Friday, April 22, 2011

Fast and Delicious Hot Cross Buns

Good Friday always seems to sneak up on me, and with 4 kids and a non-profit to run I rarely have times these days for those lovely fermented slow rise bread recipes any more. Even most traditional hot cross buns recipes with the hour and a half rise time aren't fast enough.

This morning I combined a single rise bun recipe I love with about 3 different hot cross buns recipes to bring you this. Hot cross buns in about an hour.


1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
4-5 cups flour (whole wheat, white, whatever you want. I used winter wheat this morning)
1 tbsp yeast
3 heaping tbsp of sugar (or evaporated cane juice)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (Or add in equal amounts cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger. You can't really have to much spice.)
Zest of one orange
Zest of one lemon
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, currants, cranberries, apricots, etc.)
2 jumbo eggs

for the crosses
1/3 cup of white flour
2 tbsp sugar
juice of half a lemon

eggwhite and 1 tbsp water.

In a saucepan melt the butter. Once melted before it browns add milk and water. Turn off burner. Test the temperature, you want it to be between 110 F and 120 F. Warm or cool as needed.

In a mixing bowl combine 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt, spices, zest and dried fruit. Stir. (My kids like to take turns measuring and adding these ingredients. Also, I got the older ones to do the zesting for me.)

Separate one egg, save the white for the glaze. Add the yolk and the other egg. Add the butter, milk and water. Stir until smooth. Add the remaining flour in small amounts, knead when too stiff to stir. Keep adding flour until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.

Break dough in half. Break both halves in half again. Break the quarters into 8ths and then the 18ths into 16ths. One more time, break them in half until you have 32 dough balls. Don't worry, they get bigger.

Pinch the dough balls together on the bottom so they're round. (I don't know why, it's how my mother did it so I must also. Kids like this part too.) Lay them out on a large greased baking sheet in rows of 4. It's okay if they are close together. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise. (about 30-45 minutes)

While the buns are rising you can make the mixture for the crosses. Now, most recipes say to use flour and water, my mother always used icing instead for the special factor. I'm compromising and its brilliant, if I do say so myself, and much more tasty than the traditional version.

Cross mixture
Stir together the flour and sugar. Add the lemon juice gradually, a little at a time and stir. Stop as soon as you have all the dry ingredients incorporated but while it's still really thick. Put the paste in an icing bag or piping tube. Don't worry if you don't have one. A  plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner will do. Just twist it like and icing bag on top so the paste doesn't squeeze out. Now we draw crosses. (wait until the buns have risen If your rows are fairly even you can just start at one side of the pan and draw a straight line across a row of buns. Do the next and all the way to the end. Then turn the pan and draw a line down the rows. You should have crosses. If not, do what you have to to make sure you do.

Mix the egg white and the water. Use a pastry brush to brush over the buns. Be gentle around the paste crosses so you don't smear them. The glaze makes them shiny and golden on the outside.

Bake at 400F for 10-12 minutes.

Now the best part. Eat them as soon as they are cool enough to touch. Don't forget the butter. :)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Recipe of Love ~ Welcoming Children into the Kitchen

How child-friendly is your kitchen?

By child-friendly, I am not referring to filling the cupboards full of toys, or hiding all the knives. I am talking about welcoming your children into the world of food preparation, and inviting them to be a part of all the sights and aromas.

So often, our culture relegates children to the "safe" play areas while adults hurriedly complete the now mundane tasks of making dinner. And yet, there are few things more natural and satisfying than slowing down and including children in the creative process of meal preparation.

Even very young children, three and four years old, can wash lettuce, dump pre-measured ingredients into a bowl, stir batter, and grease pans.

As they get a little older, teach them how to slice fruits or vegetables using knives, carefully stir hot things on the stove, roll out dough, and preheat the oven.

While all my children are welcome in the kitchen, each week one child is assigned specifically to be my helper, beginning around age seven. This is when they receive one on one instruction. I do not set aside extra time in my day to show them how to make one thing from a recipe. Instead, almost every weekday evening, they assist me in creating an entire meal, from start to finish.

This is an important point, because knowing how to make just one dish is quite different from the ability to prepare a full dinner. Seeing and being a part of the the process repeatedly, they slowly become accustomed to knowing how all the parts work together; that the roast needs to go in way ahead of time, when to begin steaming the vegetables, and allowing enough time for the rolls to rise.

Several things can be happening at once; food in the oven, food on the stove, food being chopped, stir the gravy, check the chicken, check the rice, whoops we're out of this ingredient so we'll have to use this instead, how about if we add this, don't you love the smell of this spice, how many 1/4 cups are in one cup, and on and on.

I admit, there are times that the goof-ups during the learning curve can be quite frustrating. Hang in there. It'll pay off, big time. At age nine, my oldest daughter was able to make full meals (for example; salad, roast chicken, rice, vegetables, and homemade bread) completely on her own. Believe me, this was beyond wonderful when I had a newborn baby to tend to.

There are some occasions when I just need to get something quickly accomplished (surprise guests coming!) and do not have the time, or patience, to include them every step of the way. When this happens, they are allowed to remain in the kitchen to watch if they keep quiet and keep their hands to themselves. Usually, I end up asking for their help anyways.

I encourage you to make your children's presence in the kitchen just a regular part of your life. You'll teach them quite a bit, sure. But you'll learn a lot more.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cranberry Chutney

Still have some cranberries? This is the other holiday recipe I look forward to all year long.

I crave the surprising blend of sweet and tart! It's a delicious addition to meat and fish, but my favorite way to eat is on a cracker with a bit of cream cheese. Get creative!

Cranberry Chutney

In a saucepan, simmer for 5 minutes:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
Then add:
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries
Simmer for another 15 minutes, or till thickened. I mash the cranberries a bit with a fork as they soften. Allow to cool.

This chutney will keep for up to six months in the fridge.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cranberry Cake with Caramel Sauce

This is one recipe in particular that has been a long-time family favorite, and something that I greatly anticipate making every Holiday season. It just wouldn't seem like Christmas without it.

It is made with fresh cranberries, their natural tartness a perfect contrast to the sweet caramel sauce. Even those who do not care for cranberries reach for a second piece of this dessert!

Cranberry Cake
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar (I only use 1/2 cup and prefer dehydrated cane juice crystals)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, chopped
Cream the butter and sugar. Stir in water, milk, flour, salt and soda. Mix well. Fold in the cranberries.

Pour into greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 until golden brown. Serve with warm sauce.

Caramel Sauce
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Place all ingredients except vanilla in a saucepan on low heat. Bring to boil and stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve hot over cake.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Herb Bread

My family loves bread and baked goods. I often find myself throwing together muffins or baking soda biscuits at the last minute to complement our dinner meal.

Last evening, I tried something new. It's a yeast bread, but by condensing to only one rise time it can be brought to the table in almost the amount of time as any 'quick bread' recipe.

It was a hit with everyone! It was soft and filling, the subtle herbs giving enough flavor that only butter was needed to top each slice. I love that you can tweak the herbs to include whatever you would like to fit your own tastes. This time, I happened to have fresh parsley and dried thyme on hand, so that's what I used.

I think that those little dried tomato pieces I've seen would be absolutely lovely as well. Or a bit of garlic and sage. The possibilities are endless!

I didn't have any soft butter and was too impatient to wait, so I used 2 Tablespoons natural shortening. It's non-hydrogenated, which is important to me. I still limit my usage of it, though.

The kind of flour you use in baking affects the nutrition the most. I prefer to use freshly milled soft white wheat. When I don't want to take the time to grind wheat berries (or the children are sleeping and I don't want to wake them with the loud mill) I use unbleached whole grain white flour.

Herb Bread
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons or more fresh or dried herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary, etc)
Mix together 2 cups of the flour, yeast and sugar. Stir in the salt, water, butter and herbs. Knead for several minutes. (I used an electric mixer) Add in the remaining cup of flour and knead by hand until smooth.

Place in a greased and warmed large bread pan. (I like to warm my bread pans for a minute in the oven, which helps the dough rise quickly even on chilly days.) Cover with a towel and let rise until double.

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes. It should be well browned on top.

Now here's the hardest part... Let loaf cool on wire rack several minutes before slicing and eating!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Potato Leek Soup

Up until a few months ago, I had never used leeks in my cooking recipes. Once I took the plunge, I have fallen in love with their subtle flavor.

Leeks look like over sized scallions, and in fact are in the same family to onions. They have a similar taste to onions, but are more delicate and don't overpower the other flavors in your recipe. Their nutritive value and support to healthy ovaries as well as cholesterol and blood sugar levels are just added bonuses.

Only the white and light green parts are used.

I love how they perfectly compliment the potatoes in this recipe to create a hearty but very simple meal.

Potato Leek Soup
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 6-12 potatoes, diced (peel optional)
  • spices and seasonings to taste

Saute chopped leeks in butter, in a large pot. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes , or until leeks are tender. Do not brown!

Add broth and potatoes, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or more, until potatoes are tender.

Using a potato masher, mash soup until creamy. Add salt, pepper, herbs and other seasonings to taste.

This leftover soup, if you are fortunate enough to have any, will taste even better the following day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Garlic and Chili Green Beans-Not Green Bean Casserole Part 2

Yesterday I ranted about the awfulness of green bean casserole and gave you a simple alternative. As promised, today I'll tell you what I'm doing with my green beans this Thanksgiving. This recipe was inspired by some really amazing green beans I had once in Vancouver at a Chinese restaurant that looked like this photo here. It's tasty, and simple.


1.5 lbs green beans, frozen or raw.

10 or more cloves garlic, minced.

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil (you can use regular oil if you don't have toasted sesame oil. It just provides another layer of flavor.)

1-2 tsp Sambal Oleak (chili paste)  or 1 tsp dried chilies

1/4 cup broth chicken/turkey/vegetable or 1/4 cup water and a bouillon cube.

2 tbsp soy sauce


You will need a large frying pan or wok, the bigger the better if you are making a lot of beans so they cook evenly. Heat the oil and garlic together in the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Both are very easy to burn so watch the temp. Stir frequently.

Once the garlic begins to caramelize and cook through add the chili paste. Saute a few minutes longer and add in the green beans.

You want to get the beans all coated in the oil and garlic so stir it around really well for a minute. Next add the broth. If your pan is hot enough this should steam up a bit and cook the beans while it loosens all the good stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the soy sauce as well, to taste. Remember, it's salty so don't over do it. Cover and cook, stirring frequently so all the beans cook at the same time. As soon as they are cooked through remove from heat and serve. They should be bright green, not gray.

This is really simple to make, and tastes amazing. Add strips of dried tofu, carrots, or bean sprouts and serve with brown rice for a really interesting main dish. My whole family loves this.


The photo was taken by P.M.M. and is used under the terms of a Creative Content License.
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