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Category Archives: Breakfast

Hot Cross Buns – Great British Bake Off

It wouldn’t be Easter unless I make – and blog – hot cross buns. Well there’s a story in this. A week or two ago I made my first day batch. And then I made my second batch. Different recipes, both very tasty, but both a little too dark on top. I won’t use the burnt word, but they were heading in that direction…

So yesterday, the Thursday before Good Friday, I started all over again. I was watching a GBBO Easter special, where Paul Hollywood made hot cross buns. I’ve made Paul’s HC buns before, and posted the results, see here.

Paul used a slightly different recipe on the show, so I thought I would give it a go. I was pleased with the results, particularly as the buns were a respectable shade of brown, not too dark!

Here is Paul’s recipe. I include Paul’s oven temperature, but I took his 220 degrees C down to 190 degrees C as I think my oven runs hot. It’s up to you what you think works best.

Also, I added an additional 50g of sour cherries to the sultanas, as I love sour cherries and I like extra fruit in my buns.

Ingredients

For the buns
300ml full cream milk
500g strong white flour
75g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
7g fast-action yeast
50g butter
1 free-range egg, beaten
150g sultanas
80g mixed peel
1 apple, cored and chopped
2 oranges, zest only
2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the cross
75g plain flour

For the glaze
3 tbsp apricot jam

Method

Bring the milk to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature.
Mix the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, butter and egg together in a bowl, then slowly add the warmed milk until it forms a soft, sticky dough.
Add the sultanas, mixed peel, chopped apple, orange zest and cinnamon, then tip out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for five minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film (I use a plastic shower cap – works really well!)and leave to rise for approximately one hour, or until doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 12 even pieces, and roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured surface. Arrange the buns on a baking tray lined with parchment, leaving enough space so that the buns just touch when they rise and expand. Set aside to prove for another hour.
Heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
For the cross, mix the flour with about five tablespoons of water in small bowl, adding the water one tablespoon at a time, so that you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.
Bake for 20-25 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, or until golden-brown.
Gently heat the apricot jam to melt, then sieve to get rid of any chunks. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool.

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Easter Sourdough Donut Top Muffins

Easter is coming…and soon too, but it’s not too late to do a little baking. Here’s a great alternative – or addition – to hot cross buns, super simple muffins with all the flavour of hot cross buns. And the added bonus that they are dipped in cinnamon sugar to give a donut crunch on the top!

I’ve called them sourdough muffins, because I included some of my left over starter in the mix. It certainly adds to the flavour, but you can just as easily make lovely muffins without the sourdough starter. You don’t need to add anything extra to the mixture if you leave out the starter, you will just have slightly less mix.

With the starter you will get 7-8 large muffins, without it, you will still get 6 large muffins. So you will need an extra 6 cup pan for the bigger mixture. You could also make them in a regular 12 cup muffin pan – same principle applies – with the starter you’ll get 15 or so smaller muffins, so you will need an extra pan.

However, this mixture keeps really well in the fridge for a couple of days, so bake as many or as few muffins as you like, of either size, and keep the remaining mixture in the fridge! That worked very well for me this week before Easter, and I have been able to bake muffins on demand all week!

Ingredients
1 cup sultanas and raisins
1/3 cup Pedro Ximinez sherry or any sweet sherry
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking sofa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup milk
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup golden syrup

For the topping
20g melted butter
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Method
Soak the sultanas and raisins in the sherry for half an hour or more, if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the holes of a 6 or 12 cup muffin pan.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a second bowl, beat together the starter, if using, and the milk, eggs, oil, honey and golden syrup. Blend the wet ingredients with the dry, taking about 20 seconds. Gently stir in the fruit just until blended.
Fill the holes of the prepared pan two-thirds full. Or fill a little higher if you like muffins that have a “muffin top”!
Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. I check after 15 minutes. Ovens are variable, so you need to keep checking for doneness.
When the muffins are clearly cooked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from the pan.
Put the melted butter in a small bowl, and mix the caster sugar and cinnamon on a plate. While the muffins are still warm, dip the top of each one in butter and then in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with your Easter Sunday morning tea or coffee!

Simple Sourdough Revisited

I’m revisiting a post I wrote a while back when I was first getting into bread. Bread is my favourite thing to bake and I’m fascinated by the whole idea of yeast and its amazing ability to make humble dough turn into a beautifully risen loaf. This post details my first experiments with sourdough. I’ve updated the text and the photos of the bread are new too.

My guide on the sourdough journey – and there’s more to come on this front – is James Morton, the Baker/Doctor who came to prominence in the 2012 series of The Great British Bakeoff. He has a pretty common sense approach to bread making and following his recipes has worked well for me.

This recipe for sourdough bread and sourdough starter comes from James’ first book Brilliant Bread. Everything you wanted to know about bread making, and more! Lots of sound recipes and helpful advice too.

Getting a sourdough starter going. This is a real labour of love. You have to be dedicated, patient, observant and accurate. A starter needs constant care and vigilance. It needs to be fed regularly, and, unless you hibernate your starter in the fridge, you have to look after it for ever!!! Or be prepared for the news of its demise.

Your sourdough starter needs more care than a pet….

Sourdough Starter

Here is an abbreviated recipe from James’ book. Buy the book to get the full, incredibly helpful story.

1. Take 100g strong flour and 100g tepid water and measure into a glass jar (see through is best so you can see what’s going on).

2. Add your starter aid to kick start the the starter. James recommends raisins – that’s what I used.

3. Cover your jar and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.

4. Whether the starter is bubbling or not, add another 100g flour and 100g water and stir vigorously to combine.

5. Leave for 24-72 hours, or until you notice plenty of bubbles forming through the mixture and that it has definitely increased in volume. Then pour away at least 3/4 of your starter.

6. Give what’s left a good feed of flour and water – make it up to at least the size it was before you poured it away. James recommends not bothering with weighing feeds from now on – always feed your starter  using more flour than you think is already in the jar. James doesn’t mention how much water to add – having added the flour, I carefully add enough water so that the mixture looks roughly the same as it was before you threw stuff away.

7. Feed your starter every day and keep it at room temperature. You can put your starter in the fridge to hibernate if you’re going away or if you’re not baking. You will still need to feed it every week or so. If you want to use it, take it out of the fridge, let it warm up and give it a big feed.

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Some basic points:

Once you are onto the feeding stage, use cheap white flour, as you will be using a lot of it.

Remember, you need to discard at least 3/4 of your starter before you feed it. Of course, if you are using your starter for making bread, you have already taken away some starter so you can feed it at that point.

Your can use your starter when it is full of bubbles and has grown in size in the jar. (It does get noticeably bigger, but I don’t think there is a level of “bigness” that is required).

At this stage the yeasts in your starter are used to being fed  – they are said to be in a “fed state”. This normally 12- 24 hours after a feed and if the starter is fed regularly.

Simple Sourdough

This is basically James’ recipe. But as with the starter, the book is really helpful for more details.

Ingredients

400g Strong White Flour

10g Salt

200g White Sourdough Starter

275g Cold Water

Method

In a large bowl, weigh the flour and then rub in the salt until combined. Add the starter and water and mix until it has come together into a very wet dough. Cover and autolyse for 30 minutes. (This is resting of the dough, letting the yeast get a lot of the work done for you, so that when you knead, your dough will come together more easily).

Knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Cover and rest the dough for approximately 4-6 hours at room temperature, or, alternatively, after a couple of hours, put it in the fridge overnight or during the day. This is an important stage, so the dough should be noticeably risen, if not quite doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and then shape your loaf.  I used the method of rolling up your dough like a Swiss roll really tightly. Then turning the rolled dough 90 degrees and rolling it up again. The dough will have a seam on the top.

Carefully transfer the dough to a proving basket or a floured tea towel inside a bowl, with the seam side on top. I have used both on different occasions, here I used the proving basket.  Leave to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature until noticeably larger again. Or you can put your dough in the fridge to prove after an hour or two overnight or during the day. I left my dough to prove overnight.

Preheat the oven to 240 degrees C at least 30 minutes before you intend to bake, and heat a cast iron casserole pot with the lid on.

When the 30 minutes is up, it’s time to turn out the proved dough into the pot. Turn down the oven to 210 degrees C. Take the lid off the pot and carefully turn out the dough into the pot. The smooth side will be on top. Score a cross on your loaf with a sharp serrated knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 10 – 15  minutes until the top and sides are really brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 30 – 60 minutes.

Serve with lashings of butter and your favourite jam. This time mine was apricot conserve from last summer’s bounty.

Cinnamon Puffins (Buns)

So these delicious pastries are actually cinnamon buns, a recipe straight from the wonderful Claire Ptak from her book The Violet Bakery Cookbook. I have renamed them “puffins” as they are pastry cooked in muffin molds, just like cruffins are croissant dough baked in muffin molds. Not sure that it will take off, but I like the name!

I am really enjoying reading Claire’s book, as the recipes are really tempting but not overly complicated. It’s their simplicity which makes them so elegant and visually pleasing.

Here is the recipe from the Violet Bakery Cookbook with a couple of tweaks from me. These “puffins” work for me as the pastry doesn’t involve yeast, so is quick to make. They’re not difficult to make, with the hardest part cutting the dough into equal sized segments and depositing into the muffin molds. But even this step is not too tricky, as the puffins are pretty forgiving and will take the shape of the muffin cavities on baking.

Ingredients

For the filling
75g unsalted butter
250g brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the buns
560g plain flour, plus extra for rolling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp ground cardamom
240g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
300g cold milk
Caster sugar, for dipping
Butter, for greasing the muffin tray

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Grease a 12-cup muffin mold. I used a silicone muffin mold, as muffins come out really easily with nice clean sides, but any muffin tray will be fine.

To prepare the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan or melt very carefully in the microwave. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon until no lumps remain, then set aside.

To make the dough, combine all the dry ingredients with the cubes of butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until you have a coarse meal. Slowly pour in the cold milk while the mixer is running, until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and leave to rest for a few minutes. Gently fold the dough over itself once or twice to pull it all together. Let it rest a second time, for 10 minutes.

Dust a benchtop or large surface lightly with flour, and roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Brush the dough with melted butter, and before the butter hardens, sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar, in a thick layer.

Roll up the dough, starting at a long side, keeping it neat and tight. In order to get a taut roll, gently tug the dough towards you while rolling away from you into a spiral. Gently squeeze the finished roll to ensure the roll is the same thickness throughout. Use a sharp knife to cut it crossways into 12 even slices. Take a slice, peel back about 5cm of the loose end of the pastry and fold it in back under the roll to loosely cover the bottom.

Place in the muffin cavities, flap-side down. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Bake the puffin/buns for 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and immediately flip them on to a wire cooling rack, to stop them sticking to the cavities.

Dip each puffin/bun into caster sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature. They are delish!

 

Zucchini and Halloumi Fritters

Fritters for breakfast lunch or dinner, these simple to make little gems are the mainstay of any meal. There are so many variations and lots of recipes out there. One of the most famous versions is Bill Granger’s iconic Sweet Corn Fritters. They’re on the menu at Granger and Co in London and at the original Bills in my home town Sydney. They are pretty good, wherever you eat them.

I have also blogged in the past Gordon Ramsay’s Halloumi, Zucchini amd Herb Cakes, see here for the post. These fritters are good, too.

But these bright green numbers are so easy to make and really tasty, and are currently high on my list of go-to recipes for lunch or dinner.

They are based on a recipe from Hugh Hamilton Wines, in McLaren Vale in South Australia, although I haven’t been able to find the original recipe when researching for this post. 

What I love about these fritters is that they keep their green colour on the outside and inside. And when you cut them open, the halloumi is still a little bit oozy! Lovely.

Ingredients

2 large zucchini
1 red onion
150g halloumi
Zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup plain flour
1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C fan-forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Coarsely grate the zucchini and red onion using the large holes of a box grater.
Squeeze the grated zucchini and onion to remove excess liquid. The best way to to do this is using your hands, squeezing a handful at a time. Transfer the grated vegetables to a bowl. Now grate the halloumi in the same way.
Add the lemon, thyme leaves and halloumi to the bowl and mix. Stir in the flour and egg, and season with sea salt and black pepper.
Roll heaped tablespoons of the mixture into rough balls and place onto the baking tray. The mixture is quite wet, but don’t worry, as they will keep their shape as they bake. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden and firm. The edges may be a little dark – this just adds to the rustic effect!
Serve with sour cream or Greek yoghurt, and chilli jam or sweet chilli sauce, and a big green salad on the side. Delish!

Sweet and Salty Granola

There are a few recipes that I make on a regular basis, and I love to post new versions on the blog to show you what I’ve been making. Soon I’ll be getting ready to make hot cross buns. I’ll probably wait till March, even though I was shocked to find hot cross buns already in the supermarket after Christmas!

One of my favourite things to make is granola. I make a batch every couple of weeks, as I really need my cereal fix every morning. I’ve posted the recipe a few times already here.

I thought I would add this version as I’m particularly keen on it. But it may not be to everyone’s taste. As the title implies there is salt in this recipe. Quite by accident, I bought salted nuts instead of unsalted for the granola. They were delicious! I love the combination of the sweetness from the dried fruit and honey, with the saltiness of the nuts. And hey, first it was salted caramel and, then salted chocolate, so why not sweet and salty granola?

Ingredients

2 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of bran flakes or similar
1/2 cup of salted nuts like macadamias, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts
A handful of mixed seeds like pepita, linseed, sesame
1/3 cup of honey, warmed to pouring consistency in a microwave
1/2 cup of any dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, apricots, cranberries, sour cherries.

Method 

Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees C. You could try 160 degrees C for a quicker toasting but be careful you don’t burn the mix. Line a large baking tin with baking paper. You need to be able to spread the mix out so that all the mix is exposed to the heat.

Mix the oats, seeds and nuts together in a large bowl. Loosen the honey before microwaving with a little bit of water to make it more runny and easier to mix. Pour the warmed honey onto the mix and quickly stir it through. The mixture will be quite sticky, so stir fairly aggressively.

Spoon the mixture onto the baking paper in the tin, spreading it out so that it covers the base of the tin and there aren’t any big lumps.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the mixture is golden brown and thoroughly toasted. You will need to turn the mixture over half way through cooking, so that the underneath mixture gets its time on top and gets toasted. The oven time is a bit of guess work – just keep checking and remove when the mix is golden and not burnt!

Let cool for 5 minutes then add the dried fruit, combining everything well. Don’t worry if there are some clumpy bits stuck together with honey – they are a bonus!

You can serve this granola in so many different ways. Milk and Greek yoghurt are favourites with me. I will always have fresh fruit on hand to add to the granola. In high summer in January in Sydney, berries are plentiful and so cheap! Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, all amazing, all wonderful, and I eat them by the punetful. And stone fruit too, is really coming into its own this month. Yellow and white peaches, apricots and nectarines, all delicious. And passionfruit is delicious any time of the year.

If summer fruit is plentiful, then I’m making jam. I’ve made lots of jam in this last week – apricot, blackberry, strawberry, mixed berry, and my new find mango! I will be posting recipes for these shortly.

I’ve been eating my sweet and salty granola with Greek yoghurt and lots of fresh fruit and a dollop of mango jam. A fabulous addition to breakfast! Just delicious! But eat your granola with whatever takes your fancy.

 

Blueberry Oat Cakes

These oat cakes are a cross between cakes, biscuits and scones. They are quite dense, with ground rolled oats and blueberries.

I developed the recipe because I am currently reading “The Violet Bakery Cookbook” by the wonderful Claire Ptak. As well as being a great baker in London, she made the famous wedding cake for Harry and Meghan in 2018. She has several rather rustic scones recipes, often with wholemeal or spelt flour, often featuring fruit, in her book. She is so imaginative in her recipes and I love her presentation too!

The mixture is very crumbly and will be difficult to bring together into a dough, particularly with the frozen blueberries. But don’t worry, just pat the mixture into shape and by resting it, you can cut the rounds from the mixture.

Here’s my recipe. This makes 12 smallish oat cakes. You could double the quantities for larger, more substantial oat cakes.

Ingredients
100g rolled oats
150g plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g raw sugar or brown sugar
Zest of half an orange
125g cold unsalted butter cut into 1 cm chunks
150g creme fraiche
125g frozen blueberries

Method
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Blitz the rolled oats in a food processor until finely ground. Mix all the dry ingredients plus the orange zest in a bowl or in a food processor. Cut in the cold butter by hand until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs, or you can continue to use a food processor on pulse, but be careful not to overwork the dough.

Quickly stir in the creme fraiche until just mixed in. Stir in the frozen blueberries.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured board, and pat into a square about 3 or 4cms thick. Rest for 5 minutes at least, even 10 minutes.

Using a 6cm cutter, cut out rounds and place onto the baking sheet. You will probably get 8 or 9 from the dough, then you will need to gather up the remains of the dough and pat together (don’t re-roll) before cutting out the last few rounds.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the rounds are brown on top. You could check after 20 minutes to see how they are coming along. Take out of the oven and wait until the oat cakes are cool before serving.

Serve on their own – they are sweet enough – or with homemade berry jam and Greek yoghurt.

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