Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hot Cross Buns

Had I really thought about it, I would have prepped more the night before but after a long, hard day at work I managed only to get the ingredients measured and ready for the next morning.  So the hot cross buns didn’t quite make it for morning tea but they were ready by lunchtime.

I’d been inspired to make hot cross buns after a trip to the supermarket to buy some Easter goods for a farewell at work.  The sad offerings of eight squashed, dark and inedible looking hot cross buns made me want to go and spend $3 each on some good ones but it wasn’t my money to splash around.  Of course I didn’t eat any of them, such was their lack of appeal. So what better time to try to make them myself?

I’ve had a couple of hot cross bun recipes lurking in my recipe folder for years now and chose this one from the now defunct (I think?) Notebook magazine.  I replaced the stated plain 00 flour for high-grade flour and added a pinch each of nutmeg and cinnamon.  Next time I might add a little more spice but other than that I was really happy with how they turned out.

I thought I was going to have an epic fail on piping those crosses but I was surprised at how easy it was.  I think last week’s Easter cupcake icing was still fresh in my mind.

What really amazed me was how excited I was the whole morning it took me to do them (don’t be put off, there’s a lot of down time for the dough in there).  Isn’t it great to be excited about something? I’ve missed that!

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 16 

1½ cups (375ml) warm milk
2 tsp (7g) dried yeast
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
60g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked
4½ cups (675g) high-grade flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp mixed spice
a pinch each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg
1 cup (170g) sultanas
¼ cup (45g) currants
¼ cup (50g) mixed peel
1/3 cup (80ml) cold water
Glaze: ½ cup (170g) apricot jam

Combine the milk, yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a measuring jug.  Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 10 minutes or until frothy (I use the hot water cupboard for this.)

Once the above is ready, add the melted butter and egg to the mix and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl or cake mixer bowl, sift together 4 (600g) cups of the flour  (keeping the remainder for the paste for the crosses), salt and spices then mix in the sugar.  Add the sultanas, currants and mixed peel and stir to combine.  Make a well in the centre, pour in the milk mixture and stir to bring the dough together.  If you’re kneading by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes.  Alternatively, using the dough hook attachment on the cake mixer, turn the mixer to a slow speed and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and transfer to a warm, draught free place for 1 hour or until the dough doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Grease and line a 23cm square cake tin (I used two smaller ones).  Punch the dough down with your fist.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

Divide dough into 16 even pieces and shape each into a ball.  Place them close to each other in the tin(s), then set aside for 30 minutes in (yes, you guessed!) a warm, draught free place until dough has risen 2cm.

Mix the remaining flour and water together to form a smooth paste.  Place in an icing bag with small round piping nozzle or in a plastic bag with the end snipped off.  Pipe a continuous line down the centre of each row of buns, lengthways and widthways, to form crosses.

Bake the buns for 10 minutes at 200°C.  Reduce heat to 180°C and cook for a further 20 minutes, until dark golden and cooked through.  The buns will be ready when they sound hollow when tapped on the base.

Use the baking paper to lift them onto a wire rack to cool. 

Meanwhile, heat the apricot jam over a high heat in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, for two minutes until jam melts.  Sieve the jam into a small bowl and brush the tops of the hot cross buns with it.

Leave to cool.  Serve with butter and/or jam.  They are also very good toasted. 

These are best eaten on the day. The buns themselves were fine the next day but the crosses hardened so I removed them (they just lifted off, still leaving a cross indent).

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter Egg Cupcakes

It’s a given that if you like chocolate you’re going to think you’re in seventh heaven around Easter time.  Chocolate galore and, thanks to Easter starting shortly after Christmas in supermarkets, plenty of time to enjoy it. 

There’s always the usual favourites in this house – a large Cadbury rabbit for daughter (“it’s a tradition, Mum!”) and a cute little Lindt golden bunny bought for me, by me (no point in leaving yourself out of the equation is there?).   And, if Bill’s been good, the Easter Bunny may just bring him something too.  He has to eat his fast though – you snooze, you loose when I’m around chocolate.

In true form, I scoffed the first packet of Cadbury mini-eggs bought to decorate the cupcakes before I’d even got to weekend baking and had to buy another pack. These ones made it safely to the topping and they are rather cute with their speckled coating.

Thanks to Alessandra and Sweet NewZealand, I’d been given some Fresh As freeze-dried raspberry powder and used that to dust the icing.  It gives a nice sharp tang to counteract the sweetness of the cupcake.  I also had a Christmas gift of Vahlrona chocolate pearls.  I originally thought these were pure chocolate balls ready for melting (well, there’s nothing on the pack to say otherwise!). Thankfully I Googled them before making the horrible mistake of melting what were actually crunchy little chocolate-coated biscuit bites.  They added a nice crunchy texture and I was pretty pleased with the end result. 

I’m always a bit apprehensive when it comes to icing cupcakes but after a couple of re-runs of the lovely Lydia Bakes' icing tutorial, I reckon I made an acceptable attempt even if I was lacking in consistency of style.

I made these cupcakes on a Saturday morning and, after sampling a couple over the weekend and giving most away, I popped two in the fridge.  Happily, Bill didn’t notice his share (may have been the placing at the back of the fridge? J) and I was able to polish it off for morning tea on Tuesday – and it tasted good.  Just to show I'm not completely selfish, I am sharing this post with We Should Cocoa for the chocolate and Easter special hosted by Rachel and also with Marnelli at Sweets and Brains who is hosting Sweet New Zealand.

Happy Easter everyone.

Easter Egg Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes 

100g standard flour
20g good quality cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk
1 egg
¼ tsp vanilla essence

Cream cheese icing 

300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese
Food colouring of your choice


Decorate with chocolate sprinkles or easter themed decorations.  I dusted the Fresh As freeze-dried raspberry powder on top of the icing and sprinkled on a few Vahlrona crunchy pearls (tiny beads of biscuit filled chocolate).  To finish each cupcake, I decorated with Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, which resemble real eggs with their speckled candy shells, and a little fresh flower.

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F).  Place some paper cupcake cases in a cupcake or muffin tin(s).

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a cake mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and butter.  Using the paddle attachment, beat on a slow speed until the ingredients are combined and resemble a sandy consistency.

In a jug, whisk the milk, egg and vanilla together.  Slowly pour about half the liquid into the flour mixture with the mixer on a low speed then turn up high for a short burst to get rid of any lumps.

Slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture with the mixer on slow, scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Mix until smooth (do not overmix).

Spoon into the paper cases about half to two-thirds full (this will depend on the size of your cases as there are so many variants). 

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Leave for 5 minutes in the tin then transfer to a wired cake rack to cool. 

Ice and decorate when cool.

Cream Cheese Icing 

Place the icing sugar and butter in a cake mixing bowl with paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk).  With the cake mixer on a slow to medium speed, beat until the mix comes together and is well mixed.

Add the cream cheese and beat until incorporated.  Turn mixer up to medium-high and beat at least 5 minutes until icing is light and fluffy (do not overbeat).

Add your choice of food colouring and beat until incorporated.  I split the mix into two equal parts then added tiny drops of food colouring to get a lemon and a pink shade.

Recipes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook