elegant features like a checkerboard mirrored lift to get to the bathrooms – notably the bathrooms (always a giveaway) were nothing special, you didn’t feel like you were anywhere luxurious.

The service was okay, we were made to feel welcome but it was painfully slow, so slow in fact that we spent a lot of time looking over our shoulders for something to arrive. I know we are tricky as we all have different requirements but I’d given them 2 months notice and they were the ones who said they were happy to cater for us. Honestly, don’t say you can deliver if you can’t!

So onto the food… which was at best only ok, there was nothing that made you go wow.

For the standard vegetarian savouries (that I had and I’m mentioning first as these didn’t need to be tweaked to be made safe and should be the knock out dishes they wheel out daily) there was a relatively tasty cheesy tart, the driest brioche you have ever eaten filled with something unidentifiable and purple, a very earthy beetroot wrap and a rather nice coronation cauliflower in matcha bread. There were cheesy scones which were good, but I’ve had better. So one nice savoury.

For the girls they got avocado in bread – honestly I couldn’t believe the lack of imagination. There was also a very plain chicken sandwich and a rather challenging beetroot wrap. Big S got some nice hummus topped with a carrot puree but it came with a spoon rather than something to dip in. Who eats hummus with a spoon? Then there’s the scones. Oh my goodness they were bad, like hard biscuits you could hardly swallow, you really couldn’t imagine a worse scone (and vegan scones are so easy to make!)

The sweet course looked prettier, it had it’s own stand and came with some candy floss which did make everyone smile but the flavours and execution were nothing special.

The standard options were some tasty little lemon sponges, chocolate financiers and fairly good scones with jam, there was an Eton mess which would be nice if you liked cream (I don’t) and a very milky chocolate mousse and super minty chocolate drink. The there was a red velvet cake pop which was just unpleasant – sorry but when you’re charging £45 per head I think you need to do better than unpleasant.

The girls sweet course was far worse, I just don’t know how they made dairy and egg-free food so horrible. I know I’m probably far more experience in cooking free-from but I’m not saying I can cater or people and then charging them 5* prices for horrible food. On the plus side the little chocolate sponges were quite nice. But then the chocolate mousse was the most bitter chocolate I have ever tasted, the same awful scones appeared, the chocolate drink was again far too dark and worst of all both girls reacted to traces of milk and needed antihistamine. All that and they charged adult price for little S when she should have  been charged the child price.

Sorry One Aldwych but we came away so disappointed and underwhelmed; this special occasion was anything but special, cost a fortune and has put us off trying somewhere else new. Maybe we should have made a fuss on the day, but eating out with allergies is challenging and we try to make the experiences as pleasant as possible, and making a fuss in front of the girls just makes the whole thing worse.

So all in all I wouldn’t recommend afternoon tea at One Aldywch, even the standard version was anything but magical and only had a vague hint of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; save your money or save up and go somewhere like The Langham where you will have an experience to remember.