Thursday, 13 March 2014

Baking with 'Baby' - Dairy Free, Gluten Free Easter Nests

I don't know about you, but I rather suspect that if I hadn't had 'Baby's' allergy thrust upon me, I probably wouldn't bother much with baking unless I absolutely HAD to. I'd just buy it from the shop, like other mums. Yep! I'm lazy like that!

The other day, I was in a coffee shop, queuing up to order my black coffee, when 'Baby' spotted something in their cake cabinet. I had spotted them too, but was studiously ignoring them and hoping she wouldn't notice. But there it was. She had. Bah!

Easter nests.

Here's ours!

BUT once again, I had to say, 'Sorry, darling, you can't have those - they've got milk in and will make your tummy sore. But we can make some at home, if you like.' 

If 'Baby' was disappointed, she didn't make a fuss about it - she seemed happy with that, because she knows that Mummy will make it happen. 

'Happily,' I thought to myself, 'they're fabulously easy to make.' And so they are. Absolutely NO baking actually involved, at all! Except... I knew that the nests themselves could easily be made with dairy free chocolate etc. but what about the mini chocolate eggs?

Now as it happens, I've heard that there was a company called 'Whizzers' that used to make Vegan (therefore dairy free) mini chocolate eggs, but sadly, these no longer seem to be available anywhere.

The only thing I could think of was the mini jelly bean type eggs that I found in Morrison's last Easter. 

These (from Morrison's last year) would be perfect!

Problem is, where we live now, there are no Morrison's near by and no sign of anything similar in the other supermarkets. Bother!!

Well, 'Necessity is the mother of invention and all that...' I was beginning to consider the suitability of using some jelly beans (which I thought may be bit a small), when I discovered these in Poundland! *

These are near enough egg shaped!


'No speckles,' thought I, 'but 'Baby' will be happy with that. However...

'What about the speckles?' she asked. Grrrrr!! 'Flippin' observant is 'Baby!' Alert,' is how the pediatrician who examined her at five days old described her. Too alert for her own good, sometimes!! Fortunately, I had an idea, so we set to work.

The actual Easter nest recipe we used is this one, by Topmarks. It gets top marks from me, for clarity of instructions etc. but I think I would suggest melting your 'butter' substitute, before adding the rest of the ingredients, just to give the pan a greasy coating, before all that sticky stuff goes in!

We substituted sunflower Pure for the butter, Sainsbury's gluten free cornflakes for the normal cornflakes (you could, in fact, use Rice Krispies or similar, instead), and, just because I love the flavour of Lyle's Butterscotch syrup, we used that instead of golden syrup. 

For the chocolate, you could probably use any dairy free chocolate. I often use Kinnerton dairy free chocolate bar, and break it up. On this occasion we used Plamil's dairy free, chocolate drops (made without nuts, made with sunflower lecithin, but 'may contain soya'). However, not wanting to make as many as ten Easter nests (I thought that was too many for our needs), we used 113g (4oz.) of chocolate drops and halved everything else.

So 'Baby' put out the paper cases...

You can find lots of Easter-themed paper cup cases in the shops at the mo - including in Poundland!

I measured the ingredients, 'Baby' put them in the saucepan and then she 'supervised' whilst I stirred them over a low heat. 

She also got to lick the syrup spoon, help spoon the gooey mixture into the cup cases and paint the speckles on the 'eggs'.

Oh yes! the speckles! If it hadn't been for the fact that 'Baby' wanted to lick the saucepan and get involved, I would probably have used some of the melted chocolate left around the pan we had used. Happily, I had some black icing decoration squirty stuff (which I watered down) and an icing paint brush in the cupboard!! And, as it happened, 'Baby' thought that painting the speckles on the 'eggs' was great fun!!

So, who knew that painting speckles would prove to be such a hit?

'Baby' then insisted on adding these: 

No, 'Less is more,' with 'Baby'!

*Ingredients for Maomi Pinballs:
Sugar; Glucose Syrup; Vegetable Oil; Sorbitol Syrup; Citric Acid; Gelling Agent (Gelatine); Flavourings; Fruit & Plant Concentrates (Lemon, Safflower, Spirulina, Blackcurrant, Carrot, Radish, Apple); Liquorice Extract; Release Agent: Talc; Invert Sugar Syrup.

If you can't get hold of any mini eggs or of the sweets that we found, or if they are not suitable for you, then my suggestion would be to make some peppermint cream or fondant eggs, colour them with food colouring and paint them just as we did, with tiny speckles. If you would like a vegan peppermint cream recipe, then I would suggest trying this one, by Lucy's Friendly Foods. If you don't like peppermint, why not try flavouring them with orange or lemon, instead?!

We have since tried making some more nests with orange creams - which we moulded into eggs and coloured with food colouring, and it worked a treat! The flavour of the creams was subtler and worked much better, than using fruity sweets, but it did require preparation the day before, so if you're in a hurry the sweets would be best!

More baking adventures, can be found on this page, by following the links.

If you are looking for dairy free Easter eggs, try this blog post.

Update 2015:
This year I have found a small packet of jelly bean type Easter eggs (of the right size) in Waitrose! I think they're £2.99 or thereabouts. There are also some marzipan ones with a sugar shell, that are speckled just like the original mini eggs.

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