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Dairy-free strawberry bread

One of the foods that shouts ‘SUMMER!’ to me is strawberries and when I recently bought too many punnets of them at the supermarket (who can resist a ‘buy one get one free’ offer?), I thought I’d use some of them to bake a lovely sweet treat.

strawberry loaf

This recipe is an adaptation of my dairy-free banana bread although I’ve reduced the sugar content a little (you could reduce it even more if your strawberries are wonderfully sweet). Regular readers will know how much I love to decrease the sugar in recipes before my taste testers can tell the difference ;).

Perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert, enjoy a little taste of summer to make your day better (I guarantee it!).

DAIRY-FREE STRAWBERRY BREAD

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

175g self-raising flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Approx. 300g strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
50g walnuts (or pecans), chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Take a couple of spoonfuls of flour from your 175g of self-raising flour and put into a small bowl. Lightly stir your strawberries through the small amount of flour (this will stop them sinking to the bottom of your bread while it cooks).

Whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together at a medium speed using a handheld beater or in an electric mixer. Whisk for a few minutes until it’s pale and fluffy.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, and mix until combined using a low speed. Gently stir through the strawberries and walnuts.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Variations:

  • Make individual muffins instead of a loaf (easier to freeze if you’re not going to eat all of it)
  • Dust with icing sugar

Easter inspiration 2014

It’s almost time for the Easter Bunny to visit and this year I haven’t made any Easter-themed lunches and snacks.

We were lucky to be able to spend two weeks in the sun in Marsa Alam, Egypt and I really enjoyed having time off from meal preparation. Also having come back home just a week ago I’ve been making the most of my time with Nicholas before he starts preschool full-time after Easter (this has involved lots of playing and dancing together with not that much thought for food!).

Oh, and there’s been lots of questions about how big the Easter Bunny is, a bit of disbelief when I admit I’ve never seen him and then a slight concern about how he gets in the house – questions I wasn’t prepared for. What do your little ones ask about Easter?

Anyway, if you’re looking for some last minute inspiration, here are some of my favourites with a couple of my efforts from last year thrown in.

Happy Easter!

EasterJill, over at Meet the Dubiens, has created the cutest plate of chicks in their nest. Check out her wonderful website for other adorable Easter food.

Bento, Monsters Easter Chick BurgerMing, who blogs at Bento, Monsters, has come up with a wonderful Easter twist on a simple cheese burger.

EasterLittle Miss Bento has turned Japanese curry buns into a nest of cute chicks.

Lunarbell Lunch Easter BasketSarah, who is Lunarbell Lunch on Instagram, has made the most adorable Easter basket.

And some of my efforts from last year:

Easter chicks

Easter chicks

The Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny

Easter egg snacking plate

Easter egg snacking plate

You can find some more inspiration from my Easter round-up post last year.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter.

 

Dairy-free hot cross buns

This time last year I made my very first attempts at making hot cross buns using a wonderful Paul Hollywood recipe, and I was very proud of the results.

hot cross buns

My not too shabby efforts at making hot cross buns last year.

This year I’ve been experimenting with a dairy-free version as we’re spending Easter with our dearest friends and godson, one of whom is lactose intolerant. I used last year’s recipe as a starting point; it requires quite a bit of time (you need to leave the buns to rise three times) but you do get wonderful buns in the end.

Paul Hollywood’s original recipe is rather tame in terms of spices (there’s just a small amount of ground cinnamon) and also only has a moderate amount of mixed peel (something my hubby loves but I don’t), so in my dairy-free version I increased both, and also added some nutmeg and cloves. The end result was much more satisfying especially the wonderful aroma of warm spices, and I have to admit the extra mixed peel works well.

The recipe uses fast-action or easy-blend yeast, but I’ve successfully used normal dried yeast as well. Look at last year’s recipe for instructions. I also like to soak my sultanas (or raisins) for half an hour in just boiled water before adding them to the dough so they’re lovely and plump, but that’s entirely up to you.

Several weeks ago I saw some amazing hot cross buns on Instagram by Burch & Purchase, a wonderful cake shop in Melbourne, Australia. They had the most incredible crosses on top. Instead of the usual traditional white flour mixture being piped on, it had been brushed on with very evident brush strokes (check out Burch & Purchase’s Instagram feed to see them and their other incredible creations). I attempted something similar with a thinner flour mixture and a brush, but as you can see it wasn’t a great success. I’ve left the instructions for the more traditional method!

EasterI used a sugar and water glaze on my finished buns last year which worked very well. This year I used a sugar and orange juice glaze, so as not to waste the orange whose zest you need. It’s very tasty although stays much stickier than the water version.

DAIRY-FREE HOT CROSS BUNS

Prep time: 30 mins (plus 3 x 1 hour of proving)
Cook time: 12-15 mins
Makes 16 buns
Freezable

300ml non-dairy milk (I used lactose free dairy drink)
3 tbsp vegetable oil (I used rapeseed oil)
500g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar
7g sachet fast-action or easy-blend yeast
1 egg, beaten
100g sultanas or raisins
75g mixed peel
zest of 1 orange
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves

For the cross:
75g plain flour
water

For the glaze:
25g caster sugar
25ml freshly squeezed orange juice

In a small saucepan, bring the non-dairy milk to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the oil. Leave to cool until it reaches a temperature you can put your hand into.

Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl (keeping the salt away from the yeast). Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and oil mixture, then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well.

Use your hands to bring the dough together then tip onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in a clean and lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film (to stop the dough drying out) and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Keeping the dough in the bowl, add the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed (this isn’t as easy as it sounds!). Cover and leave to rise for another hour or until doubled in size.

Divide the dough into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface.

Arrange the buns on two baking trays lined with baking paper, leaving some space for the dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean tea towel, and let them prove for another hour.

Heat your oven to 220C (200C fan).

Mix the flour for the cross with about 5 tbsp water to make a paste, adding the water 1 tbsp at a time to achieve a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.

Bake for 12-15 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.

Gently heat the sugar and orange juice for the glaze either in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  While the buns are still warm, brush over the sugar syrup over the top of the buns and leave to cool.

What are you favourite foods to eat at Easter? Do you have any family Easter traditions?

Cute lunches: Spider crackers

Cute lunches: Spider crackers

I came across these super cute spider snacks on Pinterest and knew they’d be great for Nicholas’ Spider-Man birthday party. They went down very well, even with the adults! Nicholas now asks for them regularly and they’re an easy snack to prepare.

Ritz spider crackers

Sorry for the very blurry photo, but…

For each spider you’ll need two round crackers (I used Ritz crackers). Using an edible ink pen, draw eyes and a mouth on the top of one cracker (you can also use raisins or sultanas for eyes stuck in place with soft cheese or even mayonnaise). Spread some soft cheese on the other cracker and press in the spider’s legs (I used Twiglets broken in half, but you could also use pretzel sticks or thin bread sticks). Spread a little bit of soft cheese on the top crack and position it on top.

Spider crackers

someone couldn’t wait to eat his spiders!

Can you think of any other animals you could make out of crackers?

Refined sugar-free Easter nests

Nicholas’ preschool has had an Easter display up for a couple of weeks now so Nicholas is already getting excited. We had lots of fun making these simple nests together and even more fun eating the eggs that unfortunately wouldn’t fit in the nests!

AAA1

The nests are based on a recipe all Australians know. Honey Joys were pretty much a prerequisite at birthday parties when I was growing up and now they give me a wonderful feeling of nostalgia.

The standard Honey Joy recipe uses butter, sugar and honey, which are melted together and then stirred through cornflakes. I wanted to make a slightly healthier version, and so replaced the sugar and honey with Sweet Freedom (a natural sweetener made from 100% fruit). You could also use agave nectar, or even honey (as you’re still cutting out the original refined sugar). The end result is just as sugary sweet as I remember but with fewer calories. And I believe that means you can eat more of them!

I’ve also successfully made a dairy-free version of these, using a dairy-free spread instead of the butter. They turned out just slightly softer than using butter, but otherwise I was very happy with the result.

Sweet Freedom nests

SUGAR-FREE EASTER NESTS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 12 nests

45g butter or dairy-free spread
2 tbsp Sweet Freedom (or agave nectar or honey)
2 cups cornflakes
Some small chocolate eggs

Preheat oven to 150C and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and Sweet Freedom over a low heat until the butter is frothing a little (if using a dairy-free spread, just melt as it won’t froth).

While you’re waiting, put the cornflakes into a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the melted sweetened butter over the cornflakes and quickly mix to combine.

Spoon the cornflake mixture into the cupcake cases, making nest shapes by leaving a hollow in the centre of each.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Cool a little and while the nests are still sticky, push in some small chocolate eggs.

Cool completely.

Sugar-free goji berry pancakes

nu3, the European nutrition experts, have just launched in the UK. Their online store has a huge range of products, including products that are exclusive to them, all to help us lead healthier lives. You can also get advice from their team of health specialists.

The company started only 5 years ago in Germany and have very quickly grown. Now we can also enjoy their huge range of health products.

As part of their UK launch, nu3 challenged me to come up with a recipe using their goji berries. Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, grow in China and are used in traditional Chinese medicine. They’re considered a superfood by many because they’re high in nutrients and antioxidents.

nu3 not only sell the dried berries, but also goji juice, goji capsules and chocolate covered goji berries. You can eat the dried goji berries simply as they are or easily pop them into smoothies or muesli and also even scatter them over salad. I experimented with adding them to cooking and I came up with some yummy pancakes.

nu3My regular readers will know I’m a big fan of fluffy pancakes so I used self-raising flour to make these pancakes lovely and light. To complement the healthy goji berries I used mainly wholemeal self-raising flour, and sweetened them with honey and very ripe banana rather than sugar (the riper the banana the better as it will be sweeter).

I felt very healthy eating them and figured I was allowed an extra drizzle of golden syrup over the top because of all the healthy ingredients inside! And Nicholas loved them too.

SUGAR-FREE GOJI BERRY PANCAKES

Prep time: 5-10 mins (plus overnight soaking time for the goji berries)
Cook time: 10-15 mins
Makes about 10 pancakes
Freezable

50g goji berries, covered in water and soaked overnight
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (I used 1 cup of wholemeal and 1/2 cup of white self-raising flour)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
1 egg, beaten
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 cup milk
Small piece of butter, melted, to grease the pan

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a medium- sized bowl.

Add the honey, egg and mashed banana then gradually pour in the milk mixing until you have a fairly thick batter (you might not need to use all the milk).

Drain the goji berries and gently mix them through the batter.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and brush with melted butter. Use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of mixture into the pan. Cook in batches, turning when bubbles appear on the surface (1-2 mins). Cook the other side until golden brown (about 1 min). Lift out and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Variations:

  • Use nutmeg or ginger instead of cinnamon
  • Add vanilla essence for more sweetness

Tip: Wipe your pan clean with a piece of paper towel after each batch and then brush with some more melted butter.

Sugar-free peanut and date bites

While I’m not a vegan (and never could be), I like following people who are on Instagram for healthy food inspiration, especially trying to come up with different healthier snacks for Nicholas. One of my favourite vegan Instagrammers is the lovely Two Minute Vegan (@twominutevegan).

A few weeks back she came up with a great idea for a two-ingredient healthy snack bar using just dates and peanuts. I just had to try it!

veganBlending up the dates into a sticky purée produces a wonderfully sweet caramel-like flavour in the finished bites and a seemingly naughty chewy texture. They really do taste like a sugary treat rather than a healthy snack.

The original recipe has a layer of peanuts on the bottom as well as on the top which works well if you’re cutting them into bars, but I just put peanuts on top. Even after cooking they’re quite squidgy, so it’s better to cut them into smaller pieces to avoid a sticky mess particularly with little ones.

Because of their squidgy soft texture, I think this recipe would also be great as pop-in-the-mouth balls, rolled in crushed peanuts before baking.

You really must try making these addictive bites!

SUGAR-FREE PEANUT AND DATE BITES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins plus 30 mins in the fridge to harden
Makes 16 squares
Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days

1 1/2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 1/2 cups dates, roughly chopped

Heat your oven to 175C and line a square baking tin (mine is 20cm x 20cm) with baking paper.

Put 1 cup of the peanuts in a food processor and grind until they’re fairly evenly broken up into small pieces.

Add the chopped dates and blend while pouring in two tablespoons of water. Keep adding a little water until you have a thick paste (similar in consistency to a thick peanut butter).

Spread the date and peanut mixture into your prepared tin using the back of a spoon (wet it if the mixture keeps sticking to it). Sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 cup of peanuts and press them in.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Put the bites, still in the tin, in the fridge to harden (at least half an hour) then cut into squares.

vegan