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Easter Treats #3 8 April 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Easter, Happiness.
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It’s been a while since my last Easter Treats, but it’s ok, as Easter is still some time away.

Today, I am introducing an Australian classic – although I understand it may have British origins. Enjoy.

As I realise that some people are struggling with their doughs, I’ll give you a fool-proof way of making dough. If you are pretty set on how to make dough, or if you have your own method, skip ahead to the bold part (which is just after the second lot of rising the dough).

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:
– 40 g butter
– 300 ml milk
– 14 g dry yeast
– 50 g sugar
– 500 g flour (about)
– 1.5 tsp mixed spice
– pinch of salt
– 200 g dried currants (or raisins if you must, both are optional!)
– 2 eggs, lightly beaten

– 110 g plain flour
– 4-5 tbs water

– 2 tbs sugar
– 1/3 cup water

Makes 15, 190 degrees, 20-25 minutes

Method:
– Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
– Add the milk, and heat for about a minute, to make it luke warm.
– Tip: when you dip your pinky in the milk and butter mix, you should not feel heat or cold.
– Pour the milk and butter in a large bowl. Add the sugar. If you have fresh yeast, keep some of it aside, and crumble the yeast in until dissolved, then add to the rest of the mixture. With dry yeast, put it directly into the bowl.
– Tip: Adding the sugar to the lukewarm milk and butter will give you the optimal conditions for your yeast to grow. Yeast feeds on sugar, but salt retards it. Yeast, being a fungus, also likes 37 degrees, so the lukewarm milk kick starts the yeast function. If it is too cold, the yeast will take too long to rise the dough, if it is too warm, it will kill the yeast.
– Put 4 heaped tablespoons of the flour into a bowl, add the salt and mixed spice. Mix together. Doing this will ensure that the dough will be evenly spiced, and the slat will not cause the yeast to stop it’s process.
– Add the flour and spice mixture to the liquid mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon.
– Tip: at this point, the mixture will create big lumps. Don’t worry, you will knead these out later.
– Add the flour bit by bit, until it is too heavy to stir with the spoon.
– Tip the whole dough onto the bench.
– Add the currants (if using) and the egg, then start kneading the dough. Every time it starts sticking to your hands, add more flour.
– Knead until smooth.
– Place back in the bowl, and leave to rise in a warm, dry place for 1-1.5 hours, or until twice the size.
– Tip: Cover the bowl with a clean, wet kitchen towel (cloth) to prevent the top of the dough from drying out. Some prefer to use glad wrap for this.
– Knead quickly again, then divide into 12-15 pieces.
– Roll into buns, place on a baking paper clad baking tray, cover with the wet kitchen towel, and leave to rise for another 30 minutes. It’s ok to put them close enough that when they rise, they touch each other!
Turn on the oven to pre heat. If it is a very old oven, you may have to do this earlier.
– While you are waiting for the buns to rise, make the flour paste: mix the flour and water in a small bowl until smooth.
– Spoon the paste into a snap-lock bag. Snip off 1 corner of the bag, to create a piping-bag. If you have a piping bag, you can of course use it, only make sure you use a small sized piping tip. Pipe strips of paste over the buns to form crosses.
– Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they sound hollow when you tap them on the bottom.
– Make the glaze by adding sugar and water in a small saucepan on low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then boil for 5 minutes. Brush the glaze over the hot crossed buns while they are still warm.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Hot cross buns are best when fresh, but they can also be frozen.

If you make the currant variety, and want to do something a little more fancy (but non-traditional, and some would say controversial!) you may want to ditch the glaze, and brush the tops of the buns with warm apricot jam.

Enjoy!

 

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Easter treats #1 24 March 2011

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Easter, Happiness, Life.
Tags: , , , , ,
4 comments

Easter is rapidly approaching, and I never had the chance to share my Easter recipes with you! Have a look at my previous post on descriptions of my Easter growing up, great memories, and lots of good food. And, as I say at the end of that post: it meant family above all.

My dad and I would often bake together for Easter, so I will share his recipes with you first. We would eat these buns for Easter breakfast, just like little baguettes.

Pistoletjes

Ingredients:
500 g flour
25 g yeast (fresh, or 1 sachet of dry yeast)
10 g salt
3 g caster sugar
200 g water
rice flour
12 g butter
8 g sugar

Method:
– Make the dough, leave it to rise for 30 minutes. (For tips on making a dough, see here)
– Knead, divide the dough into 15, and roll into round buns.
– Leave again under a damp towel in a warm place for 30 minutes.
– Sprinkle riceflour over the top. Use a chopstick to make a crease along the middle of the bun (take care to not cut through the dough, but there should be two distinct mounds of dough barely attached.
– Rise for another 20 minutes
– Place a large oven proof dish of water in the bottom of the oven before turning it on, then preheat it to 230 degrees.
– Leave the container of water, and bake the pistoletjes for 15 minutes. (With steam)
– Remove the water, bake for another 10 minutes.

Easter Postponed 8 April 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Easter, Life.
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After all my good intentions and amazing plans for a happy, baky Easter, I am finding myself crashing on a floor in London at my brother’s place, blogging from the inside of an orange sleeping bag amongst a whole lot of dog hair.

Due to a family emergency, I had to dash off just before Easter to Europe. And, although sad, it has been a wonderful time.

For me, being around my family means an opportunity to regroup, to reassess and to establish, yet again, what is important to me. I love my family for this. I have long, deep talks with my mum about everything. I have beers and good food with my brother. And my dad and I always reconnect in a way you just cannot over the phone.

And reassessing my life, I have come to the conclusion that I am where I want to be. I am ready to go back to Vietnam and to do even better in my job. I miss my partner and cannot wait to see him. I feel that I am making the right choices for myself.

It is amazing how only a few, measly weeks allow you to see so clearly. Being removed from everyday life makes you better at understanding it. And yes, there are things that drive me nuts about Vietnam. But what an opportunity, what an adventure, what an amazing experience!

But today, I am off to enjoy London.

Easter Nostalgia 24 March 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Easter, Life.
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As a follow up on my post in November last year relating to my childhood Christmas memories, I thought I should make a similar one relating to Easter.

Yet again, these traditions are a bit of a mixed bag – all adopted from the different cultures I have grown up in. But they all contributed to a real “Easter Spirit”, something I have not really felt since leaving home so many years ago.

Easter used to equate to two weeks off from school, so it meant something to us, even though we did not actually partake in the whole Christianity rituals.

Leading up to Easter, we used to decorate boiled eggs by either painting them, or by boiling them in coloured water (beet root or onion peel, etc). At home, we used to have a little egg mill that would allow you to paint all around without getting too much paint on your fingers. But to decorate eggs like this, you need white eggs. And it was not until my partner’s little sister came to visit one Easter in Australia that I realised that finding white eggs there is practically impossible! And she underlined that sentiment (after I had finally located some) by admitting to that being her first time to ever see a white hen’s egg!

For the actual Easter Sunday mornings, we used to have elaborate breakfasts, with tablecloths (only came out a couple of times a year) and little fluffy chicks decorations (like the one below), eggs, breads, buns, stolls and chocolate.

Before breakfast could start, however, we would have to go egg hunting. In the Netherlands, the eggs would be hidden around in the garden (and my earliest memory of hunting for them was at my parents friends’ house, where I chucked a tantrum because I could not find them fast enough, and my brother, who was two year’s older, would find them all! Ah, the glory of sibling rivalry. In Norway, however, it was simply too cold to have real eggs outside, so they were hidden all through the living room instead.

After finding all the eggs, and placing them carefully on our ‘egg tree’, which was basically a carton structure for the eggs, we could sit down and eat as a family.

The Norwegians have a similar tree tradition – but they blow the insides out of raw eggs before decorating them, then they hang them up on twigs of pussywillow. You can also tie colourful feathers to these twigs for added pizazz. Plants in general are very important to me for Easter – especially flowers. Daffodils, Crocuses, Snowbells and the above-mentioned pussywillows. Hyacinths and Tulips as well.

But we never got on the bandwagon of the other major Norwegian traditions: a week skiing in the mountains; crime novels; and kvikk lunsj. We did like to watch the Easter quizzes on TV, though.

Back to the breakfast tradition; For breakfast, everything is tastefully arranged and very special. No eating in your undies on Easter morning! Both my brother and I would receive a large agg (ours were cardboard, but I have recently seen some metal ones that I really want) full of small, chocolate eggs from HEMA (bliss!). Grandma used to send them to us, and each colour used to have a different praline filling. They were (and still are) pure heaven.

Ode to the HEMA chocolate eggs:

All those recipes I intend to share on this blog over the next few days, have no fear! So until then – enjoy your Easter, for whatever it means to you! For me, it meant family above all.