Hot cross buns

Easter baking: hot cross buns

It’s been a weird week for me. On Tuesday my home country, Belgium, found itself under a very dark cloud. Today is Friday and I feel that the cloud slowly is lifting. I think about what happened a lot. Like a lot of people I have questions. Lots of questions. Am I angry? No, just disappointed that one human would want to hurt another. And that is true for every conflict that is going on anywhere in the world, wether it be war or in the family home. But this is what I believe: we are strong. Like grass. You can step on grass but it doesn’t break. It just bends. And then it raises itself back up to grown some more.

Here in Berlin, spring is becoming more and more present. Small blossoms are appearing on the trees in the street, yellow and purple crocuses as well as snowdrops are pushing their way through the soil and grass; strong, green grass; is growing again. Today is the start of the Easter weekend. For me, it has always been the moment where I choose to leave the dark winter days behind and focus on the new life and opportunities that spring brings. So, despite what happened this week, I am going to keep focusing on the good things.

We are all home for Easter this year. This doesn’t happen often when you have a pilot husband. I am so excited about that, that I think I’ve made too many plans for things we can do together. On top of that, our son is turning 3 only 2 days after Easter. I suppose we are looking at 5 solid days of celebrations. To start off this Easter weekend, S. (home from Kita with fever) and I made these lovely hot cross buns. The list of ingredients is on the longer side but once you have them all assembled it’s a piece of cake. The mixer does most of the work. Then it’s just the waiting and the finishing touches to do. Class them as bread and have them for breakfast. Call them buns and have them with your afternoon coffee. Or just have them because you want something sweet that isn’t a chocolate easter egg.

I now have a jar of mixed spice. What do you think I should bake with it?

Hot cross buns for Easter

Hot cross buns

makes about 18 buns

Ingredients:

7g dried yeast

50g sugar

375ml milk heated to lukewarm

700g flour

1 tsp mixed spice * (recipe all the way down)

1 tsp ground cardamom

250g raisins

60g soft butter in cubes

1 egg

For the cross: 5 heaped tbsp flour

For the glaze: 5 tbsp apricot jam

Method:

1- Use a standmixer with the dough hook attached.

2- In the bowl of your mixer add the flour, spices, raisins and yeast. Let it mix for a minute.

3- Add the sugar to the milk and give it a stir. Then pour it into the bowl and add the egg and butter too. Mix this mixture for about 10 minutes on the lowest speed. The dough will form into a ball and start to come away from the bowl sides.

4- Brush the inside of a large bowl with oil. Take the dough out of the mixer bowl and make sure all the raisins are evenly distributed within the dough. Then form into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).

5- When the dough has risen enough, take it out of the bowl and place it on a lightly floured service. Knead it for another minute and shape into a long sausage. Cut 18 equal bits from the dough and shape into balls. Place them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper leaving about 3 cm between each ball. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.

6- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

7- For the cross, put the flour to a small bowl. Gently add some water, tbsp by tbsp until you have a paste with the consistency of pancake batter. Put the paste in a piping bag with a nozzle that has a diameter of about 5mm.

8- When the buns have risen they should nearly touch each other. Make the crosses by piping across all the buns at the same time. In other words, you will be making several long horizontal lines and then several long vertical lines.

9- Bake for 20 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.

10- During the last 5 minutes of the baking process, heat the apricot jam in a saucepan on a low heat. Once runny, pass the jam through a sieve to get rid of any bits. Brush the het cross buns with the jam when they come out of the oven and still hot.

11- Let the hot cross buns cool inside the tray.

HAPPY EASTER!!

Easter treat: hot cross bun

*Recipe for mixed spice:

1 tbsp ground allspice

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp nutmeg

2 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground ginger

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

Chocolate coconut scones

chocolate coconut scones

 

Oh my, I forgot what it was like to be struck by flu. I wasn’t too annoyed about the fever and the fact that every muscle and bone in my body hurt. It was the utter exhaustion that came with it that stopped me in my tracks. I’m still not 100% since it hit me 3 weeks ago but I do feel the brain fog slowly lifting and I’m starting to feel strong again. So in order to ease myself gently back into the baking zone I’ve made chocolate coconut scones for you this week. Scones are the simplest thing to make. It took me a while to realise that though. Actually, it was moving away from the UK that forced me to make my own. Scones aren’t readily available in the shops here in Berlin. And I have to say that so far I haven’t found a coffee shop or bakery that sells ones that I think make the cut.

Right at the start of my blogging days, I made these plain and raisin scones. And this time I am using the same basic recipe out of “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”. I chose not to add sugar to these scone because I think the chocolate and coconut chips add enough sweetness. If you do prefer your scones sweeter, just add some sugar (see recipe below).

Scones are great to have around the house. You can freeze them in a box or bag and take out however many you need. Perfect for unexpected coffees with friends. An easy to grab snack for the kids when heading out to the playground. That something sweet for your movie night. You can eat these chocolate coconut scones as they are or you can add some butter or clotted cream if you want. Either way, they are delicious.

Chocolate and coconut is one of my favourite flavour combinations so I decided to put it in a scone. What’s a flavour combo you’d like to see in a scone or bun? 

scrumptious chocolate coconut scones

Chocolate coconut scones

Makes 16 small scones

Ingredients:

225g flour

1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder

40g softened butter

optional: 25g sugar

1 egg

about 100-110ml milk

75g dark chocolate for baking (or use chocolate chips if you want)

20g coconut chips

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 220 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Put the coconut chips in a food processor and whizz for about a minute so that the pieces are about the size of a pea. Finely chop up the chocolate with a sharp knife.
  3. Put the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl. Use your fingers to rub it all together until it resembles really fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the coconut chips and chocolate to the mixture and rub it in.
  5. Crack the egg into a measuring jug and add the milk until the mixture totals 150ml. Whisk and then take a tbsp of the mixture and leave it in a small bowl (this will be our glaze for later).
  6. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to combine. Then use your hands again to make a smooth but still wet dough. Do not kneed it too much, you just want it all to come together nicely.
  7. Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the dough on a floured surface/silicone mat until it’s about the thickness of your baby finger.
  8. Use a fluted cutter or a small glass to cut out the scones. Don’t twist the cutter/glas! Push straight down and lift the scone straight out. Place them on the baking tray.
  9. Use the left over egg-milk mixture to glaze your chocolate coconut scones and bake them for 10 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.
  10. Cool them on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

a basket full of yummy chocolate coconut scones

Shortbread

A plate of buttery shortbread

When I was 8 we moved half way round the world from Belgium to Hong Kong. I have memories of that time but they are very much the memories of a child. I remember the colours of the curtains in the plane for example. I remember how cool I thought it was that all the kids in my new, British school got crisps in their lunchbox. And how uncool I thought it was that my mum refused to take on that habit. I have fond memories of a very unorganised stationary shop in Shatin Plaza shopping centre where I would carefully pick out the nicest smelling letter paper (this was the era of smelly letter paper and stickers, even erasers!).

I personally hold British Airways and Cathay Pacific responsible for introducing me to small blocks of orange coloured cheddar cheese and Walker’s shortbread fingers in their distinctive red wrapper. I have loved them ever since that very first flight half way around the globe. Sometimes I prefer the convenient, factory made versions. Other times, I prefer to go to the cheesemongers at our local farmer’s market for a good piece of cheddar. In the same way, I sometimes prefer to make our own shortbread.

Shortbread triangles

Shortbread is quick and easy to make. For the basic version you only need 3 ingredients: sugar, flour and butter. That’s it! And mixing it couldn’t be easier. A bowl and a set of hands will get you the perfect shortbread dough in minutes. No overworking the dough though. It needs to be crumbly. The crumblier the better the finished result will be. It will look gorgeously rustic and smell buttery and sweet. I think that after speculoos, this is my favourite childhood cookie.

What’s your favourite childhood cookie? Can you tell me how to make them?

Shortbread

(recipe from “Jamie’s Great Britain”, Jamie Oliver)

Makes 8 big cookies or 16 smaller cookies

Ingredients:

200g flour

50g sugar

125g butter (unsalted), cubed

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar. Add the butter cubes.

3. Using your fingers, rub the butter, flour and sugar together. When you start to get crumbs, use your hands to press it all together into a ball and transfer onto the lined baking tray.

4. Using your hands, press the shortbread dough down into a circle, square or rectangle about 1 cm thick. It it rips or crumbles, just press it all together again. The shape doesn’t have to be perfect.

5. Use a knife to score lines where you plan to cut the shortbread after it has been baked. Then sprinkle it with about 1 tablespoon on sugar.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until it starts to lose its pale colour.

7. Take the shortbread out of the oven and let it sit to cool for 5 minutes. Then take a sharp knife and cut along the scored lines. Let cool a further 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

ENJOY!!

buttery and crumbly shortbread

Cappuccino cake

 

Who wouldn't want a bite of this delicious cappuccino cake?

Do you know the show “The Great British Bake Off”? If not, have a look at this and then make your way over here. If you love baking, this is the most exciting thing on TV every Wednesday night. Actually, it’s the most exciting thing on TV all week! I have watched every series and I recommend you do too (get VPN if you’re not in the UK).

I am a good baker but certainly not as good as the guys and girls on the show. But sometimes, I like to think that I am a genius with the flour and the eggs. I pretend that I have just invented a new sensational flavour combination and that I am the master of the 6-strand braided bread. Am I the only one in this?

I bought Mary Berry’s “Baking Bible” a couple of year ago because of #GBBO (that’s Twitter speak for the Great British Bake Off and one to follow) and I am slowly baking my way through it. Last month I made these beautiful madeleines and this week I decided on the chocolate, coffee and cream combination in this cappuccino cake.

Coffee and cream combined with chocolate in this gorgeous cake

Cappuccino cake 

(adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe in “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

50g cocoa powder (unsweetened)

3 tbsp boiling water

2 eggs

25 ml milk

100g flour

3 tsp baking powder

50g soft butter

100g sugar

200ml whipping cream

1/2 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tsp of very hot water

some cocoa powder for dusting

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour a springform cake tin with a diameter of approx. 18cm.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the cocoa powder and boiling water into a smooth paste. Then add the eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, butter and sugar and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin, level the top and put it in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

4. Leave to cool for 5 minutes then remove from the springform and cool the cake further on a wire rack.

5. When the cake is completely cooled, slice it horizontally into 2 disks.

6. Whip the cream until it holds its shape. Spread about half of the cream onto one of the disks.

7. Put the second disk on top of the cream.

8. Mix the coffee granules with the hot water. Let it cool down for a couple of minutes and then fold it gently into the remaining cream. Spread the coffee cream on top of the cake and smooth it out using a palette knife (a regular knife will work too just use the smooth side (not the cutting side).

9. Decorate the cake with a dusting of cocoa powder.

ENJOY!

Beautiful Chocolate cake with cream filling and coffee cream on top

Scones two ways

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Scones are the highlight of an english afternoon tea. Fresh out of the oven with that little crack in the middle, making it possible to pull apart in two perfectly identical bits. No knife needed.

Scones can be eaten warm or cold. It’s a personal thing. And they can be eaten just like that. No additions, no distractions. But if you want to jazz it up a bit and eat them like they do in the United Kingdom (think Downton Abbey) then you will need to add some creaminess and some sweetness. Soft butter (preferably the real deal) and strawberry jam. Nothing complicated. Just put a nice layer of both on your scone and indulge. But if you can get your hands on clotted cream then by all means use that instead of butter. Yum!

Flour, baking powder, sugar, butter and milk. That’s all really. A bowl, a wooden spoon, a round cookie cutter or a small glass and your hands. Nothing high tech.

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Use your fingers to rub the butter and the flour together. Make sure you don’t have any lumps, you are looking for a breadcrumb texture.

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Slowly add the milk and use your hands or a wooden spoon on turn it all into a sticky, rather wet dough. Split the dough into 2 bits. One part we will leave as it is and the other part we will add the raisins to.

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Flour your work surface. Don’t be shy, you’ll need quite a bit. Use your hands to flatten the dough and then start cutting it those scones.

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Don’t forget to glaze them so they get that lovely, golden shine. Time to bake! In the mean time, make yourself a cup of tea.

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One plate of scones ready to be eaten.

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Don’t forget the jam. Strawberry is best, but any good jam will do. Be creative (mine is Rhubarb).

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Recipe:

Scones two ways

(recipe adapted from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible)

450g flour and 4 tbsp baking powder

OR

450g self-raising flour

2 rounded tbsp baking powder

75g soft butter

50g sugar

300ml milk plus 2 tbsp for glazing

60g raisins

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.

Add the butter and use your fingers to rub the butter and flour together until you have a breadcrumb-like texture.

Add the sugar and mix.

Add the milk in several steps and mix the dough with your hands or a wooden spoon. the dough will be sticky and wet.

Split the dough in to 2 halves. Leave one plain and add the raisins to the other half.

Flour your work surface and shape the dough into a flat circle about 2 cm thick. Use a cookie cutter to a glass to cut out circles. Don’t twist the cutter or glass while cutting.

Put the scones on a baking sheet and glaze with a little milk.

Bake for 12 minutes until golden.

Let cool or eat warm.

(makes about 20 scones depending on the size of the cutter or glass)