Saturday, April 23, 2011
I'm such a sucker for traditional holiday foods. And I don't mean meals and dishes that are tradition for my own family or culture. I love scouring the internet and my cookbooks for recipes that are traditionally made and consumed on any holiday or season, even if it isn't one that I happen to celebrate (which might help explain to my coworkers why I have a Jewish cookbook at my desk...). So I spent a few hours this morning looking up recipes to different breads that are traditionally baked for Easter and Passover such as Challah, Tsoureki and Italian Easter Bread. I still may try one of these over the weekend (seriously that Italian Easter Bread is gorgeous) but I really wanted something to do today while I was at home and nothing was open. So Hot Cross Buns seemed like the perfect thing! They commonly pop up in bakeries and grocery stores around Easter and are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the white cross on top being a symbol of the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Since it WAS Good Friday I was basically stuck with what I already had in the kitchen so I had to make a few substitutions and changes. I was light on yeast so I had to let the bread rise a little longer than usual (but I left the recipe as the "normal" amount). I also didn't have an orange but saw quite a few recipes using fruit peels or orange zest so I left it out but I also included in the recipe because I think it the citrus would add a really nice flavour. I definitely will include it next time! And I randomly added apple cider because my dough turned out a bit drier than I expected and I thought the apple flavour would go nicely with the spices.
Now I've never actually had a Hot Cross Bun. It's one of those things that always sound really good but when I see them in person I find I don't really want it. And I guess it's because they sound like they should be a sweet, sticky bun but really they are closer to a cinnamon-raisin bread in bun form with a glaze on top. I think the name is a bit deceiving. But you know what? They're really delicious! I can't believe I've held out so long. Slightly sweet and full of yummy spices, these are totally the kind of thing that sneak up on you. You might think they're "just ok" at first but pretty soon you're sneaking bits off the plate and can't stop. A little bit of work since there are a few glazing/icing steps but totally worth it, and the end result is so pretty! Good Friday might be over but there's still time to make these for Easter or really any other day of the week :)
So you may be wondering what I was doing baking Hot Cross Buns today when Lent isn't technically over until Sunday and as previously noted, I gave up baked treats for Lent. Yes, I cheated. But it was PLANNED! Adam and I spent the last week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and I never intended to try and keep it up while we were on vacation. And since I'm not actually doing it for religious reasons anyway, what does it matter right?? Anyway there's my excuse. I know it's pretty sketchy but at least I have something to write about!
Hot Cross Buns
adapted from the Guardian
200ml milk, plus a little more for the egg glaze
50 ml apple cider (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups bread flour
½ cup butter
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
125 g mixed dried fruit (I bought a mix that had california raisins, sultana raisins and dried cherries)
Zest of one orange
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp boiling water
1. Bring 200ml milk to a gentle boil with the cinnamon stick, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for up to 1 hour. I didn't actually have the patience to wait so I only let it sit for about 20 minutes, which is also why I added some more cinnamon to the recipe. I'm not really sure you *need* to infuse the milk but it's probably a nice touch if you have time. Heat back up until it's warm to the touch and mix the strained milk with yeast and 1 tsp sugar. Set aside.
2. Measure out AP and bread flours into a large mixing bowl and grate butter into the bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingers until it's well combined and then add the rest of the sugar, spices, salt and orange zest if you're using it. Stir until well mixed.
3. Separate one egg and set aside the yolk for the egg glaze. Beat the white and other whole egg slightly.
4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture. Stir in, adding the milk mixture and enough extra liquid (I used apple cider, you can use either water or more milk) to make a soft dough - it shouldn't look or feel dry. Knead for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels smooth and elastic, then lightly grease the bowl and put the dough into it. Cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – 1.5-2 hours.
4. On a lightly greased counter top, punch down dough and and knead for a minute or so and then flatten it out and scatter the fruit mix on top. Roll up like a cinnamon roll and knead again to spread the fruit around evenly. This might be a bit tricky so don't worry too much if the fruit keeps falling out of the dough...just push it back in!
5. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces and roll into bun shapes. Place on a greased cookie sheet and score a cross into the top of each with a sharp knife. Cover and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in size - about 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit or 220 degrees Celsius
6. Make the egg wash: Beat together the reserved egg yolk with a little milk. Make the icing: Mix the reserved flour with sugar and salt and enough cold water to make a stiff paste. Spoon icing mix into a piping bag or sandwich bag and cut a very small bit off the corner to make your own piping bag.
7. Paint buns with egg wash, and pipe a cross on top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until tops are golden.
8. While the buns are baking, mix 1 tbsp icing sugar with 1 tbsp boiling water. When the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the sugar glaze before transferring to a rack to cool.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Growing up, I was a Brownie, Girl Guide and Pathfinder which meant a lot of camping and more importantly, campfire food. There were s'mores, hotdogs and even cupcakes baked in an oven made with bricks and foil. And many foil packets. Now these always seemed like a fun and convenient meal but almost never turned out well. Most of the time the packets broke in the coals, or the veggies were raw by the time the meat was cooked. And even in a rare perfectly-cooked packet, they just didn't have a whole lot of flavour. I hope the Girl Guides have moved on to better meals by now!
Anyway, foil packets may not have worked out well at a campsite, but they're an easy and delicious way to cook some fish in the oven. I added some tomato sauce here and served over some fresh pasta from the market (YUM) but you don't need to...just cook with the veggies. You can use whatever vegetables you want but make sure they either cook quickly or have been pre-cooked to ensure they will cook through while in the oven.
Fish in Foil Packets
2 white fish filets or one large piece of fish (which is what I usually do)
1 handful of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 zucchini, sliced
1/2 lemon, cut into 2 wedges
salt and pepper
1 can San Marzano tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees or 204 degrees Celsius
1. Make the sauce: cook diced onions over medium heat in the olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat while you prepare the foil packets. Don't worry so much about the tomatoes completely breaking down it will be a bit easier if they still have some shape later.
2. Lay out one or two sheets of aluminum foil depending on how many fillets you're using. Make sure they're large enough to wrap the fish with some extra room. Place fish on the foil and top with spinach and zucchini, and any other veggies you are using.
3. Carefully spoon tomato sauce over the fish. I added mostly tomato chunks to the packet and reserved the rest to add later.
4. Season well with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
5. Fold up the short edge of the foil first and then roll up the long edge to create a sealed packet. Bake on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes or until the fish is opaque. Serve over pasta or rice with the remaining tomato sauce, as needed.