Thursday, April 18, 2019

Honey-glazed Cranberry and Apricot Hot Cross Buns - Sinful!

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Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns have been a part of Easter for a very long time (how long depends on what version of history you believe - but they may have originated in the 14th Century or even earlier). They would originally have been plainer, as dairy products were forbidden to Christians during Lent, and the Mixed Spice would have been hugely expensive, and anyway, wasn't in common use until the early to mid-19th Century. Here, they have been updated further with the addition of a Tangzhong roux which helps lock in moisture and keeps these buns deliciously light and fresh. 

This recipe may seem long but no step has actual ‘hands on’ time of more than a few minutes and I think the result is worth the effort. Read the entire recipe first to make sure you have all the ingredients, and complete the steps in the order given. I recommend a stand mixer with a dough hook for this as it is quite a sticky dough to begin with, but if you do it by hand, you’ll have worked off enough calories to eat more than your fair share J

In essence, the steps are: make Tangzhong roux; make dough; make paste for cross; bake; brush with warm honey; eat with a good cuppa


Hot and Cross? Anything but!

Ok, here goes…

For 18 - 24 sinfully sticky buns, you will need...
... to preheat the oven to 180°C when ready to bake

For the Tangzhong roux
40g strong white flour (bread flour)
200mls water

Mix the two ingredients together in a small saucepan, slowly whisking in the water to create a lump-free liquid. Place over a medium heat and stir until the mixture begins to thicken. Continue cooking for another minute or so until you have a thick, creamy almost translucent paste. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

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For the dough
50g ready-to-eat dried apricots, cut into small pieces (about the size of sultanas)
50g cranberries, halved
50g sultanas
10g mixed peel (candied peel)

580g strong white flour (bread flour)
80g sugar
1 teaspoon fine table salt
2 teaspoons mixedspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 sachet of fast action dried yeast (7g)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large egg, beaten 
260mls fresh milk (heated to between 37-39°C)

a little extra flour for dusting the work surface and your hands for kneading
a little extra milk to brush the buns before they go in the oven

Method
Put the flour, sugar, salt, mixed spice, ground cinnamon, orange zest, and dried yeast (keeping the yeast away from the salt) into a large bowl or stand mixer. Mix to combine.

In a separate small bowl put the dried fruit and mixed peel and cover with boiling water – cover and set aside until the dough has had its first rise. (This plumps up the fruit and helps to prevent it stealing valuable moisture from the dough.)

Add the prepared Tangzhong paste to the flour mixture along with the olive oil, beaten egg and milk and mix until just combined. Once you have a smooth mixture, leave for 10 minutes so the flour can absorb some of the moisture and make a less sticky dough (thank you Dan Lepard for that tip).

Next, knead the dough in your stand mixer or by hand for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise until about doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, drain and dry the fruit on paper towels before proceeding with the next step.


Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board and gently knead for a minute or so.  With your fingers, press it out into a sheet about 1cm thick and sprinkle the fruit over, leaving a margin of about 6cm around the edges. Fold one edge two thirds of the way over the sheet, and fold the opposite side over this, so you have a long, narrow rectangle. Press down with your fingers to encase the fruit inside, expanding the sheet once again. Repeat the folding process one more time, then knead the dough lightly to form a ball. (All this helps to distribute the fruit evenly).




Now, weigh the dough and divide it into 24 even portions for small buns, or 18 even portions for monstrous buns.  Shape the portions into smooth round balls, and place in a lightly oiled baking tin around 23cm x 33cm leaving a little room between them and their neighbours. Cover with a lightly oiled sheet of cling film and leave until the buns have doubled in size and snuggled up to their neighbours.


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Brush gently with a little milk before completing the next step.

Next, pre-heat the oven to 180°C. While the oven is heating, make the flour paste for the cross decoration below:

For the cross decoration
100g plain flour
75mls cold water

Mix the two ingredients together in a small bowl until you have a smooth and lump-free paste that holds its shape. Place in a small piping bag (a baking parchment cone with a small hole snipped is perfect). You could use a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off but I’m trying to avoid gratuitous use of plastic where possible. Pipe a long line down the centre of each row of buns, following the contours of the dough. Then pipe lines across the middle of each row to form crosses.




Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until risen and golden.

Tip: I like to turn my oven into a sauna for these, and it helps them rise better by keeping the crust soft until the dough has had time to puff up. To do this, place a baking tin half-filled with water on the bottom shelf of the oven when you pre-heat it. Be super careful when opening the oven as you will release a cloud of scalding hot steam.
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For the honey glaze
2 – 3 tablespoons runny honey, warmed (place in a heatproof bowl and stand the bowl in hot water for a couple of minutes, or nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds until warmed through.).

When the buns come out of the oven, brush with the warmed honey.




It is considered good luck to share these buns and the cinnamon and orange make them particularly good with coffee so what better excuse to invite some friends over!

They are good just as... but even better toasted and smothered with salty butter.



Happy Easter! 
x

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Mixed... Spice Up Your Life

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I've been filling the kitchen with the rich warm smell of Mixed Spice a lot lately. It is the baking equivalent of a big fat hug. Mixed Spice is a blend of warm sweet spices which has been used in British and Irish cookery since the early to mid-19th Century. It was widely used by the time The Lancet of January 3, 1852, did a study, calling out more than half the sample group of grocers tested, for adulterating the blend with "farinaceous matter" including sago, wheat and potato flour, among other things. It noted at the time that the adulteration of Mixed Spice was linked to its high value. It features in a lot of Christmas baking, and has become an essential ingredient in Hot Cross Buns (which have been around a few centuries longer).


According to The Lancet, it should - at the very least - contain allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. It can, in addition - contain caraway seed, cayenne pepper, coriander seed, mace and nutmeg.

Here is the combination I use:

1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until you have a fine lump-free powder. Place in a small glass spice jar, and store with the rest of your spices, in a cool dry dark place. 

Essential in Hot Cross Buns (click on link for recipe) and Clootie Dumpling.


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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Colcannon Jacket Potatoes - Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit !

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Cál Ceannann - more than the sum of its parts

At my sister’s wedding last summer, the Casey Clan had the absolutely pleasure of meeting the family and friends of her beloved. They had travelled all the way from Canada to celebrate the occasion, and to enjoy a relatively well-behaved Ireland, weather-wise.

At the feast, I noticed one of the guests tentatively poke the cnoc of carbs on his plate. It was flecked with green and spilling pools of golden butter. He aimed a forkful at his mouth and tasted it suspiciously ... and then his eyes rolled, and his face melted alarmingly into a range of emotions that shifted too quickly for me to read.

What! Is! This! Stuff!, he gasped.

You don’t like it? I enquired, somewhat anxiously.

Oh! My! God! It’s! Ah! Mazing!

It was Cál Ceannann - Colcannon - one of those simple little dishes that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Here it is, with its jacket on, because March winds can be a little chilly!

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit !

Not so green as I'm cabbage-looking!


For 2 Colcannon Jacket Potatoes (which will serve 4 as a side, or 2 as a snack or lunch), you will need…

2 large baking potatoes
a little fine salt for coating

100g kale, or other frilly cabbage

25g Irish butter
1 large spring onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and white pepper to taste

50g Irish cheddar, finely grated


Irish Cheddar - grate!

Preheat your oven to 200°C

First scrub the potatoes to remove any earth, and remove any blemishes with the tip of a sharp knife. Stab about 8 times with a fork. Shake some fine salt into the palm of your hand and massage over the damp skin of the potatoes. Place in the preheated oven directly on the oven rack (or suspended on a rack over a baking tray) and bake for about 45 mins or until cooked and soft all the way through. 

Meanwhile, cook the kale (or cabbage) in boiling salted water for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat, drain into a colander. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess water with your hands, then chop very finely.

Check the potatoes after 45 minutes by piercing them with a skewer. It should easily pierce the potatoes all the way through. If not, then give them another few minutes and check again. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cut in two length-ways.

Using a teaspoon, scoop the flesh of the potatoes into a heatproof bowl, leaving behind the potato shell and about 1cm of potato flesh so that it forms a little bowl.

The food of the gods...

Mash the hot potato with the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheddar. When well mixed, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pile into the potato shells. Sprinkle with the cheddar (you may have to pack it into place) and return to the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheddar has melted and the potatoes are hot through.



... just got better!

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Other Paddy’s Day dishes you might like:

Guinness Chocolate Cake – a piece of this is your only man!

Falafel – little green Patties on Paddy’s Day

‘Irish’ Eggs – Green, White and Gold for Paddy’s Day ! (And yes, I know it's really orange, not gold!) 


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Thursday, February 28, 2019

“Big Apple” Cheesecake – I can resist everything except temptation!

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Warning: You will want second helpings!

There was an old-fashioned sweetshop across the road from my school. On a shelf behind the counter stood a row of large glass jars filled with cola cubes, pear drops, black and white striped bulls eyes. My favourites by far were apple drops. I was powerless to walk past that shop without being lured in to exchange my pocket money for a paper bag of these sugar jewels.
I have grown up. I can resist apple drops. My guilty pleasure is cheesecake - but it must be WTC (you know what that means by now). One that definitely falls into the WTC category is this 'Big Apple' cheesecake.
I fool myself into thinking my 'Big Apple' cheesecake isn't quite as naughty as it appears because it has real fruit smoothie as an ingredient. I've used Innocent’s ‘kiwis, apples and limes’ smoothie because it is the apple-iest smoothie I’ve encountered.* “Innocent” it may be, but it would cause angels to hang up their halos!


Bourbon Biscuits... destined for a better future!

For 1 'Big Apple'  cheesecake (about 10 slices) you will need...
Chocolate Crumb Base
75g butter
200g bourbon biscuits, crushed (you could use Oreos)

1         First make the base: Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Then, add in the crushed bourbon biscuits, mixing well until all the butter has been absorbed. Empty the biscuit mixture into a loose-bottomed 21cm (8”) round cake tin and press gently into an even layer. Leave to cool.

Chocolately crumbs - the best sort!
Filling
1 X 125g packet lime jelly/Jell-O (sufficient for 1 pint of jelly or Jell-O)
100mls boiling water
Approximately 150mls of Innocent ‘kiwis, apples and limes’ smoothie (or other apple-y smoothie)
350g full fat cream cheese
100g caster sugar
150mls fresh cream

2         For the filling, cut the jelly into squares and place in a 500ml (1 pint) measuring jug. Add the boiling water and leave the jelly to melt, stirring occasionally. When the jelly has melted, add in just enough smoothie to bring the liquid up to the 250ml mark (you may have a little left over - that's for you to drink). Leave to cool, until the liquid becomes syrupy and nearly set.
3         Meanwhile, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth – an electric mixer is best for this job. Add in the cooled almost-set jelly, whisking continuously. Then whisk in the fresh cream. It will be alarmingly liquid at this stage but continue whisking for a minute or two and the mixture will begin to thicken slightly.
4         Pour over the cooled biscuit base and smooth the top.
5         Leave to set in the fridge making sure it is level otherwise you’re going to have a lopsided cheesecake and people will point and laugh.

I’ve decorated this with white and dark chocolate shapes (made by scribbling with melted chocolate on baking parchment laid over a printout of the desired shape) – I have sprinkled some of the white chocolate shapes with crushed apple drops for an even bigger apple flavour.

*This isn't an ad for Innocent. I did not receive any compensation for the mention.
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Avocado Nayo* – Vegan Alioli

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(*Nayo, not Mayo)

Some people remember where they were when Elvis died, or when John Lennon was shot. I remember the first time certain flavours hit my tastebuds. The first time I tasted creamy garlicky alioli - for instance - was on an almost deserted beach in Ibiza about a million years ago. I wasn’t too sure exactly what it was, but I wasn't leaving without the recipe.

After several decades of alioli addiction, I have stored a few kilos of it on my hips and along my arteries. It is time to look for a substitute. Swapping creamy ripe Avocado for the raw egg in a classic alioli makes a more than passable Nayo (nayo = not mayo). It is green (not necessarily a downside), and it lasts for about 4 days in the fridge (again, not necessarily a downside, as you’ll have to consume it relatively fresh). And, surprisingly, it doesn’t taste much of avocado.

I tend to make it in smallish batches because of its shelf life. Use it with anything you’d use alioli for. You’ll need a food processor or similar for this. The recipe is easily doubled... or trebled... or quadrupled... (you might want to cut down on the garlic a little when multiplying up though)

For about 250g of creamy, green, not very avocado-tasting Nayo, you will need…

The flesh of 1 large ripe avocado
3 tablespoons of light oil (such as sunflower, hemp, walnut)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon strong Dijon mustard (obviously Dijon has no place in a classic alioli but I love the layer of flavor and the tiny bit of heat it adds)
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt

Blitz the avocado flesh in a food processor (or similar). Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until smooth and creamy and all the ingredients are combined. Cover, excluding as much air as possible, and keep refrigerated until needed. Will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge but best used sooner.

Coleslaw with 'Nayo' - 'I'm not so green as I"m cabbage looking'
  


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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Watermelon, Feta & Herb Salad - more a reminder than a recipe!

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This is usually what I want on a hot day when I don’t know what I want. It’s super pretty and equally tasty.


Less a recipe, more of a reminder - it’s sweet, juicy, salty, fresh, and downright delicious. I’ll leave the quantities up to you. This is best prepared just before eating. It doesn’t like to hang about.

For a refreshing summery salad you will need:

  • Watermelon, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • Feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
  • Spring onion (scallion) finely chopped
  • Mint and/or Basil, finely shredded
  • a pinch of Maldon salt flakes (or similar)
  • a drizzle of good olive oil


When you are ready to eat, place the watermelon in a serving bowl. Scatter with cubed or crumbled Feta cheese. Sprinkle over the finely chopped spring onion, followed by the herbs. Sprinkle with a little salt. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Eat.



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Thursday, June 21, 2018

White Chocolate and Cherry Clafoutis - Simply Irresistible !

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The poet, Paul Valéry, said that a poem is never finished, only abandoned. I have that same feeling about recipes. From time to time, I can’t resist making just a tiny edit or two to an old favourite, on the hunch that it will make the dish even better.
Simply irresistible
I have revisited the first dish I ever did on Alchemy in the Kitchen, a whole 5 years ago Cherry Clafoutis - and I’ve made a few edits. One was the addition of chunks of good white chocolate - for me, the missing link in the evolution of clafoutis

I have also come down firmly on the side of de-stoned cherries for a number of reasons:

       multiple taste tests don’t reveal the almond flavour that the stones are supposed to impart (a touch of almond extract does it better!)

       de-stoned cherries leak their juice into the batter and even more juice evaporates, leaving a concentrated cherry flavour

       there is less risk of a tooth-shattering surprise.

Hungry caterpillar? No, cherry-stoner!

Unfortunately I had to buy the cherries for today’s clafoutis rather than being presented with a strange and marvellous bouquet as before.  
Life is ...
As I needed a decent amount of natural light for the photos, I made the dish this morning. Although I’m not in the habit of having dessert for breakfast, clafoutis is best eaten warm from the oven, so I had no option but to sample it there and then (good excuse eh?) and I have decided it wouldn’t be out of place at a special brunch.

For 4 servings you will need......to preheat the oven to 170°C
A little butter for greasing 4 shallow ramekin dishes

50g ground almonds
25g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
a  pinch of fine table salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
50g runny honey
150mls fresh whole milk
½ teaspoon almond extract

300g ripe fresh cherries, stones removed (I prefer to leave the stalks on for presentation but take them off if you prefer).

75g good quality white chocolate, cut into 1cm chunks

Method
With the butter, lightly rub the inside of the ramekin dishes and set aside.

Measure the ground almonds and flour into a mixing bowl and add the baking powder and salt. Add the eggs and whisk to a smooth batter. Add the honey (I weigh it directly into the bowl to save on washing up) and whisk until combined. Finally whisk in the milk and almond extract to give a consistency similar to single cream.

Divide the batter evenly between 4 shallow ramekin dishes, making sure not to fill beyond the half-way mark, then divide the cherries and chocolate chunks evenly between the 4 dishes.

One for me, one for the clafoutis, one for me...

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes or until risen and golden brown.

Allow to cool slightly before dusting with icing sugar and serving with a jug of pouring cream. Mmmmm-mmmm-mmmmmmmmmm.



Note: Clafoutis sinks slightly as it cools – that’s just its nature
Note: Clafoutis vanishes quickly when cooked - that's just in its nature ...

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