Friday, 5 February 2016

Aqua faba royal icing on cookies

Keen readers (yes, both of you) might remember I mentioned aqua faba as a replacement for egg whites in vegan macarons. It's the water out of a tin of beans or chickpeas and although it was named by someone with no respect for Latin declension, it works a treat. This week I used it to make royal iced cookies  - the recipe is below:


aqua faba 120ml - the water (unsalted) from one tin of chickpeas 
icing (confectioners) sugar, 600g
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

The ratio of aqua faba to sugar should be 1:5, so if your tin only yields 100ml, use 500g icing sugar


Whisk the aqua faba until it's white and frothy, then add the cream of tartar. Whisk some more then add the vanilla essence and add the icing sugar gradually. Continue whisking until you have a stiff glossy royal icing. This takes MUCH longer than it does with egg whites so either use a stand mixer or have strong arms.

This can be used now as stiff royal icing to outline cookies (this helps to create a barrier when you flood the cookies); to add a border; or to pipe brief note of encouragement to your Valentine. 

It can also be flooded - simply add some water and when a thin ribbon disappears back into the morass after 8 seconds, it's ready. It can of course be coloured too.

The ribbon test: one MISSISSIPPI two MISSISSIPPI three...

Outline the cookie with flooded icing, outline again and working inwards fill the whole cookie. 

That's the boring bit over and done with - you now have a 5 minute window of opportunity to have fun dropping in colours and shapes before the icing starts to set.

You can drop in polka dots, or if you want to make the dots into hearts, simply drag a cocktail stick through each dot.

For slightly fancier hearts, drop in two dots and pull them together with a cocktail stick to form a heart
Or if you'd like your cookie to look like a little Fairisle sweater, drop in some lines and feather them up and down with a cocktail stick

I've used gingerbread cookies  - the vegan recipe is here along with a vegan icing recipe that does not use aqua faba.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

How to royal ice cookies (without using egg white)

To make royal icing without egg white:

Mix 600g icing sugar, 4 teaspoons glycerine and the juice of 2 lemons. Beat slowly for 2 minutes until smooth.

You can colour the icing - I find these gels are great and a little goes a long way. 

Available in Asda last time I looked
You can use the icing to pipe or use with a stencil - it is not as white as normal royal icing and is slightly more translucent, so if you're not adding colour you could add whitener

You can also mix in a little water to use this icing for flooding. It is already wetter than stiff royal icing so only use a few drops of water. A good test is when a thin ribbon of the icing has disappeared back into the rest after about 8 seconds
The ribbon test
To ice a cookie, fill a small piping bag with icing ready for flooding and either snip a small hole at the end or use a nozzle - I used a PME plain nozzle size 3. Outline the cookie, fill in the line again on the inside and then "colour in" the centre.

You can use a cocktail stick to fill in any little patches you've missed - this works better than adding more and more icing, as it will at some point burst the banks of your outline and spill off the cookie. You can also use a cocktail stick to finesse sharp angles and points.

While the icing is still wet you can "drop in" detail in a contrasting colour of flooded icing. As the two icings are of the same consistency they will settle to become flush with each other. I used a PME plain nozzle size 1. You could also add on sprinkles while the icing is wet.

Alternatively you can wait for the cookie to dry and add details on top, but I found the egg-free icing was more prone to flaking off than normal royal icing, so I stuck to a completely flat surface.

Leave the cookies to dry overnight, or put them in the oven for an hour on a very low setting of less than 50 degrees C.

I don't think the results are quite as neat as with normal royal icing and the surface is slightly  dimpled and uneven, but for an egg free royal icing this is the best recipe I've found. Except of course for the aqua faba recipe for royal icing here that gives neater results.


Lastly, here is a good recipe for vegan gingerbread. I've found it stays harder and crunchier than gingerbread made with butter, so it's perfect for gingerbread houses and Christmas tree decorations where you don't want the biscuit to soften. Enjoy!

Gingerbread recipe

Makes about 30 biscuits, depending on size

·       150g light soft brown sugar
·       4 tbsp golden syrup
·       2 tbsp black treacle
·       1 tbsp ground ginger
·       1tbsp ground cinnamon
·       pinch ground cloves
·       175g dairy free margarine
·       1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
·       400g plain flour

Put the sugar, syrup, treacle and spices in a pan, add 2 tablespoons of water and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in the margarine until melted. Mix in the bicarbonate of soda, then sieve in the flour while the mix is still warm. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 5mm thick and cut out the shapes with a cutter. It helps if you dip the cutter in flour.

Place on a baking tray lined with parchment and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray. 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Speculoos wholemeal biscuits (vegan)

Last year I went to Bruges and discovered the joys of wholemeal Speculoos biscuits, which are somehow tastier than the normal ones. I've played around with the recipe to make a vegan version:

Thanks to my sister Lucy for this new biscuit tin after my last one met a tragic end  on a tiled floor


100g dairy free margarine
80g soft light brown sugar
20g agave nectar or golden syrup
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons speculoos spices (to make 100g Speculoos spices, mix 8g ground white pepper, 8g powdered ginger, 16g ground cloves, 16g ground nutmeg, 48g ground cinnamon and 4g ground cardamon - keep the rest in a jar for next time)
2 tablespoons soya milk
200g wholemeal flour
35g oatbran (you'll find it hiding in the cereal section of a supermarket)


Cream the margarine, sugar and spices together until they are light and fluffy, then add in the milk and agave nectar or golden syrup.

Mix in the flour and oatbran, then wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line two baking trays.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 4mm and cut out shapes. This isn't an easy dough to work with - use a generous dusting of white flour on your work surface, rolling pin and dough as it will stick and try to fall apart. Just tell it who's boss and crack on.

Place the biscuits on the baking trays and bake for 12 minutes. Leave to cool on the tray, the biscuits will harden as they cool. Sprinkle with icing sugar to decorate.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Christmas pudding ice cream (vegan)

This ice cream is packed with Christmas flavours - brandy, spices, cranberry and orange.


50g raisins
50g sultanas
100g dried cranberries
3 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp dark brown sugar

a cinnamon stick, snapped in half
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp caraway seeds
2 cloves
300ml full fat coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g light brown sugar
vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl
3 ginger nut biscuits, broken into small chunks
zest ½ lemon and ½ an orange


Heat the dried fruit, dark brown sugar and brandy until the sugar has dissolved, then leave to cool completely.

Heat the coconut milk, vanilla, spices and light brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved, cool and then churn in an ice cream maker or freeze it in a tupperware box, stirring every hour. Once the coconut mixture is "slushy", stir in the dried fruit, broken biscuits and zest. Oil the inside of a bowl, line it with clingfilm and pour in the ice cream mix. Allow to freeze completely.

Once the ice cream is ready to eat, leave it to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes then slide it out of the bowl and remove the cling film.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Christmas rocky road (vegan)

Christmas Rocky Road (vegan)

350g dark dairy free chocolate
175g dairy free margarine
4 tablespoons golden syrup

Then mix in:
200g vegan ginger biscuits, crushed (I used the Co-op’s)
100g brazil nuts, broken into small pieces
100g glace cherries
100g dried cranberries
75g vegan mini marshmallows (I used Freedom Confectionery’s)

Spread into a 
brownie tin lined with baking parchment and chill for a couple of hours. Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar

Friday, 18 December 2015

Speculoos cake (vegan)

I was asked recently to bake a birthday cake for a vegan who loves Speculoos biscuits. These spiced biscuits are traditionally baked around Christmas time in parts of Europe, so I thought now would be a good time to share the recipe.

For the sponge: 

250g dairy free margarine
340g light brown sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
525g self raising flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons Speculoos spices (to make 100g Speculoos spices, mix 8g groundwhite pepper, 8g powdered ginger, 16g ground cloves, 16g ground nutmeg, 48g ground cinnamon ad 4g ground cardamon - keep the rest in a jar for next time)
450ml soya or rice milk

For the filling: 

250g dairy free margarine
250g icing sugar, plus a little extra for dusting
1 jar of smooth Biscoff spread
about 12 Biscoff biscuits, broken into small pieces

Available in Sainsburys

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line and grease 3 x 8 inch tins

2. Cream the margarine and sugar until soft, then add the golden syrup and mix again

3. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder together and add to the mixture, beating slowly and gently

4. Add the milk, taking care not to overbeat.

5. Pour the mix into the tins and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and the sponge springs back from a touch. Cover with a tea towel and leave to cool in the tins

6. Once the sponges are cool, beat the margarine and icing sugar together with a splash of water, then mix in the jar of smooth Biscoff spread. Try not to eat any of the frosting - it is so tasty that you might find there's not enough left for the cake
You might notice there are 4 sponges here but only 3 on the finished cake - heed the warning above
7. Pipe or spread nearly half the frosting onto the bottom sponge and sprinkle on half the crushed biscuits. Repeat this with the next layer of sponge, leaving a little of the frosting to decorate the top of the cake.

8. Place the top sponge on the cake, decorate with the rest of the frosting and dust it with icing sugar. Enjoy!