hot cross babka

29 Mar 2018

I just love hot cross buns and every year I either try out a new recipe or a new iteration. Today I'm taking a break from Passover Week to share with you my newest take on the classic hot cross bun. 

This year as I'm still enamoured with all things 'babka', I decided to make a hot cross babka, albeit without the cross.

I used my regular babka dough but reduced the sugar as I knew I'd be adding a load of dried fruit to the mix. 

I decided to forgo the complicate divide and twist and went for a simple twist instead. As the babka dough is so full of fruit I knew the cinnamon filling would be barely visible once baked.

For the past few years I've plumped the dried fruit in Earl Grey tea but instead of dousing ;the babka with a sugar syrup once it came out of the oven, I decided to use the leftover liquid from the soaking process which tasted of orange rind and apricot. The whole babka thing is a labour of love. I soaked the fruit on Friday night; made the dough on Saturday then shaped, baked and ate the babka on Sunday. I had my slice still warm from the oven topped with a knob of butter. The verdict - absolutely delicious!

Here's the recipe for you, which makes one loaf. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Hot Cross Babka - makes one loaf

Dried Fruit Soak
75g each sultanas and currants
50g dried apricots, chopped
1 cup hot Earl Grey tea
2 tsp finely grated orange rind

Yeast Mixture
2 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp flour
1 tsp sugar
1-2 tbl water

75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
40g caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 to 2 tbl milk or water, if required

80 g soft unsalted butter
100 g brown sugar
1 tsp golden or maple syrup
4 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g almond meal

⅓ cup of the fruit soak liquid
2 tbs caster sugar

A few hours before making the dough, prepare the fruit soak. In a small bowl place the dried fruit, then pour over the hot tea. Let soak for one to 2 hours or until the fruit is plump and juicy. Drain the fruit, reserving the liquid, then add the grated orange rind to the fruit and set to one side.

In a small bowl, combine the yeast with 1 tsp flour and 1 tsp sugar and sufficient water to make a paste. Cover and set to one side for about 10 minutes until the mixture froths up, then continue on with the rest of the recipe.

In a small bowl, combine the cooled melted butter and vanilla. Add the egg and mix until well combined. Sift the flour, spices and salt together into the bowl of a stand mixer then stir in the sugar. With the dough hook attached, add the yeast mixture, the well-drained fruit and sufficient liquid to make soft dough. If the mixture is looking a bit dry, add another tablespoon or so of milk or water. Mix the dough for about 10 minutes before removing the soft dough and placing into a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave in a warm place for about an hour before placing the dough in the fridge to rest overnight. 

Bring the dough back to room temperature while you prepare the filling. In a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, the syrup and the ground cinnamon. Mix in the almond meal to form a paste, ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture.

Grease and line the base and sides of a loaf tin with baking paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 cm). Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ in/2 cm border all around. Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end of the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.

Trim about ¾ in/2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife then gently press the 2 ends together to form a loop then twist each end of the loop in the opposite direction (like wringing out a towel) to create a simple twist. Gently lift the babka into the loaf pan then cover the pan with a large plastic bag, knotted loosely and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for the oven to heat fully. Remove the babka from the plastic bag and place the babka on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 45 minutes, until dark brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If not ready, return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the fruit soak and sugar in a saucepan; place over medium heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat and simmer the syrup for a few minutes until slightly thickened. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the syrup over. It is important to use up all the syrup. Leave the cake until it is just warm, then remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing the babka and serving it with a dab of butter.

I'll be taking a break from posting tomorrow and will be back on Monday with the last of my Passover bakes.

Wishing every-one a peaceful Easter.

Bye for now,



passover week 2018 - passionfruit macaroon tarts

28 Mar 2018

Last year I made a few treats for Passover which I planned to share with you this year. That was until I broke my external hard disc drive while on holidays and lost all the images stored on the drive including these lemon macaroon tarts. When I returned home I couldn't locate the sd card so I remade the tarts this time using a mixture of passionfruit and lemon juice. Of course just last weekend, once I'd remade and photographed the tarts, I located the missing card. Life's like that isn't it?

I've tried and failed to make decent Passover shortcrust pastry in the past so I decided to make the tart shells using a coconut macaroon mixture. I've done this many times before but I've always filled the baked shells with a curd mixture. This time I wanted to bake the mixture in the shells using a classic lemon tart filling.

That's when I discovered the coconut tart shells are not waterproof and are inclined to leak - everywhere. When I remade the tarts I had a brilliant idea and wondered what would happen if I baked the tarts in muffin liners? I'm still patting myself on the back because it worked like a charm.

I'd planned on using paper liners because I'd forgotten I had some silicone cupcake liners which I rediscovered whilst riffling through my pot drawer. Instead I used the silicone liners and once the tarts were cooked,the liners peeled off easily. Don't try doing this with paper liners - just bake and serve!

Here's the recipe for you which makes 10 tarts. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. If you can't find passionfruit just make these tarts using lemon juice. They're equally delicious.

Passionfruit Macaroon Tarts 
2 cups desiccated coconut  
2 egg-whites  
80g caster sugar  
1 tsp grated lemon rind 

Preheat oven to 170°C. Place the coconut, egg-whites, the sugar and lemon rind in a bowl and stir to combine. Press mixture firmly into the base and sides of 10 cupcake liners placed in the holes of a muffin pan. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until just golden. Allow to cool before filling. 

2 egg yolks 
whole eggs 
125 grams caster sugar 
75 mls passionfruit and lemon juice 
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind 
125 mls double cream 

To decorate
double cream/passionfruit pulp

Lower the oven temperature to 160°CPlace egg yolksthe eggssugar, juice and rind in a bowl and whisk to combine, then whisk in cream. Heat the mixture in a saucepan over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until warm, then pour into prepared cases and bake at 160°C for 20-25 minutes or until just firm. Cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container. Store in the fridge until serving time. Dollop with cream and top with the passionfruit pulp.

I took the tarts into work and they were devoured very quickly and received the thumbs up from all concerned.

I'll be back again tomorrow with some more Passover baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


passover week 2018 - salted caramel craquelin profiteroles

27 Mar 2018

Welcome to Day 2 of Passover Week and a recipe for these salted caramel craquelin profiteroles.

I made some choux buns for Passover last year and they were such a success, I decided to make another batch this year. Why the craquelin topping? During Passover, you can’t use icing sugar to make a glace icing so I decided to top the buns with some chocolate craquelin. I think it makes the buns look just a little bit fancy. The salted caramel cream filling is from a Stephanie Alexander recipe.

If you wanted to, you could use the choux pastry to make chocolate éclairs, filling the éclairs with sweetened whipped cream then topping the éclair or bun with some melted dark chocolate. Maybe I should make some éclairs for Passover week 2019.

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; I use unsalted butter and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. Passover baking mix is just equal quantities of superfine matzo meal and potato flour (starch) combined.

Salted Caramel Craquelin Profiteroles – makes 12 
50g Passover baking mix 
50g caster sugar  
40g unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp cocoa

To make the craquelin, place baking mix in a small food processor and blitz with the sugar and 40g butter and whiz to combine until a soft dough forms. Place dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out to 2 mm thick. Place on a tray and refrigerate or at least 30 minutes to firm up. Cut out twelve circles, dust tops with cocoa and refrigerate until needed. 

Choux Pastry 
100g butter 
200mls water 
100g superfine matzo meal 
½ teaspoon caster sugar 
Pinch salt 
3 eggs, lightly beaten 
butter, for the tray 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a buttered baking tray with baking paper. Mark twelve 5cm circles on the paper leaving space between. 

Put the butter in a saucepan with 200ml of water and let it melt over a gentle heat. Now increase the heat and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, sift the matzo meal, sugar and salt into a bowl. Take the saucepan off the heat, add the meal and stir with a wooden spoon until a firm, smooth paste is formed. Return to the heat and beat until it comes away from the edges of the pan and forms a ball, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Add the eggs to the dough a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. You may not need all the egg. 

Put the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 2cm plain nozzle and fill each circle. Brush the top of each profiterole lightly with any remaining egg then top each bun with a craquelin circle. Bake for 30 minutes; do not open the oven door for the first 10 minutes or the pastry may not rise. With a sharp knife pierce a hole in the side of the bun to let the steam out, then reduce oven to 160°C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until dry to the touch. The pastries are done when they are golden brown and firm. Transfer to a wire rack and with a sharp knife, slice the profiterole in half. Remove any uncooked mixture and return to the oven to dry out for a further 10 minutes. Leave to cool.

Salted caramel cream
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
2 tbs strong espresso coffee
1½ cups (375ml) cream
Pinch of sea salt

For the salted caramel cream, place the sugar and ⅓ cup water in a heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, then increase the heat to high and boil for 5-6 minutes until you have a medium-dark caramel; do not stir. Carefully add coffee and 3 tbs extra water, stirring, until the caramel is smooth again. Boil to reduce for 1 minute or until a drop looks and feels syrupy on a cold saucer, cool to room temperature.

Using a stand mixer, whisk cream to soft peaks. Stop the motor and spoon all of the caramel over the cream. (If you do this with the motor running, all of the caramel will be spun onto the sides of the bowl instead of on the cream.) Whisk until well blended and firm. Stir in a few flakes of sea salt and taste for sweetness. Adjust salt and sugar as needed. Fill each profiterole with cream with a spoon or you can use a piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle. You may not need all the caramel cream for this recipe.

See you all again tomorrow with some more Passover baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



passover week 2018 - mandarin olive oil chocolate cake

26 Mar 2018

Welcome to Passover week 2018. This year I've baked a little bit of everything - a cookie, some tarts, cakes and choux pastry buns.

Every Passover I make yet another flourless chocolate cake. This one comes from an old Bill Granger cookbook, Bill’s Open Kitchen, which I’ve had on my kitchen shelf for years. I’ve cooked many recipes from the book but this is the first time I’ve made this cake and it was easy to renovate it for Passover.

Passover usually falls in autumn when citrus is aplenty so that’s why I chose to make this particular cake. You could make the cake using melted butter, in fact the original recipe called for that, but I used olive oil instead making the cake parve. I also used my Passover baking mix, which is equal quantities of superfine matzo meal and potato starch but you could just use potato starch. The end result was a very squidgy quite exotic tasting cake. Some of the tasters thought I’d added cinnamon to the cake batter but the intriguing flavour was just the combination of mandarin rind and olive oil.

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; I use unsalted butter and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. Passover baking mix is just equal quantities of superfine matzo meal and potato flour (starch) combined. As always if you want to make a larger cake, a 23cm or 9 inch cake, then double all the ingredients but the baking time stays the same.

Mandarin Chocolate Cake – Bill Granger
125g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
125mls extra virgin olive oil
3 eggs, separated
60g caster sugar
1½ tbs Passover baking mix
12g almond meal
finely grated zest of 1 large mandarin

To serve
Mandarin slices, cocoa power and cream

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 18cm spring-form cake tin with baking paper. Melt the chocolate and oil in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir over the heat until the chocolate has just melted, being careful not to overheat - remove from the heat and set aside.

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until lightly combined. Add the chocolate mixture gradually, stirring constantly. Using a large metal spoon, fold through the baking mix, almond meal and orange zest.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry metal bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites in with the batter with a metal spoon until barely combined. Fold through the rest of the egg whites.

Bake for 35 minutes (the cake will still be moist when tested), then remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin. Transfer to a plate and dust with some cocoa powder. Serve with mandarin slices and a dollop of cream.

See you all again tomorrow with some more Passover baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


blueberry pistachio friands

19 Mar 2018

I have a new mini muffin tin and put the new pan pan to the test making a batch of blueberry and pistachio friands adapted from a recipe for blackcurrant friands I found in Plenty More by Ottolenghi.

Unusually for an Ottolenghi recipe, I needed to make quite a few changes to the recipe. The friands were very sweet so I reduced the quantity of sugar. The batter was also very soft and the first batch I baked was almost impossible to remove from the tin. I added a tablespoon of flour to the second batch, cooked them at a lower temperature and they came out just fine.

Here’s the revised recipe for you which makes 24 mini friands. If you only have one pan, once the friands are cool you'll need to regrease, flour and reline the tins before baking the second batch of friands. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Blueberry Pistachio Friands – makes 24
85g melted unsalted butter
65g plain flour
40g almond meal
35g pistachios, plus 1 tsp chopped to garnish
85g fresh or frozen blueberries, tossed in flour
Pinch ground cinnamon
100g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp mashed banana
2 egg whites
Pinch salt
Butter/cooking spray

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and flour 2 mini muffin tins then place a small piece of baking paper in the base of each tin.

Reserve 1 tbs of caster sugar. Place almond meal, pistachios, flour, cinnamon and the remaining caster sugar into food processor. Blend until a breadcrumb-like consistency then tip into a bowl. Add melted butter, lemon zest & banana. Stir to combine.

In a clean dry bowl, whisk egg whites with the salt and the reserved caster sugar until whites form soft peaks. Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the nut mixture. Once incorporated, fold in another third, along with the blueberries then fold in remaining third of egg whites. Pour batter into muffin tin/moulds – filling only ⅔ full. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, leave to cool before turning out onto a wire rack. Remember to remove the baking paper before icing the friands.

Lemon Glaze
100g icing sugar, sifted
25ml lemon juice

In a small bowl, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice to form a thick icing. Just before serving, drizzle the icing over the upturned friands, sprinkling with finely chopped nuts. 

I've been busily baking for Passover Week 2018 which will be coming to the blog next week. I can't wait to share what I've been baking.

See you all again next week.

Bye for now,



tropical hummingbird cake

12 Mar 2018

A few years ago I made a version of this cake but I found it too sweet, so I decided to remake the cake reducing the quantity of sugar.

I made the cake early one Sunday morning; I hadn't slept well and I was tired. I tasted the batter before I spooned it into the tin and found it not quite sweet enough so I added an extra tablespoon of sugar. 

It wasn't until the cake was in the oven and I was doing the washing up that I discovered the sugar I'd carefully weighed and measured the night before still sitting on the kitchen table. Oh dear.

It was too late to do anything about the cake so I hoped that the natural sweetness of the banana and pineapple in the batter would be enough to make the cake palatable but just in case I slathered the cake with loads of cream cheese icing.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 18 cm cake. To make a 23cm cake just double all the ingredients but the baking time remains the same. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Tropical Hummingbird Layer Cake, adapted from Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake.
¾ cup SR flour 
¼ cup Plain flour 
pinch salt 
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 
pinch ground nutmeg 
25g roasted macadamias, coarsely chopped 
1 egg 
½ cup caster sugar 
½ cup vegetable oil 
½ teaspoon vanilla extract 
⅓ cup canned crushed pineapple in natural juice, undrained 
⅔ cup mashed banana 

Cream Cheese Icing 
60g softened unsalted butter, diced
125 g softened cream cheese, diced
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
To decorate (optional)
Toasted macadamias coarsely chopped/passionfruit pulp and diced mango

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease and line the base of a 18cm round cake tin with baking paper. Lightly dust the tin with flour.

Sift the flours, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl. Stir in the chopped macadamia nuts. In another bowl, beat the egg lightly with the sugar. Whisk in the oil and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the pineapple and mashed bananas and mix thoroughly. 

Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir them together to form a batter. If the batter is too thick, add a little more pineapple juice. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake before turning out of the tin. Using a serrated knife, halve the cooled cake horizontally. Sandwich the two cakes together with about a third of the icing. Spread the remaining icing on top of the cake.

For icing, place the butter, cream cheese and icing sugar into the food processor and process until smooth before returning the mixture to the fridge to firm up.  

I decorated the cake with toasted macadamia nuts, diced mango and passionfruit pulp and took the cake into work keeping my fingers crossed that that the cake was edible. Thankfully cream cheese icing covers up a multitude of sins but next time I'll try and follow the recipe, exactly.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


plum ricotta crumble cake

5 Mar 2018

Last month I made a peach raspberry ricotta crumble cake which was very well received and it got me thinking. As it's plum season and until yesterday I'd not made my annual plum cake, I decided to play around with the recipe a little to see whether I could add some ricotta cheese to the cake. 

A few years ago when I wrote a food column for the blog decor8, I made a plum crumble cake. I used the crumble topping from a recipe in Belinda Jeffrey's book, Mix and Bake whilst the plum cake was adapted from a Gretta Anna recipe. 

For this cake instead of just topping the cake with plums I made a filling of plums, some ricotta and half the crumble mix which I scattered over the plums before adding the remaining cake batter. I haven't eaten my piece of the cake yet but it's looking pretty moist and delicious.

Here's the recipe for you which makes an 8 inch/20cm cake. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20ºC.

Plum Ricotta Crumble Cake
Crumble Topping
½ cup (70 gm) walnuts
¼ cup (55 gm) brown sugar
¼ cup (35 gm) plain flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
30 grams (1 oz) cold unsalted butter cut into small chunks

Crumble Topping
To make the crumble, pulse the walnuts in a food processor just a few times until coarsely chopped. Tip out into a small bowl then combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in the food processor. Add the butter and pulse until just combined. Place the crumble topping into the bowl containing the chopped walnuts and mix until incorporated . Refrigerate the topping while making the cake.

Cake Ingredients
6 small plums
1 tablespoon caster sugar
150 grams unsalted butter
150 grams caster sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 eggs
200 grams self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
125 mls (½ cup) milk
150 g well drained ricotta cheese

Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Slice each plum half into quarters, put into a small bowl and sprinkle over the tablespoon of caster sugar.  Set aside. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Grease and line the base and sides of an 8 inch/20cm round tin with baking paper.

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until combined well. Sift the flour with the baking. Add the flour alternately with the milk to make a soft batter. You may not need to use all the milk. Spoon half the batter into the greased and lined tin. Crumble over the ricotta and half of the reserved crumb mixture then top with half the plum slices. Gently spoon the remaining batter over the fruit. Top the cake with the remaining plum slices then sprinkle the top of the cake with the crumble.

Bake the cake for 60-75 minutes or until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted into it. Some of the plums may sink to the bottom of the tin while cooking. Cool the cake in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack. If desired, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar just before serving.

We're having a birthday morning tea for one of our colleagues on Wednesday so the cake is languishing in the deep freeze until then. I'll let you know how the cake turned out.

P.S Absolutely delicious!

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,

Edit: I have a new plum hazelnut ricotta cake on the blog. The ricotta filling is even better than this one! If you'd like to use it for this cake, you might want to double the ricotta filling as the plum hazelnut cake ricotta cake is a smaller cake.
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