Monday, November 30, 2015

Vegan Peanut-Butter Cookies

This week I have been incredibly busy, apparently finishing a doctorate is not easy! Between presentations, essays, literature reviews, and work it’s hard to find a minute in the day! This week has also been challenging because my favourite person (bf) has been away and so for his return today I planned a special meal with an even more special dessert. In fact this dessert was designed for two people in my life that I was missing this weekend. 

One of my bf’s favourite flavours is peanut-butter and therefore this weekend I found a peanut butter cup ice-cream to finish off the delicious dinner I planned for his return. However ice-cream alone does not a dessert make and therefore I decided to make a few peanut butter cookies to be gently heated and go with the ice-cream and of course the only way was peanut butter.

Now since they were going to be peanut flavoured I knew that I could also make this recipe for another important person that I really missed this weekend and who has a particular penchant for peanuts, so hopefully she enjoys the recipe and maybe we can make it together this Christmas. This, however necessitated the cookies to be vegan. They are not only vegan but also wheat free, not that many people need that! So actually these cookies are kind of healthy, although not very and whatever you do………..don’t tell my boyfriend!!

 The cookies are crispy on the outside and have a delicious crumb (to sound all Mary Berry on you!). They are intensely peanut flavoured with a little sweetness although if you prefer them sweeter, feel free to increase the sugar by about 50%. They went perfectly with the ice-cream but I can also imagine them going excellently with coffee! And……………. they go with the ice-cream two ways, so read to the end! 

Vegan Peanut-butter Cookies (Gluten free, in case you’re celiac) (adapted from
250g Peanut-Butter (Chunky or Smooth, your choice)
100g brown sugar
100g white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax seeds with 3 tbsp water, allowed to sit for 15 mins)
75g ground almonds
50g 70% dark chocolate chips (more if you want)

11.      Prepare your flax eggs and preheat the oven to 170’C/325'F/Gas mark 3.
22.       Add the sugar and whisk until light and frothy
33.       Add the peanut-butter and stir.
44.       Finally add the almond and dark chocolate and stir everything together

55.       Form into little balls and then flatten, then bake for 15 minutes but keep an eye on them.

66.       They are done when they have browned around the edges then allow to cool. They will get    
         firmer as they cool
    Alternatively you can make cookie dough for ice-cream, since they can be eaten raw w/o issue!!!
1.       Form into tiny balls and then flatten on a plate.
2.       Put the plate into the freezer.
3.       Add to ice-cream for a cookie dough sensation!!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gingerbread and reflections

Today I considered not posting. I had planned this post since last week but somehow in light of what's happened in Paris and Beirut somehow happy seasonal food recipes just don't seem as important anyway. However this morning I decided it would be better to post and talk a little about the many many wonderful times I have spent in Paris.

So, it being the middle of November, it is starting to feel seasonal but yet it's not really reasonable to start indulging yet. These gingerbread bites are the absolute business. They are vegan, wholegrain, fat-free, and (unless you cover them with icing sugar for aesthetic purposes) refined sugar free!! They taste really good too and they hit that cake craving nicely! I also used the lovely Sweetpea Pantry ginger giggles mix that includes barley and rye flour. But before you eat me for using pre-made mix on a baking blog, know that it's just an ingredient and my own recipe!

The last time we went to Paris was very funny! My boyfriend and I have a habit when we go away of getting a little apartment style hotel room or hostel place and walk around everywhere to learn the area and pretend for a week that we live there. Paris is such a lovely place to do this because you can establish your local boulangerie/patisserie for a week and even within that limited space of time I get the impression that the boulanger will get to know you, which adds to the experience massively! Another wonderful thing about the pretending to live there part is that you have oodles of time to sit around in parks observing people and really soaking in the culture. Some of my happiest moments have been in france and sitting in a park with my bf just taking it all in forms the basis of a good few of those.

Back to the recipe

Vegan, Wholegrain Barley and Rye Gingerbread Bites (makes 15 inch square cubes)

200g Ginger Giggles Mix
Egg- replacer (use your product directions for the equivalent of 1 egg)
150ml Apple sauce                                                                

1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp Agave Nectar

1- Preheat oven to 180'C/ 350'F/ Gas mark 4.

2- Mix everything together  (could it be simpler)

3- Line a bread tin and pour in the mixture

4- Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown on top

5- Let cool and slice into cubes to enjoy

So I'll finish off with one of my favourite memories of paris and the wonderful people who live there. On our last visit there myself and my partner were walking around trying to find a great place to eat. We had been walking for a couple of hours sight-seeing and the like and we were pretty hungry. You know the type of hungry that takes on a life of it's own?! Well our seperate hungers were leading and each had a different goal in mind. We searched and searched and looked at so many delicious restaurants but each time, either I wasn't satisfied or he wasn't. Well, this had been going on for about an hour and the hunger was bad when we finally found a place that met all the criteria, Halleluia! But..... the kitchen was closed, in fact all the kitchens were closed until dinner time! Devastated!! We alked away starving and depressed and headed to the only thing we could see that was still open - McDonalds. You can imagine how unexcited I was, except I was forgetting that this was France. My McDonalds meal was the freshest and most delicious Mc Donalds I had ever had, with real dijon mustard and a much needed coffee on the side! Not only that but there was some tables outside and a group singing for some reason I never gathered. Now I'll grant you, my hunger may have added to the flavour but one thing cannot be denied - Parisians can add class to anything!! Which is exactly what we have seen in the wake of this tragedy! Parisians out holding their heads up in the face of terrorism and calling on others not to allow the acts of a few extremist segregate the muslim community in France. Now this is not and never will be a political blog and I am aware that there are several aspects of this situation that are more complex. However I would like to focus on the good and on my happy memories of paris, while I pray for all those involved and affected this weekend!

Look after yourself and enjoy this little post, til next week, a bientot =)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween turtles, or the time I burnt myself with boiling sugar

Halloween weekend, Huzzah!! I like Halloween, not love but like a lot. Mostly because it signifies the start of winter, and I don't know if I've told you (here, here or here) but I love winter!!

This year we decided to forego the cornucopia of candy and focus on one main event! During a recent trip to town we dropped by an American sweet shop and I picked up some DeMets Turtles. I loved these chocolates during my time in america and once my boyfriend tasted them we knew we needed more, and preferably for less than £3 a pack (2 turtles). So we planned a Halloween baking session!!

We stuck with the classic - pecans and I decided to try a new caramel recipe to create something between a caramel and a fudge, that would hold it's shape but still be chewy and delicious. As you can see we also did dark and milk chocolate versions, so everyone can have their favourite!!

Homemade Turtles

200g Pecans

For the Caramel
300g White Sugar
60ml Golden Syrup/Corn Syrup
60ml Water
240ml cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
(You will also need a sugar thermometer)

200g Milk
200g Dark Chocolate


1- Preheat oven to 200C/ 390F. Mix together the sugar, syrup and water in a thick bottom saucepan. Then remove the spoon and do not mix again until later.

2 - Place the saucepan on a medium heat. Put your pecans on a baking tray and put into the oven.

3- Using a silicon spatula or a pastry brush dipped in water push any crystals on the walls down

4 - Heat until you reach between 250F and 320F. I went for 275F.

5- Remove from the heat and add the cream

6- Stir gently (it will bubble up but don't worry)

7 - Return to a medium heat and bring back up to 250F

8 - Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, then stir

9 - Remove pecans from oven and then arrange in sets of three

10- Then stir your slightly cooled caramel and if it has thickened slightly pour a spoonful over each set of pecans

11- Now allow your caramel to cool and cut up your chocolate.

12- Melt 3/4 chocolate (ideally in a bains marie but you can use a microwave in 20-30 second bursts)

13- Once fully melted remove from the heat add the final quarter and mix thoroughly until this also melts from the heat of the other chocolate

14- Your caramel should be set now so you can pick up the pieces and dip into the chocolate. Then returned to the parchment lined baking sheet and allow to cool.

Et Voila, or erm Well Lookie here (does that sound america, absolutely no offense intended) - You've got yourself some turtles

Enjoy =)

Oh......and the burn?! Well suffice is to say that my sugar thermometer skills need work and I would advise you to be careful when removing it from the pot as splashes can happen =( Hot Sugar + skin is not good so always be extra careful!

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...