Monthly Archives: June 2015

Triple Chocolate Muffins

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A moist, squidgey, and seriously chocolatey muffin perfect for any chocoholic – even a dairy free one!

These chocolate muffins are another one of those ‘I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to post it!’ recipes. I think I will forever remember asking my mum to make these one last time before I trialled giving up dairy (who knew that it would quickly become permanent!) – because I couldn’t possibly imagine never eating them again! These were the one thing I really wanted one last time because these muffins are seriously good, and seriously chocolatey. There’s no endless list of fancy flavours in these – it’s just chocolate, chocolate and, you guessed it, more chocolate!

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This recipe is for triple chocolate muffins – meaning a combination of milk, white and dark chocolate is used. The original recipe uses equal amounts of all three chocolates; I’ve increased the amount of dark chocolate, and really reduced the amount of dairy free milk chocolate. I find dairy free chocolate alternatives (particularly milk and white chocolate) can distinctly lack a chocolatey flavour – so by ramping up the amount of dark you keep the intense chocolate effect, but you keep it light and sweet enough with the addition of the white and milk chocolate. Dairy free white chocolate can be a bit hit and miss; I would encourage everyone to try different varieties from different shops to find one that tastes good and melts properly. I’m still searching for the perfect replacement but the best one I’ve found in the UK is Tesco’s own brand dairy free white chocolate buttons.

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The original recipe comes from BBC Good Food’s ‘Chocolate’ mini magazine from their April 2005 edition (that just proves how well loved this recipe is in my family – 10 years and still going strong!) and apart from substituting the butter and chocolate for dairy free alternatives, the only other change I’ve made is to use yoghurt and vinegar instead of soured cream. This is a great way to substitute soured cream in a recipe where it doesn’t matter than the consistency is a little thinner – and it works perfectly here.

When my mum used to make these it would be lucky if there was one left 20 minutes after they’d been baked. If, somehow, you’ve managed to resist scoffing them all immediately, warm them up in the microwave for 15 – 20 seconds to take them back to that perfectly freshly baked gooey mess they should be.

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Pavlova – Dairy Free!

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A sumptuous dessert, sure to amaze anyone – dairy free or not. A crisp, light, and yet chewy meringue, filled with billows of coconut milk cream and crowned with a mass of delicious seasonal fruit. The perfect dessert to wow a crowd.

Pavlova brings back a lot of childhood memories for me… warm summer evenings, surrounded by family and friends, everyone full to the brim after a delicious meal. Then, out comes the Pavlova… the crowning centre piece. So light, crisp and sweet, with a pile of pillow-y soft cream, and then a towering mass of sweet fruit. And of course everyone devours it!

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Pavlova is something I’ve really missed – It’s something where cream is a very main and important ingredient, and you can’t hide the flavour. Soya cream doesn’t whip very well (or at least no variety I’ve ever found does!), and has a discernible soya aftertaste – not great if you’re serving it up to dairy eaters who will definitely think it is below standard. Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of research into dairy free alternatives and time and time again I saw whipped coconut milk as a replacement for whipped cream. Really, I thought? Does that really work? What’s the texture like? I also worried about everything having to go with coconut… as much as I love it, it doesn’t always go with everything in the same way that cream does!

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However I have to say I am a complete convert! Just by refrigerating the coconut milk, it whips perfectly and the texture and appearance is exactly like whipped cream – soft, billowy mounds of it would make a great side to lots of desserts to replace normal cream – and although the coconut flavour is not overwhelming in the slightest, you could soften the flavour by folding in a few tablespoons of dairy free yoghurt, which also loosens the texture slightly.

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Pavlova is great dessert to have up your sleeve, especially as the end result is spectacular and it really is very easy. You can even make the meringue part a day or two before which is always useful. Pavlova is a basic meringue recipe with two key ingredients – white wine vinegar and cornflour. It is the addition of these two ingredients which gives Pavlova it’s famous chewy texture in the middle, which just keeps you coming back for more.

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Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

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Sweet yet tart lemon cupcakes, perfect for a special occasion. A lemon sponge, filled with a pop of lemon curd in the middle, topped with light as air Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

These cupcakes are something special. Lemony to the core (literally!), but topped with Swiss Meringue Buttercream which is definitely worth the effort. This was the first time I’d eaten (let alone made) Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and despite the process being quite lengthy, the result was spectacular. Like a cross between a marshmallow and traditional buttercream, it is the smoothest, lightest icing you will ever eat. Also a bonus that it’s not too sweet, which works wonderfully well with lemons.

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I left these as just pure and simple lemon, which seems just right to show off the two ‘technical’ elements of this cake. Both the Lemon Curd and the Swiss Meringue Buttercream might seem quite daunting, but the good thing is you can do both of them in advance! The Lemon Curd will keep in an unopened jar for a couple of months and the buttercream can be kept in the fridge for a few days before use. Then all you need to do is bake the cupcakes, which I promise is exceedingly simple!

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If the Swiss Meringue Buttercream seems like a step too far, then a regular buttercream would also work well. You will get a sweeter result, but that’s not always a bad thing! Simply cream together 1 part butter to 1 and 1/2 parts icing sugar, and then add lemon curd to taste. I have to say this is one of my favourite buttercreams – the eggs in the curd help the buttercream go a very very pale colour, and it really lightens up the texture.

These cupcakes would make a wonderful gift or treat on a special occasion, and I can promise they will be gratefully received by anyone…. except perhaps someone who doesn’t like lemons!

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Lemon Curd

IMG_1536Dairy free lemon curd – a sweet but tart, luscious spread with a punchy lemon hit. Ideal for filling cakes, flavouring buttercream or even just slathering onto ice cream!

Lemon curd is just one of those things I never thought I would be able to make. For some reason those mysterious jars of bright yellow, tart goodness just seemed like they would be too complicated to make at home. Not that I understood how it was made, of course – more that it just seemed the kind of thing that only Delia Smith or Mary Berry could pull off.

So what is lemon curd? Perhaps for many of my non UK readers this sounds very unfamiliar and strange! Well, I’ll give you the practical description, and then my own description. Lemon curd is essentially eggs, butter, lemon juice and zest. It is slowly cooked over low heat until the eggs cook and thicken, and the curd can coat the back of a spoon. But that sounds so unappealing!!

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A much better description is this; a luscious, sweet but tart smooth mixture, the consistency of a thick sauce (somewhere between chocolate spread and hoisin sauce – strange description I know, but I think it sums it up well!), with a really big punchy lemon flavour. You can make different fruit curds (I love raspberry curd and will do a post on that later this summer!) and it can be used in lots of ways – such as spreading on toast, filling a cake or flavouring buttercream, just to name a few.

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So, despite my worry about making it, giving up dairy meant I had to find a way to eat lemon curd again… nothing else quite hits the spot like it! And actually when I finally was brave enough to try I realised it wasn’t really that hard. I tried various recipes and liked this Delia Smith one best. Don’t get me wrong – it is definitely a nerve wracking experience the first few times (and if you, like me, end up with scrambled eggs it can really put you off trying again!) but once you get the hang of it and know what to expect, it feels easier and is definitely worth it.

 

This is my first two part post – so if you weren’t already tempted to give this a try, next week I’ll be posting these Lemon Meringue Cupcakes where the curd is used as a filling and a flavouring for the buttercream. So go on, be brave and give it a try!!

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