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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

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!

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