Tag Archives: chocolate

Hot cross buns- miles better than chocolate

Yesterday was a good day. My friend Nikki (www.underthelimetree.com) who runs a veggie b and b nearby had an open day in the garden of her hilltop home. We served tea and cake from our vintage eriba caravan while Nikki offered tasters of her wonderful massage skills. There was also tarot readings, art and photography classes to sign up to, pretty Indian scarves and jewellery to buy and best of all the sun shone all day long. I made a range of cakes and biscuits but the best seller of all were my hot cross buns made that morning. I could have made many more as I sold out quickly and the sadness was that I didn’t even get to taste a crumb. So it’s back to the kitchen to produce another batch and this time they will be all mine. I might just share one with my husband Mick as I have discovered a superstition that says sharing will ensure friendship throughout the coming year. As the saying goes ‘Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be’. Worth a try.
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday so you have a few days to get them made. Because I wanted them to be freshly baked yesterday I mixed and kneaded the dough the day before, then left it to rise for a couple of hours before shaping it into buns and leaving in the fridge overnight. In the morning I left them for another couple of hours on the kitchen table, then piped on the crosses and into the oven they went. The smell wafting through the house as they baked was delicious torture. Here’s my recipe which I promise you will taste a million times better than shop-bought and is sheer pleasure to make- I plan to toast and butter mine for Good Friday brekkie, then maybe another on Saturday and if there are any leftover on Sunday….

Hot cross buns
Makes 12
Dump the whole tray of buns, warm from the oven, onto the centre of the table for everyone to tear off and butter as they will. If you feel a baking urge now they will freeze beautifully and reheat well.
500g strong plain flour
½ tsp salt
85g light muscovado sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp nutmeg
50g butter
7g sachet easy blend yeast
140g mixed dried fruit
300ml half milk, half water
3 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp golden syrup

1 Mix the flour, salt, sugar and spices in a large bowl. Add the butter, cut into small pieces and rub in with your fingertips. Stir in the yeast and dried fruit. Heat the milk and water mix to lukewarm, then stir into the mixture to make a soft dough.
2 Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 mins until it is smooth and no longer sticky. Divide into 12 equal sized pieces and shape each into a small ball. Set in rows,a little apart, over a lightly buttered baking sheet. Cover with oiled polythene(a large food bag is perfect) and leave to rise for 2 hours.
3 Heat the oven to 200C/fan180C/Gas 6. Blend the flour in a small bowl with 2 tbsp cold water to make a smooth paste. Spoon into a small food bag and snip off the corner. Pipe a cross on top of each bun. Bake for 20-25 mins until the buns are nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
4 Remove to wire rack. Gently heat the syrup then brush thickly over the buns to serve.

hot cross bunsP1020549



There’s a zebra in the cake tin!



I have to admit I get obsessed with recipes. I might try something really good in a restaurant and spend the next couple of weeks trying to crack the dish, each time getting a little closer, but not happy until I get it right. It often means sleepless nights and a husband who tires of being my taster-in-chief. As he loves anything sweet no such complaints were heard when I decided to try my hand a making a zebra cake. It’s a big cake that’s a bit like a marbled cake but when you cut into it you find stripes instead of swirls. Last week my good friend Reza Mahammad came for tea to talk about the cookery school he is setting up near Cognac so I had the perfect excuse to give it a go. There are loads of recipes on the internet for this cake but most are in cup measures and none explain properly how to get perfect stripes- and only perfection will do where zebra cake is concerned. The cake I made for Reza worked out just fine and tasted brilliant, but the stripes became too thick in the centre of the cake. Zebra cake number two is for my sister Deirdre who arrives tomorrow. Sitting by the river with a cup of tea and a big slice of cake is just what she needs I reckon.

Zebra cake
Cuts into 16 generous slices

4 large eggs
200g caster sugar
200ml milk
200ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g self raising flour+ 2 tbsp
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange
100g dark chocolate
100ml double or whipping cream

1 Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Butter and line the base of a 22-23cm round cake tin with baking parchment.
2 Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until light and creamy, and the mixture leaves a trail which the whisk blades are lifted. Stir in the milk,oil and vanilla using the whisk blades until evenly mixed. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in using the whisk blades.
3 Spoon half the mixture into a separate bowl. Sift the cocoa into one bowl and stir to mix. Sift 2 tbsp flour into the other bowl, along with the orange zest and mix well.
4 Spoon 3 tbsp of the orange batter into the centre of the prepared cake tin. Allow to settle a little then spoon 3 tbsp chocolate batter carefully into the centre of the first batter. Continue in this way until half the batter is used up, then reduce the amount you add each time to 2 tbsp until all the batter is used.
5 Bake the cake for 35-45 mins, until the cake feels firm to the touch in the centre and springs back when gently pressed. Cool in the tin for 5 mins, then turn out, peel off the paper and cool on a wire rack.
6 To make the ganache finely chop the chocolate, then heat the cream gently in a small pan or the microwave. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until you have a smooth glossy sauce. If the chocolate is not completely melted return to a gentle heat for a few seconds, stirring all the time. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool, stirring occasionally until it is spreadable. Spread over the top of the cake and leave to set.