Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hot Cross Buns – and an Invitation to Commit Gluttony!

Pin It
Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. These ones will lead you into temptation. 

As a child, one of the great treats of staying with my Gran in Cork City was that her local bakery produced great Hot Cross Buns at Easter. Maybe my taste buds are suffering from nostalgia, but I haven’t been able to find a bakery since that can produce a bun of comparable deliciousness. Many commercial versions taste like a mouthful of sawdust – a penance indeed. Experience has taught me that these Easter buns are a creation often best baked at home.
Easter is thought to be named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring, Eastre, and some believe this sweet spiced bread was baked in her honour. It makes much more sense to me that these sticky treats are a celebration of springtime and abundance to come rather than an invitation to commit Gluttony in the dying days of Lent. Whatever you believe, they are delicious.

For 12 tempting buns, you will need...
... to preheat the oven to 190°C at step 7

For the dough
500g strong white flour (bread flour)
1 teaspoon fine table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 sachet of dried yeast (7g)
1 tablespoon olive oil
75g ready-to-eat dried apricots, cut into small pieces (about the size of sultanas)
50g sultanas
75g honey*
300mls fresh milk
1 large egg, beaten 

a little extra olive oil for oiling the work surface and your hands for kneading

For the cross decoration
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons water 

For the honey glaze
One tablespoon runny honey, warmed (I put it in a heatproof bowl and stand the bowl in hot water).
Remember that scene from Fried Green Tomatoes...
Put the flour, salt, ground cinnamon, orange zest, dried yeast, olive oil, dried apricots and sultanas into a large bowl. Mix to combine.

*Weigh the honey directly into a small saucepan and add the milk. Warm the milk to between 27°C - 35°C (this is when a finger dipped in the milk will feel neither hot nor cold – but best to use a thermometer).

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the beaten egg, and about half the milk. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula and continue adding the milk until you have a soft dough and no dry flour remains. You may not need to use all the milk. Continue mixing until the fruit is well distributed throughout the dough. (You could use a stand mixer with a dough hook either.)

I am shifting more and more towards the no-knead method so I simply cover the dough with a lightly oiled sheet of cling film and leave it in a warm place to rise until doubled in size. (If you prefer, knead it by hand for about 8 minutes or in your stand mixer for about 4 minutes before covering and leaving to rise.)

After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface, and knock it back. (This simply means giving it a couple of jabs with your fists to remove most of the air so you can form it into its final shape.) Knead lightly for a minute or so, before dividing into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball on the oiled surface, and flatten slightly into a bun shape. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and gently transfer the buns to the tray. Cover the buns with lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place, until once again doubled in size. Make sure the buns have plenty of room to rise.

Meanwhile, make the paste for the cross by mixing together the flour and water - you want a smooth paste with a consistency similar to porridge.

When the dough has once more doubled in size, remove the cling film. Carefully pipe the cross shape onto each bun. Transfer to the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the buns to a cooling rack and immediately brush them with warmed honey.

An orange blossom honey makes the perfect glaze

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! 
Lead me not into temptation... well, perhaps just the once!
This recipe was first published in April 2012 and is back by popular demand!
Pin It

Sunday, March 13, 2016

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

Pin It
In true Irish style, Paddy's 'Day' 2016 is set to last 3 days. If you happen to be in Dublin, check out what's on and remember to knock up a quick batch of Guinness Chocolate Cake to keep your energy levels up.

When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt -
A pint of plain is your only man.
(The Workman’s Friend, Brian O’Nolan)
You’ll often see visitors to Dublin with what I call “Guinness face”, poised over a glass of the black stuff, feeling that they must taste the local brew but reluctant to put their lips near something that looks like it might have been scooped from the nearby Liffey.
If you are a Guinness virgin, wait until you are in Ireland to try this beverage. Although there shouldn’t be, there is a world of difference between the flat bitter stuff I’ve been served in bars in the UK or the States and a creamy mellow jar of the stuff in its native land.
Among the many pubs that pull a decent pint of Guinness are: Johnnie Fox’s in the Dublin mountains; Kehoe’s, just off Grafton Street; Davy Byrnes, also just off Grafton Street and a stopping point for James Joyce fans; and one of my favourites, The Stag’s Head, (just off Dame Street) a tavern almost as old as Guinness, and probably as close as you’ll get to a proper traditional Irish pub -  not a shamrock or leprechaun in sight.

If you are unable to make it to the Emerald Isle to paint the town green on Paddy's Day, well then, a piece of this rich dark Guinness Chocolate Cake is your only man. 

For one tray bake (15 generous pieces) or 8 mini cakes you will need...
... to pre-heat the oven to 160
Cake Batter

300g Muscovado sugar (or other dark brown sugar)
280g plain flour
40g cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
250mls sunflower oil (or other flavourless cooking oil)
250mls Guinness (or other stout)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1                    Lightly butter and base-line an 18cm x 26cm (9” x 13”) baking tin.
2                    In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
3                    Place the oil, Guinness, beaten eggs and vanilla extract together in a large jug and whisk to combine.
4                    Gradually add the oil mixture to the flour mixture, stirring together with a whisk until no dry mixture remains.
5                    Transfer the mixture to the baking tin and place in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes until well risen. To check if it is done, lightly press the surface of the cake with your finger. If it springs back it’s done. If a small indent remains continue cooking for a further 5 minutes then test again. Alternatively, poke a cocktail stick into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean (i.e. no damp batter clinging to it, it’s done). Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
6                    While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.  

Cream Cheese Frosting
100g full fat cream cheese
50g butter, at room temperature (i.e. soft)
350g icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon Guinness
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 

7       In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese until combined. Add one-third of the icing sugar and slowly beat until smoothly blended. Add in the rest of the icing sugar, the Guinness and the vanilla extract and continue beating until light and fluffy. This will take about 3 minutes.  Transfer to the cake using a spatula, or pipe in generous swirls. 

Note:  For the mini cakes shown in the photos, I carefully removed the cooled cake from the tin and stamped out 8 mini cakes using a 6cm (3”) round cutter before piping on swirls of frosting. The scraps of cake can be used for trifle or cake pops.
Sorry Brian, sometimes a cup of tea is your only man!

First published in 2012
Pin It