Monday, 26 March 2012

Hot Cross Bun Goodness...

I've been wanting to make these since Easter last year!  I was inspired by Fig & Cherry's review of the Bron Marshall recipe for Hot Cross Buns.  Today was the day that I finally pulled out the box of white bread mix from the pantry and kneaded my way to hot cross bun bliss.  I made a few little tweaks here and there and adapted it to what i had in my pantry.  I have to say I am mighty impressed with the result!

Hot Cross Buns
  • 1¼ cups of warm water
  • ½ cup of soft brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of dry active yeast
  • 4 cups of strong white flour
  • 2 tablespoons of milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup of dried currants
  • ½ cup of saltanas
  • 50 grams / 2 oz of butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup of extra flour
  • 1/3 cup of water
Add the warm water to a medium sized bowl and stir in the brown sugar until dissolved.
Sprinkle the yeast granules over the top and put aside.
Melt the butter and set aside.
In a large bowl or electric mixer sift the flour, milk powder, spices and salt and then add the dried fruits.
When the yeast mix is frothy add to the flour and fruit and pour in the melted butter. Mix to combine and knead by hand or in a mixer with a dough hook for about 8 minutes or until lovely and smooth.
Cover and set aside to at least double in size (2 hours or more).
Cut and shape 15 buns (I like to weigh mine for even sized buns!) and place in a warm lined or greased baking tin.
Place the buns in a warm place to continue rising for at least another hour, a little longer if possible.
Preheat the oven to 200°C, 390°F or gas mark 5½.
Gently brush the tops a little beaten egg wash.
Mix the remaining flour with enough water to make a firm ‘pipe-ible’ paste.
Using a piping bag or a small plastic bag with the point cut off, pipe the paste in lines across the buns to form the crosses.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until cooked through and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottoms.
Makes 16.

Hot cross buns are one of my favourite things.  I may have to make a few batches before we go away at Easter!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Lent Challenge

In addition to my lent challenge of reading the daily lectionary I have also decided to give up my two main addictions: coke and chocolate.  My decision was not based on what is going to benefit my health the most but rather to keep my attention toward the one that truely sustains me.  Its been almost 3 and so far so good.  It so happens though that giving up both may actually have some health benefits (who knew!)

10 Reasons to give up coke
  1. The sugar content.  10 teaspoons of sugar in 1 can is A LOT!
  2. Diabetes.  Having gone up to the APY lands I  have seen the extent of what the extra calories can do to your health.  If only I took a photo of the fridge in the store with the warnings for diabetics and its redirection towards the diet drinks
  3. Kidney and liver damage.  Again another thing I have seen in the APY lands.
  4. Dental health.  After visiting the dentist 3 times in one week and getting 1 major filling done, its really enough to put anyone off!  The acid in Coke eats away at tooth enamel
  5. Increased risk of osteoporosis.  Again this is related to the acid in Coke.
  6. Increased blood pressure.  I have a family history of this.
  7. Causes dehydration.  Ever said to yourself on a hot day, 'a Coke would be good about now.'?  Well take note of how thirsty you are next time after you have had one.
  8. Causes cell damage.  I have actually heard somewhere that it will make you look older.
  9. Toxins contained in the drink. These can be broken down in the body and turned into carcinogens which are cancer causing.
  10. Its unethical!  I really dont want to support dodgy work environments, poor pay or slave/child labour.

10 Reasons to give up chocolate
  1.  Again with the sugar.  Even dark chocolate contains a fair amount.
  2. Palm oil.  Its not good for you and its production means that rainforrests are being culled to make way for the plantations.
  3. Many cocoa plantations use slave/child labour to havrvest their crop.  Conditions are dodgy and pay is barely enough to feed the child or their family.
  4. Dental health
  5. Diabetes.  We have so many processed foods that contribute to this health problem
  6. It can become addictive 
  7. ....
Ok, so maybe it's not so easy to find really good legitimate reasons to give up chocolate.  I have noticed that i have lost a little weight but that is not enough to make me give up chocolate forever. Infact a lot of what I have been reading is all pro chocolate!  My  advice to those wanting to give up chocolate and coke:  GIve up the Coke, be ethical about chocolate consumption.
What I've given up isn't the focus, it's what I've gained.  Denying myself of the luxuries  keeps me focused on God and His amazing work.  This has been an incredible journey so far.

Coffee Syrup

Tonight my brother and his wife are coming over for tea.  I sat down with Andrew and worked out a rough menu.  Mains: Roast Sammy (the ex-cow from Andrew's parent's place at Mylor) with veggies.  Dessert: a Jamie Oliver Banoffe pie.  We have some beautiful overripe bananas just waiting to be turned into something delicious!
The banoffe pie recipe calls for something called Camp Coffee.  I wasn't real sure what Camp Coffee was but I can imagine that it would be some sort of coffee syrup.  I started thinking about walking down to the local shopping centre to get some Bickford's Coffee Syrup.  Then I started thinking about all the coffee we have in our cupboards.  'Surely I could make my own,' I thought.  So I went to work and found a recipe for Coffee Syrup.  I'll let you know how the banoffe pie turns out later.

Coffee Syrup

3/4 cup Sugar
1 1/2 cup Coffee (I used a generous amount of ground coffee in my plunger)

Heat the coffee and sugar on a medium to high heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Turn the temperature down and simmer until the mixture reduces and becomes syrupy.  Keep checking  to ensure you get the perfect consistency.  How thick you want the syrup is up to you.  For me it was about 25 minutes.  The mixture should yield about 1 cup of syrup.  Store in a clean jar or container in the fridge.  Use in iced coffee, on ice cream or whatever recipe you choose to make that includes a coffee syrup.

Excuse me while I make myself a iced coffee...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

I've had a butternut pumpkin sitting in the crisper in the fridge for the last two weeks.  I figured it was about time that it found a home in some sort of cooking.  Scrolling through recipes I found a great recipe for pumpkin muffins.  Lots of sweet pumpkin recipes call for canned pumpkin.  Not that I've actually been looking but I have never found canned pumpkin in the stores.  Anyway, not to be defeated by the fact that my pantry doesn't posses canned pumpkin I found a great way to make the most of my beautiful butternut and made my own and more than likely better version of the canned stuff. 

So if you do want to attempt this recipe and don't have the canned pumpkin this is how I made it.

Pumpkin Puree
Set the temperature on you oven to 150 degrees.  Cut 1/2 of a butternut pumpkin into pieces with the skin still attached.  Place pumpkin in a baking tray with 1/4 inch of water.  Bake in the oven for at least and hour or until pumpkin is soft.  Remove skin (this should be easy to do) and puree with a stick mixer.

Another hurdle I came across was that I have never heard of pumpkin pie spice.  I googled again and found the recipe here.  All it involved is cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg.  Most stuff I guess you would find tucked away in your pantry so save yourself the expense!

Ok, now we can get to the fun part.

Pumpkin Muffins.
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see above link)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I didn't have any brown sugar so I used 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/3 cup golden syrup)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (see recipe above)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (1/3 cup of milk with 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar left for 5 minutes)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 210 degrees. Sift flour and baking soda into a large bowl.  Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Make a well in the centre and add the rest of the ingredients and fold in until just combined.  Place into 18 greased muffin tins.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Always important to taste test!
Guaranteed you will never look at pumpkins the same way again!