Tag Archives: breakfast

Hot Not Cross Buns

Happy Easter everybody! Yesterday I made the traditional Easter treat: hot cross buns. I left the cross off. Secular Buns.
There is simply nothing more satisfying than making a tray of buns. I’m not so good at bread or cakes but buns, buns I can do. Straight out of the oven they are soft, spiced, covered with a sticky spicy glaze and in their neat little rows. Nothing quite like a bun. I’m about to have one (or two) for my breakfast…

This recipe is from Elizabeth David (the same book listed here with my post about Chelsea Buns). It’s lovely. I’m writing this quickly so you can all have a bash at them today or tomorrow… go on. You won’t regret it. Just remember to leave at least 4 hours. Both rising times are about 2 hours so if you want buns at tea time, start at 11ish… you’ve got an hour now to go and find the ingredients.

Hot Cross Buns

450-500g strong plain flour (I used the full amount. It will vary according to the flour you use, your local climate, just follow your fingers. I’ll describe how mine was as closely as I can)

30g fresh yeast (or dried equivalent)

125g currants

1 tablespoon salt (since first publishing this post my trusty recipe testers have queried this large sounding amount… I used Maldon sea salt flakes, a flat tablespoons worth. If you are using finely milled salt you should reduce this by half to avoid a savoury bun)

280ml milk, warmed to blood heat (put about 30ml aside. You might not need it all)

60g soft light brown sugar

60g butter

2 teaspoons mixed spice

2 eggs


25ml water

25g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

First cream your yeast. Use a little of the warmed milk from the 25oml to activate the yeast. Just pour it over and wait for it to go creamy or if you’re using dried, foamy.

While the yeast is creaming combine (in a warm bowl if you can manage it) the 450g flour, sugar salt and spice. Mix it together with your hands and make a well in the centre. If you need the further 50g flour, you’ll add it later.

Add your butter to the warmed milk so it completely softens. Now add the 2 eggs, beaten (I didn’t do this and it was hard to properly break them up once they were added to the flour)

Pour the yeast into the flour and then add the milk, eggs and butter.

Bring the dough together with a wooden spoon. It will be very sticky! Make sure to combine all the ingredients. This is not a dough you can really lift or touch easily. I used a spoon the whole time as it was just to sticky to handle.
Now add the currants and fold them through the dough thoroughly.

I used the full quantity of flour at this point as my dough wasn’t coming together properly but rather sticking in strands to the spoon and the side of the bowl. You want it to hold together. Look at this picture to see what it was like in the end after the remainder of the flour was added:

It’s still sticky, but happily sits together.

Now it needs to prove. Cover your bowl in cling film and put it in a very warm place. Elizabeth David recommends steam to help it along (not sure where you’d find this) and Dan Lepard even suggests a very low oven to kick start the process. Spices make yeast lazy so it’s not quick. Mine took around 2 hours to double in a very warm room wrapped in a tea towel next to the radiator.

Prepare your bun tin. Grease a large baking sheet and then coat it with flour. Tap the edges of the tin to fully and evenly distribute the flour all over it. You don’t want your buns to stick… you want to get them out quick so you can stuff them in your mouth!

Once the dough is double it’s size very generously dust a surface and your hands with flour. Sprinkle more flour onto the dough as you pull it away from the edges of the bowl. It won’t really want to come out but show it who’s boss.

Drop the dough onto your floury surface, flour your hands again and knead it briefly to bring it together. It feels so lovely at this point and it smells delicious.

Now divide your dough into 16. Elizabeth David says it makes 24.. but I don’t know how. I use a very sharp knife (which I also coat in flour) to slice the dough into equal sized pieces.

Shape your pieces into rounds. I improvised at this point, you just want a tight little ball.

This is where you would normally make the cross cut in the top, which is the traditional way to treat these buns. If you do this, they will not rise high but spread. If your dough is too soft and sticky they may not do much of either. If you’d rather do a pastry cross use Dan Lepard’s recipe here. In fact, his whole recipe looks pretty nice, I might try it next time…

Line the buns up in your bun tin evenly spaced apart and now it’s time for prove number 2. Lightly oil some cling film and place it over the buns. Leave them in your warm place again and let them double again

When they have risen, pre heat the oven to gas 5/6 and cook for 15-20 minutes.

While they are cooking heat the glaze ingredients in a pan and boil until it becomes syrupy.

When you get the buns out of the oven brush them with the glaze and lift gently onto a cooling rack.

Some of them will have stuck together in satisfying little lines and you’ll have to prize them apart and get your fingers all sticky to split them open and spread them with butter. An absolutely wonderful indulgence. I highly recommend you take the time to make these as there really is nothing better than buns.


Phil, I made these buns for your birthday but now you are ill. Get well soon and I’ll make them for you another year!



Filed under Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Cake, Fruit, Recipes

Autumnal Eats

When Autumn kicks in, I relish the chillier side of life (until the clocks change that is)… sunny afternoons in the park, the incredible slanting light, comfort food and comforting blankets, winter boots, the frosty mulchy smells … and porridge for breakfast! And squashes!

As I mentioned before there are some healthier options for breakfast but nothing beats the first bowl of real porridge in Autumn when the air has taken on a biting chill and the sun is low in the sky. I like mine in many ways, although my absolute top favourite is with cream and muscovado sugar. This is reserved as a treat though so on a regular day I like berries. As a frugal gal I buy these frozen (or even better, pick and freeze fresh during the summer thanks to a blackberry bush in a friends garden) so they are always available. Blueberries are the best, if you add them in the last few minutes of cooking time so they get to the edge of bursting, or raspberries warmed up into a hot squidgy softness. Or any other fruit in fact: dried fruit added near the beginning such as a couple of chopped prunes or raisins that will plump up and add a lovely bite, mashed bananas give the whole thing a gorgeous sweetness, apple puree swirled into the top, sliced figs, stewed plums, the possibilities are delicious.

I use 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of liquid (milk or water is your preference) heat slowly until your porridge has a creamy consistency

Read this excellent article on ‘perfect’ porridge. There are so many options out there…

Of course, to make it that extra little bit special.. add the cream and muscovado anyway…

The other treat, is squashes. Mainly because it’s great to say but also because of the wondrous butternut.

They are such a brilliant staple at this time of year. One butternut squash can be used for multiple meals throughout the week; half roasted and eaten as a side dish, the other half pureed and added to risotto… This week we had 1/2 in a soup and half in my latest invention, a lasagne. We are eating a lot of vegetarian food at the moment and in Autumn it feels easier than ever to make a meal feel meaty because of the glorious squash..squash squash squash squash

Butternut Squash Lasagne

I use a 30cm x 25cm lasagna tray for this so yours may be taller or flatter depending on the size of your dish. I never normally weigh or measure lasagne ingredients, it’s a great one to just ‘chuck everything in’.  Below is an exact recipe, here is my very rough version: I always use 2 tins of tomatoes for the red sauce and a pint of milk for the white!

12 sheets of dry lasagne

1/2 large butternut squash

500g spinach

fresh nutmeg

Tomato Sauce

2 onions chopped finely

olive oil

3 large flat mushrooms or 2 courgettes diced

4 cloves of garlic chopped

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

pinch of brown sugar

pinch of powdered mustard

salt and pepper

White Sauce

35g plain flour

40g butter

1 pint of milk

1/4 tsp mustard powder or 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard

4 tbsp grated parmesan…

and another 4sbp for the top

salt and pepper

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees

First peel and chop your butternut squash into 1cm cubes. Drizzle with olive oil , season lightly, toss to coat and place in the oven for 30 minutes, turn every so often until evenly cooked.

Wash your spinach and put in a pan over a low heat until wilted. Drain off any excess liquid grate in lots of nutmeg and roughly chop.

Now make the tomato sauce:

Heat a generous splash of olive oil in your largest pan. add onions and cook with the lid on on a low heat until soft.

Add the courgettes/mushrooms and colour lightly

Add the garlic and stir to release it’s fragrance, add both tins of chopped tomatoes, the sugar and mustard.

Leave this to cook and reduce while you make the white sauce:

Heat butter in a pan, when melted and foaming add the flour and sitr until you have formed a roux (a butter and flour paste) stir the paste on a very low heat for 1 minute (this makes sure the flour is cooked and you don’t end up witha  floury tasting sauce)

Slowly incorporate the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. If you get lumps don’t worry, just get a whisk and whisk like mad. (For classic sauce tips look to the woman who knows) the sauce will slowly thicken, keep the heat low and when it coats the back of a spoon turn the heat off season and add the mustard and cheese.

By this time your squash should be cooked and your tomato sauce should have reduced.

Spoon a little sauce onto the bottom of the pan (this stops the pasta from sticking

Put 3 sheets of  lasagne on top in an even layer, then a 1/2 of the tomato sauce, then 3 more sheets of pasta. Now add the spinach in a layer and the butternut squash on top of that, 3 more sheets of pasta on top then the remaining tomato sauce, now the final 3 sheets of pasta. Top this with the white sauce then sprinkle over the parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for 35-50 minutes until the top is brown and bubbling.
You could serve this with a truly autumnal coleslaw made with red cabbage and apples or some sauteed pointed green cabbage….


Filed under Breakfast, Fruit, Recipes, Supper, vegetables

Breakfast in Bed

Someone couldn’t wake up this morning….

So I thought I’d lend a hand by making some quinoa porridge. I’ve never tried this before but it looks a bit nice. Quinoa is not a grain, but a seed from a type of grass… It is actually related to tumbleweed! It’s very high in protein, has a zero gluten count and high levels of magnesium and iron. Such a super food in fact that NASA are including as a crop in their Controlled Ecological Life Support System for manned space flights! So here it is my…

NASA Tumbleweed Porridge

I always use cups for porridge – 1 cup oats, 2 cups liquid so I have done the same here. Use a little cup, not a mug or you’ll be eating it for lunch as well!

1 cup quinoa

2 cups milk (or 1 water 1 milk)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1tbs maple syrup

1 tsp brown sugar (or more to your liking)

Handful of dried figs and apricots

1 Banana

serves 2

Put quinoa, milk,cinnamon, sugar and syrup in a pan over a low heat.

Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.

The quinoa may soak up most of the liquid so top it up if you like a creamier consistency

Once the quinoa is cooked add chopped figs and apricots and simmer for another minute to soften.

Serve with sliced banana and stay full until lunchtime or until you’ve completed another orbit.

I must say, it’s not as soothing as a normal oat porridge but it is tasty in ‘another planet’ kind of way, and considering I douse my porridge in cream and brown sugar it’s certainly a healthier option! The banana is a perfect match and it really needs the cinnamon and sweeteners to boost the quinoa’s natural nutty flavour. I’ll be making this again.


Filed under Breakfast, Fruit, Recipes