Dairy-free Pain au Chocolat – New Improved Recipe

 

One of the true joys of a French holiday are morning trips to the boulangerie to buy fresh crusty baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Every morning, little S would come and buy the fresh bread and pastries first thing and then look enviously at our pain au chocolat on the breakfast table. So I made a promise to make a batch on return.

Since last summer’s wonderful holiday in Corsica, I’ve got in the habit of regularly making friendly pain au chocolat for the girls. It’s been a mixed blessing, they’ve got rather used to freshly made viennoiserie for breakfast, so I end up making them often which takes time, but my croissant dough skiIlls have improved dramatically.

This new improved recipe has been gradually tweaked over the last year and I think we’ve finally got a jolly authentic, flaky and ‘buttery’ dough. The lamination has proved the tricky part of the recipe. Besides being the most time consuming aspect, I suffered for months with the layers simply disappearing which is really demoralising when you’ve spent hours putting them there in the first place! After some in-depth research it seems the crucial detail for lamination is that the fat content of the ‘butter replacement’ has to be around 82%. It’s that precise. In the UK our dairy-free margarines are predominantly water-based with fat coming way down the list of ingredients. If you use such a margarine the water just makes steam and you get a bready dough rather than buttery flaky layers. Makes total sense doesn’t it.

After much experimentation I’ve found that it works best to combine a mixture of dairy-free margarine such as Pure with a baking spread such as Stork (in the foil wrapper) and a touch of flour. This combination makes a great fat-rich butter substitute which also provides the right ‘buttery’ flavour.

Surely a good flaky Pain au Chocolat is possibly the most perfect breakfast item ever ūüôā

Dairy-free Homemade Pain au Chocolat

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

makes 16

500g strong bread flour

90g caster sugar

10g instant yeast

10g salt

100ml dairy-free milk (I used Oatly)

250ml cold water

150g dairy-free margarine

150g baking fat

1 tbsp flour

160g dark dairy-free chocolate chopped into batons

a sprinkle of caster sugar

melted dairy-free margarine for brushing

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and yeast.
  2. Pour in the dairy-free milk and water and stir. Once come together, knead well to form a soft and springy dough (about 5-10 minutes).
  3. Cover and leave to rise for a couple of hours
  4. Meanwhile, put the dairy-free margarine on to some cling film, sprinkle with the flour and then top with the baking fat (making a kind of sandwich affair) and loosely wrap. Roll out to a square shape, and place in the fridge or freezer to harden.
  5. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough. Cut a cross on top of the dough ball and roll out the leaves (see photo below)
  6. Place the cooled ‘butter’ in the middle and fold the four flaps over the ‘butter’ making sure it is entirely encased with dough.
  7. Roll out and fold into thirds twice
  8. Place back in the fridge for thirty minutes or so, then roll out and fold back into thirds twice more. Repeat two or three times.
  9. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes more.
  10. Roll out to form a large rectangle. Cut into four long strips, halve each.
  11. Place a line of chocolate at one narrow end and roll over to cover. Add another chocolate baton and continue rolling up.
  12. Loosely cover with cling film and let rise on the baking tray for 30 minutes.
  13. Brush with the melted margarine and sprinkle with caster sugar
  14. Bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes 

 

Homemade Dairy-free Digestive Biscuits

The latest in my ‘recreate a classic’ series, which I work on occasionally.

Digestives. We all know the digestive in the UK. They come as plain or chocolate covered. No plate of biscuits, selection box or office meeting is complete without a few of these tasty but wholesome biccies, and they’re normally the first to be eaten. There is something about the combination of wholewheat, and that sweet/salty balance which gives such a great all round flavour. Digestives are big hitters in the biscuit world.

It’s extremely difficult to come across dairyfree digestives. Doves Farm make some but otherwise they’re normally a no¬†go for us. And that is how these experiments come about. How did mine turn out? Pretty close ¬†I am happy to say. Dunk them if you are that way inclined (not me thanks!).

Dairy-free Digestive Biscuits

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

makes about 14

225g wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

100g icing sugar

120g dairy-free margarine

30ml dairy-free milk

50g dairy-free chocolate (for chocolate coated biscuits)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and icing sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  4. Stir in the milk and bring together to form a soft dough
  5. Using plenty of flour, roll out and stamp out circles.
  6. Place onto greaseproof paper and prick with a fork or skewer
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden.
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. For chocolate coated biscuits, melt the chocolate and spread over one side of the cooled biscuits, making an attractive pattern on top.

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

Is there any more¬†traditional English cake than a Victoria sponge? It’s the very essence of tea time, maybe along with some scones and cup of tea in fine china cups!

I’ve found it¬†quite a journey to develop the perfect Victoria sponge recipe, for some reason it has been so much harder than a chocolate cake. Sometimes the texture is a bit too rubbery/bouncy or the flavour not quite right. However finally thanks to some gratefully received input from a reader and his mother in law, the a pretty fine¬†egg and dairy-free Victoria sponge is here. It’s always such a delight to me when I feel I have developed a great ‘friendly’ alternative to a classic staple. I feel like I’m finally hitting¬†my ‘brief’ from the outset of this journey, which is about enabling everyone to enjoy the same things. This cake would make an awesome birthday cake if chocolate isn’t your cup of [English] tea.

This sponge has a wonderful crumb, perfect for a layer cake and the addition of custard powder adds an additional welcome vanilla hit. Custard powder – that’s the tip I was given and wouldn’t have thought of myself.

This¬†would’ve been perfect as a traditional jam filled sponge cake, but since my children aren’t very keen on jam I turned this into a salted caramel sponge cake with a Lotus spread drizzle and salted caramel buttercream. A version I highly recommend ūüôā

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be 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.

Filling, enough to fill one cake:

  • Make the buttercream by whisking together 1tbsp Trex, 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, 1 cup sifted icing sugar [use Sugar and Crumbs salted caramel icing sugar if possible] and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk.
  • (if you can’t find flavoured icing sugar use normal but add 1 tsp caramel essence instead)
  • Make the caramel drizzle by combining 2 tbsp Lotus caramelised biscoff spread with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • spread the buttercream over one of the sponges, top with the Lotus drizzle. Place the top layer on the cake and dust with a generous layer of icing sugar

Tropical Breakfast Muffins and Smoothie

It seems to have taken forever for proper spring/summer to arrive this year. Even last week I was wearing wool gloves on my early morning walk to the station! At last now we’ve suddenly experienced a few rays of proper sunshine and a glimmer of heat which will let my recipes turn distinctly sunnier in vibe (let’s not mention the deluge of rain that happened yesterday!)

As a member of Foodies100 I came across a blogger challenge to use the new Vita Coco coconut milk in a breakfast recipe for the TastesLikeNoUdder hashtag challenge. Obviously using a new dairy-free milk substitute is right up my street, so I jumped at the chance. Whilst we love Oatly, maybe there’s another milk alternative out there to add to our repertoire?

The challenge involved creating a breakfast recipe using this lovely thick and rich new coconut milk from Vita Coco. This is what they say themselves about their new product:

Vita Coco has always been nuts about coconuts, and this month there’s even more reason to celebrate, with the launch of the company’s dairy-free coconut milk alternative.

Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative has no added sugar and if free of both gluten and soy. It’s the perfect healthy choice for breakfast, making a perfect topping for cereals, or to replace milk in your morning cuppa.

Unlike other coconut milk alternatives which are made with a whole lot of water, Vita Coco Coconut Milk is made with 70% coconut, making sure it really does taste like no udder!

The milk¬†certainly is rich, creamy and coconutty. Personally, I think¬†it’s a mistake to try and hide coconut in a recipe, as I find it such a strong flavour that can overpower the other¬†ingredients. So in making these muffins with accompanying smoothie, I’ve let the coconut flavour shine out; let the coconut rule I say! Coconut immediately made me think tropical, so we have some delicious tropical muffins flavoured with coconut milk and mango and banana. Imagine swinging¬†in a hammock on a tropical beach in muffin form, that’s the basic vibe I was going for.

I’ve put in quantities for either fresh or dried mango – the fresh gives fruity nuggets like you would find in a blueberry muffin, but if you prefer a drier texture more like a chocolate chip muffin I’d suggest using dried mango.

Clearly with half a mango remaining and some more luscious coconut milk to use up, an accompanying tropical smoothie was the obvious choice. The coconut milk gives a wonderful velvety creamy texture and is enhanced with mango, banana and pineapple. Sunshine in a sip!

This recipe is an entry into the Dairy Free Style Your Breakfast challenge with Vita Coco and Foodies100. See more great breakfast ideas athttp://vitacoco.com/uk/

Tropical Breakfast Muffins

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

makes 6

1 cup plain flour

1/3rds cup soft brown sugar

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, melted (or sunflower oil)

1 small banana, mashed

1/3 cup coconut milk

1/2 mango, in a small dice or 1/2 cup dried mango pieces

1 tbsp soft brown sugar fro sprinkling

2 tbsp coconut flakes to decorate [optional]

  1.  Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Line a muffin pan
  2. In a bowl mix together the coconut milk, banana and melted dairy-free margarine. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined (make sure you don’t over mix, it wants to look a little lumpy).
  5. Gently stir in the mango
  6. 2/3rds fill each muffin liner. Sprinkle a little sugar on the top of each and some faked coconut if desired.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top and a knife comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack.
  9. These are best eaten on the day they are made

Best served with this delicious smoothie!

Tropical Smoothie

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

serves 2-3

1 cup/240ml coconut milk

1 banana, chopped

1/2 mango

3 slices of pineapple, cut into chunks

  1. Blitz until smooth
  2. Enjoy!

Dairy-free Vanilla Panna Cotta

I have to admit that I’m obsessed with Masterchef. I religiously watch every episode of every series, I can’t really think of a programme I enjoy watching more! Obviously as a veggie who does a lot of vegan baking most of the dishes aren’t really my cup of tea, but the do inspire ideas and experiments. The pudding of choice seems to have moved on from a chocolate fondant (see a winning recipe here) to a panna cotta. They’re all doing panna cottas all the time, probably because they’re fairly easy to make in advance and then make look pretty on the plate kind of dessert – ideal when you’ve got a last minute panic going on!

I’ve never attempted a panna cotta before because the main ingredients for this sweetened set cream are gelatine and cream, not exactly suitable for a dairy-free veggie friendly blog! But surely I could make a tasty friendly version? I’ve had a few disasters with over rubbery dollops or hardly set puddles, but this recipe gives a great finish and beautifully sweet vanilla taste. There’s a good wobble but none of the rather unappealing bounce from too much gelatine! As it turns out dairy-free cream and veggie gelatine make perfect substitutes. I opted for Oatly cream, added lots of vanilla and a touch of sugar and the taste was great. I had wanted to use agar as a readily found veggie gelatine alternative but couldn’t find any ūüôĄ¬†so this recipe uses something called Vegetarian gel sachets from Sainsbury’s which is made from carrageenan and one sachet sets 570ml. Just make sure the setting agent you use sets similar proportions.

Since the Masterchef final is tomorrow night, this might be a suitable pudding to enjoy while watching!

Dairy-free Vanilla Panna Cotta

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

makes 3 or 4

250ml dairy-free cream

3 tbsp icing sugar

1/4 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)

1/2 tsp vegetarian gel

  1. Pour the cream into a saucepan. Add the vanilla, sugar and vegetarian gel. Stir until the gel powder and icing sugar have dissolved
  2. Bring the mixture to the boil for 1 minute.
  3. Pour into the ramekins or moulds and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours
  4. When ready to serve, un-mould and decorate with berries and chocolate soil (crumbled up biscuits)

Allergies in Amsterdam

 

I don’t know about you, but since allergies have become part of our life, holidays make me nervous. Or perhaps I should say, I’m very good at dreaming about and planning holidays but the practicalities of allergies have totally changed our viewpoint.

On the whole we’re pretty cautious about holiday destinations. Allergies have added¬†a whole new consideration¬†to holiday planning. We’ve never braved a catered holiday, or one where we’d be eating every meal out, so it’s always a self-catered option for us so we¬†can cook ourselves. Probably sounds crazy to anyone who doesn’t have to think about it. We frequently¬†stay in the UK¬†or go to France as D is fluent in French and we know we can get our requirements across with none lost in translation. And yet we used to travel far and wide, perfectly happy in other cultures and countries where we couldn’t speak the language at all. We used to be so much bolder in our choices, but these days feeling comfortable, safe in our surroundings¬†is as important as excitement and adventure.

But this time we strayed a little from our comfort zone. We needed to show the girls that they can travel as long as they’re careful and plan well. So we planned a short city break to Amsterdam to experience (or revisit for D and I) another culture and see some beautiful sights and awe inspiring art. I have to confess that I was really keen on the idea and happily¬†booked the flights and then I started to fret! Why did we choose a country which eats so much cheese? What if we couldn’t find the ingredients we needed, what if people didn’t get our concerns? Looking in our guide book at¬†the traditional dishes the Dutch like to eat, it was mainly a large selection of items that would be off our menu in any case – cheese, waffles, pancakes, chips with¬†mayonnaise. It was starting to look rather¬†a poor choice, although as is widely known, the Dutch speak English incredibly well.

Well I needn’t have worried. Yes, we can’t eat the traditional items but we managed and had a fabulous, if rather tiring few days. Ok we only ate out once at a tried and tested Wagamama. I know not at all traditional or adventurous, but we all felt happy with that. In fact the waiter was more than capable of¬†dealing with our concerns in the most amazingly fluent English that he even learnt¬†that the chicken in European Wagamama branches has a pre-marinade that contains sesame oil, so the chefs put their heads together and came up with a suitable safe alternative for Little S. It really was impressive service.

Otherwise we cooked in our own apartment¬†or came¬†out with pre-packed picnics on the go. I do think that we have some real advantages by self-catering, we not only save lots of money but also get the opportunity to have a good browse in the local supermarkets. It’s actually become a bit of a holiday treat for us. The local cavernous shop¬†was a Dirk van den Broek and had a fantastic range of Alpro¬†products, even the – sadly missed and discontinued in the UK – pouring yogurt and an Alpro brand margarine which I’d never seen before.

In fact there was so much dairy it was kept in its own closed refrigerated room, ideal for dairy avoiders! We also came across Oatly which is always a bit of a relief. European standard food labelling certainly helped when making our choices and trying new products. Luckily it was a short trip and I’d packed loads of food, as we did struggle to find suitable nut, sesame and milk free bread and I didn’t come across any safe biscuits or easy snacks we could buy.

I think the hardest part was probably the travel – not only the worries of flying with allergies, but being unable to find any suitable snack or meal at an airport or on the flight. I know others brave long haul flights but we’re not there quite yet.

Sorry, I know this post doesn’t give reams of useful information about travel to Holland with allergies, and may seem ridiculous to those who don’t have any concerns, but we found it a hugely positive experience to step outside our comfort zone, to be that little bit braver and show the girls that their horizons can extend to new and different places. For me, the crucial aspect is planning and taking the right stuff to make sure we can get by without surviving on bags of crisps alone!