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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Jamie Oliver Inspired Hot Cross Buns


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So it’s Thursday night, before Good Friday 2016. I’m making hot cross buns AGAIN! This time I’ve gone back to a Jamie Oliver recipe I made last year. I really like this version, as Jamie includes stem ginger in the original bread mix, plus cranberries as well as sultanas in the fruit. I used an apricot jam glaze instead of honey, as I prefer the slightly tart taste of the apricot.

I tweaked of course: adding a larger quantity of fruit because I like my hot cross buns jammed pack with fruit; and I used the fridge proving method for both the first and second proves. This was more for convenience  – I could go to bed knowing my buns were happily proving over night! I usually prove my bread baking in the fridge, as James Morton, in his book Brilliant Bread, is in favour of the retarded fridge prove.

So here is Jamie’s recipe, with my additional fruit quantities and an apricot glaze. I leave tinkering with fridge proves up to you.

Oh, and once they’re made, I “snap” freeze any hot cross buns that won’t get eaten straight away. They freeze really well and can be heated in the microwave or conventional oven when required.


200 ml semi-skimmed milk
55 g unsalted butter
2 x 7 g sachet dried yeast
455 g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ whole nutmeg
55 g caster sugar
2 pieces stem ginger
1 large free range egg
2 tablespoons plain flour
100g sultanas or raisins (55g in original recipe)
60g dried cranberries (30g in original recipe)
2 tablespoons mixed peel
1 tbls apricot jam for the glaze


Add the milk and 50ml water to a small pan and place over a low heat for a few minutes, or until slightly warm – you should be able to dip your finger in without scalding it.

Meanwhile, add the butter to a separate pan and place over a low heat for a few minutes, or until melted, then set aside.

Transfer the warmed milk mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the yeast. Set aside.

Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the salt, spices, a few good scrapings of nutmeg and the sugar. Finely chop the stem ginger and stir it into the mix.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the melted butter, followed by the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add it to the bowl.

Using a fork, mix well until you have a rough dough, then transfer to a clean flour dusted work surface and knead for around 10 minutes, or until soft.* Return the dough to a flour dusted bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.

Transfer the dough to a clean flour dusted work surface. Knock the air out by bashing it with your fist, then sprinkle over the dried fruit and mixed peel and knead into the dough for 1 to 2 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.  Grease and line a large baking tray.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into balls. Evenly space them out on a lined baking tray as you go.

Cover with the tea towel and leave in a warm place for a further 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, place the plain flour and 2 tablespoons water into a small bowl and mix to a thick paste.

Gently pat down the risen buns then use the batter to carefully trace a cross over the top with a piping bag or spoon.

Place the buns into the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Transfer to a wire cooling rack, and brush with the apricot jam that has been mixed with a little warm water.

Serve warm with butter.


* You could do this first knead in a mixer using a dough hook. I have done the knead by hand and in a mixer – the latter method just saves arm work!


Hot Cross Buns in a Casserole




I made my first batch of hot cross buns yesterday, Friday 18 march 2016. I am still in search of that elusive “best ever” hot cross bun recipe. Last year I made two different Jamie Oliver recipes, a Paul Hollywood version and  a combination of  the best of all three! Confusing! They were all good in their own way, but still don’t think they satisfy my my elusive “best ever” bun…

So yesterday I turned to the best bread baker around in my opinion, James Morton, for his hot cross bun recipe and found a lovely recipe packed full of spices and fruit, and brandy added in too for that extra kick.

I have deviated in a few ways from his original recipe: I used plain instead of wholemeal flour for the additional 100g; I used Cointreau instead of apple brandy; I rather like the traditional dough crosses so I went with those instead of James’ icing crosses; I used an apricot jam glaze instead of a sugar glaze. Here is the link for James’ original recipe:

I also made a change in the cooking method. James has a cinnamon bun recipe where he bakes the buns in a large cast iron casserole. This makes for beautiful soft buns.

So I decided to go with the casserole method of baking to achieve nice soft hot cross buns. By placing them inside the casserole, they join up after baking and become like pull-aparts. If you like more traditional, individually baked hot cross buns, then bake them on a baking tray. I  liked the result – soft pull-apart buns, moist and full of fruit and heady with spices, lovely straight out of the oven and great toasted the next day.


350g strong white flour

100g plain or wholemeal flour

2 x 7g sachets fast-action yeast

10g salt

100g mixed peel

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground ginger

½ nutmeg, finely grated

100g white sourdough starter (don’t worry if you don’t have this – you can make perfectly good buns without)

2 medium eggs

170g full-fat milk

40g honey

30g  brandy – Cointeau or Grand Marnier (James suggests apple brandy)

50g butter, softened

200g raisins

For the crosses:

2 tbls plain flour

Enough water to make a stiff paste

For the glaze:

2 tbls apricot jam

A little water


In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, salt and spices. Rub the salt and spices into the dry mix on one side of the bowl, then the yeast on the other. Add the starter, eggs, milk, honey, brandy and butter and combine to form a dough. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Knead your dough for about 5 minutes, then add your raisins and continue to knead until the dough is holding together and passing the windowpane test, about another 5 minutes. Cover and leave to prove for 1–2 hours, or until at least doubled in size. You can do a retarded prove in the fridge for 10–14 hours – this improves the flavour, but as I wanted the buns made fairly quickly, I proved at room temperature.

Turn your dough out on to a lightly floured surface and separate into 12 roughly equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, and place in your cast iron casserole which has been lined with baking paper.

Leave to prove for a final 90 minutes or so at room temperature with the lid on the casserole.  About half an hour before you’re going to bake, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.

At this point you can make your crosses. Mix the flour and water to a stiff paste, and either pipe onto the buns or hand roll, rather rustically, as I did, and place on top of the buns.

Turn your oven down to 200 degrees C, place the casserole, with lid on, in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the buns are really brown. Meanwhile mix the apricot jam with a little warm water for the glaze.

When the buns are baked, take them out of the oven, and brush them with the apricot glaze, until they are shiny and sticky.

You will need to pull buns apart as they will have joined up in the oven. Serve with the best butter possible. I served mine with Pepe Saya, a lovely Australian butter made here in Sydney in the French style.


Burgers Jamie Oliver Style



My go to recipe for hamburgers in the past has been “The Botham Burger”, a fantastic cricket ball sized hamburger from The Return of the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver’s second book. The “Botham” bit is of course because of the cricket ball size of these delicious burgers. What I love about these burgers is that you cook them in the oven – a healthy way of cooking plus you can do something else while they cook.

Recently, while reading Jamie’s fabulous book Comfort Food, I loved the sound of Jamie’s “Insanity Burger”  –  an interesting burger with lots of nice things to go with it.

So the solution seemed obvious – combine the two recipes to get the optimum Jamie Oliver burger! I basically used the ingredients and oven cooking method for the Botham burger, and added in mustard glaze, cheesy layer and all the beautiful accompaniments that go with the Insanity burger. Result – a tasty, moist and tangy hamburger.

I made my own burger rolls, to feature in a later post, but any good softish rolls would do.

The ingredients below are half Jamie’s quantities – 500gms of minced steak gives you 2 really big burgers or 4 smaller ones.

For the burger:


500g minced beef, preferably organic

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 free-range egg

1 handful of fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 tbl of coriander seeds, crushed

A small pinch of cumin seeds, crushed

1/2 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

+ A couple of drops of Tabasco combined with 2 tsp American mustard

+ 2-4 slices of good cheddar cheese

For the bits and pieces that go with the burgers:

2-4 soft  bread rolls

2-4 gherkins

1/4 -1/2 red onion, cut in slices

Any green leaves you fancy

4 tsp good quality smoky barbecue sauce

4 tsp mayonnaise

2 tsp tomato ketchup


Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C or 210 degrees C fan-forced.

Scrunch all the ingredients together. Use the breadcrumbs as required to bind and lighten the mixture. Divide into 4 for smaller burgers or 2 for bigger ones, then lightly mould and pack each burger together into burger shapes. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes for smaller ones, 20 minutes for bigger ones. The burgers should  still be pink in the middle – cook for a few minutes longer if you want them more well done.

About 5 minutes minutes before you think they are cooked, liberally brush the tops of the hamburgers with the Tabasco and American mustard mixture. Just before they are done, place a slice of cheese on top of each burger and place back in the oven for a minute to just melt the cheese.

To serve:

Cut rolls in half and place on a serving platter. Place a burger on top of half of a bread roll. Chop the gherkins or leave whole if small. Scatter the gherkins, the red onion slices and the greens over the platter. Serve with barbecue sauce on the side and a little sauce made with the mayonnaise combined with the tomato ketchup. Then build your own burger!



Ruth’s Plum Pudding




Why, you may ask, am I writing a post about plum pudding in March?  Plum pudding or Christmas pudding, is of course eaten at Christmas. This lovely pudding was made by Ruth S, and indeed was eaten by this quirky writer on Christmas day. I have just been given the recipe, very kindly, by Ruth, and couldn’t wait another month, let alone nine, before sharing it!

And anyway, who says that you can’t make this pudding at other times in the year? For us in the southern hemisphere, Christmas in July is big, when we can enjoy lovely hot wintery fare when the season is right. And if you are super organized, you could always start your 2016 Christmas baking now!

Ruth makes these lovely plum puddings every year, supported by St Alban’s Church Epping, where over 400 puddings are made and the proceeds from the sale are given to three charities, over $4500 to each. It’s a great initiative for charity, and the lucky recipients of the puddings have something really yummy on Christmas Day.

Why the name “plum pudding,” as the pudding appears to contain no actual plums? The pudding, however, does contain a lot of prunes, which are of course, plums.

Here is Ruth’s recipe as given to me.  Her mother first made it in 1973 and the original recipe is attributed to the Dried Fruits Board of NSW. She has some very useful tips for both experienced and inexperienced pudding makers.


250g/8oz butter

250g/8oz sugar

350g/12oz small or chopped raisins

350g/12oz sultanas

250g/8oz currants

175g/6oz chopped prunes

175g/6oz mixed peel

85g/3oz almond pieces/slivers

½ tsp  nutmeg

½ tsp mixed spice

125g/4oz plain flour

125g/4oz soft breadcrumbs

½ cup Stout or orange juice

½ cup  brandy

140mls/1/4 pint milk

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 large carrot grated


Cream butter and sugar. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Add flour and spices. Add fruit, carrot, breadcrumbs and liquids together and stir well. I use a gloved hand rather than a spoon to make sure it is well mixed.

I now use the metric version but give the British version too!

If breadcrumbs are hard to grate, and you have a food processor, just put chunks of bread into the processor. It goes well put into the liquids and whizzed although it looks terrible!

Mixture does not look well homogenised and is quite wet. That’s fine!

It makes one huge pudding that you steam for 6 hours or two small ones that take 3 hours.

When I make the 800g ones, this mixture makes two 800g ones plus one of about 450-480g.

I generally cook small quantities such as this in the microwave oven. Place basin in oven loosely covered with lid or plastic wrap. Cook 800g pudding on second level of power – never the full power – for 8 minutes. If cooking whole quantity in one huge basin, cook at say, third power level for 20 minutes, but do it for a bit longer if it does not look quite cooked.


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