Vegetarian food blog featuring delicious and nutritious whole food recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Christmas Butter Biscuits – Matcha, Chocolate and Vanilla

Christmas Butter Biscuits

Three differently coloured and flavoured biscuit doughs are used here to great effect. Simple to make, these vanilla, matcha and chocolate Christmas butter biscuits are also very easy to eat.

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Coconut Bliss Balls with Medjool Dates & Raw Cacao

Dish full of Coconut Bliss Balls

These sumptuous coconut bliss balls are a type of raw chocolate truffle. They don’t have the name bliss balls for nothing. Try one and you’ll wonder why you’ve ever bothered with conventional truffles. Well maybe I exaggerate a little, but only just.

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Blackcurrant Vinegar – Capture the Flavour of Summer

Blackcurrant Vinegar

Fruit vinegars make a wonderful addition to many dishes. Vinegar captures the essence of the fruit beautifully reminding us of the season in which it was harvested. This blackcurrant vinegar gives a flavoursome tang to sauces, salads and desserts. It goes particularly well with beetroot. A little poured over simple vanilla ice-cream gives a real wow factor and mixed with water, it makes a refreshing drink.

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Chocolate Crinkle Cookies with Roasted Hazelnuts

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies with Roasted Hazelnuts.

Biscuits, Gifts | 28th December 2014 | By

Rich, dark and chewy chocolate crinkle cookies with enticing notes of roasted hazelnuts and a gorgeous fudgy centre. These festive treats make one of the best edible Christmas gifts you can give – or receive. They look good, taste delicious and keep remarkably well.

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Chocolate Cinnamon Smacaroons – #BakeItForward

Biscuits, Gifts | 4th December 2014 | By

Smacaroons

When I arrived back from London last week, I found a box of Waitrose #BakeItForward decorating goodies waiting for me. All of them looked perfect for upcoming Christmas merriment and I have to confess to just a little bit of excited festive hopping around. I was most interested in Heston’s chocolate coated popping candy and some edible gold glitter and these are what I decided to try first.

Now how, I wondered, was I going to use it. I’ve never tried baking with popping candy before or decorating with it. I mused that as this particular candy was covered in chocolate it might work in a dryish biscuity bake. I’d read somewhere that popping candy loses it’s fizz if it comes into contact with moisture. Chocolate macaroons with their nutty chewy centres are a good bake for this time of year and with a bit of popping candy to liven them up, CT reckoned that smacaroons would be an appropriate name for them.

In the run up to Christmas, Waitrose is celebrating home bakes in its #BakeItForward campaign. All you have to do to take part is bake something for a friend, take a picture of it, share on social media using the hashtag #BakeItForward and nominate them to do the same. Every day until 23rd December, randomly selected participants will be rewarded with treats including hampers and bottles of champagne.

I am overrun with ideas as to how to use the contents of the box of delights I was sent and most of them involve Christmas biscuits, so watch this space. Most of these will be shared with various friends, family and neighbours, but as CT is particularly fond of nutty biscuits, these macaroons are made for him.

As you can probably tell from the picture, these are the British version and are not meant to be the fancy French macarons that have become all the rage. I have adapted this recipe from Jill Norman’s The Complete Book of Spices. Made with dark chocolate and flavoured with cinnamon, they are substantial, chewy and very nutty.

This is how I made:

Chocolate Cinnamon Smacaroons

  • Placed 125g caster sugar in a bowl together with 150g ground almonds, ¾ tsp cinnamon and 75g of Mortimer’s 70% West African chocolate powder (could use finely grated or melted chocolate instead).
  • Whisked together to ensure there were no lumps, then added 2 tbsp popping candy.
  • Stirred in 2 duck egg whites (large hen’s eggs).
  • Gathered spoonfuls into my hands and rolled into walnut sized balls. Flattened out into discs and laid on a lined baking tray.
  • Baked at 180℃ for 12 minutes.
Chocolate Macaroons

As it happened, my hopes for the popping candy working in the macaroons went unrealised. Whether this was because the candy came into contact with moisture or because it couldn’t take the heat remains a mystery, but there was no pop to be had. Not being prepared to lose the name smacaroons, I quickly rethought my strategy. I made up a little water icing and drizzled this over the smacaroons. Popping candy was scattered over the top and then given a dusting of edible glitter.

I’m sending these off to Helen of Casa Costello for her Bake of the Week. Do take a look at her fabulous Christmas Tree cupcakes with concealed star.

I am also sending this off to Kat at The Baking Explorer for Treate Petite where the theme this month is – ta da – Christmas. You can see last month’s thankful round-up over at CakeyBoi.

Thanks to Waitrose for the beautifully wrapped parcel of baking goodies and voucher received in exchange for letting my readers know about the campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.

Hot Chocolate in a Glass Jar

Events, Gifts | 2nd December 2014 | By

Afternoon Tea at a top London hotel was mighty fine, but my main reason for going up to our bustling capital was to learn more about using glass for food presentation. Friends of Glass is committed to promoting awareness of the benefits of using glass over plastic. As we know, plastic is the scourge of the environment and particles of it can now be found in every part of the globe, even Antarctica. Glass on the other hand, is reusable and 100% recyclable. Glass is also a healthier option. It is the most inert packaging material we have and thus highly impermeable making it far less likely to taint any food stored in it. I’ve long been passionate about using glass for storage rather than plastic and I have collected a lot of glass jars and containers over the years. Bring back the milk bottle and deposits for glass bottles I say.

Last Thursday evening, a bunch of bloggers and journalists turned up at Cactus Studios, Michel Roux Jr’s cookery school, where incidentally, Saturday Kitchen is filmed. We were there to brush up our Christmas creativity using glass. What a delight to come in from the cold and dark to be greeted with a glass of warm mulled cider and a room glowing with candlelight and glass. As we chatted, we were served shot glasses of red pepper soup with pesto. The colours were fantastic and immediately I started to see the point of serving food in glasses. The colours and textures of the food really shine through and can make your dish look even more enticing. Not long after the soup, we were served cranberries and melted brie in the most adorable little glass jars that I coveted immediately. Bread sticks were cunningly placed in the metal clips. Here already, were two fabulous ideas for Christmas canapés, starters or pre-dinner nibbles.

We were soon shepherded upstairs to the teaching kitchen to watch chef Bridget Colvin and BBC TV presenter Cherry Healey demo some further ideas. I really enjoyed this part; not only was Bridget knowledgable and competent, but the two made for a good double act. Spiced parsnip soup served in little glass jars with parsnip crisps was a winner which I will be replicating at some point during this festive season. Much ribald hilarity ensued whilst Cherry whizzed up some delicious pesto.

The piece de resistance, however, was a pie in a jar. I’d not come across this concept before. The beauty of making individual pies this way, is not only do they look enticing, but they can be tailor made to suit individual tastes and tolerances. The demo was for a ham hock pie, but vegetarian ones had been made for Nayna of Simply Food and I and very delicious they were too. Layers of butternut squash, spinach, potatoes, shallots and peas with cheese sauce and a puff pastry crust all cooked and served in a clip top jar. What a fantabulous idea. A glass of wine made for a very welcome accompaniement.

Feeling somewhat full, we were called over for the final demo: brandied clementines in a jar. This time we had to pay attention as this was the dish we were going to make. We were shown how to prepare clementines and I now know how to remove most of the pith easily. It’s the sort of thing that looks pretty and makes for a lovely gift, but not something I’d ever thought of doing. The vanilla brandy syrup we made tasted heady and decadent and would work well with most fruits I reckon – so that’s one of my Christmas presents sorted.

Then it was back downstairs for mince pies and the final activity of the evening. An array of enticing edible delights were laid out in various bowls and jars and at last chocolate made an entrance. We were going to make up our own hot chocolate gift in a jar – what fun. We started with a layer of drinking chocolate and then it was a free for all. I added a layer of white chocolate buttons, followed by little fudge pieces. Milk chocolate buttons went next, then marshmallows and finally a layer of milk chocolate buttons. The part I really loved about this was tying on extras around the outside of the jar: a stick of cinnamon, a candy cane and my absolute favourite, a miniature bottle of Amaretto Disaronno found there way onto my jar. Finished off with a tag which I’d stamped with gold stars, this was the gift I was most pleased with. It came in very handy as a thank you to my friend for putting me up for the night. I have to say she was very impressed with it and thought it a lovely gift to suit both her and the children.

Many thanks to Friends of Glass for a fun, friendly, entertaining evening, plus the bonus of leaving with some really nice Christmas gifts, including a jar of Rubies in the Rubble red onion & chilli chutney. I had a splendid time and would be very happy to do this all over again. You can see some far better pictures of the event than mine over at the Friends of Glass Facebook page.

Orange and Cinnamon White Chocolate Shortbread

Biscuits, Gifts | 25th December 2013 | By


Wishing all my readers

A
Very
Merry
Christmas

And I leave you with yet another Christmas shortbread recipe – a spicy and citrussy one this time.

This is how I made:

Orange and Cinnamon White Chocolate Shortbread

  • Softened 50g of good quality white chocolate by putting it in the mixing bowl and placing it on the storage heater for ten minutes.
  • Added 170g of unsalted butter cubed and left to soften.
  • Creamed the butter and chocolate with 85g golden caster sugar until pale in colour and fluffy in texture.
  • Added the grated zest of an organic orange and creamed some more.
  • Sifted in 175g plain flour (half wholemeal, half white), 80g brown rice flour, a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt and 1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon.
  • Stirred until incorporated, then formed into a ball and left in my cold kitchen to firm up for half an hour.
  • Rolled out to about 3mm thickness and stamped out snowflake shapes getting about 60 biscuits in total. I also tried to make some buttons, but they didn’t quite work out as planned.
  • Left to firm up in my cold kitchen for 15 minutes.
  • Baked for 7-8 mins at 180°C until just golden.
  • Dusted with fine caster sugar whilst still hot, then transferred to a wire rack to cool and harden.
  • Packaged up into bags, then added labels and ribbons.
I did manage to snaffle one to try and they were quite delicious with a good Christmassy flavour.
I’m submitting these to the Spice Trail with Venesther over at Bangers & Mash. The chosen spice this month is cinnamon.

A Plethora of White Chocolate Shortbread Biscuits

Biscuits, Gifts | 18th December 2013 | By

 

I was so pleased with the chilli white chocolate shortbread snowflakes that I made last month, that I seem to have done nothing else recently but make more shortbread biscuits based on that recipe. I was baking for a friend’s birthday party recently and thought it would be fun to make “after dinner” tea and coffee biscuits. With 100 guests expected, I made two batches of the biscuits resulting in about 110 in total. To one I added Japanese matcha tea powder to give an intriguing tea flavour and green colour and to the other I added some ground coffee which gave an interesting speckled look and a mild but definite coffee flavour. These proved to be rather popular, especially, it seemed, for scooping up a very large trifle that had been made for the occasion. Even more recently, I made over 60 lemon and cardamom biscuits for my last day at work. I haven’t quite decided what biscuits I shall be making for Christmas this year, but as I’ve ordered some organic oranges, I’m currently in favour of making some orange and cardamom white chocolate shortbread biscuits. By the new year, I suspect I shall be thoroughly fed up with shortbread.

Like their chilli shortbread predecessors, any of these would look good pierced and hung with ribbon from the Christmas tree. They’d also make lovely Christmas gifts.

Coffee White Chocolate Shortbread
Matcha White Chocolate Shortbread
 
Lemon Shortbread
Lemon and Cardamom White Chocolate Shortbread

This is how I made:

White Chocolate Shortbread Biscuits

  • Softened 50g of good quality white chocolate by putting it in the mixing bowl and placing it on the storage heater for ten minutes.
  • Added 170g of unsalted butter cubed and left to soften.
  • Creamed the butter and chocolate with 85g golden caster sugar until pale in colour and fluffy in texture (used cardamom sugar for the lemon cardamom biscuits).
  • Added 175g plain flour (half wholemeal, half white), 80g brown rice flour and a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt.
  • Depending on the flavour, added 1) 2 heaped tsp of matcha powder 2) 2 heaped tsp ground coffee 3) grated zest of an organic lemon together with the ground up seeds of 3 cardamom pods.
  • Stirred until incorporated, then formed into a ball and left in my cold kitchen to firm up for half an hour.
  • Rolled out to about 3mm thickness and stamped out small shapes getting 50 to 60 biscuits in total (hearts for the matcha shortbread, flowers for the coffee and snowflakes for lemon cardamom).
  • Left to firm up in my cold kitchen for 15 minutes.
  • Baked for 7-8 mins at 180°C until just golden.
  • Dusted with fine caster sugar whilst still hot, then transferred to a wire rack to cool and harden.

Jo at Comfort Bites has started a new challenge with the same name as her blog Comfort Bites. This month her theme is Christmas and as these would make great Christmas gifts, I am entering them.

Well as far as biscuits go, these are fairly Quick and Easy which is the theme for this month’s The Biscuit Barrel with Laura of I’d Much Rather Bake Than … The stamping can be fiddly if you use a small snowflake cutter as I did for the lemon cardamom cookies, but a larger and simpler stamp would not take very long at all.

As my wholemeal flour is bought locally from Cotehele Mill where it is ground with a traditional water powered stone, I am entering these into Shop Local at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

And as everything is made from scratch some of these are being sent of to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.

Goat’s Cheese Chocolate Truffles

Goat's Cheese Chocolate Truffles on a blue plate.

Chocolates, Gifts | 14th December 2013 | By

Who’s tried goat’s cheese chocolate truffles before? If you haven’t you’re in for a surprising treat. They make a fitting end to a dinner party meal and will be much appreciated by any self respecting chocolate and cheese lover on any occasion.

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Chilli Shortbread Biscuits for Christmas – Perfect for Hanging on the Tree

Christmas Chilli Shortbread Biscuits

Biscuits, Gifts, We Should Cocoa | 22nd November 2013 | By

A number of factors combined recently leading to the creation of these hot! hot! hot! chilli shortbread biscuits. I can only describe these as a chilli lovers delight. Hang them on the tree or pack them up into a pretty box, tin or bag as a gift for those that like a bit of spice in their life. Either way, they’re bound to make a Christmas talking point. 

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