Hot Cross Buns
Last Easter I was busy packing all of our belongings into cardboard boxes as we prepared to make the life changing move out of London. Our new destination was Kent, where I grew up and where my Mum and brother still live. We had only been in one week when we packed more bags and set off up to Cheshire to see my in-laws for the Easter weekend. Something we do most years. At the time it seemed crazy after just moving house, but once we got there it was lovely to relax, have meals made for us and not unpack any boxes. The weather was fantastic and on Easter day we were spoilt with an Easter egg hunt and plenty of chocolate.
This year without having to plan for a house move, I have been able to try making one of my most favourite things ever…hot cross buns. I actually love and hot cross buns and would be thrilled to eat them all year round. The way I like them is toasted, spread with unsalted butter and a cup of tea to wash it all down.
I have to say though that I’m not great at making bread items. I truly believe that it is something that takes a lot of practice, so I continue trying in the hope that my next effort will be better than my last. It’s a good job I think like this as my first attempt at hot cross buns were only just passable, but my second attempt was pretty near to perfect in my eyes, (picture below). I would have liked to know what Paul Hollywood thought of them! I digress. The most delightful thing about homemade hot cross buns are how much better they taste in comparison to shop brought which makes them totally worth the effort, even if they do take a few attempts to get right.
The basic hot cross bun recipe I followed can be found on the Baking Mad’s website. A few things I have done differently that might be worth trying as well include:
- Substituting 50g of plain flour for wholemeal flour
- Adding chopped dates and dark chocolate chips instead of raisins
- Using a 100g strong white flour, 25g butter, 125ml water and a pinch of sugar to make a paste. Then put this in a small freezer bag, snip the end and pipe crosses
Another wonderful thing about Easter is of course Easter Eggs. I love to look around the shops each year to see what temptations have been created. I’m always drawn to eggs that are a bit unique or have something special about them.
Hotel Chocolat, who are fast becoming a firm favorite of mine have a marvelous Easter egg selection and I was lucky enough to be allowed one to review (or scoff which ever way you like to put it). I picked the ‘You Crack Me Up‘ egg with extra thick shell because I loved the look of the chocolates that came inside.
Little happy faces, chicks, fried eggs and soliders all appeal to child in me and I thought it was likely that my own children would be wanting some of this egg too!
I was not disappointed. All (and that is saying something) the chocolates were lovely. If anything there could have been more! The shell was indeed extra thick and gave the egg a real feel of quality. I loved the packaging too. It came in a gorgeous box and the egg itself was wrapped in the most lavish looking light gold foil.
I have had this egg for 3 days now and it’s nearly all gone already. Easter egg reviewing…it’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it 😉
Many thanks to Hotel Chocolate sending me the Easter Egg to review and Baking Mad for sponsoring this post.
After a very exciting day filming Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard yesterday, I came back to earth with a bit of a bump this morning. The school run was freezing, the washing mountain piled high and my baby boy not well at all. I still have a big smile on my face though and am so pleased that I went for it and enjoyed the experience. I feel even more inspired about my baking, which is amazing really given how much I loved it before. So today, to help with the reality blues I decided that a bit of baking was in order .
On Australia Day last week one of my Australian friends posted a picture of her lamingtons on Twitter and ever since I have been thinking about them. I have made them quite a few times before, but not for a while. If I had a Pinterest account I might have posted pictures of lamingtons on there, but I don’t (yet) so I made a mental note instead.
Lamingtons are essentially a plain sponge cut into squares, covered in chocolate and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. It’s not just any old sponge though, it is a sponge that is mostly eggs and flour, with a little bit of sugar and butter. The result is a sturdier sponge, (needed for the cutting into neat squares and then dunking in chocolate) that tastes amazing. A bit like a sponge/biscuit combo. The only thing that I can think of that compares is those little sponge fingers you can buy to make the base of your trifle with, except this sponge is not as crunchy as those by a long way.
There is no getting away from the fact that decorating lamingtons is a messy affair. Once dunked they need somewhere to ‘drip dry’ and the best place is on a cooling rack. My eldest daughter helped me with ours this evening. We had a lot of fun. It’s a great interpretation of messy play. As long as you don’t mind the licking of fingers, which will happen, my advice is to get stuck in and enjoy.
I should also mention that I have a special friend who moved to Australia last April for 3 years. I’m so proud of her for getting stuck into the Australian lifestyle and coping amazingly well with the change. So these cakes and this post is especially for Emily. I hope she makes some and can enjoy them too.
The recipe I use for reference is from Tanya Ramsay’s cookbook, Real Family Food’ (pg 224). I have made a few alterations for example, less chocolate icing because I had a fair bit left over when I made it to Tanya’s recipe, but that’s just my opinion. For tea time treat life saver, try making double the amount of sponge and freezing the extra squares until needed and icing them once defrosted.
What you will need
- 3 eggs
- 75g caster sugar
- 125g self raising flour
- 25g cornflour
- 3 tbsp hot water
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
For the chocolate icing
- 250g icing sugar
- 40g cocoa
- 7g unsalted butter, melted
- 110ml milk
- 25g desiccated coconut for sprinkling on top
Makes 16 squares
- Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Lightly grease a medium rectangle shaped tin (approx 18cm x 23cm) and line with greaseproof paper
- Mix the eggs together in a large bowl until thick and creamy and then add the sugar and mix until dissolved
- Sieve in the flour and cornflour, then add the water and butter and mix with until smooth
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 30 mins. Place on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Trim off any golden edges and then cut into medium sized squares. Though you might want to cut into smaller squares if you are making this mostly for kiddie consumption, or even use a cookie cutter for fun shapes, (although there will be some excess sponge with this option)
- For the chocolate icing sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl, add the milk, water and butter and stir together until smooth. Then, put the bowl over a pan of hot water and stir again until silky and glossy. Add a dash more milk if you think it is looking a bit thick or stiff.
- Use a fork to hold the sponge squares and dunk into the chocolate icing until completely covered. Pull out and let it drip for a few seconds over the bowl and then place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with the coconut. Leave to set and then tuck in. These are best eaten on the day you make them but can be kept for up to 3 days in an airtight container. As the letter for the first ever AlphaBake blog challenge is ‘L’ it would be rude not to enter this blog post. The Alpha Bake challenge is hosted this month by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker blog. Ros shares the hosting of this challenge with Caroline from Caroline Bakes blog. Looking forward to seeing all the other entries.
Only a quick post for you this week folks. For those of you that don’t know I and heading down to London on Monday to take part in Channel 4’s programme, ‘Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard‘. Filming is going to take place in Eric’s cake shop, Cake Boy and I will be competing with two other bakers in a mini bake off to win a masterclass with Eric afterwards. The theme is cheesecake, so as you can imagine I have cheesecake coming out of my ears at the moment with all of the practicing I have been doing. I have finally decided on what sort of cheesecake I am going to bake and am now concentrating on the decoration. I’m very excited and nervous all rolled into one!
I will be blogging the chosen cheesecake recipe in a few weeks, but today the recipe is for a fig, shallot and blue cheese tart. I made this tart a week ago as we were hosting a family party at my house and although I was not catering completely (everyone was bringing something) I was keen to try out something new. The other thing to say is that I LOVE figs, LOVE blue cheese and LOVE sweetly cooked onion so I was confident that this would get the big thumbs up from me. These flavours just go so well together. Sweet fig and shallot, against the salty blue cheese brought together with cream and eggs. Superb! But before I give you the recipe I wanted to list why I think savoury tarts are so special and definitely worth making from time to time.
- They are a great winter supper cooked with a jacket potato and your choice of veg
- Fantastic summer lunch served with salad and garlic bread
- Versatile – eaten all year round
- You can make double and freeze one (very handy mid week)
- Great party food (mine did not last 2 mins)
- Perfect for experimentation depending on what is in season and what your preferences are
- Easy to make, especially if you use shop brought pastry which is perfectly acceptable and totally allowed
Now that you are all convinced that savoury tarts are a good thing to make, have a go at this. You wont be disappointed.
This recipe was inspired from one I found on the BBC Good Food website, but I have made a few subtle but noticeable changes.
What you will need:
175g plain flour
75g wholemeal flour
150g unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp salt
400g shallots, peeled and finely chopped
few springs of fresh thyme
dash of olive and a small knob of butter
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200ml crème fraiche
200ml double cream
140g blue cheese (your choice)
3-4 fresh figs, cut in half
A 20-23cm tart tin, greased
How to make:
I’m going to explain how I make my pastry in the food processor. You can of course make it by hand, (or buy it) but this is so easy. In fact, I would argue that it is much less effort than getting out the house and going to the shop…or maybe that is just me with 3 kids in tow.
1. Put the flour, salt and butter into the food processor and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix until a soft smooth dough is formed. Wrap in cling film and put into the fridge for at least half an hour. This pastry can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen so a good one to make in advance.
2. Put the butter and olive oil in the saucepan, then add the shallots and thyme and start cooking on a low heat. After about 5 mins add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further 10 mins stirring regularly until soft
3. Preheat you oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface, transfer to the tart tin, gently press the sides of the pastry into the tin, (to prevent it folding over in the oven) prick the base with a fork and blind bake with baking balls on top of greaseproof paper for 15 mins
4. Mix the eggs and cream in a large bowl, season and add the blue cheese. Once cooled add your shallot mixture and stir together.
5. Once pastry is blind baked, take out of the oven and turn oven down to 170c/325f/gas 3. Remove baking balls and greaseproof paper, then pour in your filling. Place your cut figs, inside up around the tart. Cook in the oven for about 50 mins – 1 hour until it as started to brown. It should still have a bit of a wobble when you take it out. It will continue to set as it cools.
PS: I also did a review of some Valentines Chocs this week. Worth a read if you fancy putting some chocolates on your wish list for 14th Feb.
This week has been quite exciting. The people at Bakingmad.com were looking for food bloggers to take part in a new year healthy baking challenge. Always up for a challenge, especially a baking one I got in touch and they sent me a list of low calorie baking recipes and asked me to choose one to make and review. So I picked low calorie blueberry muffins because I was interested to see if a low calorie version would be just as good as the real thing.
A link to the recipe I used is here.
A few days later the postman knocked on my door and gave me a little cardboard box. Inside was a packet of Allinson’s nature friendly flour and packet of Silver Spoon half spoon sugar. When reading the small print on the packs I was pleasantly surprised at the reasons why the flour is branded nature friendly. It uses conservation grade wheat which is where farmers actively manage their farmland to promote bio-diversity and conditions where wildlife can flourish. I like the sound of that. But reading the back of the silver spoon half spoon sugar pack I was a bit disappointed to see that it contained artificial sweetener. Not something I really like to use if I’m honest, but then there is half the sugar required in this recipe to a normal blueberry muffin recipe (I checked) and so that is quite a bonus especially if you are on the dreaded new year diet.
So today was the day I decided to complete the challenge. I set everything up and called my 6 year to see if she wanted to help. There is no electric mixer involved, just a little whisking and stirring, so she could pretty much do everything, which I think she found very rewarding. She took ages putting the batter in the cases and it was lovely to see her take care to do it properly and really get into the task.
They came out of the oven looking beautiful. Nicely risen with a few gorgeous purple blueberries bubbling at the surface. And I have to say they tasted pretty good too! They would certainly hit the mid afternoon ‘snack attack’ spot and I definitely did not feel quite as guilty eating one of these in comparison to a normal muffin or slice of cake. Might even pack one in my gym bag tomorrow as a treat for afterwards. I’m going to freeze a few too as I think they would be nice as an alternative to breakfast at some point in the week, especially if I’m running late and need breakfast on the go. My 6 year old loved them! She came through to the kitchen after eating one and said they were delicious! This is quite a compliment as she has a sweet tooth, so I guess she did not notice the fact that these had a lot less sugar in which is great.
Overall, I would say these are a quick and easy muffin recipe which is certainly worth a try. Next time I’m tempted to swap the flour to wholemeal self raising and to try it with the same amount of normal sugar to see how that tastes and turns out. Anyone gets there before me let me know.
Disclaimer- I do not work for Baking Mad nor did not get paid to write this review.