Saturday, 27 February 2016

Dairy Free creme "eggs"

A few weeks back, everyone was talking about creme eggs, and how the chocolate wasn't as good any more. In the past there has been much speculation about the diminishing size of the eggs too - so all in all, not good news for Cadbury. It got to a point where This Morning did a bit about it, and Paul Young showed the presenters how to make their own eggs.

This piqued my interest, as I had not considered making an egg before. The girls said that they would love to try a creme egg, so it was time to get the big bag of chocolate out and try for myself.


Vegan chocolate
Fondant icing sugar
Vanilla essence

Silicon moulds are great for making chocolates, but as all I had were individual heart shaped moulds we had to have hearts and not eggs.

The chocolate I used was from Plamil. I've been using their chocolate for years now and you can buy the darkness of chocolate that you prefer by cocoa percentage (45%, 53%, 60% or 72%). For this I used the 53% cocoa, which is still quite dark. If you want to make them more like milk chocolate, you can use the 45% or the Moo free chocolate bars, which are both great.

So, I melted about 200g of chocolate slowly over a pan of gently simmering water, then turned the heat off, but left the chocolate so it would not set again. I put a few tablespoons of the fondant icing sugar into a bowl and added a little water and flavoured it with vanilla. It is a bit of trial and error to get the quantities right so add small amounts at a time until you get that thick, gooey icing that you know from creme eggs.

Next, take your silicon moulds and fill them nearly to the top with the melted chocolate. I put mine onto a plate, then popped them in the fridge for about 5 minutes. After that time, you need to take them out and tip the chocolate out. A thick layer will have started to set around the edges, and the rest will pour back into your melting bowl. Put them back in the fridge to set the chocolate.

Finally, add the fondant centre to the top of the chocolate shell and seal the top by totally covering it with the leftover melted chocolate. Put them back into the fridge and leave to set. When they are ready to be eaten, the silicon mould can be peeled off, but keep them in the fridge until you want to eat them. I haven't mastered how to temper chocolate yet, so they will be quite melty as you eat them!

Monday, 23 November 2015

3 ways with dates....and chocolate

Been away for a year, how did that happen? I've been baking and making but not blogging and I want to get back into it, so here is a great trio of things to do with dates.

A vegan friend of mine recently told me how she made her own twix bars, the recipe is from another site which I shall try to find in due course. The part that intrigued me was the use of dates to make the  caramel section. My girls can't eat dairy, and miss out on traditional chocolate bars, so maybe this was a way to create something for them. I already make dairy-free chocolate truffles with dates, cocoa and ground almonds and the girls love those, so today I tried out my own twix recipe:

1 pack of supermarket shortbread biscuits
100g moo-free chocolate bar
3 tbsp plamil catering chocolate
a block of dates (250g)
2tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp caramel flavouring

I heated up the dates and caramel flavouring with about 100ml of water to soften them, then when they were cooled, I blitzed them to a smooth paste with 2tbsp of cocoa powder.
This mix was then smeared thickly over 9 shortbread biscuits.

I melted the two chocolates together and cooled slightly before dropping each biscuit carefully in and turning it over very gently to coat it, using a fork. The coated biscuits were placed on the cool windowsill for about 30 minutes before going into the fridge. Done.


I had a huge amount of the date mix left and the scrapings of the chocolate, which I couldn't waste. So, I thought to myself, what can I use this for?
My girls are always on at me to make whoopee pies, which I'm not so bothered about, but I was feeling generous (why else would I have been making twix bars in the first place?) so I made up the following batter:

2oz sunflower spread
2oz date mix from above
about 2tbsp of melted chocolate
1 egg
2.5oz self raising flour
a splash of soya milk to soften the mix

I mixed all this and made 12 dollops on a baking tray, then baked them at 180c for about 15 minutes. They looked fine, but I think that the mix could have been even softer to let them spread better.

Once cooled, I made my third date and cocoa creation - frosting. Yep, if you mix equal quantities of the date mix and sunflower spread, you get the beginnings of a very good frosting consistency; it's not chocolatey enough, so I tagged another tbsp of cocoa powder and the same of icing sugar to get the texture just right. I spooned the frosting onto one cooled cake round, then sandwiched another cake on top.

A sprinkle of icing sugar and they are ready to eat:

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Christmas treasure map

For the school Christmas Fair, I have made two games for the children to play. The first is a treasure map, which took a bit of thinking about. I decided to make the islands on the map look like a reindeer outline, to make it a bit Christmassy, but making the map took a bit of trial and error.
I ended up using thick off-white card and drawing the details on with coloured Sharpies. I then made up washes of colour using transparent inks so the details showed through. I wasn't completely happy with the way the water had overlays of the ink which caused darker patches, but it was difficult to keep the colour flowing around my wobbly coastlines.

To make the grid, I bought a cheap acetate fronted picture frame in Hobbycraft and drew the grid on the acetate. I drew the letters and numbers on backwards so that the grid and writing would be on the side of the acetate that the map was on, so if people touched the acetate they didn't rub any of the ink off - I used a Sharpie again to draw on the acetate. If we decide to do another treasure hunt the map can be taken out and a new one placed under the grid.

The second game is not quite finished, but I will post a picture when it's done.

Back to the blog

I've been away for nearly 18 months, time for a bit of a catch up now I have some time to myself.

I'll start with the most recent makes - the Frozen dresses. Both my girls wanted dresses to be just like the girls from the film. I refused to pay £65 for the official ones and decided it was time to get making again.

I went back to my roots and made the patterns from scratch, which fascinated the children, who had never seen dot and cross paper or a pattern master before. The dress patterns were relatively simple to design and the cape for Anna was based on a jacket from their wardrobe. I bought the fabrics from Ebay and got to work, two weeks later, here they are (with their heads photoshopped, obviously!)

ps. that Elsa fabric was the worst fabric I have ever worked with - never again!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Royal baby cakes

The school cake sale this month was themed around the Royal baby. I was inspired by a colleague who had bought a Krispy Kreme donut that you bite to reveal blue or pink filling, and made some little fairy cakes on the same theme.


I made a 2 egg batch of my 5:4:4:2 cake mix and put 2 tbsp of the mixture in each of 2 small bowls. I coloured one bowl pink and one bowl blue using colour pastes. I think I put a little too much colouring in them, but was conscious that it needed to be obvious when you bit into it.

I spread a heaped teaspoon of mix across the bottom of each cake case and then a blob of the coloured mix on top.
Finally, I used a heaped teaspoon of mix to cover up the colour and baked the cakes for about 12 minutes at 180c.

I made some vanilla buttercream icing using pure soya spread and smeared each cooled cake with enough to cover any imperfections where the colour showed. I added a few sprinkles and they were finished. They looked just like normal little cakes and were a great little guessing game for the children.

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Big Mirror

We had our bedroom decorated 16 months ago and I have finally finished the mirror frame for my big leaner mirror to go in the room. I bought a (quite frankly nasty) cheap fake leather framed mirror off eBay which I naively thought would finish off the room perfectly. Not only was it nasty and cheap looking, the bits of vinyl started peeling off the frame almost immediately and it wasn't long before I got angry and ripped them all off.

A friend of mine has been using comics to rejuvenate pieces of furniture and this gave me an idea.  Last November, I sold the smaller version of my big plan at the school Christmas Fair, when I covered 6x4 photo frames in comics and also salt dough tree decorations. I bought the comics off eBay for 99p each and they are original 1950's Marvel comics.

So, back to the mirror, which needed a lot of tlc because it was looking very sad. I stripped it down, taking off the layers of padding and sticky strips of glue encrusted vinyl to leave a bare, moulded fibreboard frame.

I took the mirror out of the frame and covered the whole thing in a layer of brown paper and pva glue to give a smooth layer to stick the comics to. Once that was all dry, I started methodically tearing the best images from each page of my comic selection (Fantastic 4, X-men, Hulk and Avengers) and mixed them all up before starting to glue the pieces down. All the less interesting ripped pieces were used to fill small gaps so nothing was wasted.

Each time I glued a piece on, I coated it with another layer of glue, so the whole thing is sealed in and has a slight sheen to it but the colour of the comics is not affected by any addition of varnish.

The mirror is now proudly in it's place in the bedroom and I am so in love with it!

Bunny shaped Yorkshire puds

My children love Yorkshire puddings (maybe as much as I do, if that's possible) and although they love sausages, they don't like toad-in-the-hole. Strange, huh? I have worked out how to make pretty good dairy-free puddings after much experimentation, and the recipe is:

75g plain flour
1 egg
85ml rice milk (soya doen't seem to rise)
ground black pepper and salt (a couple of twists of each)

I mix the ingredients with a hand whisk and heat a 12 hole pan in the oven at 220c with a little pool of sunflower oil in each well, when the pan is hot I quickly pour the mix into the 12 holes and slam it back in the oven. I leave the oven door firmly shut for 20 minutes or so while they rise and brown, then we scoff them while they are still nice and hot. They don't rise in the magnificent way that they do when made the traditional way, but they are still very good.

Today, as an experiment, I used a 6 hole bunny pan to make the puddings and they came out pretty well, look: