Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kitchen Diary with some Easter Baking

If you are a fan of fruity spicy buns I do hope you have either bought or made some some Hot Cross Buns for this Easter. There is nowhere in my town to buy good ones so making them is the only option, plus you get the divine smell of sweet spicy bread dough as they bake. If fruit buns are not for you then how about some thickly cut freshly toasted bread slathered with lemon curd for your Easter weekend breakfasts. In the UK Marks & Spencer and Waitrose both sell a very good 'fresh lemon' tasting version.

I currently have a good batch of hot cross buns in the freezer which will be defrosted on the Thursday night before Good Friday and then popped into a hot oven for about five minutes on Good Friday morning for a delicious breakfast. There are many recipes to be found for these classic buns, but for me a long time favourite has been one by the late Jane Grigson. This brilliant author's life is being celebrated this year as it is now 25 years since she passed away. I used to read her newspaper columns avidly, and have most of her books, although the paperbacks are now rather tatty. 

So here is a  link to Jane Grigson's Hot Cross Bun recipe which has been reproduced by blogger Marmaduke Scarlet. I do think bread recipes are fairly forgiving so leave out some of the spices or the candied peel if those are not to your liking, or you simply do not have nay in the house. I often cut back on the amount of sugar in sweet buns like these, often using only 50g of sugar to 500g flour and not always including an egg. Keep the dough quite soft adding extra milk/water if it is too firm. It will feel quite sticky as you start kneading but will become more cohesive and elastic as you develop the gluten by kneading. You do not have to do all the kneading in one go. You can leave the dough to relax for a short while and then come back and knead some more after say 20 minutes. The final proving of the shaped buns may well take more than 30 minutes and I usually allow another hour for this final rise but my kitchen is not kept very warm. The buns will be almost double in size when ready and will be just losing their resistance when you gently push into the dough with your finger.

Good Friday is also about fish and I had a lovely fish box delivered last week from a South Devon supplier:
The crab was eaten straight away and I had the scallops in a delicious chilli pasta the next night.
Pasta of seared scallops, white wine, butter, red chilli & fresh basil sauce

The rest went into the freezer and for Good Friday we will be having baked whole plaice. I was delighted that the plaice were a good size as all too often they are caught when they seem only half grown. I am looking forward to eating my way through the box which also included monkfish tails, large squid, gurnard, lemon sole fillets, red mullet and plaice fillets.

Easter, like Christmas, has to include some home made chocolates. I did far less this year than previously and forgot to photograph my chocolate lobsters but here are some bunnies and eggs:

The eggs were a thank you to a colleague who is a genius at fixing things and managed to sort out my Kenward chef mixer for me. I hope he enjoys the eggs as much as I will enjoy having my mixer back in action.

Quickly back to baking and here is the cake I made for a recent Clandestine Cake Club meeting with the theme of Easter cakes:
This is a genoise sponge layered with lemon curd and iced with white chocolate ganache. The bunny is created by placing a cookie cutter onto the cake and sprinkling the inside with desiccated coconut, gently pressing it down onto the icing. The tail is a halved large marshmallow pressed onto the cake, cut side of the marshmallow down. Gently remove the cookie cutter and you should be left with a good clean edged bunny image. Genoise is currently my favourite sponge for layer cakes as it is so light. I have only recently been having success making it after following the instructions in William Curley's book on Patisserie. I think the winning trick was to add some of the whisked batter to the melted butter and stir that together to distribute the butter before adding that mixture back to the main bowl. Previously tried recipes have instructed to drizzle the melted butter directly into the whisked sponge mixture. I always found the butter sank to the bottom of the bowl and in trying to stir it all in I ended up knocking all of the air out of the mixture, resulting in a rather heavy tough sponge. The basic instructions in this book are excellent so if anything in the pastry world has been defeating you I would suggest look in this book for help.

And to end here are a couple of my Easter bakes from previous years:

Animal Biscuits April 2014

German Easter bread - Aachener Poschweck

Wishing you a very enjoyable Easter break.