Tag Archives: recipe

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

Glaze:

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!

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

Preserving and Pickling Things…

Sometimes there just aren’t enough accompaniments and condiments in the fridge. Actually, when you live with a vinegar addict, there are never enough condiments in the fridge. At times I believe he would prefer a sandwich without the bread, just  many varying condiments and pickled items in between two slices of cheese… So I indulge him from time to time.

I really like pickling and preserving things. There’s something very rewarding about sealing something up in a jar and saving it up for just the right moment. The tomato chutney I wrote about last year in October rested and waited very patiently in the fridge until I  decided our Christmas party was the right time for it’s glorious showcase.  We scooped it up onto on rye crackers with a soft goats cheese. It was a sensational (though I do say so myself) combination, soft, crunchy and strong; and it had just been waiting, very quietly for its perfect pairing and all I had to do was open a jar.

Pickled Onions

These make an excellent gift, I gave jars and jars away at Christmas. There is nothing nicer than left over cold meats, some strong cheese and a pickled onion.

You have to start pickled onions the day before, to give them a good brine. Some recipes don’t call for this but I  like to as it tenderises them before submerging them in the vinegar and then you don’t have to wait so long to open the jar and eat! Maybe 3 weeks instead of 6. The quantity below will make about 3 medium kilner jars but if you’re making gifts double or even triple it. Check how the un-prepared onions fit in your jars before you start so you don’t get left with one lone onion with nowhere to go.

1 lb pickling onions or shallots

1oz salt

Pickling spice about 1/2 a teaspoon per jar : I make up a mix and store it in an old spice jar: use 2tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp dried chilli, 2 tsp peppercorns, 2 tsp all spice, 2 tsp corriander seed.

600ml vinegar (I use a mixture of malt and white)

100g brown sugar

1 dried bay leaf per jar

First, begin the long slow process of peeling your onions. I like to leave the long top on mine so I just slice off the flat root end and then laboriously peel the brown layers away

Now heat about 1l of water mixed with the 1oz salt until the salt has dissolved. Let the water cool down and then submerge your onions and weigh them down. I use a plate and the kilner jars. Now leave this overnight.

The next day, drain your onions and sterilise your jars. I do this by washing them in very hot soapy water and putting them in a hot oven to dry. I put lids or the orange seals into boiling water for a minute.

Now heat the vinegars, sugar and pickling spice over a low heat until it just comes to the boil. Now turn it off.
Divide your onions between the warm dry jars, pop in a bay leaf and pour the vinegar over. You can drain the spices out of the vinegar if you want as they will have released  their flavour into the hot vinegar, but I leave mine in.

Now seal the jars up and store them for a minimum of 2 weeks before you eat them.

Now for the beetroot. Measurements are approximate here as it depends on how much you want to make and how big your beetroots are! I made one jar of these because I had 2 huge beetroots and guessed at the vinegar quantity. If you have vinegar left over, store it in a jar with all the spices and then use it as a ‘starter’ for your next pickling escapade.

Pickled Beetroot

4 medium fresh beetroot

200ml malt vinegar

1 tsp of spice mix mentioned above. (In beetroot you can also use cinnamon sticks and cloves for a lovely rich flavour)

1-2tbsp golden caster sugar

Sterilise a jar as mentioned before

First boil your beetroot whole and unpeeled in water for around 30 minutes or until tender to the point of a knife

When they are ready, run them under cold water or let them cool down before you peel them. The skin will come away easily but I still use a peeler to minimise the purple fingers!

Now slice your beetroots into the shape and size you fancy. I did mine in half and then into 4, you don’t want them to be too chunky. Rounds are also nice because you can see the lovely pattern inside the beetroot…and they fit into a sandwich better.

Tightly pack all your beetroot pieces into your sterilised jar

Warm your vinegar sugar and spices in a pan and then strain it over the beetroots.

Seal the jar and wait at least 2-3 weeks. Or if you’re Tom, open immediately and consume within 3 days.

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Filed under Kitchen Tips, Pickle, Preserving, Recipes, vegetables, Vegetarian

Suet Pastry and Perfect Custard

A relatively short notice event came my way a couple of weeks ago to cook for 40 guests at the Hannah Barry Gallery in Peckham. 40 is the high end of what I can do easily due to the size of my little kitchen but with a little bit of experimentation and a lot of post-its and schedules I can make it work!

We decided on a traditional British theme which was essentially Pie ‘n’ Mash and Rhubarb ‘n’ Custard. I wanted it to have a cafeteria feel and give people the opportunity to share their food and meet each other over dinner so each pie was to share between 4.

The capabilities of cooking in a Gallery with no kitchen and no heating (!) meant I had to come up with something that could be cooked in an impromptu space, be served quickly and stay piping hot A tall order, but one to relish. Sharing is something I like to focus on in my catering as I think one of the main joys of food is to share it with others and to make an event of it.

The Capper Ripper Dinner

Chicory with Blue Cheese, Apple and Walnuts

*

Shin of Beef Pies with Suet Pastry

Parsley Mash

Greens

*

Rhubarb and Custard

The recipes I’d like to share with you are for the suet pastry which was unbelievably good and a perfect vanilla custard.

The pastry I made using vegetarian suet as I also had to whip up a few mushroom pies for the vegetarians and I only wanted to make one batch of pastry. It is a fantastic and versatile pastry that puffs up beautifully in the oven, is flaky and rich and resilient enough to last a car journey and not get soggy!

Suet Pastry

300g plain flour

100g atora suet (beef or vegatable)

100g butter

a large pinch of sea salt

125ml cold water

1 egg beaten to use as a glaze

Mix the flour, suet and salt in a bowl

Chop your butter into small cubes and add this to the mix. Slowly mix the butter into the flour with your fingers as you would when making a crumble. Lift it up and rub the butter between your fingers, you want to make flakes rather than a breadcrumb texture. When you have no large lumps left and the texture is even pour in the water a little at a time and shape the pastry into a rough ball. It takes a lot more water than a shortcrust pastry and should be sticky so don’t be afraid to add it all.

Refrigerate the pastry until you are ready to use it, it will benefit for at least half an hour in the fridge before use. This amount will cover 4, 24cm pies or one lovely large one. I use these enamel pie dishes by Falcon:

When you are ready to use the pastry dust a surface and your rolling pin with flour and roll your pastry to the size you need. Because it is quite sticky you will need a lot of flour to keep the pastry from sticking and keep turning it. It is pretty flexible because if the high liquid content and is easier to manouvre than regular short crust or rough puff pastry.
Now brush a little of the egg wash on the edge of your pie dish and lift the pastry onto the top. To stick and shape it nicely slice the the overhanging pastry off by angling your knife away from the edge so you have a bit more to play with. Now get a fork and gently press all around the edges then use your thumb and forefinger to make little pinches all around.  If you have any pastry left over, freeze it or make some decorations! The decor in the picture of my pies is meant to depict cogs.. I don’t know quite how successful that was, but they look nice! I also made a few little vegetarian pies with a mushroom ragout filling scented with red wine and thyme.

To finish them off brush the pastry with egg wash and bake at Gas 4 (180 degrees)  for around 1 hour.

Some pie filling suggestions:

Steak and ale 

Shin of beef and pearl barley

Mushroom Ragout

Butternut squash, goats cheese and spinach

Chicken and mushroom

And now for pudding. There really isn’t anything more delicate and beautiful than a real custard. It is a little time consuming but if you have the patience to stir and watch and sit and relax, then anyone can do it. Essentially custard is just milk eggs and sugar, stirred slowly over a very low heat until it thickens slightly to coat the back of a spoon. It is not gloopy like custard from a tin or a powder. Most online recipes I found seem to use cornflour to thicken it but this is almost certainly cheating and is definitely unnecessary. The result can not possibly be as smooth or as silky as a true labour of love custard.

Perfect Vanilla Custard

1 pint of whole milk (or 1/2pint of milk and 1/2 pint of double cream)

1 vanilla pod

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

2tbs castor sugar plus extra for sprinkling.

Split your vanilla bean along it’s thin edge so the seeds can be released when it’s in the milk

Put the bean in a large pan with the milk (and cream if using) and scald it (this means to heat it to just before it boils) Keep an eye on it and make sure the heat is low so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan

Now turn the heat off, put a lid on and leave it to infuse for 20 minutes

In the meantime, put the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly until it foams.

When the 20 minutes is up remove the vanilla bean from the milk (give it shake and a squeeze to tease out all the seeds if they haven’t all released) and discard

Now turn the heat on under the milk infusion to it’s lowest setting and strain the eggs into it to make sure there are no lumps.

Now get a whisk or a wooden spoon, and stir slowly and constantly for anywhere up to 30 minutes until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Do not stop stirring otherwise you will get lumps.

Mine took 45 minutes but I had double this quantity so yours should take around 20.

When it is done either serve immediately or if you have to serve it later, pour the custard into a bowl and sprinkle castor sugar over the surface. This will stop it developing a skin. To re-heat, put it back into the pan, and again, on a low heat and with constant stirring bring it back up to the required temperature.

I served the custard with a little square of almond cake, (recipe in earlier post just scroll down for a while) and rhubarb roasted with ginger syrup sprinkled with toasted flaked almonds.

The picture below is my own enormous portion! It was delicious. Everyone else had a far more elegant plate… honest.

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Catering, Pudding, Supper, Vegetarian