Gluten Free Oat Bars with Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

I spent an embarrassingly large proportion of my university life in Pret. I’m reluctant to admit that I’m actually in Pret now, savouring a mug of green tea and stealing wifi on my lunch break.

During the hours I spent, perched on a Pret bench, revising, pretending to revise and/ or avoiding revision, I developed a real affinity for the so-called ‘Love Bar,’ a gooey flapjack-like bar, flavoured with pumpkin and vanilla, topped with a soft caramel sauce, dark chocolate chunks and pistachios. There is something ridiculously addictive about that combination, or perhaps I what I became addicted to was simply not being in the library…

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Either way, it is absolutely fair to say that I ate more than my fair share of Love Bars during my four years at the Courtauld, spending way too much money and probably eating way too much sugar. The money I can feel somewhat better about, as Pret donate a percentage from each sale of a Love Bar to homeless charities.

I eventually decided that enough was enough- I could no longer justify the £1.50 (it is impossible to eat a Love Bar without a cup of free tea, so the total spenditure of any of my Pret visits was a minimum of £3.10- not much, but trust me it all adds up!)

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I have since created my own version of the Love Bar- but one that is entirely gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Instead of pumpkin, I used sweet potato to flavour the oats, as well as give them a gooey texture. The caramel is made of coconut oil and honey, and the bars are topped with dark chocolate chunks and pistachios. I devoured the entire batch in under three days….

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Oat Bars with Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

For the bars:

1 large sweet potato

100g coconut oil

3 large tablespoons honey

250g gluten free oats

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Pierce your sweet potato and roast for about 45 minutes, or until it is very soft. It has to be soft enough to mash easily, so don’t worry about leaving it in for a bit longer than you normally would!

Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil and honey together in a saucepan. When the sweet potato is done, take it out of the oven and mash it – well! You want it to be as smooth as possible. Stir the oats and mashed sweet potato into the coconut oil and honey mixture and stir well, making sure everything is completely combined.

Grease a large pie dish and spoon the mixture in, flattening it down. Bake it for 25 minutes, or until it starts be golden around the edges.

For the topping:

3 tablespoons coconut oil

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5og dark chocolate, roughly chopped

5og pistachios, roughly chopped

Mix the coconut oil and honey together until you have a thick paste. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. When the oats are completely cool, pour the mixture over the top. Sprinkle the chocolate and pistachios on. When the topping has hardened slightly, cut them into squares.

Wash down with a lot of green tea (optional) and donate some money to a homeless charity (recommended).

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xxR

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Avocado Chocolate Cookies (gluten-free, diary free and refined sugar free)

Okay I know this sounds gross. But hear me out.

Avocado is oily with a soft mushy texture, a bit like butter, right? But bursting with nutrients and healthy fats, and without the saturated fat that makes butter so bad for you. In fact, avocados can actually help lower cholesterol, and the fat they contain helps you absorb nutrients from plant foods. Basically, they have earned the title of ‘superfood’ with a pretty high level of certainty.

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So why put them in cookies?! Aren’t cookies all about being indulgently unhealthy? Isn’t that the point?! Avocados, when really ripe and mushed, are the perfect butter substitute, in that they are oily enough to hold other ingredients together, and have a mild taste that is easily masked.

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These avocado cookies are actually, believe it or not, also delicious. Seriously. I’m pretty bad at making cookies, but these are amazing. Definitely the best I’ve ever baked. They are super gooey and squigdy, and deliciously chocolatey but also surprisingly healthy.

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They are not only vegan, but gluten free and refined sugar free. Divinely delicious and heavenly healthy. They have, as the cliche goes, all of the taste with none of the guilt. Perfect!

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Avocado Chocolate Cookies

1 large avocado

1 large egg

1 tsp baking soda

15og runny honey

5og cocoa powder

pinch of salt

5og rice flour (or your favourite gluten-free flour)

1oog dairy free chocolate (most dark chocolate is dairy free, but make sure you check!)

Preheat your oven to 18o degrees, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Scoop out the flesh of your avocado into a large bowl and mash it well until it is a smooth consistency. Once it is completely smooth (lumps of avocado will not be good in a cookie- trust me!) beat in egg, then stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the lumps of chocolate.

Then, spoon out dollops of mixture onto the baking tray. These cookies don’t spread as much as normal cookies (I left them quite chunky expecting them to spread and they didn’t!) If you want them chunky and fudgy, leave them piled up quite high, or, if you’d prefer a a thinner cookie, spread the batter out more.

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Bake them for 12-15 minutes, or until the top feels slightly crispy. The inside will still be gooey- so don’t worry!

Devour them fresh out of the oven while they are still warm!

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xxR

Flourless Chocolate Decadence Cake

I have recently been diagnosed as coeliac, which means that I can’t eat any wheat or gluten containing products, so conventional baked goods are out of the question! At first, I was just pleased to hear that, after what has been a very long process that involved numerous trips to hospitals and doctors and various tests, something has finally been identified.

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But, then, I started to have a bit of a meltdown. A lot of my favourite foods contain gluten, not to mention my obsession with baking! I was really panicking about things that are very far in the distant future like my wedding cake (no ones going to want to come to a wedding and have to eat gluten free cake!) and questions like what if my children are really fussy eaters and only want to eat pasta with grated cheese (me at age five)?! And pizzas on the barbecue….

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But, after about 24 hours of pure freak out, I managed to snap out of it, and have spent the last couple of weeks researching gluten free recipes profusely.

I went home for the weekend with my sister while my parents were away, so we decided to bake the most ridiculously decadent flour less chocolate cake ever, partially as a celebration of my new gluten free diet (waaah), and partially because Phoebe desperately wanted something sweet and I wasn’t about to miss out on the fun!

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Don’t be fooled. Just because this cake is gluten free, doesn’t mean it is particularly healthy. It is still full of chocolate, butter, sugar and all the other wheat free things that make a cake a cake. The lack of any sort of flour makes it really soft and gooey, almost like a giant brownie, with the most luxurious melt-in-the-mouth consistency. It is also ridiculously easy, with only 5 ingredients, so I thoroughly recommend you whip it up this weekend, whether you’re gluten free or not, and enjoy it in the sunshine!

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Flourless Chocolate Cake 

2oog dark (gf) chocolate

2oog butter

2oog caster sugar

5 eggs

cocoa powder, to sprinkle on top

Begin by melting the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir it occasionally if you want (this is highly therapeutic and really enjoyable, so I recommend you do it!) Once it has melted, set it aside to cool.

Separate the eggs into two bowls. Add 1oog of the caster sugar to the yolks and whisk until they are pale and fluffy, which should take about 5 minutes.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, until they look like cloud and really hold their shape. You need the fluffiness to make your cake rise, so the firmer the better! Once they are stiff, add the remaining sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Poor the cooled chocolate into the egg yolks and whick well. Then, fold in the egg whites. Be careful not to knock the air out of them. Pour your mixture into a greased and lined baking tray.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 45-5o minutes, or until the top is crisp. The inside should still be gooey. Don’t worry if the top starts to crack- that’s part of the charm! Leave it in the tin to cool, then sprinkle some cocoa powder over the top and enjoy with cream or ice cream and plenty of strawberries!

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xxR

Teabag Biscuits

This is the third in my series of hot drink inspired and flavoured baked goods. (I have also recently made tea infused cupcakes with honey icing and hot lemon and honey mini cakes). This series, let me just add, was entirely unplanned and unintentional.

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I made these a few weeks ago as part of Fairtrade Fortnight with fairtrade tea and fairtrade chocolate, but they are an absolute hit and I simply had to share them. For a start, they are adorable. But they are also delicious. It is way way too easy to eat about six in a row, washed down with a big mug of tea, of course.

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While we’re here- just a tiny bit about fairtrade. It’s so so so important and also much easier to support than you would think. Did you know that all Sainsbury’s tea and coffee is fairtrade? I did not until about two weeks ago. Tesco, Waitrose and M&S also all sell fairtrade coffee and tea. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose’s bananas are fairtrade. So is all Cadbury chocolate. It’s almost definitely easier and cheaper than you think!

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Anyway, these biscuits are easy and quick to make- perfect for a Saturday afternoon cup of tea!

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Tea Flavoured Teabag Biscuits

225g butter

100g sugar

250g plain flour

2 tablespoons tea leaves- about two teabags worth

1/2 teaspoon salt

Begin by beating the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and tea, then add to the butter and mix well to ensure everything is combined. Roll the dough into two balls and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Don’t leave it in the fridge too long or it will be impossible to roll out!

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough. Then, cut it out. In the unlikely event that you have a teabag shaped cookie cutter, definitely use that! If not (like me) use a teabag as a template and cut around it with a knife. This is a bit more time consuming but it does the trick. While you are doing this, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Place the biscuits on a lined baking tray and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until slightly golden brown and crisp.

For the chocolate decoration:

100g chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. When the biscuits are completely cool, spread a little chocolate over the lower half of each one and leave to set.

Dunk in a cup of tea and devour!

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xxR

 

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries

Last weekend was my grandfather’s birthday and my mother threw a big lunch for all the family at our house.

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Gramps is 86, but he acts like he’s about 30, so I baked a cake to match his mental age. There were 18 of us, so I knew it had to be big. When I was little, my mum always made chocolate cake topped with a mountain of whipped cream and berries for birthdays, and those cakes were the inspiration behind this one.

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This cake is perfect for any occasion. It also reminds me of summer birthdays, which I’m so in the mood for after the sunshine this weekend!

Chocolate Birthday Cake 

For the cake:

240g plain flour

240g caster sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

60g cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

80g butter

240ml milk

2 eggs

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa, salt and butter in a bowl and mix until it is a sandy consistency. Pour in half the milk and beat until it is incorporated.

Whisk the eggs and remaining milk together in a separate bowl, then pour into the flour mixture. Mix until incorporated.

Grease and line a large cake tin and pour in two thirds of the mixture. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 170 degrees celcius. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. When it is cool, turn out onto a cooling rack and bake the other third of the mixture.

For the icing:

250g icing sugar

125g butter at room temperature

about a tablespoon of milk

Beat the butter and icing sugar together, then add the milk if needed to make it a more runny consistency.

To assemble:

200ml double cream

50g icing sugar

a selection of berries

Whisk the cream until it forms firm peaks, then add the icing sugar and mix in.

Cut the larger cake in half. Place one half on a cake stand. Spread half the icing over the cake, then place the other half on top. Spread the remaining icing over it, then place the last cake on top.

Spoon the whipped cream onto the top of the cake, and decorate with the berries.

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xxR

Vegan Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

My littlest sister is a fairly recent vegan convert. She’s actually doing impressively well, but it is driving my parents a bit up the wall.

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Last weekend the three of them came to visit me in London, and we headed to Cookies and Scream in the Camden Town Stables for some vegan cookies and ice cream. Having not eaten a bite of cookie or a mouthful of ice cream for the last three months, she was in absolute vegan heaven. In fact, we all agreed that they made some pretty fine goodies, vegan or otherwise. The brownies were the perfect amount of gooeyness and their peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were to die for.

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I would highly highly recommend a trip if you are in the area and are vegan, or even if you are in the area and are not vegan but love really well made, very tasty baked goods. I promise you won’t miss the dairy!

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Back in the kitchen I attempted my own vegan cookies. I have to admit, these were not as good. But it was one of my first forays into vegan baking, so I think they were acceptable. The peanut butter makes them really soft and gooey, with a subtle nutty flavour. They are best eaten warm- straight from the oven!

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Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

60g vegan butter

40g peanut butter

200g brown sugar

125ml almond milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

250g flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup choc chips- vegan (about 175g) (I used a bar of dark chocolate broken up into chunks- that worlds perfectly too)

pinch of sea salt

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Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugar, then add the almond milk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, then add to the wet ingredients.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Spoon into small dollops on a baking tray. They spread a little bit, so give them some space. Sprinkle with sea salt (salt and chocolate- best combination) before popping them in the oven.

Bake at 180 degrees for 7-10 minutes.

Devour with a big mug of tea.

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xxR

Happy 2nd Birthday Chocolate Cake and Oil Paint!

Today is my blog’s 2nd birthday!

What better way to celebrate than share with you my favourite recipes from the past two years? (Apart from eating cake, of course!)

Rainbow Cake (Feb 15, 2013) was a huge hit- delicious and beautiful! Perfect for a party.

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Surprise Inside Cake (March 25, 2013) is another crowd pleaser. Maybe not the most highbrow cake ever baked, but sure to get a great reaction!

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Blueberry Lemon Cake with Poppyseed Icing  (September 25, 2014) was also a winner. Blueberries are without a doubt my favourite fruit, and poppyseed icing is a complete revelation. This is the perfect cake for a summer day.

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Lime Cake with Pomegranate Icing (May 15, 2014) is another lovely cake for a birthday, or even just a weekend afternoon. It’s light and fresh and zingy.

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These Creme Egg Inspired Cupcakes (April 2, 2013) are really fun to make and even more fun to eat!

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Raspberry Frangipane Tart  (June 12, 2014) HAS to be on this list. It is my go-to dessert for any occasion. So simple to make and perfect every time! It can also be given a Christmassy twist- as I did only a few a weeks ago with this cranberry version.

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Apple pie is of course a classic, and these Mini Apple Pies (October 14, 2014) are a wonderful new twist on an old favourite.

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 Foccacia (November 3, 2013) is the perfect bread for a cold winter lunch.

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Cinnamon Swirl Loaf (October 12, 2013) was and still is the best thing ever. Seriously, ask anyone who tried it.

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Cinnamon Spiced Courrone (January 17, 2014) is basically a giant cinnamon roll. What’s not to love?!

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It’s all about blueberries for breakfast. Pancakes, buckle, on their own…

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Chocolate Fondants (July 16, 2014), need I say more?

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I love Sugar Cookies (December 6, 2014) for any occasion- but especially Christmas. Try making  hearts for Valentine’s Day or eggs and bunnies for Easter if you just can’t wait that long (I can’t)!

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Mexican food is my all time favourite. This Mexican feast (July 29, 2013) is honestly the best in vegetarian Mexican.

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BBQ Pizzas (July 7, 2013) are the perfect summer supper. You have to try them. It will change your outlook on pizza forever.

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Thank you all so much for baking with me for the last two years, and continuing to do so!

All my love,

xxR