Vanilla Spice Hot Cross Buns

 

With Easter fast approaching, my thoughts have turned towards festive baking and what could be more Easter-y than Hot Cross Buns. Every year seem to make a new variety – I was particularly pleased with the flavour combination of last years sticky toffee ones (actually i really must make some of them before the weekend!) and chocolate chip varieties of anything go down well in this household.

But by and large Easter baking means spice – hot cross buns, easter biscuits and simnel cake all have a mellow spice that is the taste of sweet easter baking (if you remove chocolate from the equation!). This hot cross buns variation leaves out the dried fruit (to please my kids) but ramps up the spice and adds the mellow sweetness of vanilla. It’s s great combination and I do recommend taking the time to make these for Easter – they’re so rewarding and fun to make.

Vanilla Spice Hot Cross Buns

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

makes 9-12

550-575g strong bread flour

1 tsp dried yeast

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1and 1/5 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

seeds from 1/2 a vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

1 and 3/4 cups warm oat milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

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, yeast, sugar, lemon zest, salt and spices. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and melted 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 (or as i did, nearish so they link up when baked)
  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
  7. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  8. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  10. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

Blackberry and Vanilla Syrup / Cordial

Apparently it’s a bumper year for blackberries in the UK, and if our garden is anything to go by, we’ll have blackberries coming out of our ears in the next few weeks! Having just returned from holiday the brambles in the garden were weighed down by beautiful, if slightly over-ripe berries. This called for an immediate recipe solution! This delicate blackberry and vanilla syrup is a fantastic way of using up berries and results in a smooth, fragrant, only slightly sweet syrup which works beautifully when mixed with champagne for a ‘kir royale’, or equally well with sparkling water or lemonade.

IMG_6260

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

makes one 750ml bottle

  • 450g fresh blackberries
  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 1  1/2  tsps vanilla extract

– Thoroughly wash the blackberries

– Blend to a puree, then sieve to remove any pips

– Combine the puree with the sugar and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes.

– Pour into a sterilised bottle and keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

– To use, dilute 1 part to 4 of champagne, water or lemonade.

IMG_6227

Strawberry and Vanilla Flower Garden Cupcakes

It was little S’s ‘St day’ last week, not an occasion many people celebrate in the UK but I felt the urge to cook something pretty to mark it. Our garden has been filled with daisies of late, making me have nostalgic thoughts of making daisy chains in my school playing fields at break time. Sadly it’s not warm and sunny yet, but I thought I would recreate the memory in cupcake form!

I’d also found some nut-free (hooray!) freeze-dried strawberries in Waitrose (raspberries and mango also available) and somehow strawberry flavour just fits with flower filled green fields so the decision was made.

These  double dose vanilla cupcakes are speckled with freeze-dried strawberries, imparting all their flavour but no gooeyness! The icing is simply shop-bought roll-out icing (Dr Oetker‘s fits the dairy, nut, egg-free bill) attached with a thin water icing. Since it is more stable than a buttercream topping, these would be perfect picnic goodies.

Strawberry and Vanilla Flower Garden Cupcakes (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

IMG_5192

IMG_5193

makes 12

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 150ml oat milk
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsps vanilla
  • 1/3 cup freeze-dried strawberries pieces

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5

– Place liners in a cupcake tray

– Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.

– In a separate bowl, mix together the oat milk, bicarb, lemon, vanilla and oil.

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combines.

– 2/3rds fill the liners and bake for 18-20 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean.

– Cool on a wire rack.

20130524-213502.jpg20130524-213521.jpg

Vanilla Fudge

Fudge: probably one of the ultimate non-chocolate sweet treats. Normally made with butter and milk or cream, you can easily make them allergen-free by using oat milk and sunflower spread to give sweet, crumbly,  crystallised nuggets exactly like the real thing. This is more like traditional West Country handmade, slightly grainy fudge than the rubbery homogenous commercially made cubes.

These would make a perfect gift or after dinner treat.

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

IMG_4464

makes about 12 cubes

  • 300ml oat milk
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 100g dairy-free spread
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

– Place the oat milk, spread and sugar in a large saucepan.

– Stir constantly whilst heating until the sugar and spread have both melted.

– Bring to the boil and bubble until it reaches 115 degrees Centigrade/235 degrees Farhenheit, or soft ball stage. I don’t have a sugar thermometer so used the soft ball technique – after the mixture has been bubbling for 5-10 minutes let a drop fall off the wooden spoon into a bowl of cold water. If the droplet forms a ball that can be squished it’s at soft ball stage.

– Let cool for 5 minutes

– Stir in the vanilla and beat until the mixture is less glossy and has thickened.

– Pour into a lined baking tin and leave to cool at room temperature.

– Once cool, cut into even sized chunks.

IMG_4462

IMG_4470

Vanilla Thins

For a dairy-free cookie these are remarkably ‘buttery’ and are perfect for cutting into any shape and even icing. I made them for little S to take into school in a flower shape as it’s spring… they went down very well. I reckon these could take any flavour instead of the vanilla – just substitute half the vanilla essence for another extract. This recipe is from Vegan Cookies Invade The Cookie Jar

Vanilla Thins (dairy-free, egg-free, soya-free, nut-free, vegetarian, vegan)

makes lots, at least 28!

  • 2 1/3 cups of plain flour
  • 2 tbsps cornflour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable fat (I used Trex)
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free spread (Pure)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsps vanilla paste (or use one and one of another extract)
  • 1/4 cup oat milk (Oatly)

– Sift together the flour, cornflour, salt and baking powder.

– In another bowl whisk together the fat, spread and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and oat milk and whisk again.

– Add the flour mix and carefully combine

– Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden round the edges

– Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.