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.

Oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies – Baking with kids

Oat and chocolate chips cookies in a child's suitcase

If you have toddlers and you travel with them, be it by car, plane or train, you have at some point googled this subject. And on every list op tips and tricks there is an entire paragraph dedicated to snacks. Not only to keep hungry travellers happy but also as a bargaining tool when said travellers refuse to go through the metal detector at the airport or fights the carseat belts.

drawing of Madagascar by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

Here’s the thing with snacks. No mini-traveller will accept carrot sticks as a bribe. And no parent will give hungry tummies a packet of gummy bears pretending it’s a meal (although… I can totally see how a situation could arise where this would be the only way forward…). If you want to keep things on the healthier side, you’re better off making the snacks yourself. But if you’re in the middle of packing and the munchkins want to help by throwing every possible item of clothing they own in your suitcase, the last thing you’ll want to do is spend a lot of time on baking “responsible” cookies. The effort required for these cookies is minimal. One bowl, one spoon, one scale (or 1 set of measuring spoons in Cups) and 3 minutes of elbow grease. Or take some time out from the holiday prep and get your mini-travellers involved. I’ve been making these oat cookies with my daughter since she mastered some sort of stirring motion around her first birthday.

The cookies are practically crumb free so no post-car journey vacuuming required.  And if you add raisins instead of chocolate chips you will also arrive at your destination without chocolate fingers on your new T-shirt. I hope your travels this summer will not involve too much munchkin stress. And if you think you’re going to lose the will to ever travel again, just grab a cookie! Safe travels!

oat and chocolate chip cookies

Oat and chocolate chip or raisin cookies (no refined sugar)

(makes 9 cookies)

Ingredients:

80g or 3/4 cups oats

40g or half of 3/4 cups flour

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp baking soda

30ml or 1/8 cup honey

30ml or 1/8 cup maple syrup

30ml or 1/8 cup rapeseed oil (or another neutral tasting oil, no olive oil)

1/4tsp vanilla essence

1 banana, mashed, no lumps (for a more crunchy cookie, use 1/2 banana)

4 tbsp chocolate chips or raisins

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Using a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

3. Spoon 1 tbsp of the mixture at a time onto the baking tray, making 3 rows of 3.

4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

5. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: These cookies do lose their crunch quickly even when stored in an airtight container.

ENJOY!

Child's suitcase with toys and books

The Children’s Atlas “Alle Welt” is by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska translated to German by Thomas Weiler and published by Moritz Verlag, Frankfurt am Main.

The book “Nijntje vliegt” is by Dick Bruna and published by Mercis Publishing, Amsterdam.

The book “Mumin Var är Lilla My?” is published by Alfabeta Bokförlag AB, Stockholm. It is translated from the English version “Moomins lift-the-flap Hide and Seek” which is published by Puffin Books, Penguin Group.  

This recipe has been adapted in several ways over the last 3 years. I do not remember the blog I found the original recipe on. 

Baking with kids: R.O.C. (raisins, oatmeal, coconut) cookies

Do you sometimes feel like time is running away and you are desperately trying to catch up with it? That’s how I have been feeling these last few weeks. It was my 3 year old daughter that reminded me last Saturday that we hadn’t baked anything yet. She came running into the kitchen looking very disappointed and worried and said: “Mama, we still need to bake today!” I then heard a nearly 2 year old son run from the far end of our apartment to the kitchen screaming: “JAAAAAAA, BAKA!!” which is Swedish for “YEEEEEES, BAKE!!” And so we did…

Cookies in dish

I admit, I did have a panic moment as they opened up the kitchen cupboard and took out their aprons. I hadn’t planned anything. I didn’t have a recipe. What on earth were we going to make? Turns out, we ‘invented’ R(raisins) O(oatmeal) C(coconut) cookies (and they kind of look like rocks too).

Three cookies on a white napkin

These are the kind of cookies you literally throw together. Everything goes in one pot. And then you hand the little ones a wooden spoon and let them get on with it. Although, I used my stand mixer and I let them take turns in throwing the ingredients in the bowl (pouring is for adults in case you didn’t know).

One cookie

Tadah! One golden nugget of goodness. Perfect for little hands and no refined sugar. The sweetness comes from the raisins and the agave or honey used. These are so easy and quick to make and so much better and healthier than anything bought in the shop.

Several cookies

Let the kids roll the balls. Or if your child is still too young for this skill, roll the balls yourself and let them place the cookies on the baking tray.

R.O.C. Cookies

(makes 20)

1/2 cup almond meal (about 8 tbsp)

1 cup oats (about 16 tbsp)

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp soft, unrefined coconut oil

1 egg, whisked

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins (about 8 tbsp)

2 tbsp agave nectar or honey

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle and a low speed.

Makes 20 little balls with about a tbsp or 2 of cookies mixture.

Put the cookie balls on a lined baking tray. If you want flat cookies, press down lightly to form small, thick discs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

You can make this recipe gluten free by using gluten free oats and substituting baking powder for 1 part baking soda plus 2 parts cream of tartar.

Cookies surrounded by toys

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)