Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter and Hot Cross Buns

Does writing this post whilst sitting in the passenger seat of a car make me a real blogger? Or just an obsessed blogger who doesn’t know when to let go and enjoy the weekend sunshine? I’ll be doing that in a minute but I first wanted to post something for Easter. Although I think it is important to remember Christ’s death and resurrection all year round, I do like taking time out during the year specifically to spend time focusing on it. I’m currently rereading a book called What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey, which is a timely reminder of God’s amazing grace - such an integral part of what Easter celebrates.

Every year I’ve meant to try making my own hot cross buns and I finally got round to doing so this Easter. Part of the motivation, I must confess, was this blog – an Easter recipe just seemed appropriate and almost necessary. My first attempt at these did not go well and the hot cross buns were doughy and not all that nice texture-wise, although the flavour was good, which is why I didn’t post this recipe on Good Friday as I had originally planned to. My excuse for not posting this recipe yesterday is technical difficulties. Today, hopefully, things will work more efficiently (both me and the computer…) My second attempt at hot cross buns, which entailed various modifications on my first experimental go, turned out pretty well and I think I may just have started an Easter tradition of making our own. The true test of how good they are will come this afternoon when people other than J might taste them. Don’t be put off by the double-rising – these hot cross buns actually need very little hands-on time.

I hope you all have a happy Easter celebrating Christ, the risen Lord.


What you’ll need:

3 cups plain flour

Pinch salt

1 ½ cups dried mixed fruit

¼ cup castor sugar

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons ground mixed spice

1 package fast action yeast

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon butter

For the top of each hot cross bun you’ll also need:

½ cup flour

3-4 tablespoons cold water

Additional milk to brush over hot cross buns before they go into the oven

What to do:

1. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, spices and dried mixed fruit.







2. Put half the milk (1/2 cup) in a saucepan with the butter and bring to boiling point, stirring gently to ensure that all the butter has melted.



3. Pour the milk and butter back into the measuring cup and fill to the top with cold milk.


4. Add the milk/butter to the flour mixture and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for one to two hours.


5. When the dough has risen, knead it on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into twelve and roll each piece into a ball. Place all the balls on a greased baking tray and cover with a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for one to two hours again.


6. When the hot cross buns have risen, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5. Mark a cross shape on the top of each bun with a butter knife and brush the tops of them with milk.


7. Mix the ½ cup of flour with 3 tablespoons of cold water and mix thoroughly. Slowly add a little more water if needed to bring the flour and water mixture to an easy consistency for piping. Pour the flour and water mixture into a freezer bag and cut a small hole in one corner, and then pipe crosses onto the top of each bun.





8. Bake the hot cross buns in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes to half an hour, or until browned on top and cooked. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack before tucking in.



Sunday, 17 April 2011

Chocolate Mousse

I never thought I'd say this, but I have well and truly had enough chocolate (until an Easter egg is presented to me next weekend). I've previously mentioned that I help with a pensioners' lunch club at church, and the dessert for the last one was a chocolate mousse. However ... many chocolate mousse recipes use raw eggs, which were considered 'not advisable' for health and safety reasons. So my task was to come up with a chocolate mousse recipe which did not use raw eggs and which delivered taste relatively cheaply. A quick google of chocolate mousse threw up various options including ingredients such as cream, evaporated milk and marshmallows. It took more attempts than I care to remember, a fridge full of chocolate mousse (and some in the freezer - I'm not sure how that's going to turn out when we try eat it) and a hopefully (definitely) temporary aversion to chocolate, brought on by overexposure before I finally came up with a recipe that tasted good, had a light texture and was reasonably priced. Having gone through all of that, there was no way I wasn't going to get a blog post out of it. So even though I may not be eating chocolate mousse for the foreseeable future, here's a recipe to try if you fancy some and don't want to eat raw eggs. Make the chocolate mousse at least a few hours before you need it, and preferably the day before. This recipe makes six to eight servings.


What you’ll need:

410g can of evaporated milk (make sure it is not the light version)
100g milk chocolate
4 leaves gelatine
5 rounded dessertspoons of white sugar
6 rounded dessertspoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
300ml double cream

What to do:

1. Cut up the four leaves of gelatine roughly and soak the gelatine in the evaporated milk for a few minutes in a heatproof bowl or top of a double boiler whilst boiling water for the double boiler or to go in a saucepan below the bowl. You may need to push the gelatine fully down into the evaporated milk to make sure it is all reasonably well covered as it soaks. And yes, I am aware I used a soup spoon in the photo below…it was just the first spoon that came out the draw.

IMG_8076 IMG_8078


2. Roughly chop the chocolate. Start heating the evaporated milk and gelatine over a saucepan of boiling water or in a double boiler for a few minutes before adding the chopped chocolate. Stir occasionally whilst the chocolate and gelatine are melting to stop a skin forming on the top of the evaporated milk.

IMG_8080 IMG_8082

IMG_8084 IMG_80873. Once the chocolate and gelatine have melted and been thoroughly mixed in to the evaporated milk, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the sugar and cocoa powder into the mixture, adding one spoon of sugar and one of cocoa powder at a time and mixing thoroughly before adding the next spoon until it is all incorporated.

IMG_8089 IMG_8091

4. Leave the mixture to cool for 20 to 30 minutes (I did this in the fridge). Don't worry if it starts to set a bit during that time - just make sure it doesn't set fully.

5. Once the mixture is cool, beat it with an electric beater for 10-15 minutes until it becomes thick and creamy and its volume increases to double (roughly) what it was. I transferred the mixture to a taller bowl before I started beating it as it seemed to splatter very easily and enthusiastically at this stage. Make sure that any bits that have started to set are thoroughly beaten in.

This was before beating…IMG_8094

And this was after beating…IMG_8096
6. Add the cream and vanilla essence to the bowl and continue beating with an electric beater, thoroughly incorporating all the cream, until the mixture reaches firm-peak stage. The peaks at this stage weren't quite as firm as when one beats cream or egg whites by themselves, but there were small firm peaks. Be careful when you get to this stage - if you beat it for slightly too long, the mixture may separate. If this happens, the chocolate mousse should still set and taste good but it might not look as pretty.




7. Spoon into glasses and refrigerate. This is yummy served with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate pieces.


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Rainbow Cake and Mother’s Day

I had been toying with the idea of making a rainbow cake for quite a few months and was giving it serious consideration for Mother’s Day when my sister provided the final ‘will-definitely-give-it-a-go’ last week in the form of a pretty photo of a rainbow-painted house on her blog. To make it, I multiplied my vanilla cupcake recipe by two and a half, reducing the overall quantity of flour slightly, and then divided the mixture into seven bowls to colour the seven different colours of the rainbow. The first colour I did was red and it seemed to go okay – not brilliantly, but okay. Things went a little awry after the second colour, which looked like it might end up a browny colour unknown to any rainbow. I decided to bake the first two coloured batches anyway and then re-divide the remaining (as yet uncoloured) mixture into seven and try colouring it again. The second attempt at colouring went much better than the first and the first attempt turned out not to be as awful as I thought, so I ended up with nine layers of coloured cake. The first attempt at red actually looked a bit better than the second so I decided to sandwich the two together with a very thin layer of icing. The layer that I thought would turn into a browny colour actually turned into a variant of blue (though still one unknown to any rainbow) and I was debating whether to include it or not when J walked into the kitchen, saw the height of my stack of cakes, and encouraged me to put every layer into the cake and make it as high as possible. I duly did so and ended up with a leaning (though only slightly) tower of cake which I covered well with vanilla icing to hide the rainbow layers.


My poor Mum knew that the cake contained a surprise, and expected it to be something unpleasant, so was very happy when this is what her surprise turned out to be:


Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. You are the best. Without your patience with our ‘experiments’ and encouragement to cook and bake when we were growing up, I would never have had the courage and confidence to try new things in the kitchen or to make up my own recipes (which all the recipes on this blog are, except where otherwise stated).

Friday, 1 April 2011

Fridge Poetry: A Night Disaster

J and I were woken up in the early hours of yesterday morning to a mini-flood coming from the boiler. The flood was eventually stemmed, thanks largely to J’s valiant efforts, but there was a bit of seepage through the floor to the ceiling of our lounge and we had no hot water for a morning. I’d love to be able to get really deep and selfless at this point and say how blessed we are to even have hot water when there are people in the world who don’t even have running cold water (which I know we are). Yesterday morning, however, I’m ashamed to admit that my primary thoughts revolved around the personal inconvenience caused this incident … except the moments when I was inspired to write a little poem about our ‘night disaster’ with our fridge poetry, which I thought I’d share here. Please excuse the state of some of the pieces – we’ve had the set for quite a while now. And please imagine punctuation – sadly the kit doesn’t come with such niceties.