When it comes to weekend treat breakfasts, waffles are a firm family favourite. They are so easy to make and take very little time to prepare. We love experimenting with different ingredients and flavour combinations. I’ve already posted recipes for our Easy Vegan Waffles and Gingerbread Waffles and today, we’re sharing the recipe for our quick and easy Chocolate Waffles.
One of the most exciting developments that I’ve witnessed in the world of confectionery has been the perfecting of vegan ‘milk’ chocolate. After decades of dodgy ‘dairy free alternatives’ to milk chocolate (that barely even tasted like chocolate!), there is now an array of quality vegan ‘milk’ chocolates available. I’ve discovered most of them via The Vegan Kind subscription box, so a big thank you to the TVK Team for seeking them out for us.
Here are my top picks of vegan ‘milk’ chocolates that would be perfect for gifts, stockings and hampers this Christmas. And if planning to purchase online, why not buy from a charity shop such as Viva! or Animal Aid? That way, you’ll be making a purchase that’s not only cruelty free, but supports the protection of animals too. That’s a ‘win-win’ in my book :o)
Today I’m sharing my “go-to” recipe for chocolate cupcakes. This recipe has never left me down. My oven can be really temperamental when it comes to cake baking, but these cupcakes always turn out perfectly. They’re light, fluffy and deliciously moist.
I’ve made them numerous times for fundraisers and they always sell in a flash. None of the children at our local school are vegan, but they choose these cupcakes simply because they love them. It also makes me happy to know that the children with dairy allergies are able to join in. I often spot their mums making a beeline for me as I step through the school gate with my cake tin.
Next Friday is the annual Macmillan coffee morning here in the UK, which has now gained the status of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Last year, the event raised a wopping £25 million for people affected by cancer.
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember my sad attempt to grow veggies a few years back. Everything I planted quickly got devoured by the gazillion veggie-loving critters that live in our garden. Some plants literally disappeared overnight :/
I’ve long since abandoned the veggie patch dream and my latest strategy is to leave the patch in a semi wild state and observe what will happily grow there with no intervention on my part. So far, amongst the multitude of wild flowers and “weeds”, I have three edible crops that are flourishing – Golden Raspberries, Lemon Balm and Chocolate Mint!
With just over a week until Easter, our minds have been on all things egg and bunny shaped, and preferably made of chocolate. We’ve been scouting the shops and online stores, checking out what’s on offer for vegans and the dairy free. Every year, the selection gets bigger and bigger. I remember not so long ago that it was impossible to find a dairy-free egg (even the dark chocolate eggs contained dairy :/). This year, whether you’re a milk, white or dark chocolate lover, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our top picks for 2015.
Hotel Chocolat Milk-Free Milk Chocolate – NEW for 2015! As soon as I heard that Hotel Chocolat had launched a range of milk-free milk chocolate, I headed straight to our store in Bath to check it out. It didn’t taste quite as I expected… it’s got that quality cocoa flavour that we know and love about Hotel Chocolat, but it didn’t have the creaminess (or sugary sweetness) that we associate with dairy chocolate. When Lil’ L tried it, he said that it was more like a dark chocolate than a dairy chocolate. If you’re a milk chocolate lover, I’d recommend trying a sample before you buy to make sure it suits your tastes. I like it… but then again I’m a dark chocolate lover 😉
For this month’s Suma Blogger’s Network entry, I though I’d share one of my latest treat obsessions – Vegan Florentines ♥
I’ve been dreaming about Florentines ever since I saw them on display in the patisserie shops of Venice and Florence a few years ago. I’d never seen anything quite like them before. They looked so dainty yet totally decadent with their dark chocolate bottoms! I was pretty sure that they’d be full of dairy and off limits to me, but I was excited about the thought of creating a vegan version one day.
This week I finally got round to a little Florentine experimentation in the kitchen.
After a quick internet search, I discovered that Florentines are typically made with cane sugar, honey, butter, candied cherries, candied citrus peel and almonds. Since I’m not a fan of the first 4 ingredients, and I know a lot of my readers aren’t keen on candied peel, I ended up subbing 5 of the 6 ingredients. The almonds stayed 😉
The cane sugar and honey was swapped for coconut sugar and maple syrup, which gave the Florentines a wonderful golden hue and caramel-like sweetness. Instead of candied cherries and citrus peel, I used dried cranberries and orange zest. This gave the Florentines a fresh, citrussy flavour which I absolutely loved. The butter was exchanged for non dairy spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter.
I’ve done 6 trials so far this week, playing around with different ingredient ratios and combos. All have tasted delicious, but I was striving to bake a Florentine that was super thin with the traditional ‘lacey’ texture on the underside. By the 4th trial, I’d cracked it.
Once cooled, I then added the classic Florentine wavy chocolate bottom.
These Florentines are my new treat obsession. I absolutely love their texture – crisp on the outside, chewy in the centre with a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bottom. Plus the flavour combination is so lush. The citrus zest gives them a wonderful lift while the dark chocolate makes them feel decadent.
Another great thing about this biscuit is that each one only contains 1 tsp of mixture which, in my eyes, makes it totally acceptable to go back for a second or third 🙂
‘M’ and Lil’ L seem to love them as much as me. I’ve made 72 so far this week, and there are very few left in the biscuit tin! I also took along a sample to my Tuesday night study class and they were a big hit!
If possible, I recommend weighing the ingredients rather than using tablespoons as it’s more precise. I find that the shape and ‘lacieness’ of the Florentines varies depending on the size of the fruit and nut pieces, and the type of flour or fat used. Regardless of their shape, all are totally delicious!
27g / 1 oz / 3 rounded TBSP flaked almonds
27g / 1 oz / 3 TBSP dried cranberries
Zest of ½ unwaxed / organic orange
27g / 1 oz / 2 TBSP dairy-free spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter
27g / 1 oz / 3 TBSP coconut sugar
27g / 1 oz / 1½ TBSP maple syrup
18g / ⅔ oz / 2 TBSP fine wholemeal (whole wheat), chapatti or gluten-free flour mix
80g / 3 oz dark chocolate or ½ cup dark choc chips
Method Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F. Line two large baking sheets with non stick baking paper.
Place the almonds in a frying pan (skillet) and dry fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly. As soon as they start to brown and become fragrant, tip them onto a plate and leave to cool. Once cool, finely chop the nuts or scrunch them in your hands to break them up.
Finely chop the cranberries. Zest the orange.
In a small pan, gently heat the non dairy spread / coconut butter. Once it has melted, whisk in the sugar and syrup. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour until fully incorporated. Stir in the nuts and fruits. You want to get the mixture as uniform as possible so that the Florentines spread evenly as they bake.
Drop six rounded teaspoons of mixture onto one baking sheet. Be sure to space them out well to give them room to spread. Add another six teaspoons to the second baking sheet. Using damp fingers, press down on the Florentines to flatten slightly and shape into circles.
Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 8 minutes, or until the edges of the Florentines have browned. Leave to cool. (They will be very soft when they come out the oven, but they firm up as they cool).
Once the Florentines are completely cool, prepare the chocolate coating. Place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl set over a pan with an inch or so of water (make sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl). Gently heat the water and stir the chocolate until it has fully melted. Remove from the heat. If the chocolate is very runny, keep stirring it until it has thickened slightly. Using a knife, coat the bottom of each Florentine with chocolate, then wiggle a fork along the chocolate to form a wavy pattern. Leave the chocolate to set.
The Florentines will keep for a week or so in an airtight container. In warm houses, it’s best to store them in the fridge. They also freeze really well so it’s worth making a double batch and freezing some. That way, you’ll have a stash ready for coffee mornings, surprise visitors or whenever a sweet craving strikes.
Unwaxed Citrus Fruits Unwaxed lemons are widely available, but unwaxed oranges are a little harder to come by. In the UK, they are currently available in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco. If you’re only able to find waxed oranges, you’ll find tips online on how to remove the wax. The wax on citrus fruits often contains shellac (from the lac beetle) or beeswax, making them unsuitable for vegans. Organic citrus fruits are unwaxed, which makes them vegan friendly 🙂
You’ll find Suma products available to purchase in UK independent health food shops. You can also bulk buy many of their products from Amazon.