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Sourdough Hybrid Hot Cross Buns

I love Easter and all the baking opportunities it provides. There are so many traditional recipes with strong cultural or religious origins, and I’m as fascinated with the history of the recipes as much as with the delicious pastries and bakes themselves.

But hot cross buns are my favourite. As a bread baker I guess this is to be expected! I always make them at Easter, having a go at a different recipe each year. But in 2021 I decided to develop my own version. I have had so much experience baking with sourdough recently that I thought I could use some of that know how in a hot cross bun recipe. So this recipe is a hybrid – it uses both dry yeast and some sourdough starter. The result are well risen, light and flavourful buns.

The recipe makes 16 – but if you only want to bake 12, I have included the quantities to bake a dozen – see below.

For the observant readers who have counted 15 buns in the photos, I actually managed to get 17 buns from the dough! So I decided to bake two buns on another tray.

Ingredients

Buns

250g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

625g strong flour

7g dried yeast

12g salt

125g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

50g brown sugar

30g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

60g unsalted butter, in small pieces

200g full fat milk at room temperature

150g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Method

Soak the raisins and sultanas in the Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat for up to 3 hours to plump up the fruit.

Starting with the flour, add all the other ingredients (except dried fruit and candied orange peel) to a large bowl. Just make sure the yeast is on one side of the bowl and salt on the other.

Mix everything roughly together using a wooden spoon, just to amalgamate the ingredients. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Using the dough hook of an electric mixer, knead on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is soft, shiny and passes the windowpane test. This dough is initially quite wet, so it will take 10 minutes kneading to bring it to that lovely elastic consistency you are looking for.

Add the sultanas, raisins and any residual alcohol that hasn’t soaked into the fruit, and the candied orange peel. Mix for about a minute on low to distribute the fruit evenly through the dough.

Remove the bowl from the machine and cover with a plastic bag or tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours.

The dough should have doubled in size. Carefully remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a board or bench top which has been lightly floured. Putting a little more flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking, flatten the dough to a rough rectangle, and fold in half lengthways. Cut in two and roll each half into a sausage.

You should get 16 hot cross buns from the mixture. Take one sausage and divide into two, then divide each into 4 pieces.

To shape your buns, take one piece and roll into a ball, and with your cupped hand over the top of the ball, keep rolling on the board or bench top till you feel the dough tightening and developing a nice ball shape.

Repeat with remaining balls. Do the same thing with the other sausage.

Place the 16 balls – now buns – onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper.

Cover with a large plastic bag or a tea towel and leave to prove again. I prove this second time in the fridge overnight. You can also prove at room temperature for an hour or more until the buns have grown a little in size. (They don’t get huge – this happens in the oven.)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced or 190 degrees C non fan for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crosses by mixing the flour, water and sugar in small bowl. Use a bit of judgement here – you want a paste that is not too runny, but not so stiff that it can’t be piped. So add/subtract flour and water to get the right consistency. Fill a piping bag or a zip lock bag that you can cut the corner off with the cross mixture, and pipe lines across each row of buns, then pipe another set of lines at right angles to the first set to make the crosses.

If you’re in any doubt how to do this, YouTube has how-to videos!

Put the tray into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the buns are a dark golden brown.

As you can see from the colour of the buns in the photos, my buns are a deep burnished colour. But they are soft and moist inside!

While the buns are baking, make the glaze. Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and water into a small saucepan and heat gently on the stovetop stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the glaze has thickened slightly.

Once the buns are cooked, remove from the oven. Brush the warm syrup over the warm buns, making sure you brush the sides as well.

When the buns have cooled slightly, eat with lashings of good quality butter. The next day, split and toast and serve with, of course, more butter!

Hot cross buns freeze well too, so make a pile that you can store in the freezer and reheat as necessary.

NB Reheat in the oven, the buns don’t do well in the microwave.

Quantities for 12 hot cross buns

(Some quantities stay the same as it doesn’t make a huge difference to alter these quantities).

200g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

450g strong flour

7g dried yeast

10g salt

100g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

40g brown sugar

20g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

50g unsalted butter, in small pieces

150g full fat milk at room temperature

100g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Easter Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is traditionally made for Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent. Mothering Sunday in the UK is what we call Mother’s Day here in Australia, except we mark this day in May. A bit confusing!

I’ve been very interested in the Simnel cake, what it’s made of and its history. It’s a light fruitcake with two layers of marzipan, one layer baked in the centre of the cake, and one layer placed on top of the cake. The cake is adorned with eleven balls of marzipan, representing Jesus’ Apostles, minus Judas Iscariot. This last reference reminds us that this is an Easter cake, and can also be eaten during the Easter period and on Easter Day.

So I decided to make a Simnel cake for Mothering Sunday this Easter, Sunday 14 March. I have read many recipes for the cake, and eventually decided to adapt a recipe from the Hairy Bikers. I made a few changes to create my version of the cake. Whatever way you look at it, there are not that many ways you can make a Simnel cake – actually there is pretty much only the one basic recipe with a few adaptations! The link to the Hairy Bikers original recipe is here.

My version is baked in a slightly bigger tin than most recipes specify. I wanted a cake with a bigger diameter to serve more people. I used quite a lot of marzipan in order to get good coverage on the cake. I also went with blow torching the cake rather then putting it under a grill, as this was so much easier and you can control the heat source.

Ingredients

Marzipan

335 icing sugar

260g caster sugar

525g ground almonds

3 large free-range eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons apricot jam (to stick the marzipan onto the cake)

Fruit cake

Juice and zest of an orange

Juice and zest of a lemon

500g sultanas, raisins and currants, in any mix you prefer

150g glacé cherries

225g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg, ginger, allspice – any or all of these are fine, use what you prefer

3 large free-range eggs

175g soft butter

175g brown sugar

Method

Make the marzipan first, as this needs to rest for an hour or so before it goes into the cake.

Sift the icing sugar and caster sugar into a large bowl, and then mix through the ground almonds.

Beat the eggs with the almond extract and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Stir into the dry ingredients with a large spoon or spatula to make a rough dough. Use your hands to continue to turn the mixture into a dough that is able to be rolled out.

Put some icing sugar onto a work surface – bench top or ideally a large wooden board. Knead the marzipan for a couple of minutes until it’s a smooth dough.

Put the marzipan dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave for at least an hour, preferably two, to allow the ground almonds to swell and absorb some of the moisture from the eggs.

For the cake, put the orange and the lemon juice in a small saucepan and add the dried fruit and cherries. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and heat for two minutes, stirring until the liquid disappears. Be careful not to burn the fruit by cooking it dry. Remove from the heat and leave to completely cool. Putting the fruit into a bowl and sticking it in the fridge can speed things up if you’re short on time.

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C non fan forced, or 140 degrees fan forced.

Grease a 22cm spring form pan and line the base with two layers of baking paper.

Put the flour and spices in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in a smaller bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer such as a KitchenAid until light and fluffy and well mixed. Make sure all the mixture, even at the bottom of the bowl, is well incorporated.

Add the whisked eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. To stop the mixture curdling – this can easily happen when adding eggs to butter and sugar – mix in a tablespoon of flour after each egg addition.

Gently fold in the flour to the rest of the mixture by hand. Stir in the dried fruit and the orange and lemon zest. Spoon half of the mixture into the springform tin, trying to get a smooth surface.

Working with marzipan. Divide the marzipan into three equal balls. Weighing them is probably the best way to do this. Wrap two of the balls in plastic wrap to prevent them drying out.

Place a large length of baking paper on your work surface and dust with icing sugar. Put the remaining ball ono the baking paper and cover with another length. Roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.

Now peel the top layer of baking paper off the marzipan and put the marzipan circle carefully on top of the cake mixture in the tin, then peel off the remaining base paper.

Put the rest of the cake mixture on top of the marzipan and smooth the surface.

Place the springform tin into the preheated oven and bake for about approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden-brown, and a skewer inserted into,the cake comes out clean. If the cake is browning quickly but is obviously not cooked, cover the top with some aluminium foil.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Then remove from the tin, peel off the lining paper, put the cake on a wire rack and leave to completely cool.

Marzipan topping. This cake is best decorated using the bottom of the cake as its flatter. Turn the cake upside down and put onto a plate or board to allow you to decorate.

Place a length of baking paper onto the work surface with more icing sugar. Put one of the marzipan balls onto the paper and cover with another piece of baking paper. As before, roll the ball into a circle that’s bigger than the springform tin. You can check this by putting the cake tin on top of the rolled marzipan and making sure the marzipan is 1-2 cms bigger than the tin.

Heat the apricot jam in a microwave on low, or in a small saucepan on low heat for a couple of minutes.

Brush the surface of the cake with the warm jam and cover with the marzipan circle. The circle should just hang over the edge of the cake. Press the marzipan gently onto the cake, easing out any lumps. You can neaten up any overhang that’s too long with a sharp knife.

Now take the remaining marzipan and roll it into eleven balls to represent the Apostles. Weigh the balls to make them uniform – 20g for small balls or 25g for bigger ones. In either case you will have marzipan left over – always welcome as a sweet treat.

Dip each ball into the warmed apricot jam. Position them round the outside of the cake.

Now for the fun part – get out your cook’s blowtorch and lightly scorch the marzipan topping and balls! Be careful not to overdo it. If you haven’t got a blowtorch, put the cake under the grill for a couple of minutes until scorched but not burnt.

Place the cake onto a serving plate or board. Put a yellow ribbon – traditional – around the cake. I went for a green ribbon, with its associations of the renewal of life, appropriate for the Easter season.

Good Friday Fish Pie


It’s Easter week 2020 and Good Friday approaches, traditionally a day to eat fish.

Last year I made a lovely fish pie, and really easy! Here’s the recipe again, great to make this Friday but also nice to make in the cooler weather for us Southern Hemisphere residents.

It’s a dish to lift your spirits at Easter in our time of trial.

I’ve been experimenting with fish pies recently, with the memory of a great fish pie cooked for me by an Englishman who clearly knows his pies and his fish. Thank you Ken, for your inspiration!

My version is quite simple – smoked fish fillets and poached fresh fish, with some braised leeks, in a white sauce. Topped off with creamy mashed potato and a liberal scattering of grated cheddar. Great on the day, and even tastier reheated the next day, too, when the flavours have developed.

These quantities make a very substantial pie for two, or would serve four with smaller portions too. Double the quantities for a really big pie.

Ingredients

4 large potatoes, good for mashing

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter

300 mls full fat milk

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 leeks

100g white fish

150g smoked mackerel

150g hot smoked salmon

1 tablespoon plain flour

75g cheddar cheese, grated

Method

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place whole into a large saucepan. Cover completely with water. Bring to the boil and cook on a medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through. Be careful not to overcook – you don’t want the potatoes breaking up. Remove from the heat and strain in a colander.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel quickly and place the still warm potatoes in a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons butter and 50 mls of milk. Season with salt to taste. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes really well with the butter and milk, making sure there are no lumps.You can of course adjust the butter and milk amounts to personal taste and because potatoes do vary, requiring more or less butter/milk to get the right consistency.

Cover the mashed potato bowl with aluminium foil to keep warm.

Wash the leeks well and slice into ½ cm rounds. Heat 1 teaspoon butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and cook over a low heat until the leeks are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Just make sure temperature is low and the leeks don’t brown. Once cooked, remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining 250 mls milk in a wide saucepan until just at a simmer. Place the white fish fillet into the milk, and continue to simmer and let the fish cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Check if the fish fillet is cooked by putting a skewer into the thickest part of the fish. If the skewer goes in easily and is also easy to remove, it should be cooked.

Remove the fillet carefully with a slotted spoon. Roughly break into chunks. Strain the poaching milk into a bowl or jug.

There’s no need to cook the mackerel and salmon, just break into chunks.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

To make the white sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter, over a low heat, in the saucepan in which you poached the fish. Add the plain flour, and mix together to a smooth paste, making sure to use a wooden spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the poaching milk, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, combining the paste with the milk. Turn the heat to medium, bring to the boil, then reduce to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened, stirring regularly. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper.

To assemble the pie, place the leek slices and fish chunks in a baking dish. Gently stir through the white sauce. Top with the mashed potato, roughing up the potato with a fork for a little artistry. Scatter the grated cheddar over the pie.

Cook the fish pie in the preheated oven for a 20-30 minutes or until the potato is brown and the mixture underneath is bubbling.

Serve with a green salad or green veggies like peas, beans or zucchini. When I made it last year I served it with some roasted young garlic. Actually any veggies would do!

Easter Cookies


I posted a recipe “Hot Cross Bun Cookies”last Easter.  I’m posting again as “Easter Cookies” as they’re so easy to make and can be an alternative to hot cross buns. Not a replacement of course – Easter wouldn’t be Easter without hot cross buns! Children can make them too, keeping them busy and happy in these difficult times.

The recipe is based on one from Donna Hay, with some tweaks.

Ingredients

125g softened butter
175g brown sugar
2 free-range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
2 teaspoons lemon zest
375 self raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
80ml milk
80g sultanas
160g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking tray.
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure the eggs are well incorporated.
Add the lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and sultanas to the food processor and mix in. Be careful not to over mix in case you break up the sultanas.
Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll tablespoons of the mixtures into balls and place on the baking trays.
Bake between 10-15 minutes, depending on the hotness of your oven, until the cookies are pale brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays.
To make the icing, place the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix to a paste. Place the icing mixture in a piping bag and pipe a cross on each cookie. You don’t have to be too precise, the flavour of the cookies is more important than a beautifully executed item! Or that’s what I think anyway.

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.

Hot Cross Bun Cookies

It will soon be Easter so it’s time to start the Easter baking. If you’re looking for something different from hot cross buns, these cookies are a good alternative. I wouldn’t expect anyone to give up hot cross buns of course, but adding these cookies to your repertoire is a great idea.

The recipe is based on one from Donna Hay, with my usual tweaks. There’s no “bun” in the cookies – but hey, they have all the flavour of buns so they are entitled to the name!

Ingredients

125g softened butter
175g brown sugar
2 free-range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
2 teaspoons lemon zest
375 self raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
80ml milk
80g sultanas
160g icing sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking tray.
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure the eggs are well incorporated.
Add the lemon zest, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk and sultanas to the food processor and mix in. Be careful not to over mix in case you break up the sultanas.
Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes or until firm. Roll tablespoons of the mixtures into balls and place on the baking trays.
Bake between 10-15 minutes, depending on the hotness of your oven, until the cookies are pale brown. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays.
To make the icing, place the icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix to a paste. Place the icing mixture in a piping bag and pipe a cross on each cookie. You don’t have to be too precise, the flavour of the cookies is more important than a beautifully executed item! Or that’s what I think anyway.

Hot Cross Buns: Three Great Recipes!

I’m in the throes of making hot cross buns today, Good Friday, 2017. My buns are at the moment in the fridge having their overnight first prove. If you’ve not done this before, a slow fridge prove creates a flavour superior to a short warm prove.

But more of these buns anon when they’re out of the oven!

Here are my three favourite hot cross buns so far in my Easter baking journey, two Jamie Oliver recipes and a Paul Hollywood recipe. I have shown photos of each, with a link to my recipes in previous posts.

Making your own hot cross buns is fun, seasonal and very very satisfying!

No 1. Jamie Oliver Hot Cross Buns from the Jamie Oliver website
https://thequirkandthecool.com/2016/03/26/hot-cross-buns-jamie-oliver-inspired/

No 2. Jamie Oliver Hot Cross Buns from Jamie Magazine
https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/04/13/jamie-olivers-hot-cross-buns/

No 3. Paul Hollywood’s book “How to Bake” and it’s on his website too.
https://thequirkandthecool.com/2015/04/03/paul-hollywoods-hot-cross-buns/

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Double Chocolate Tart

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I call this Double Chocolate Tart as it has a rich dark biscuit pastry chocolate shell, filled with  – wait for it – dark and milk chocolate! So maybe it’s a triple chocolate tart?

This was our dessert for Easter Sunday lunch, on March 27. It’s rich, dense, bitter sweet and a little goes a long way.

I served the tart with strawberries, some of them chocolate dipped, and fresh figs, which in Sydney in our warm and sunny Autumn, are ripe and plentiful. And whipped cream, just to cut through the “chocolateyness”.

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Ingredients

For the pastry:

175g unsalted butter
75g icing sugar
2  free-range egg yolks
200g plain flour
50g dutch cocoa

For the filling:

150g milk chocolate
150g dark chocolate
400ml cream
2 free range eggs +1 egg yolk lightly beaten

To decorate:

Strawberries, dark chocolate, fresh figs, or any other fresh fruit of your choosing. Orange segments would be lovely!

Method

I make this pastry recipe in the food processor, but you could do it in an electric mixer or by hand. I use the food processor because it’s easy.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Cream the butter and icing sugar together in a food processor. Add the eggs and yolk and mix thoroughly. Sift the flour and cocoa. Have 25ml of cold water ready. Add a little of the water and all of the flour/cocoa mix and pulse using the processor, stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add as much of the water as you need so that the pastry comes together into a ball. Remove from the processor, wrap in cling wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a surface dusted with flour  until about 5mm thick. This pastry is quite soft and delicate, be gentle, and you may need a little extra flour for rolling out. Line a 18cm or 20cm loose-bottomed tin with a circle of baking paper. The smaller tin gives you a slightly higher filling, the bigger a flatter tart.

Carefully line the tin with the pastry. Have a bit of overhang of pastry at the top – you can trim this after baking. Chill for 30 minutes. Line the pastry case with more baking paper and baking beans or rice and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and the beans and return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tin, then trim any pastry edges.

To make the filling, place both kinds of chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a saucepan on the stovetop and gently bring to a simmer. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir to make sure the chocolate and cream is combined.  Stir through the lightly beaten eggs, then pour the mixture into the tart shell.

Put into the oven, turn the temperature down to 140 degrees C. Bake for 1 hour or until the filling is just set and wobbles in the middle if you gently move the tin. The shallower the filling, the less time the tart will take. As with so much cooking, your cook’s judgment is needed here to know when the filling is just right!

Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin. Place in the fridge and chill for at least an hour. I made the chocolate tart the day before and chilled overnight. Bring the tart to room temperature before serving.

Serve with any fresh fruit you fancy. I dipped some strawberries in melted chocolate, and scattered these with fresh strawberries and fig quarters on the the top of the cake. A dollop of whipped cream looked good too.

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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.

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

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* 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

 

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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:

http://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/hot-cross-buns

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.

Ingredients

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

Method

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.

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