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.

Squeaky cheese

Some time back I discovered that thanks to the glories of online shopping (I do not enjoy grocery shopping), I could purchase a 1.5kg container of haloumi. The price was way better than the little individual serves, and it lasts for months in brine, so I thought – why not?

When it arrived, I discovered that the store had been out of the 1.5kg container of haloumi. So they made a substitution.

For a 2kg bucket of haloumi.

I wasn’t sad.

When I announced that this had happened, someone innocently asked: what was I planning to do with haloumi aside from pan-frying it?

To which I said “… why would I do ANYTHING aside from pan-frying it??”

IMG_0884.JPGA colleague at work, with Greek-Cypriot connections, tells me that Cyrpiots will eat (non-fried) haloumi with watermelon. I’ve not tried that. What I have tried, now, is haloumi bread, or haloumopsomi. And friends, it is delightful.

The bread is from Tess Mallos’ book Complete Middle Eastern Cooking, which I’ve just started to explore. I’ve been going through the Cypriot section, which I’ll report back on in a day or two. Anyway, the recipe asks you to make bread according to the recipe for Kouloura dough and then instead of turning it into a bread IMG_0885.JPGring, you push it out into a rectangle; dot it with 250g of haloumi; then roll it up and tuck in the ends. TA DA.

The recipe suggested sesame seeds but I adore nigella seeds so that’s what I went with. It was fairly large, as you see, so this served to accompany two dinners for two of us… because we managed not to be incredibly greed the first night. Came up fine the second night after a little while in the fridge to take the chill off.

The only hard part is the kneading, and at least some of that could just be done in the mixer if I’d thought far enough ahead. Still, kneading is a cathartic experience…

 

Crumpets

photo 1Ever since discovering that it was possible to make crumpets at home, I’ve wanted to do so. And I finally did. This recipe is courtesy of hugo&elsa, who themselves got it from Elizabeth David. And as they suggest, it’s not as hard as it might look – it’s just a wee bit time consuming, especially because of the rising time. Fortunately, I had a solution: make the dough, go for a run, come home and do the second rising – drink tea while waiting – then cook and eat for brunch. Perfect! And as recommended by Hugo&Elsa, it did the latter part in my PJs, because there’s nothing quite so awesome as getting back into them after being outside. photo 3

I don’t have crumpet rings – although maybe I need to invest in a set – so I used egg rings, and they worked fine… except when they overflowed a little bit… but that wasn’t much of an issue. I also only had two so for a while I was cooking them through and then starting on the next batch, but then I realised that of course they don’t need to ring after being flipped, so then I had a nice process happening. 
photo 2

photo 4 10.55.57 amDon’t they look sweet?photo 5

It was only going to be me eating them, so I only made a half batch – which was still quite a few! I decided not to eat quite all of them, to test the suggestion that they won’t be as good later either grilled or toasted. Because Science. And I know it’s slightly heretical, but I only had a couple with honey… the rest I had with jam from the glorious Kate of Just Add Moonshine. Here you see one with Avalon – an apple and vanilla and pepper concoction; one with LOLA, which is cherry and rhubarb; and one with Cherry Velvet, which is cherry and vanilla and nobody better tell my darling that I ate it without him.

 

Flat bread

I’ve got very interested in baking bread over the last few years. I was introduced to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day some years back, and I’m still working my way through it. This week, though, I decided to try the flat bread recipe in Leanne Kitchen’s Turkey, which I have been enjoying for a long time now.

photo 2photo 1The recipe itself is very straightforward – just a normal bread recipe, with yeast and flour etc. Once the dough has risen and been punched back, you divide it into 12, roll them out and then cook them in a dry frying pan.

As you can see, when it starts to cook the dough gets bubbles in it. This is how the bread gets that pocket effect. I wasn’t expecting that, and I got a kick out of it every time. The recipe suggests cooking each side for about 3 minutes; I discovered very quickly that timing it was unnecessary, since once the dough collapsed back a bit it was ready to flip. Plus if you flip it too early and want to colour it up a bit more, there’s no harm in flipping it back once more.

These were very easy and I’ll definitely be making them again. I’m considering options for making them slightly more interesting; they tasted fine but a bit bland. It’s been suggested that I could spray them with oil and add garlic; I’m wondering whether adding garlic to the dough itself would change the dough’s properties too much. Perhaps thyme would be nice as well, and a bit lighter than garlic…