Triple chocolate hot cross buns

My it’s been a long hard Winter! But at last things are starting to look brighter and the first signs of spring are hitting at the same time as an early Easter. It’s such a joy to see the spring flowers burst through and the first real warm sunshine of the year. It seems like a hopeful time.

Easter means plenty of hot cross buns and chocolate so why not combine both to get the best of both worlds! I really enjoy making hot cross buns, they’re pretty simple but there’s something magical about the soft dough, sweet spice and gorgeous shine.

I have a lot of flavour varieties on my site (just put hot cross buns in the search bar!) but these are particularly rich and decadent so I would urge you to give them a go. Plus the white cross on the dark chocolate dough is particularly striking!

The big question is what variety next? I’m thinking a savoury version (inspired by those cheese and marmite/cheese and chilli ones from M&S), so what this space as I’ll hopefully be able to develop it before next weekend!

Triple Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

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

makes 9-12

460g strong bread flour

40g cocoa powder

1 tbsp dried yeast

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice

400ml warm dairy-free milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

100g dairy-free chocolate chips (I used a combination of milk, dark and white)

for the crosses:

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp water

for the glaze:

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

  1.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, yeast, sugar, salt and spice. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and dairy-free margarine, bring together to form a dough (adding more flour if too wet, or more liquid if too dry)
  2. Knead for about 5 mins until the dough is smooth
  3. Place in a bowl and cover, leave in a warm place to double in size
  4. Knock back, knead again and then form into 9-12 even sized balls. Place well spaced on a baking sheet lined with grease proof paper
  5. Leave to rise again for 10-20 minutes
  6. Mix together the water and flour to make a paste and pipe onto the top of the buns in crosses. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 15-20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  7. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  9. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

Black Forest Cheesecake

Sometimes a recipe evolves as a idea and sometimes it just happens due to the contents of the larder!
I wanted to make a cheesecake for Sunday lunch last week and had all the necessary ingredients except for the icing sugar that I use to sweeten the cream cheese filling. It was nearly a case of no pudding for Sunday lunch – shock, horror! Luckily lurking at the back of the baking shelf was the remnants of a bag of Sugar and Crumbs black cherry icing sugar… could I use that? Then lightbulb moment, of course if it’s black cherry flavour then that goes perfectly with chocolate and we can have a black forest cheesecake. Bingo! What started as an experiment using what I had in the cupboard ended up as a complete hit. Everyone was wowing about it as a combination, so it’s certainly worth recreating 🙂
I urge you to seek out Sugar and Crumbs icing sugars and cocoa powders – they’re allergen free and flavoured with natural flavourings, and add an fabulous flavour to many a dish. If you don’t have the flavoured icing sugar then use either 1 tsp cherry essence, or maybe a tablespoon of cherry jam to flavour the cream cheese filling. Perhaps even a marble of cherry jam would be a nice addition?
Have you come across the Oatly ‘cream cheese’ yet? I’ve been emailing them for years to bring it to the UK as all their products are so good, I really hoped it would be a great cream cheese alternative. We always used Tofutti out of preference, as the creamy smooth spread was in our opinion the best you could buy. So many dairy-free cream cheeses are too ‘cheesy’ and no good substitution for a standard cream cheese which is smooth, creamy and mild tasting. So since the UK distributor of Tofutti disappeared we’ve had a sad lack of cheesecakes. These have been sad sad days as cheesecake is the favourite pudding in the household. But now with Oatly creamy spread is widely available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, it’s back to cheesecake a go-go! The mild flavour works perfectly as a cream cheese substitute and carries additional flavours without any underlying cheesy aroma.

This black forest cheesecake will be the prefect Valentine’s day pud – i hope you enjoy as much as we did ❤

Black Forest Cheesecake

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

makes one 20cm cake, serves 4-6

115g Biscuits, crushed (I used Lotus)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tub of dairy-free cream cheese (150g)

1 tbsp dairy-free yogurt

2-3 tbsp black cherry icing sugar

30g dairy-free dark chocolate

fresh or glace cherries to garnish

  1. Line a spring form cake tin with parchment.
  2. Mix together the crushed biscuits, cocoa powder and melted margarine. Press into the bottom of the tin (and slightly up the sides if you’d like the biscuit crumb edge look). Place int he fridge to chill.
  3. In a food processor (or with a whisk), whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt and 2 tbsps icing sugar. Taste and add more icing sugar if desired. Pour over the chilled base and level off. Leave in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to set.
  4. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the cheesecake. Garnish with glaze or fresh cherries.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

I don’t know about you but I find lunches the most difficult meal to cater for, especially right now where we’re all at home all the time, we have differing timetables and differing ideas over what makes a perfect lunch!

D and I generally have lunch and take the dog for a walk before the girls have even finished their morning lessons, so lunches have to be ready to be reheated or eaten cold. Right now, in mid-Winter slides and sandwiches seem rather less appealing and a hot option is preferred, but then there is the issue of keeping things warm for the lunches in stages. It has transpired that soup ticks all the boxes; it’s warm and nourishing, can easily keep warm and mostly all the family members like it. Also, there is something wonderfully homely about having a pot of soup on the hob and it makes me feel like I’m winning on the lunch front!

This soup is not only very easy to make from mainly store cupboard ingredients but also pleases the ‘bit-a-phobes’ (both children!) who only like smooth soups, but adds extra substance with the addition of rice to keep tummies full until supper time. I add chilli paste to mine as we all like slightly spicy food, but so feel free to leave it out if you’d rather have a more mellow soup for lunch.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

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

serves 4

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp chilli paste

2 tsps balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar

400ml passata

400ml vegetarian stock

1/3 cup rice

1/2 tin sweetcorn (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sweat the onion  until soft and translucent – try not to get too much colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree and chilli paste (if using) and cook for a further couple of minutes. 
  3. Pour in the tomato passata and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Taste and season. 
  5. Blitz if you want a very smooth soup and return to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  6. Add the rice to the simmering soup and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. If using sweetcorn, add a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking.
  7. Serve with a hunk of bread or a sandwich for a hearty and warming lunch.

Sticky Marmalade Cake

Have you been making marmalade? It seems like the thing to do in January. The Seville oranges hit the shelves after Christmas and then suddenly everyone is making marmalade. 
I jumped onto the marmalade bandwagon and made some rather tart but tasty grapefruit marmalade this year and have ended up with so many jars that I’m not quite sure what to do with it all. But it is a very rewarding and thrifty thing to make, with just a few citrus fruits, a ton of sugar and some water and you end up copious amounts of the sticky orange stuff. I used 3 grapefruits and 2 lemons and have ended up with 7 jars of Paddington’s favourite!
In usual times I’d give the jars to friends and family, but as you can’t really see anyone right now and everyone is simply stuck at home, the pantry shelves are groaning with jars of freshly made marmalade! So it is officially operation use up the marmalade. Obviously it’s great on toast, works well in marinades and sauces or for when you want a sweet dish to not be too sweet, such as in a cake or biscuits. 

This marmalade cake is a fantastic combination of sweet sponge with the bitter hints of marmalade running through it, topped with a sweet icing which also has a bitter marmalade edge. You might say it’s a more grown up kind of cake, one that is more akin to accompanying a cup of tea than to a children’s tea party.

Sticky Marmalade Cake

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

makes 1 loaf cake

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1 tbsp cornflour

100g caster sugar

1 tbsp orange or lemon juice

100ml flavourless oil

100ml dairy-free yogurt

125ml dairy-free milk

4 tbsp marmalade

for the icing:

100g icing sugar

1 tbsp warm water

1 tbsp marmalade

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and line a loaf tin (I used a 2lb tin)
  2. Sift together the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt and cornflour. Stir in the sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the oil, yogurt, lemon juice, milk and marmalade. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to form a smooth batter (there will obviously be some lumps from the peel in the marmalade)
  4. Pour into the lined loaf tin, level off and bake for 45-55 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Mix together the icing ingredients and drizzle over the cake adding a few extra pieces of marmalade peel

Pepparkakor – Swedish Ginger Thins

I always love a cooking challenge and so was happy to be asked for a Pepparkakor recipe. These Swedish Ginger thins are a Scandinavian Christmas must have and rightly deserve a place on my site.

I’ve only had the Anna brand ones, those very thin crisp flower shapes biscuits often found in health food shops. They always make me think fondly of my step-Grandmother who would always buy Anna’s Ginger thins and a variety of dried fruit for my girls to graze on when they were tiny. She was always very kind to me and made such an effort to cater for us, despite the dietary challenges.

These pepparkakor are a little less thin and crisp and not so dark in colour as I only had syrup available rather than the syrup and treacle required. But the spice is spot on and they make a lovely addition to the Christmas spread.

Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Thins)

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

makes 16-20

125g dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

50g caster sugar

40g soft-brown sugar

50g golden syrup (or ideally 25g treacle and 25g syrup)

35ml water

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugar and spices.
  2. Melt the syrup (or syrup and treacle) into the water
  3. Add the syrup mix and flour, bicarb and salt to the creamed margarine and mix to a soft dough.
  4. wrap and rest for a couple of hours in the fridge
  5. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade
  6. Roll out the dough to 2-3mm thick and stamp out festive shapes.
  7. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes until golden
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. These are best iced but if you don’t have time (like me) a little dusting of icing sugar is nice too 🙂

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.