Vegan pumpkin spice cookies

The kids are out and about, hopefully not terrifying the neighbours too much with their Halloween antics, so I’m home alone – answering the door to a steady flow of creepy (and quite cute) trick or treaters.

I think I got the better deal. It’s a chilly night and has just started to drizzle, while I’m sat here, warm and cosy with a big mug of tea and a couple of these delicious pumpkin spice cookies. My oldest baked them today to take over to her Halloween sleepover. Her friend’s mum is vegan and she was keen to make them dairy-free so everyone could enjoy them. I’m sure they will!

Vegan pumpkin spice cookies

Makes around 15

175g plain flour
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
60g vegan spread or margarine
90g demerara sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp golden syrup (plus a little more for fixing the icing in place)
250g orange ready to roll icing
coloured writing icing (we used black, green and red)
icing sugar (for dusting)

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and stir in the spices and baking powder.

Add the margarine in small chunks and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then stir in the demerara sugar.

In another bowk, mix the oil and golden syrup together. Gradually stir this into the rest of the mixture, then use your hands to bring it all together to form a dough. Knead until smooth.

Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 170ºC / gas mark 3. Grease and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Flour your surface, and then roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut out pumpkin shapes.

Transfer to the lined baking trays and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. After a few minutes, transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely before decorating.

Dust your surface and rolling pin with a little icing sugar, and roll out the orange icing until it’s as thin as you can get it. Cut out pumpkin shapes, slightly smaller than the cookies. Fix into place by brushing with a little golden syrup. Draw on your pumpkin faces and little green stalks with the coloured writing icing, and leave to dry for half an hour or so.

Our ghastly Halloween showstopper

Every year I watch the Great British Bake Off and every year I feel inspired to get the kids in the kitchen to join me in creating some crazy, outlandish showstopper-style masterpiece*.

The problem is, and I know I’ve said this before on the blog, but I’m just not a natural-born baker. That’s not to say my bakes don’t taste good. Nine times out of ten they most certainly do. But all too often they just don’t look good. And that’s the whole point of a showstopper, isn’t it? To impress? To wow? So perhaps our attempt this year at a ghoulish bake for Halloween is more a pause-glance-and-nod-approvingly before moving on than a full-blown stop-them-in-their-tracks-in-awe showstopper. The children loved it though, and that’s what’s most important.

*easily interchangeable with ‘monstrosity’, but quite appropriate really for this time of year. Continue reading “Our ghastly Halloween showstopper”

Green chiller

green chiller

The Halloween-fuelled experiments have been continuing in full force in our kitchen. As well as our macabre muffins, the kids and I have also come up with this delicious green juice chiller.

green chiller3

Featuring kiwi fruit, canataloupe melon and coconut water, it’s super quick to make and delighfully zingy on the tastebuds. It’s a suitable shade of ghoulish green as befits this time of year, but you’ll be happy in the knowledge that no matter how nasty your little monsters are endeavouring to be, there are no nasties at all in here. Continue reading “Green chiller”

Healthy Halloween muffins

Halloween Collage

The Halloween frivolities have started a little early here. Last weekend we had an absolute ball at the Halloween-themed Reach for the Bubbles afternoon disco in Frome. We painted each others’ faces, scoffed West Indian style hot dogs, drank mulled cider (and hot apple juice), played drum and bass musical statues and took part in a Thriller line dance, all to an awesome soundtrack provided by the phenomenal Lionel Richtea on the decks.

We’ve also been experimenting with some gruesome bakes in the Bangers & Mash kitchen. The kids wanted to see if we could come up with some terrifying but tasty snacks ready for the Halloween party season. And I wanted to see if we could make them vaguely healthy rather than the sugar-fuelled treats we generally seem swamped by this time of year.

Healthy Halloween Muffins Collage

Our experiments resulted in these cheesy vegetable muffins, which the girls have delightfully called Fungus the Bogeyman Muffins (spinach and black olives) and Blood and Gore Muffins (beetroot and carrot). If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to tempt the little monsters at your Halloween party or to fend off the trick-or-treaters, then I definitely recommend you give these a go. I promise they’re much more delicious than they might look or their names might suggest. Continue reading “Healthy Halloween muffins”

Halloween ghost cake pops

Halloween ghost cake pops text

My last Halloween offering definitely wasn’t going to win any awards in the most attractive bake category (despite how much fun the kids had creating them), but these little spooky cake pops are much, much cuter.

My daughter Jessie and I made these for her school bake sale and from all accounts they were a big hit. The girls say they’d all sold out before they even made it into the school hall.

Halloween ghost cake pops2

Cake pops are always a hit with children but I avoid making them too often. They’re not at all difficult, just a little long-winded and involved. So if you plan to have a go at these, do make sure you leave yourself plenty of time.

The good people at Dr Oetker kindly sent me a big bag of ingredients in order to make this cake pops recipe, developed by Juliet Sear who is part of their Even Better Baking Team. The recipe is below and for more practical hints and tips, you can watch the video tutorial over on YouTube.

The cake at the centre of these wee little ghosties is a delicious chocolate fudge brownie, which this recipe has you making from scratch. If you want to make life a little easier, you could always use a shop-bought chocolate cake – just make sure it’s a nicely moist and squidgy one. The brownie balls are covered in a layer of white chocolate, before being dressed in their ghostly regal icing robes.

Halloween ghost cake pops

Makes 20 cake pops

For the cake balls
120g Dr Oetker 72% Cocoa Extra Dark Fine Cooks Chocolate
150g soft unsalted butter at room temp
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 medium free range eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp Dr Oetker Madagascan Vanilla extract
125g Plain Flour

For the cake pops
2 X 100g bags of Dr Oetker White Chocolate Chips melted for sticking the balls onto the sticks & coating the cake pops
20 cake pop sticks

To decorate the ghosts
1 pack of Dr Oetker White Regal Ice
icing sugar for rolling out
Dr Oetker White Designer Icing for sticking the regal ice to the cake pops
Dr Oetker Jet Black Gel Food Colour

Preheat the oven to 140°C / gas mark 1).

Grease and line an 18cm (7 inch) square cake tin.

To make the fudge brownie mix, melt the extra dark chocolate in a microwave on medium power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until melted, or in a heatproof bowl on a gentle heat over a bain marie. Leave to cool.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the eggs a little at a time, mixing until combined.

Add the cooled chocolate stirring continuously. Add the vanilla extract and stir. Gradually fold in the flour until just combined. Take care not to over beat.

Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for around 40 mins. Check it with a sharp knife or metal skewer. You want this to be slightly under baked, so the knife should come out with a nice paste stuck to the knife.

Leave the cake to cool, then turn out into a bowl and crumble with your hands to a fine, fudgy crumb.

To make the cake balls, take a handful of fudge cake mix and squeeze together tightly – you are aiming for little balls about the size of a large walnut, approximately 30g each. If the mixture is dry, the addition of a little melted chocolate or vanilla butter cream will help the mixture stick.

Melt the white chocolate chips in the same way as the dark chocolate earlier.

Dip the end of a stick into the melted white chocolate and push the stick into a ball, about half way in. Hold the ball to stop it splitting open when the stick goes in. Continue with all the balls.

Once all the cake pops are ready, pop them into the freezer for 30 mins, so the balls are firm enough to hold when dipping in the coating. Keep the melted white chocolate in a warm place to stop it from setting.

When the cake balls are firm, plunge each one into the white chocolate until completely covered. Tap the cake pop gently on the side of the bowl to shake off the excess.

To decorate the ghosts, roll out half the white regal icing into a large rectangle using plenty of icing sugar and a large plastic rolling pin. Roll fairly thinly – 2 to 3mm thick. Squeeze a little Designer Icing onto the tops of the cake pops or brush with some melted white chocolate to keep the icing sheet in place.

Using a cake cutter or small bowl, cut out circles of regal icing and place on each of the pops, smoothing down with your fingers to create the white sheet effect.

Decorate each one with a ghostly expression using the black gel food colour and a fine brush.

Halloween ghost cake pop

 

These spooky cake pops are perfect for making with little ones and so I’m entering them into this month’s Family Foodies ‘Cooking With Kids’ challenge, a month bloggers event hosted by Eat Your Veg and me, Bangers & Mash.

family-foodies

Disclosure: I received complimentary ingredients from Dr Oetker in order to try out this recipe. No money exchanged hands and all opinions expressed are my own.

Green goo iced buns for Halloween

Green Goo Halloween Iced Buns3smalltext

I always say this, but when I cook with my children, I have to be in just the right mood. A laid-back, chilled-out, hey-it’s-fine-to-wreck-the-kitchen kind of mood. Because cooking should be fun, right? For all of us, kids and parents alike. Which also means I won’t be too precious about what the end result actually looks like.

Green Goo Halloween Iced Buns4

Take these Halloween iced buns for example. Who in their right mind wants to eat something smothered in black icing? Well, my daughters it would seem. Especially when covered in hundreds-and-thousands and oozing with green jam – or green snot as my two like to call it. Delightful pair. Continue reading “Green goo iced buns for Halloween”

Halloween pumpkin cake pops

Cake pops are very cute. After all, who doesn’t love food on a stick? I made some simple ones recently for a school cake sale and they sold out instantly. In fact, the school caretaker got in there first and bought some while we were still setting up.

I’ve seen lots of beautifully decorated cake pops on websites and blogs recently and for some strange reason I’ve felt an overwhelming urge to create some special cake pops for Halloween. Now this just isn’t the kind of thing I do normally. My interest in baking has increased massively over the last couple of years but creating cleverly crafted cakes and daintily decorated delights is way out of my comfort zone.

Admittedly, these little pumpkin pops are not an example of patisserie perfection I’m afraid, but they are a bit of fun and most importantly my children can’t get enough of them.

It took me a couple of attempts to get these Halloween cake pops right, mainly because white chocolate isn’t particularly easy to work with as a cake coating.

The first time it took me ages to get the colouring right. I was adding a drop or two of red liquid food colour, then a drop of yellow, and a bit more red, and a bit more yellow, ad nauseum. Eventually the chocolate just split and went all grainy and horrible because I’d over-worked it. I added a little vegetable oil to loosen it again, which seemed to work but then the coating refused to set properly on the cakes and they ended up looking a complete and utter state.

The second attempt was better. I used white chocolate again but went for a concentrate paste colouring and took lots more care not to overwork it. The end result, as you can see, is OK but I still haven’t ended up with the lovely smooth finish you get with normal chocolate. Next time – if there is a next time – I might try a white cake covering or ‘candy melts’ – it might taste ghastly but does that matter as long as it looks the part?

There are various ways to make the cake pops themselves. I have seen a cake pop machine on the market but that seems a little excessive to me. I bought a special cake pops baking pan, which works fairly well but I don’t think it’s completely necessary. I’ve since found a few pop cake recipes online using ready-made cake; you simply mix with chocolate and roll into balls. No baking necessary.

But if you do fancy going down the baking pan route, here’s what I did…

Halloween pumpkin cake pops

Makes 12

50g plain chocolate
60g butter
80g caster sugar
1½ tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg
50g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
200g white chocolate
12 lollipop sticks
orange food colouring concentrate paste
2 tbsp jam
green ready-made icing
black writing icing

Preheat oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Grease the baking pan liberally with vegetable oil and dust with cocoa powder.

Put the plain chocolate and butter in a large mixing bowl and heat gently in a microwave or over a large pan of hot water until melted. Mix in the caster sugar and cocoa, and then stir in the egg. Finally add in the flour, baking powder and salt and combine well.

Spoon the mixture into a twelve-pop baking pan, filling each well so it creates a slight mound over the top. Put the lid on and secure.

Bake for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into one of the holes comes out almost clean. Leave to cool for five minutes in the pan before removing and leaving to cool completely.

Melt a couple of the pieces of white chocolate and dip the lollipop sticks in before inserting into the cake pops. Put in the fridge for half an hour to allow the sticks to set into place.

Line a plate or board with greaseproof paper.

Melt the remainder of the white chocolate in a large bowl. Using a skewer, gradually add in a little of the orange colour paste at a time, stirring gently after each addition, until  you get the shade of orange you want.

Dip each cake pop into the orange chocolate using a metal spoon to pour over the chocolate and fully cover each one. Spin the cake to let the excess chocolate drip off. Place on the greaseproof paper and leave in a cool place or in the fridge for a few hours to set.

Heat the jam gently in the microwave and leave to cool a little.

Roll out the green icing and cut out leaf / star shapes. Stick the icing onto the cake pops using a little smear of jam.

Lastly draw on the faces using the black icing – triangles for eyes and noses and zig-zag mouths. Leave again in a cool place to allow everything to set into place. Preferably somewhere up high and out of sight, as when the little ones spot them, they won’t be around for long. Happy Halloween!

Halloween cupcakes

In my goody bag from the MAD Blog Awards I was intrigued to find a mysterious jar containing, well… exactly what I wasn’t sure. To find out more I had to scan the little QR code on the lid and in an instant I was taken to the new Appliances Online blog, which explained all…

The jar contained all the dry ingredients needed to bake some delicious cakes and take part in their Cakes Win Prizes contest. As you know, I’m a bit of a sucker for a competition, so I just had to enter.

The dry ingredients contained in the jar were:

  • 65g caster sugar
  • 60g light soft brown sugar
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 25g chocolate chips

I simply popped all this in a large mixing bowl and combined with:

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 125g soft butter
  • 2 tbsp milk

And hey presto! There was my cake mixture. This was spooned into a fairy cake tray lined with 12 cases and baked in an oven preheated to 180°C/Gas 4 for about 15 minutes.

Once the cakes were cool, Miss Bangers and Miss Mash helped me to decorate them. Now I know it’s still a little way off, but my girls are already getting into the Halloween mood, so that was the theme for our decorations.

For the white icing, I sifted 150g icing sugar into a small bowl and added a tablespoon of water. This was mixed together, adding a touch more water as necessary, to form a thick smooth paste. We used coloured icing pens to draw on our spooky creations.

A pumpkin by Miss Bangers (the 4-year-old)
A spider by Miss Mash, the 7-year-old
A spider and its web by me, the 37-year-old!

And so I’m linking this post to the competition page on the Appliances Online blog. Do pop over there to check out all the other fantastic creations bloggers have been making with the contents of their jars!