Recipes

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns! 

It’s Easter weekend here in Australia. I’m not religious but I am culturally Christian and to me Easter means spending time with family and friends, eating chocolate and enjoying the autumn weather.

Traditional Easter food in Australia almost always includes lamb, maybe some fish. Chocolate Easter eggs, bunnies and chickens are a favorite with the kids and everyone has their preference, be it a Cadbury cream egg, a Lindt bunny or artisan chocolate in flavours like salted caramel.

But one thing that almost all Aussies love is the hot cross bun. Traditionally these are spicy and filled with currants and mixed candied fruit peel. In the last few years though, chocolate hot cross buns have become really popular. They appear in the supermarkets in early January and by the time it’s Lent all the bakeries have them too.

This year I have been baking sourdough bread using a starter from Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. I’ll post about my bread making adventures one of these days soon, but for now I’ll talk about making hot cross buns. Celia has an easy recipe for sourdough buns that became my starting point. But because  my kids far prefer the chocolate hot cross buns I tinkered with the recipe, adding dried cranberries instead as well as a good handful of chocolate chips.

With sourdough, the proving takes a lot longer, so I got the starter going the day before and let it rise overnight. Luckily they don’t take long at all to cook. And even less time to eat, especially with three hungry kids and a husband hovering around the kitchen looking hopeful.



Sourdough hot cross buns with cranberries and chocolate 

Makes 12 buns

200g sourdough starter (at 166% hydration i.e. fed at ratio of 1c flour to 1c water)

160ml milk at room temp (I used light milk as that’s what I had)

500g bakers flour

8-10g fine sea salt

60g brown sugar

0.5 tsp ground cinnamon

60g butter, melted and cooled

2 large free range eggs

100g dried cranberries

Zest from one orange

50g choc chips or chopped chocolate

Cross: 2tb self raising flour mixed with 2tb water

Glaze: 2tb milk and 2tb sugar, plus a dash of vanilla paste
Combine all of the dough ingredients except the chocolate in a large bowl. Use hands to squelch it all together until a rough dough forms — it’s quite a stiff dough. Cover with plastic wrap and sit for about 30 minutes. Then knead dough for 1-2 minutes in the bowl, cover again and leave overnight.

Preheat oven to 240c. Tear off a piece of baking paper big enough to line a metal rectangular baking dish (about 23 X 20cm) — no need to cut it to shape, just fold in the corners loosely.

Turn dough out onto floured bench. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Fold the outside thirds over the middle and repeat several times to knead the dough and mix the chips in. Cut into 12 pieces, roll each into a ball and place into baking dish in 4 rows of 3. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest in a warm place.

Allow buns to rise for 30-60 mins, then pipe the cross paste across each bun. Spritz the buns with water and put into oven, immediately turning temperature down to 220C (with fan). Bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes.

While the buns are baking, combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Brush the glaze generously over buns while hot, wait a couple of minutes and brush a second coat over. Cool on a rack.

Eat with lashings of butter!

Notes:
1. Feed your starter a couple of times to get it ready. With my starter I feed 1/2 cup with 1/4 cup each of bakers flour and filtered water at about lunchtime. In the late afternoon I feed again with 1/2 cup each of flour and water. I set the dough up mid evening, when the starter is very bubbly.

2. If you don’t have a starter, you can make the buns with yeast instead. I haven’t done that though, so you’ll need to find a recipe yourself!

3. When you roll the buns into a ball, try to keep most of the fruit and chocolate inside the bun as they burn easily.

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Recipes

Christmas treats for everyone

Well, Christmas has come and gone, the leftovers are have been eaten (or stored in the freezer), the tree has been undecorated, and the wrapping paper is in the recycling bin. But I did promise to share my recipe for the best chocolate truffle slice ever, and I’m going to start off with a recipe for a super quick and easy sweet treat.

This treat is something I found on Pinterest and made for my younger daughter to take on her last day of school as a birthday treat (her birthday is in late December) to give her class mates instead of cupcakes. You could even pop these onto the side of a mug of hot chocolate to pep up a warm treat!

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There’s no real recipe for this one, simply poke a candy cane into each marshmallow, dip the bottom of the marshmallow into a bowl of melted chocolate, and roll in crushed up candy canes (it’s quite therapeutic banging away at a zip-lock bag of candy canes with a rolling pin!). The chocolate sets quite quickly and they can be piled up in a bowl, or if the marshmallow is big enough (mine weren’t) stood up on their bases.

Now, back to that chocolate raspberry truffle slice. It’s amazing. I kid you not. The only thing that stops me from gobbling the whole lot down in one sitting is that it is so incredibly rich, that I physically can’t eat more than a couple of pieces at a time.  And it’s easy too. The hardest part is sieving out the seeds from the raspberry mixture.

Now, you will need to seek out fresh raspberries for this one, as the frozen variety tend to be a little too juicy. Sadly, that means it’s not going to be particularly suitable for the Northern Hemisphere at Christmas, but I urge you to think about making it when raspberries are at their peak! Use a good quality dark chocolate too, it’s definitely worth it.

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Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Slice

Adapted from a recipe first published in Australian Gourmet Traveller, December 2006.

Makes approximately 60 squares

300g fresh raspberries
200ml pouring cream
50ml Framboise
600g dark chocolate
Dutch process cocoa (optional)

Combine 200g raspberries with the cream and Framboise in a small saucepan, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Process in a food processor and then pass through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.

Clean and dry the food processor and add chocolate, broken into chunks. Process until the chocolate is finely chopped.

Transfer the sieved mixture to a clean saucepan and bring back to the boil. With the motor running, pour the raspberry-cream mixture into the food processor and process until smooth.

Pour about half of the chocolate mixture into a baking paper-lined 20cm X 30 cm tray. Scatter the remaining raspberries evenly across the tray and pour over the rest of the chocolate mixture. Use a spatula to make sure the top is smooth and the depth is relatively even.

Refrigerate overnight, then use a warm knife to cut the truffles into squares and if desired dust with cocoa. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Notes:

1. I find that if I want to double this recipe I really need to do two batches, as that much liquid won’t fit into my food processor.

2. Sieving the raspberry-cream mixture is difficult. If your sieve has very small holes, it can help to sieve it through a coarser sieve first. And a spoon is useful to gently push the liquid through the sieve too.

3. The original recipe called for dark chocolate with 57% cocoa solids. I can’t always get this percentage, so sometimes I mix two different dark chocolates, say a 50% and a 70% to get a good flavour.

4. If the raspberries are large, they can be gently broken apart (NOT crushed) before scattering over the chocolate mixture.

5. In theory this will last in the fridge for up to a month if stored in an airtight container. I challenge you to keep it for that long!