sourdough hot cross buns

28 Mar 2016

I just love a good hot cross bun.

Most Easters coincide with Passover putting hot cross buns off the menu but not this year. I'd not planned to make hot cross buns this year but when I saw this Mike McEnearney recipe in the April 2016 issue of Delicious Magazine I went out and bought currants and raisins and set to work.

This is not a 'I'll just whip these up' kind of recipe as you need to make the ferment at least 2 days in advance. There are also many, many steps in the recipe so by Sunday morning I ran out of puff and swapped the glaze for a very simple version. The buns have no added fat or sugar and are certainly more solid than the traditional hot cross bun but boy are they tasty warm from the oven, topped with some butter and a dollop of home made jam. I cooked half the batch and I've frozen the remaining buns to bake when the need arises.

I haven't quite sorted out my oven and even at my oven's maximum temperature, the buns took 40 minutes to bake. The bottoms were well cooked but the tops weren't even close to brown so I had to resort to the fan grill setting to colour the tops resulting in slightly crunchy crosses. You'll also notice I piped a less than traditional cross. It's a family thing.

Here's the recipe for you which you'll have to start 2 days ahead. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Sour Dough Hot Cross Buns - makes 12

Yeast Ferment
65g bread and pizza flour
¼ tsp instant yeast
2½ tbs warm water

Bun Dough
500g bread and pizza flour
370 mls lukewarm water
2 tsp fine salt
100g each sultanas and currants
200mls boiling water
1 Earl Grey tea bag
2½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp each ground allspice and cloves
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

juice of 1 orange, strained
100g caster sugar
2 tbs water

Piping Mixture
⅓ cup (50g) bread and pizza flour
½ tbs caster sugar
50 mls water

To serve

Good quality cultured butter

For the yeast ferment combine the flour, yeast and warm water in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside overnight to ferment. The next day gradually combine flour with 370 mls lukewarm water in a bowl. Slowly add to the yeast ferment and combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes to rest. Add the salt and gently knead in the bowl until the salt is incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rest. Working in the bowl, slightly stretch out one quarter of the dough and fold towards the middle, then take the opposite side and fold into the middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees and repeat with the remaining sides to complete a total of 4 folds. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for a further 30 minutes. Repeat the folding and resting sequence 2 more times.

Meanwhile place the dried fruit, tea bag and 200mls boiling water in a bowl. Set aside for 2 hours or until fruit is plump. Remove tea bag and drain fruit well discarding the liquid. Add the spices, zest and fruit to the dough and knead until evenly distributed. Cover bowl and set aside to rest in a warm place for 2-3 hours or until risen by one-third. Turn out dough onto a floured work surface. Knead for 1 minute, and then divide into 12 equal pieces (about 100g each). Use your hand to roll each piece on the work surface to form a round bun. Place buns close together on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover tray with a clean tea towel and refrigerate overnight to ferment.

The next day, remove the buns from the fridge. Stand at room temperature for 1 hour or until slightly risen and soft to the touch. Meanwhile to make the glaze, place sugar and 2 tbs water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir until dissolved and then boil without stirring for 3-4 minutes until a golden caramel. Remove from heat and then carefully stir in strained orange juice. Set aside to cool.

For the piping mixture, place the flour, sugar and water in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe lines horizontally across the buns then vertically until each is decorated with a cross.

Preheat oven to 220ºC. Splash a little water in the oven to create steam (this helps the bun expand before forming a crust) and then bake for 10 minutes or until slightly risen. Reduce oven to 200ºC and bake for a further 7-10 minutes until dark golden. Remove from the oven and then slide the baking paper and buns onto a wire rack. Brush hot cross buns with glaze and serve warm with butter.

I used this much easier glaze recipe from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook.

Glaze Recipe
¼ tsp gelatine
2 tbs warm water
1 tbs sugar

To make the glaze, sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small saucepan. When softened, dissolve over a low heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat. Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the glaze while still hot. Stand the buns in a warm place, such as near the opened door of the turned-off oven. This helps to set the glaze.

The buns were a lot of work but they were delicious.

I hope you all enjoyed the Easter break with your families. I had a busy weekend catching up with friends and visiting Farmer Andrew in Dungog, so there was lots of baking and driving involved.

See you all again next week,

Bye for now,


chocolate easter egg layer cake

21 Mar 2016

I had no plans to make a 4 layer Chocolate Easter Egg Cake until I went to the supermarket last week and saw the front cover of the Coles magazine.

Inspired by the photo I bought some Easter eggs for decoration, adapted a favourite chocolate cake recipe and made a very large batch of cream cheese icing.

I haven't been sleeping well for a while and when I'm tired I make lots of silly errors. For a 4 layer cake you really need to focus on the task at hand and I couldn't. 

Trying to do the calculations for the icing saw me reach for the calculator and my kitchen scales. In the end I marked the side of each bowl with a wax pen just to ensure I didn't do something really silly.

Normally when I ice a layer cake I chill the cake first then ice the layer before returning the cake to the fridge to allow the cream cheese icing to firm. Once the cream cheese icing has firmed, I add the second layer repeating the process until the final layer has been placed. Except I didn't do that on this occasion. With each layer the cake started to slide, so by the time I'd put all the layers together the cake had a spectacular lean, not unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I wasn't sure the cake would hold together long enough for me to photograph it. I quickly decorated the top of the cake with some Easter eggs then photographed it before putting the cake back into the fridge to firm a little more. Once the cake had been in the fridge overnight, I managed to get it into work in one piece with no further mishaps.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate Easter Egg Layer Cake - makes a 17 cm -20 cm layer cake.

Cake Ingredients
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1 cup boiling water

2 cups plain flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
250g unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
⅔ cup sour lite cream

Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing
60g butter, softened
125g cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups icing sugar mixture

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

60g butter, softened
125g cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
30 g cocoa, sifted
60 g dark chocolate, melted, cooled
2 cups icing sugar mixture
1 tbs sour lite cream

Easter eggs to decorate

Grease and line two 17 cm tins with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder with the boiling water with and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Sift flour, bicarb soda and salt into a bowl. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs to the creamed butter mixture. Add the flour alternately with the chocolate mixture and sour cream and beat just to combine. Pour half the batter into each tin and bake the cakes until tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Place on a wire rack until cool.

To make the vanilla cream cheese icing, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a bowl until very pale and creamy. Gradually add the icing sugar, beating well after each addition.

To make the dark chocolate cream cheese icing, cream the butter with the cream cheese and vanilla; beat until fully incorporated. 
Gradually add the icing sugar, beating on low speed until well combined. Add cocoa and melted chocolate and mix until well blended. If needed, add some sour cream to make a spreading consistency.

To assemble
When the cakes are cool, remove the baking paper. Use a large serrated knife to level the top of each cake and then halve each cake horizontally. Place one cake layer onto a serving plate. Spread with half the dark chocolate cream cheese icing. Top with another cake layer.

Reserve half the vanilla cream cheese icing. Combine one-third of the remaining cream cheese icing with two-thirds of the dark chocolate cream cheese icing. Spread evenly over the cake. Top with another cake layer.

Combine the remaining dark chocolate cream cheese icing with the remaining cream cheese icing and spread evenly over the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer and reserved cream cheese icing. Decorate with chocolate eggs.

If you'd like to make a less ambitious Easter Egg Cake, you could make a 2 layer 23 cm/9 inch cake cake with this recipe. Instead of fiddling with 4 different fillings I'd only make one, either one batch of the vanilla or one batch of the chocolate cream cheese icing. I think one batch would be enough to both fill and top the cake. I had a sliver of cake after lunch and this cake is no shrinking violet. It's very rich but also very delicious. The cake is very moist and fudge like with lashings of chocolate flavoured cream cheese icing. 

Meanwhile I'm in the process of planning the recipes for my annual Passover week. I have most of the recipes sorted out but if there is anything in particular you'd like me to try just drop me a line -

See you all again soon,


apple cinnamon pecan tea cake

14 Mar 2016

Hi All,

I've just walked in the door from my flying trip home to Brisbane for the weekend. Even though It's officially autumn here in Sydney though you wouldn't know it by the weather which is resolutely stuck in summer mode. With autumn comes the new season apples and I bought some little Gala apples to top this tea cake. 

I found the recipe in an old issue of Donna Hay magazine but needed to scale down the original recipe to fit into my small tin. Our staff numbers have fallen in recent times and some people have gone sugar free so I rarely use my old 9 inch spring form tin these days.

When I looked through the recipe it looked remarkably like the Plum and Walnut cake I recently made. That was pretty tasty so I hoped this cake would be similarly delicious.

The cake was a breeze to make and slicing the apples was the most time consuming part of the exercise. I mulled over whether I should squeeze the final half into the centre of the cake. Next time I'd leave this one out as it sank to the bottom of the cake and was still a little undercooked after the 1½ hour cooking time. The cake came out very high so is probably better suited to a 20cm/8 inch round cake tin.

Once out of the oven the cake smelled just like a cinnamon doughnut and the aroma tempted all. The cake disappeared in record time and by lunch time there wasn't a single crumb left.

apple cinnamon pecan tea cake photo blog-8_zpsayjsppox.jpg

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a 17 cm cake. If you want to make a larger cake you can find the original proportions here. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Apple Cinnamon Pecan Tea Cake

125g butter, softened
¾ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
¾ cup self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup almond meal
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup milk
40g pecans, coarsely chopped
4 small apples, peeled, halved and cored

Melted butter for brushing
1 tbs (20 ml) sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease and line a 17 cm spring-form pan with baking paper.

Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well. Sift flour and the cinnamon together. Add the flour mixture and almond meal to the butter mixture and stir in the sour cream and milk to form a soft batter Stir in the chopped pecans then spoon the mixture into spring-form pan. Level the top.

Cut a row of deep slits in each apple half and press apples into the batter. Bake for 1¼ – 1½ hours or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. When cool, brush the cake with melted butter. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.

I hope you enjoy making this cake.

Bye for now,


sweet dreams magazine

9 Mar 2016

Have you heard about a magazine called Sweet Dreams? It's a German language magazine devoted to all things sweet.

A few months back I was contacted by the picture editor of the magazine asking if they could use one of my images in their January/February issue.

Having one of my food images published in a magazine has long been one of my goals so of course I said 'yes'. My copy of the magazine arrived last week a bit battered and bruised from the long journey from Germany to Sydney. You can see the image they used on the right hand side of the screen. Now I can move onto my other long term goal - photographing and writing my own cookbook.

See you all again next week,


chocolate bundt cake with a nut brittle and chocolate ganache topping

7 Mar 2016

I know chocolate is probably every-one's favourite flavour, so I thought I'd make a chocolate cake for the blog.

Now you know me, a plain old chocolate cake was never going to be enough, so I dialled things up a notch. I added some dark chocolate ganache to the cake and topped the cake with chocolate coated almond brittle I had in the fridge. 

The recipe for the almond brittle was adapted from this one here.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a small bundt cake. if you want to make a larger bundt cake double the original recipe and bake for the same time. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. 

Chocolate Bundt Cake

¼ cup (30 g) Dutch process cocoa 
¼ cup boiling water
125 g unsalted butter, softened 
½ cup caster sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 eggs 
¾ cup self-raising flour 
¼ cup plain flour
¼ cup lite sour cream
¼ cup milk

Chocolate Ganache 
50 gm dark chocolate (I used a combination of 42% and 70% dark chocolate) 
50 mls cream

To decorate
Coarsely chopped nut brittle

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and flour a small bundt tin.

In a small bowl combine the cocoa and the boiling water to make a paste. You should have ½ cup in total. If not, top up with a little more water then set to one side until cool.

Sift the flours into a small bowl and set to aside. In a medium size bowl, combine the softened butter, caster sugar and vanilla and beat until light and creamy. Mix in the eggs and a spoonful flour if the mixture starts to look curdled. Mix in the flour alternately with the cocoa mixture and the sour cream and milk to make a smooth, soft batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin.

Bake on the centre rack in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted. Remove the tin from the oven and allow the cake to cool for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Allow the cake to completely cool before decorating. 

Chocolate Ganache 
Chop the chocolates into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan or in the microwave until just below boiling point. Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes until the chocolate melts. Stir until the mixture until smooth then set to one side for about 20 minutes until the ganache has thickened. Drizzle the ganache over the cooled cake, then decorate with some brittle. Serve the cake at room temperature.

I have a confession to make. I met a friend for dinner the other night and gave her the whole cake so I didn't get a chance to taste my creation. The base is one I've made for years and the ganache and brittle tasted pretty good solo so I'm sure the 3 elements would meld well.

I'm off to Brisbane for the weekend but I've already baked something tasty to share with you. 

See you all again next week.

Bye for now,

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