Hot cross buns

Or, the trials and tribulations of dough.

Plan: go away for Easter and bake hot cross buns.

I had made hot cross buns from BakeClass a few weeks ago, just to see what they were like and because my beloved has a somewhat fetishitic love of them. They were good. I made a couple slit changes: I did not have enough bread flour so I subbed in some normal plain flour; for me such buns need peel, so I reduced the currants and cranberries (which I used instead of dried cherries) and added the peel.

They were very good. They were also quite large, which wasn’t a problem but good to know.

So, the day before we were to leave, I got the dry ingredients (this time all bread flour) all together and made sure I had the container of chocolate bits as well as the milk and butter. My plan had been to get the buns to the second rise for while we were at church, so they just had to be baked when we got home.

First issue: for some reason my brain got all tied in knots, so I kept waking up wondering if it is was time to knead yet. Is it time? No, it’s 1.30am. Is it time? Nope, it’s 3.30.

You get the idea.

IMG_2116Anyway, when it was 7.30 I figured it was time. And that’s the point at which I realised I had no measuring instruments which meant that 1 3/4 cups of milk was going to be … hard. I eyeballed the milk container and figured, how hard could this be, to guess not quite 500ml of milk? So I guessed. I also guessed 60g of butter. And then I mixed it in and… it was sticky. Quite sticky. I turned it into the bench (onto the flour I’d requisitioned from the dry ingredients because I had not brought extra flour, of course), and there was not going to be any kneading. So I put it into the bowl and rise anyway, just to see what happened.

Then I shed a tear.

After about 10 minutes or so I decided to see whether I could use muesli in lieu of flour, just to make the dough knead a little. And what I discovered is that rising a bit makes the dough somehow rise out of its stickiness. Like, it had become entirely knead-able. So I kneaded, and left it to keep rising; after an hour I punched it and divided it into 16 (instead of the 12 recommended, because they’d been so big), and left them to rise again while we were out. This also involved brushing them with egg with my fingers, and my beloved taking the job of piping on crosses which I wasn’t going to do but he insisted and we had flour because he’d gone to get some from the people who run our holiday accommodation because one of the other people some for rolling out pastry for tarts. Because we are foodie type people.

IMG_2118When we got back from church the buns had risen hugely. They went into the oven and needed to be turned after about 10 min, and put to a higher shelf, because weird oven. But they cooked.

And, in the end, they were excellent.

Apparently I’m to keep making them.

Maple pecan cupcakes

IMG_0922.JPGThese were meant to be maple pecan cupcakes.

But I didn’t have any pecans (that’s PEEcans, as far as I am concerned), so I decided to substitute walnuts.

I didn’t have as many walnuts as I thought (uh… hardly any), so I mostly used almonds.

The icing was also meant to have candied pecans on top but sadly for their recipient I lost my desire to candy nuts somewhere and I haven’t found it again.

The icing does have butter, icing sugar, and maple syrup – and it has a wonderfully smoky sweet flavour as a consequence. The cupcakes themselves did not have the greatest texture; they really stuck to the paper, which made me a bit sad. Still, tasty enough.

Yet Moar Figs

IMG_0914.JPG

This is what happens when you have a fig tree and don’t mind fig jam but don’t love it either. You decide not to let the blasted birds, bats and rats have more than their fair share so you pick them which means you have to cook them or eat them. I cooked this batch.

This was actually the second time I made this cake; the first time I took it camping and didn’t manage to finish it because it got hot the second day and it didn’t fit in the camping fridge. THE WOES.

My cake is a fig variation on a plum cake from Stephanie Alexander’s plum cake recipe. I figured figs were a lot like plums, so what could go wrong? You make a batter – top it with almond meal – put the figs on top – then pour over a butter, sugar, cinnamon and egg concoction that’s been cooling since you made it before the batter DIDN’T YOU.

I imagine it’s wonderful with plums but it’s also spectacular with figs. In this case, even if you only have one egg not two for the topping. IMG_0915.JPG

Figs

I have a fig tree. I got it pruned this year. I have figs.

IMG_0910.JPGThese are the ripe figs that I didn’t cook with.

I like figs. I have had figs with salad; I have dehydrated them. When I had quite a few today, I thought to make a cake. (I have no prosciutto in the house.) But… zero fig cake recipes in any of my cook books. How is that even possible?

Happily, the NY Times came through. I didn’t have almond so I just used almond meal – I think I used a bit too much actually, or possibly overmixed (although it’s with melted butter so is that even possible?) – because the mixture was a tad too dry. Anyway it tasted pretty fine. I could probably have put more figs on though. IMG_0046.JPG

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has featured fairly heavily in our Marchs the last few years – some things by ourselves, some things with some equally foody/wine passionate friends. We’ve done French, we’ve done Spanish, we’ve done Middle Eastern and Japanese; some have been incredibly overpriced and eye-rolly while others have been staggeringly good value and amazingly good food.

IMG_0044.JPGThis year we’ve done just two events, which is feeling really sparse now that they’re both done but it’s a shortened Festival this year… and it does mean we’re saving money. So I guess that’s good.

The first was “Melbourne meets Barcelona”, at a Spanish place in Hawthorn, with friends. It was… ok. It was a lot smaller than other venues I’ve been to which was nice. There were six courses, and they were nicely varied, but there was no course that I thought was amazing. One course was abalone… and I think I preferred the manchego-infused rice. The steak was ok but it was just steak. The dessert was weird: shortcrust pastry with a fig paste and then an almond milk cream of some sort, then with pieces of three different cheeses plonked on top. Like I said: Weird. Probably the greatest discovery of the evening, to be honest, was the Spanish vermouth. Totally in love. I also preferred the Australian wines (one from the Pyrenees, another from Heathcote) over most of the Spanish. I didn’t actually finish the sparkling wine *gasp*.

IMG_0045.JPGOur second event was at the Hellenic Museum: Hellenic High Tea. My beloved was a bit dubious but he was pretty impressed when we walked through the Hellenic Museum (which I’ve been meaning to visit for maybe a decade) and there was an amazing courtyard and pavilion with tables and chairs. In the middle of the city. For this one, we were seated at a mixed table of six. Two of the other people were quite happy to chat, and we had occasional interesting conversations. The other two… yeh. For a start they were pretty young, so maybe they had never been on a mixed table like that before. They barely spoke to each other. There were phones out. The beloved hypothesised that this was a gift that they weren’t wild about. I mean, they didn’t even eat everything. What even I do not understand.

Because oh, the food. It was pretty classic high tea food, but the Greek twist was wonderful. Chicken sandwich… with preserved lemon and dill. Gougeres… with oregano and feta (actually that wasn’t my favourite but still). Spanakopita, braised lamb cigarillos, pistachio macarons (SWOON), and it was just wonderful overall. The Greek island iced tea was
excellent. I’d gone for the ‘drink on arrival’ option – the sparkling was ok but I’m told the frappe martini was a bit like having cold coffee. The presentation of all of the food was great, the ambiance was lovely (a warm day but we were in shade; a trio of maybe-uni-students playing entirely background-worthy music; two of the most spectacular arrangement of dahlias I have ever seen in my life).

I’m already looking forward to seeing the advance programme for 2017.

 

Guest post!

UnknownPreviously, on BakeClass

This post is brought to you today by my sister. She’s craftier than me – she even has an Etsy shop , how cool is that – and image4as she’s gluten intolerant she was very interested in the flourless recipes in BakeClass… like this hazelnut chocolate one.

image5I have a bad habit of not following recipes, including when baking. For some reason I seem to think I know better than the recipe writer. The good thing about gluten free baking is there seems to be more leeway for minor adjustments than non-GF. But for once, I actually did what I was told. The only change I made was using rum instead of brandy – I thought I had enough, but sadly not. All measures were by weight, I find it to be a more accurate option.

My only real quandary came when I had melted the image2chocolate – do I leave it to cool for a few minutes while I whip the egg whites or do I risk scrambled yolks? I went with the former. It worked perfectly.

image1My oven can be a bit temperamental, so I only cooked it for 40 minutes and it came out perfectly.

It’s rich and delicious; a small piece is enough to satisfy even this chocolate fiend. It’s an easy recipe to follow and I’ll be making this again in future.

image3I can only presume that this last picture was taken before she licked the bowl. The spoon used to belong to our mother; I know this because when I properly moved out of home I managed to wheedle one out of her myself, and at that very moment my sister basically wrote her name on another one to make sure it didn’t end up… somewhere else. I don’t know where else, since our brother was unlikely to want it, but there was no way she was letting it go.

 

 

Chocolate and coconut slice

Previously, on BakeClass(Book provided by the publisher.)

The context: doing a ‘salon’ with students about the causes of the French Revolution. Seemed appropriate to bake something for them.

The recipe: so darn easy. Coconut, cocoa, flour, melted butter, brown sugar, something else – just moosh it together. I went with the Jam Option and squished half into the tin, then spread a strawberry jam on top (not one of Kate’s, this time, because I didn’t want to spoil them too much), then put the other half of the mixture on top.

The result: oh heck yes, this is another one going in the “oh you’re arriving in 30 minutes? no worries” pile. Very very tasty.IMG_0907.JPG