Gingerbread Spiced Muffins with a Crumble Topping

There’s something so inspiring about the run up to Christmas for cooking and baking, it just makes me want to get into the kitchen and recipe develop like crazy! Maybe it’s the dark days, or maybe it’s the Christmas spices and thoughts of sharing with friends and family.

I haven’t spent enough time creating in the past few months – I’ve been doing a new job which has taken far too much of my time and energy (even on days when I’m not meant to be working), and I’ve decided that has got to stop. I need to get baking again, to test myself with new recipes and challenges because that is when I’m most energised. This week alone I’ve created three new recipes, so expect lots more posts coming up soon 🙂

Unbelievably our local Christmas lights turned on last night (it was only the 15th November!), so it suddenly felt Christmassy and I had to go a little festive and introduce some warm spice into the mix.

This is a knock out recipe for warming spiced muffins, with all the scents of Christmas rolled into one irresistible fluffy muffin topped with a crunchy crumble topping. This particular muffin recipe gives a great, authentic texture and rise which is perfect for the subtle spice. I particularly like the contrasting texture of the crumble topping, and think it really does add to the whole effect. Do add more spice if that is your preference, I kept mine subtle to please all members of the family!

These were delicious warm straight from the cooling rack, but I’m also thinking they’d make a fabulous Christmas breakfast or brunch.

Gingerbread Spiced Muffins with a Crumble Top

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

makes 12 large muffins

85g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

250g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

115g dairy-free margarine, melted

150ml dairy-free milk

150ml dairy-free yogurt

75ml golden or maple syrup

for the crumble topping:

1 tbsp oats

3 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tbsp margarine

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

  1. First make the crumble top: rub the margarine into the other ingredients to make a lumpy mix. Set aside
  2. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade.
  3. Fill a muffin tray with liners.
  4. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour in the wet ingredients and combine. You want not clumps of raw flour but do not overtax, lumpy is good.
  5. 1/2 fill the liners and then sprinkle over the crumble top
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes

img_0829Have you ever tried my Devil’s Food cake aka the best chocolate cake in the world? If you haven’t you are seriously missing out, it is so delicious that everyone asks for more! It’s deep, dark and chocolatey with an out of this world silky yet fudgy icing. Honestly, it’s totally divine 🙂

Anyway, these cupcakes are inspired by that cake and also by a fond childhood memory. We didn’t often have shop bought cakes at home, but sometimes I’d go to a friend’s house and they would serve up these little shop bought chocolate cupcakes with this fudgy, set icing. The kind of icing that was way nicer than the cake and also when you peeled off the liner, you were left with a zigzag imprint in the edge of the icing. There was something really pleasing about that! For some bizarre reason I was thinking about that icing the other day and how it would be really convenient for when you need to transport cupcakes; buttercream is just a nightmare if you’re putting the cakes in a box to take elsewhere. I’d always wondered how to make that icing and then it came to me – my wonderful Devil’s Food Icing sets beautifully and would be pretty awesome on a cupcake. Who’s going to say no to a rich chocolate cupcakes topped with out of this world fudgy icing?

So here they are, little Devil’s food Cupcakes ready for cake day, the first one of the school term, so I do hope they go down a storm. I so miss my weekly baking for Little S’s class that I’ve gone to town and made cinnamon swirl buns too. Hopefully that’ll keep everyone happy 🙂

Devils Food Chocolate Cupcakes

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

img_0826

makes 12-18

150g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

50g cocoa powder

200ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5
  2. Mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon juice, vanilla and oil. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the bicarb to the wet ingredients and stir.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix to thoroughly combine.
  6. 2/3 rds fill the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

Devils Food Icing

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

img_0828

enough to cover 12 cupcakes

2 tbsp dairy-free spread

1/2 tbsp dairy-free milk

1/2 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup

1/4 cup icing sugar

50g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Melt together the icing ingredients and simmer for a few minutes until thick and glossy. Let cool.
  2. Spread over the cupcakes and leave to set.

Savoury Pretzels

Snacks – I don’t think we’d get through a day without snacks and that’s always particularly apparent at the weekend or in the school holidays. Biscuits and cakes are all well and good but sometimes savoury is the only way to go. Crisps are great, everyone loves crisps right? But they’re not exactly filling and nutritious.

I have a small repertoire of interesting savoury options: sausage rolls, savoury scones, cheesy crackers etc but I’m always on the look out for new ideas which are not only suitable but pleasing to everyone. Then I spied some big pretzels for sale – now that looks like a good idea. Chewy, bread based and certainly filling. I’ve never really delved into the wonderful world of pretzels before but in doing some research it seems they’re often served with mustard. Bingo! Inspiration! So here’s my take on savoury pretzels, topped with a mustard glaze and because dips make everything better, served with a sweet mustard sauce. These certainly keep those hunger pangs at bay with a satisfying snack. They also make great tasty sandwich rolls 😋

Savoury Pretzels

(Dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian, can be vegan) contains mustard

makes 8-10

500g strong bread flour

7g dried fast action yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

300 ml warm water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (for the boiling water)

for the glaze:

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp mustard

1 tbsp oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda to form a dough and knead well until smooth silky and you can feel the gluten and firmed up the dough. Cover and leave to prove for at least one hour.
  2. Knock back and cut into 8-10 even sized pieces. Roll each one into a sausage shape with slightly tapered ends, then tie in a lose knot. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and let rise for another 30 minutes. 
  3. Preheat the over to 200 degrees centigrade
  4. Bring a pan of water to the boil, once boiling tip in the bicarbonate of soda and drop each knot into the boiling solution for about 5 seconds.
  5. Remove and place on an oiled baking sheet.
  6. Brush with a little of the glaze and bake for 15 minutes until deeply golden
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and bush with the remaining glaze and sprinkle over a little salt. Leave to cool.
  8. Serve fresh with a dip of equal parts honey/syrup and mustard pepped up with a dash of hot sauce.
  9. These pretzels also freeze well. Defrost thoroughly and then refresh in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Trail Mix

 

I’ve always found the concept of ‘trail mix’ rather intriguing and tempting. It’s not something you come across often in the UK but I’ve read about it so many times that I really wanted to recreate a friendly version for the family to enjoy. The concept is a pick and mix type snack to delve into a long walk or day out.

Trail mix is usually a mix of cereal, dried fruit, often nuts and sometimes chocolate, all combining to make it a nice portable energy giver on long hikes. It sounds yummy but certainly not ideal for us with all those nuts. The photos I’ve seen often contain Smarties, and whilst some dairy-free versions do exist they have never been completely trace-free therefore not safe enough for us. But colourful chocolates make such a cheery addition to the dry mix that they needed representation so I’ve replaced them with homemade ‘Jazzies’ (chocolate drops coated in colourful sprinkles) and they generally do make the mix look a lot more tempting and fun. Rather than using dried cereal I’ve added salty pretzels to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate and dried fruit. I’ve also added mini spiced cookies even more variety and added energy, and well, they look rather cute too.

For some reason, dried fruits are unpopular in this household; I don’t really know why as I really like them but the girls will avoid them at all costs. So this recipe included freeze-dried berries to please the troops, but raisins, dried mango or any other dried fruit would work just as well.

Mini Spiced Cookies

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

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4-1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tbsp oat milk

  1. Cream together the dairy-free spread, caster sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla.
  2. Sift in the cinnamon, ginger, salt, bicarb and plain flour and mix to a soft dough, adding the oat milk to make the mixing easier. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/ gas mark 4 and line a cookie sheet with parchment
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out. Cut out cute little shapes and place on the lined baking tray and cook for 6 minutesCool on a wire rack

Jazzies

These are simply melted dairy-free chocolate with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top! Nothing could be much easier 🙂

Lemon and Raspberry Crumble Bars

Here’s a fabulous recipe for using up the end of the summer raspberries, or just finishing off the jam to make a new batch come the autumn. Boo hoo, is summer really starting to draw to a close? 😦

These bars are a crisp lemon shortbread base, topped with jam and raspberries (slightly squishy is just fine) and topped with a lemon and cinnamon scented crumble. This gives a perfect three layer texture of crisp, sticky and crumbly.

These rather delicious raspberry and lemon crumble (or streusel if you like) bars are inspired by some fruity crumble bars my lovely grandmother used to buy. My grandparents used to live in a ‘granny annexe’, so just next door, and often when my mother was at work I’d spend the day with them. They were lovely, kind grandparents and we’d have fun, but they were also the older generation at a time when older people seemed to prefer a calm orderly lifestyle. So the days would have some predictability with a cooked lunch folllowed by some ‘quiet time’ while my grandmother read her book and my grandfather would sleep in front of the snooker on television (how come snooker was always on I have no idea!). Then we’d walk the dog and return home for tea and a cake or biscuit. She often had these fruity crumble bars in the cupboard and I particularly liked them. So here’s a recreation of that memory, made in honour of some easy, happy times – probably nothing like the original but rather tasty and tempting nonetheless!

Lemon and Raspberry Crumble Bars

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

makes 9

for the base:

100g margarine, melted

50g caster sugar

zest of 1 lemon

pinch of salt

125g plain flour

  1. Stir all the ingredients together and then press into a lined, square baking tin
  2. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 mins until golden
  3. Leave to cool

for the filling:

1/2 cup raspberry jan

handful of raspberries

  1. Spread over the cooked shortbread base and dot with halved raspberries

for the topping:

40g oats

60g soft brown sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

zest of 1/2 a lemon

40g flour

50g margarine

  1. Rub the margarine into the ingredients together to make a rough crumble
  2. Sprinkle over the jam covered base
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees Centigrade until crisp and golden
  4. Leave to cool and then drizzle with water icing (if desired) and cut into squares

Cappuccino Coffee Cake

A coffee cake is certainly one of the absolute classics, and this cappuccino inspired coffee cake adds an elegant and grown up touch to any coffee morning. It’s also pretty good as a cheeky pud 😉

It’s been a funny old week for me. Little S, who is our energy-filled whirlwind, has been away on a residential trip. The centre seemed well prepared for allergies, but it’s always a little nerve-wracking handing over to an unknown party. She is also a home loving type and was really nervous about going away for a whole week, so the build up was long and painful, and probably not helped by the fact that I’m useless at goodbyes and end up crying (embarrassing!). So it’s definitely been a week to keep as busy and occupied as possible, so it would pass quickly. A perfect week for some baking experiments, and ones that may be more to Big S’s tastes!

I’ve had the idea of a coffee cake, surely one the absolute classics, on the back burner for a while. Previously it seemed odd to cook a coffee cake for young children, but now Big S has developed a taste for an occasional coffee. I used decaffeinated coffee and I really don’t think it made any difference to the flavour. I know that walnuts are a customary addition to a coffee cake, but mine is nut free (as you might expect!). If you wished to add walnuts, add a handful of chopped nuts to the cake batter and decorate the top with a few walnut halves.

Personally I’m a black coffee drinker, but cappuccinos or flat whites always look rather pretty and have provided the inspiration for this loaf cake. The sponge represents the coffee with a rich deep coffee flavour, and the icing is the creamy coffee scented top, all finished off with an obligatory dusting of cocoa.

Cappuccino Coffee cake

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

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

130ml dairy-free milk

20ml strong coffee

1/2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/Gas mark 4. Line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix together the oil, milk, coffee and lemon and set aside
  3. Combine the flour, salt, bicarb,  and sugar.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until well combined
  5. Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

for the icing:

2 tbsp vegetable fat (such as Trex)

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine (such as Pure)

1 to 2 cups icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp strong black coffee

1/2 tsp coffee essence (optional)

  1. Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat.
  2. Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the coffee, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
  3. Spread or pipe onto the cake.