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

Lactofree Raspberry, Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Muffins

Lactose-free Muffins

One of the fun things I got to do on my recent visit to London was to eat breakfast and make brunch with Tom Aikens using lactofree products at L’etalier des Chefs near St Pauls. Tom Aikens is well known for being the youngest chef to earn two Michelin stars at the tender age of 26. He is also known for his talent and creativity. I found him to be friendly, knowledgable and helpful.

Lactofree Products

Lactofree was a knew one on me, but as a big fan of dairy, I thought it was a fantastic idea for dairy enthusiasts who are unfortunate enough to be lactose intolerant. There is quite a range of products including, milk, cream, yogurt, spreadable butter, cream cheese and cheddar. I don’t entirely understand the process of extracting the lactose which is done by some sort of filtration, but all the products I tried tasted just as they should. Tom was a fan of the cream in particular as it can be used for cooking without splitting, unlike many dairy free products.

Tom Aikens

The masterclass comprised a demo on how to make Tom’s poppy seed and raspberry muffins and a demo of his recipe for mushroom ragout on toast with chervil and sorrel; this was followed by a hands on cooking session replicating the mushroom dish. The muffins used the spreadable butter and raspberry yogurt from the lactofree range and the mushrooms were cooked with the spreadable butter and cream. We took home some of Tom’s muffins; the mushrooms we ate on grilled wholemeal sourdough as soon as we’d cooked them. They were scrumptious, although I’m sure a little grating of 100% chocolate would not have gone amiss.

As we’d started the morning with muesli and yogurt, I was feeling quite replete by the end of the morning and certainly didn’t need lunch. It was fun to meet and cook with other food bloggers and to see a part of London I wasn’t very familiar with. The event was even more enjoyable as I was able to invite along the friend I was staying with. She was delighted by the mushroom recipe in particular as she’d never really known what to do with this most glorious of fungi. Tom’s muffins kept me going on the long train journey back home to Cornwall. Poor CT didn’t get a look in.

St Paul's Cathedral

Whilst we were in the vicinity, we took a rather scary glass elevator trip up to the top of One New Change, a shopping centre with an open rooftop offering an impressive view of the London skyline. This was probably the best view of St Paul’s I’ve ever had and my friend pointed out a number of new buildings I hadn’t seen before including the Shard.

As it’s World Baking Day today, I decided to make Tom’s muffins but add my own twist of white chocolate and thus use less sugar. I also used my usual flour mix of half wholemeal, half white. The recipe was a little odd regarding quantities. For example, we were asked to use 230ml of raspberry yogurt, but the pots came in 125g sizes. So the measures I used may not reflect the original recipe. I also realised, after the event, I was meant to cream half of the sugar and add the other half to the egg whites – oh well!

This is how I made:

Lacto Free Raspberry, Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Muffins

  • Creamed 115g spreadable butter with 200g vanilla sugar (golden caster) until light and fluffy.
  • Separated 5 eggs, adding the yolks to the butter, putting 2 whites in the fridge for later use and adding 3 whites to a clean bowl.
  • Beat in the egg yolks into the butter mixture together with 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
  • Beat in two 125 ml tubs of raspberry yogurt and 35g poppy seeds.
  • Whisked the three egg whites with a pinch of cream of tarter until stiff peaks formed.
  • Stirred ⅓ of this into the yogurt mixture, then folded in the remainder.
  • Sifted in 315g flour (half organic wholemeal, half organic white), 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and ½ tsp baking powder.
  • Folded this in as gently as possible followed by 50g of  white chocolate chips and 170g fresh raspberries.
  • Divided between 15 muffin cases, which was a mistake – I overfilled them. The recipe said 16 and I should have taken note.
  • Baked at 180℃ for 23 minutes. Left to cool for a few minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
  • Took some over to my mother’s for tea.
Raspberry and Poppy Seed Muffins

The muffins are really good, but not as good as Tom’s. I suspect that the recipe we were given was not quite the same as the one he used on the day; mine taste slightly bicarby I think. They are also very rich and again I’m not sure that Tom used all five egg whites or just the three specified. The cakes rose well and have a lovely firm but light texture with a nice crunch of poppy seeds. The raspberry flavour is a good one. The raspberries adding little bursts of tart fruitiness and the white chocolate gave punctuating sweetness. I did find the recipe a bit of a faffy one and ended up with more washing up than I’d normally expect from a simple muffin recipe. I think next time I make it, I will not bother separating the eggs and perhaps use four whole eggs instead of five yolks and three whites.

Although this is really a raspberry muffin, there is a lot of vanilla in here and the flavour really comes through, so I am entering it into this month’s The Spice Trail where vanilla is the choice. It’s being hosted by Solange of Pebble Soup who should recognise these muffins as she was also there at the Lactofree event. Vanesther of Bangers & Mash is the creator.


As I suspect this might become a bit of a favourite, I’m entering them into Favourite Recipes where the theme is sweets and snacks. It’s being hosted over at My Kitchen Odyssey on behalf of Zesty South Indian Kitchen.

Treate Petite is also celebrating World Baking Day, so this is a particularly apt entry. Hosted this month by Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi on alternate months.

Thanks to Lactofree for this fun masterclass and the bag of products we were given to take home with us. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

Leftover Easter Egg Chocolate Ice Cream

Leftover Easter Egg Chocolate Ice Cream

The concept of a leftover Easter egg is something I find hard to get to grips with. In our house, uneaten Easter eggs must have something seriously wrong with them, or have fallen down the back of the sofa. The whole point of self-denial during Lent is to celebrate your resolve with a massive blow-out at the end, which is where the Easter eggs fit in. Fit into your stomach, I mean.


Chocolate Log with a Whipped Dark Boozy Chocolate Ganache – We Should Cocoa #40

Chocolate Log

The name of my blog might assume that I know what I’m doing when it comes to chocolate logs, even that I’m something of an expert. Well I’m not. My efforts at rolling  have been unsuccessful to say the least, as can be testified by my Liskeard Mess and the various other attempts I’ve made at a roulade. I’ve watched Mary Berry and any number of others do it and I’ve tried various techniques, but invariably my rolls crack hideously and have been known to disintegrate entirely. My least disastrous attempt was this Matcha Chocolate Roll.

Thus, when I was asked recently if I would make a chocolate log, my heart gave a little tremble.

Now it just so happened that I was sent one of the most beautifully packaged parcels I’ve received in a long time. A sturdy but elegant black box contained a newly designed 70cl bottle of Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur, dressed in black and hot fuchsia pink. It was accompanied by two special Thorntons chocolate liqueur glasses wrapped in matching paper and a £10 supermarket voucher nestled in a bed of wood straw. The colour scheme was eye catching indeed and the presentation lifted my spirits – so to speak. The premise was to create a recipe using the liqueur. Ding! With chocolate logs very much on my brain, my first thought was to incorporate the liqueur into the ganache that I’d planned to fill my log with and the thought stuck.

But first, I had to try the chocolate liqueur. CT was not going to pass this opportunity up either. We had a glass over ice followed by a glass neat. We could have gone on, it was so moreish, but I had to apply the brakes before we became inebriated. Originally launched in 2011, this liqueur was developed by the Thorntons master chocolatier, Keith Hurdman; it is a vodka based drink with cream and West African cocoa. It’s hard to think of a better combination than cream, chocolate and alcohol and because vodka does not have a strong taste of its own, the chocolate and cream were allowed to speak for themselves. At 17% volume, this is quite a strong drink, so a little goes a long way. It wasn’t quite as dark or as rich as the Bailey’s Chocolat Luxe, but it was nevertheless delicious. And at £13.99, this is an affordable treat.

Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur

If you are able to restrain yourself from drinking this chocolate liqueur just as it is, there are any number of ways you could use it. The bottle came with a recipe card for various cocktails, drinks and desserts. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but I think I’m going to have to, as some of them sound very tempting indeed. With the cold weather now upon us, a hot chocolate with a slug of this could be just the thing after a bracing walk. How about a Thorntons Chocolatini or a Thorntons White Russian to indulge and delight your guests. As for the recipe for Thorntons Fondant, it has my name written all over it.

This is how I made:

Chocolate Log with a Whipped Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • Melted 50g 72% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water, then removed from the heat.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur.
  • Stirred in 100 ml double cream until just incorporated.
  • Left to cool in the fridge for 1/2 hour whilst getting on with the sponge.
  • Whipped the ganache until light and moussy.
  • Whisked the eggs whites of 3 duck eggs in a bowl with electric beaters until stiff.
  • In another bowl, whisked the yolks of 3 duck eggs with 75g vanilla (caster) sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract for a minute or so until the yolks were pale.
  • Sifted in 30g cocoa powder and carefully stirred in.
  • Folded in the egg white until just incorporated, then scraped the mixture into a 19 x 29 cm Swiss roll tin lined with baking paper.
  • Baked for 20 minutes at 180°C when the sponge had risen and the top was bouncy when pressed. Left in the tin to cool.
  • Covered a clean piece of baking parchment with vanilla sugar. Turned the sponge onto this, then peeled off the backing paper.
  • Spread the ganache evenly over the sponge. Cut half way through the sponge, 1 cm in on the narrow end to help start the roll. Then using the sugar covered paper to help, rolled the sponge up as carefully as I could.
  • Cut about 1/2 cm of either end to neaten.
  • Dusted with vanilla sugar.
Chocolate Log

Well, maybe practice makes perfect, maybe I just got lucky or maybe the glass of Thornton’s liqueur I sipped whilst baking played its part. There were a few cracks, but the sponge held together and I was marginally pleased with the result. I was very pleased with the taste and texture of the chocolate log – thank goodness for neatened ends.

The whipped ganache containing Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur was, though I say it myself, sublime. It was light and moussy in texture with a rich chocolate flavour enhanced by the presence of the liqueur. It was a perfect match for the chocolate log and I’m now wondering why I’ve never tried anything like this before. The ganache is an ideal recipe for the festive season and could be used to fill any number of cakes and biscuits. I will most certainly be making it again.

As I was secretly, or maybe not so secretly, pleased with this chocolate log especially the whipped dark boozy chocolate ganache, I am using this as my entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa where alcohol is the special ingredient.

I am also submitting this to Lets Cook Christmas Party Food over at Simply Food.

Additionally, I’m sending this off to Javelin Warrior for his Made With Love Mondays.

It’s a very tricky letter that’s been picked for Alphabakes this month, but luckily it’s December so X for xmas is allowed. Hooray. I am thus sending my Xmas Chocolate Log to Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes.

I’m sending the bottom photo off to No Croutons Required with Jac of Tinned Tomatoes who is looking for Festive Photos this month.

Well it doesn’t get more Christmassy than a Chocolate Log, especially a boozy one, so I am submitting this to Calendar Cakes where the theme this month is Jingle Bell Rocks. This event is co-hosted by DollyBakes and Laura Loves Cakes.

I was sent a bottle of Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur and a supermarket voucher in order to create a recipe. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

Killer Vanilla from Taylor & Colledge

Food Reviews - general | 16th November 2013 | By

Where would the British baker be without vanilla? It’s hard to imagine cakes, biscuits and custards without that sweet and fragrant flavour which we all know and love so well. And life without vanilla ice-cream is virtually unthinkable.  We sort of take it for granted, but it is worth remembering that vanilla is a tropical orchid originally from Mexico and now cultivated in other tropical regions. Recently there has been more awareness about the production of vanilla and the exploitation of workers that so often goes with it. To produce good quality vanilla and provide workers with a decent livelihood means that it is never going to be a cheap ingredient. In fact, it is the most expensive spice after saffron. So when I received a vanillary scented parcel of products from Australian company Taylor & Colledge, I was really pleased to find that most of the products are fairtrade or organic. In their own words Taylor & Colledge are: makers of award winning vanilla bean extracts for more than a century. These items are available in the UK at Waitrose and Ocado.

Bottles of good quality vanilla extract, especially if they are fair trade and / or organic are expensive. I certainly go through a lot of the stuff. In recent years, I have made my own by infusing good quality vanilla beans in Vodka for a few months. It’s very easy to do and saves a lot of money. The 100 ml bottle of Vanilla Bean Extract in this bundle, not only smelt wonderful, but the flavour really came through in the bake that I made with it. Although it is not organic, it is fairtrade.

Vanilla bean pods themselves are wonderful things and can be used for all sorts of purposes. Generally the seeds are scraped out to flavour any number of dishes, including custards, labneh and various baked goods. The pods can also be used whole to infuse milk, alcohol or other liquids. I’m looking forward to making hot chocolate with my own vanilla infused milk for a special occasion. I have used them whole in the past to make vanilla and apricot jam, which was truly delicious. These pods were organic and came in a pack of four, contained in a heavy duty plastic tube for freshness. They had a heady smell and complex aroma which you simply don’t find in the extract. CT noticed how the smell lingered in his nose for quite some time after closing the lid. This is an unorthodox use, but just sniffing them early in the morning when writing this post, seemed to lift our mood. They were soft and plump, which is just what you are looking for in a good quality pod.

Once vanilla beans have been scraped out, I add the remaining pods to a jar of golden caster sugar to flavour it and always have one on the go. I have not thought of doing this with icing sugar before though, so I was intrigued by the Vanilla Bean Dusting Sugar. So far, I’ve used it to cover a cake and it worked very well. The recipe for this will be appearing shortly. I can see myself following one of the suggestions on the container and dusting my porridge liberally with this.

Vanilla paste is new to me. Essentially, it is the scraped out seeds combined with vanilla extract and sugar. I recently used it in some mini chocolate persimmon cakes and was really pleased with the results. It gave a good flavour and the flecks of vanilla seed looked attractive in the icing. I will be posting the recipe for this tomorrow.

Last but by no means least, was this fabulous Vanilla Bean grinder and I have fallen in love. Working to the same principle as a pepper grinder, this contains shards of dry (ish) vanilla pod and enables you to top off any dish you care to with freshly ground vanilla. It even has two settings, one for a fine grind and one for a coarser one. I trialled it out on my chilli, ginger & persimmon tarts and was impressed that the vanilla flavour came through so well. The black flecks on top looked rather good too, I thought.

I was sent a range of Taylor & Colledge vanilla products to try out with no requirement to write a favourable review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Apricot and Vanilla Jam

Preserves | 11th November 2012 | By

We were off on holiday and it was the usual scramble to try and use up perishable food before we left. A punnet of slightly under ripe apricots was one of the food items that needed attention. With all the talk of fairtrade vanilla on BBC Radio 4 and Vanessa’s blog back in August, it was a question of poached apricots in vanilla syrup or making jam. I plumped for the jam and oh boy, I’m so glad I did.

I used Trish Deseine’s recipe as my guide, but reduced the quantity of sugar to fruit and added some water.

This is how I made two jars of apricot and vanilla jam:

  • Washed 400g apricots, then chopped and de-stoned them.
  • Put into a stainless steel heavy bottomed pan with 300g caster sugar and the stones.
  • Cut a vanilla pod into bits and scattered this over the sugar.
  • Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and added a splash of water.
  • Left overnight for the flavours to infuse.
  • Bought the mixture to a gentle simmer and stirred until the sugar was completely dissolved.
  • Bought it up to a rapid boil and let it go for a good ten minutes or more until the jam went from frothy to clear and setting point was reached (jam wrinkled when dropped onto a cold plate).
  • Removed the stones and spooned into two sterilised jars.

The jam turned out to be a beautiful golden amber colour and looked really pretty flecked with vanilla seeds – and it didn’t stop there. It set well and tasted sublime, tart and fruity, but still sweet and aromatic. I haven’t yet used the jam as I’ve been saving it for something special, but I have yet to decide what that special something is going to be.

I am entering this into Susan’s Home Made & Well Preserved challenge over at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate in the vague hope I might get lucky and win a copy of First Preserves by Vivian Lloyd.

This was, of course, made from scratch as is the vast majority of what I make, so I am entering this into Mr JW’s Made With Love Mondays.

As this is J for Jam, I am also entering it into this month’s Alpha Bakes with Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker.