Sunday, 20 April 2014

Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you have been enjoying the long weekend. I haven't done much myself as yet, but have plans to go to a farm tomorrow and I've got my fingers crossed to see some lambs and rabbits! Today my boyfriend made a delicious roast dinner for us, whilst I made these Hot Cross Buns. They did take a while to make, which makes them perfect for a lazy Sunday bake. The results are definitely worth the effort - warm, sticky, spiced buns, yum yum. I followed a Paul Hollywood recipe to make the buns as it was my first attempt at making them, but I did make a few changes along the way...

I started with 500g strong white bread flour, 1 sachet yeast, 1 tsp salt and 75g caster sugar in a large bowl. I stirred them together.

In a small pan I heated up 300ml plus 2 tbsp milk, I used semi-skimmed. Once it was hot I took it off the heat, added 50g butter and left it to cool until it was warm enough to dip my fingers in without saying ouch!

I made a well in the flour mixture, and poured in the milk and butter as well as 1 beaten egg. I formed it into a dough, tipped it out onto a flour surface and kneaded for 5 minutes. It was extremely sticky! Hence why there are no photos as my hands and fingers were completely covered in dough goo. After 5 minutes of kneading I put the dough into an oiled bowl, covered it with oiled cling film, and left it in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

One hour later it had risen beautifully! I added 250g mixed dried fruit, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp all spice. I would have added more spices if I was at my flat, some nutmeg and ginger too for sure. I kneaded all the fruit it until mixed well, the recovered the oiled bowl with oiled cling film and returned it to a warm place for another 1 hour.

I removed the risen dough from the bowl and on a flour surfaced I cut it up until I had 16 pieces. I cut the dough in half, then each piece in half again and again until I had 16. You can weigh the pieces if you like. Paul's recipe recommends they are 75g each. I rolled them into balls and placed them on lined baking trays. I covered the trays again with oiled cling film, covered with a blanket (or you can use a tea towel) and left for 1 hour.

Just before the hour was up, I made the flour paste for the cross on the buns. I mixed 100g strong white bread flour with 5-6 tbsp water until a thick paste formed. I put it in a piping bag and snipped off the end.

The shaped dough had risen nicely! This is really the best part of making bread for me (well, except eating it).

I used the piping bag to draw the crosses along the shaped dough buns.

I baked the buns on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 - 20 minutes until dark golden brown on top. I almost forgot to take a photo of them as I was so eager to glaze them.

Just before they came out of the oven I warmed up some apricot jam on the hob, you can sieve it too if you want, but I didn't bother. When the buns came out of the oven, I brushed the jam on top to give them a lovely shiny and sticky sweet glaze.

The Hot Cross Buns turned out great, they were baked all the way through and tasted delicious! I scoffed one right after they came out of the oven and I'm looking forward to enjoying one for breakfast tomorrow. I really enjoyed making these and was really proud of how they turned out. It's nice to get the time to make a lengthy bake like this and enjoy the results. You could add different kinds of dried fruits, citrus zest, or even chocolate chips if you wanted, to this recipe for a variety of flavours!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Simnel Muffins (Sugar Free)

Seen as Easter is a time of gluttony and chocolate gorging, I thought it would be nice to make a sugar free treat! These tasty muffins are packed with fruit, topped with crunchy flaked almonds and are flavoured with cinnamon, almond extract and nutmeg for a delicious Easter flavour with a few less calories! If you fancy a guilt free Easter treat, here's what to do...

I used Natvia to make these muffins, which is a 100% natural sweetener I was sent recently to try out. It has absolutely zero calories and is also suitable for diabetics. Natvia is made from the Stevia plant, and unlike other sweeteners you can bake and cook with it. I've never thought of using a sweetener to lower the calories in my bakes so I was really interested to see what result I got!

I started by creaming together 185g Natvia and 185g butter. It looks and behaves exactly like regular caster sugar. Then I added 3 eggs and 1 tsp almond extract and whisked well.

I gently mixed in one medium sized grated apple, I used a gala apple as I think they are the sweetest. And 250g mixed dried fruit.

Finally I folded in 250g self raising flour along with 1 tsp mixed spice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 nutmeg and 1/4 ground ginger.

I spooned the mixture info 12 muffin cases and sprinkled some toasted flaked almonds on top.

I baked the muffins on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes until golden brown.

These muffins went down a treat with my colleagues and despite being healthy they disappeared just as fast as anything else I've made because they were so tasty! I didn't mention they had a sweetener in until the end and no one commented or noticed any difference and neither did I. I would definitely use Natvia again if I was making a healthier recipe.

I am entering these into Natvia's Sugar Free Bake Off. Please check our their Facebook page and vote for my recipe!

I am also entering them into Simply Food's 'Let's Cook Sweet Treats for Easter'.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Creme Egg Cupcakes

As the first of two short working weeks surrounding Easter approaches, I decided that it was time this weekend to start baking some Easter treats. I've been wanting to make something involving Creme Eggs ever since I saw Creme Egg brownies all over the place last year. I decided on cupcakes and found a recipe on Good Food Channel, however I found that I needed to make more batter than the recipe suggested, and I also used my tried and tested buttercream to top them with instead. Here's how I did it...

First things first - put 12 Creme Eggs in the freezer. I left them in there for about an hour to make sure they were fully frozen. This will stop them from melting when the cupcakes are baked.

To make the batter I creamed together 175g butter and 175g caster sugar. I added 3 beaten eggs, 2 tbsp milk and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and whisked well. Finally I folded in 150g self raising flour and 35g cocoa powder.

I put 12 cases into a muffin tin. I placed a teaspoon of batter into each case, then topped with a frozen Creme Egg.

I added about 2 more teaspoons of batter around the Creme Egg, then baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes. I left them to cool and made the buttercream using 340g icing sugar, 170g butter and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

When the cupcakes were fully cooled I used a pipingbag to swirl some buttercream on top and placed a mini Creme Egg, cut in half, on top.

When I cut a cupcake in half I was pleased to see the whole Creme Egg intact inside! These were a huge hit at a party I attended that evening, everyone was really impressed that there was a Creme Egg inside each cupcake. The cupcake was definitely a huge chocolate hit, but was very delicious and the vanilla buttercream makes sure the chocolate isn't over powering. A great Easter bake for the weekend and easy enough to make with the kids too!

Featuring such a classic Easter treat makes these cupcakes perfect for this month's Treat Petite baking challenge, run by myself and Cakeyboi, and this month hosted by Cakeyboi with a theme of "Spring into Easter".

I am also entering them into this month's Calendar Cakes challenge hosted by DollyBakes. This month's theme is Easter Bakes.