Easter means different things to different people. For some it is a long weekend and a great chance to escape Sydney or get some of those jobs done around the house. Others, it means getting together with loved ones and family, generally on Easter Sunday. It may be your window of opportunity to head to the Royal Easter Show and pat a cow (the cows rock). Maybe Easter is a little deeper for you, not just a holiday, but a significant religious event on your calendar.
For me it is a mixture. I’m not escaping. I will and have quietly reflected on the religious significance of the holiday. I will be spending time with my loved ones, well some of them, sadly I won’t be seeing Mum and Dad, I will be catching up with them next month. Read more →
My grandmother made Pashka religiously each Easter. I adore it. The tanginess of the farmers cheese, with citrus, the richness of the butter and eggs added. What completes this is the toasted flaked almonds with gives the dessert a nutty accent.
Traditional Latvian dishes were/are a major part of celebratory occasions like Easter and Christmas with my family. Most of you may of heard of Pashka and immediately think of it as a Russian dish. It is, but it is also a traditional Easter Latvian dish.
Due to the geographical location of Latvia, the cuisine is very influenced by Russia, or is it the other way round? I won’t go into Russian occupation and Latvian history which also would weigh in on the cuisine.
You will see recipes that have candied peel mixed through. I am not a fan of mixed peel at all and it is unceremoniously discarded from my recipe. Instead I am a little more generous with the lemon and orange zest. I have even seen glace cherries added to some recipes. Sorry as far as I am concerned that is sacrilegious. Read more →
I am a stickler for tradition when it comes to hot cross buns. They are only eaten at our place on Good Friday. I shudder when I see them the day after New Year’s Eve, along with Easter Eggs, in supermarkets like Coles. When you can buy and eat them months before Good Friday, they’re no longer special and I feel that the tradition is lost. Okay, now jumping off my hot cross soap box.
Over the years I have eased my stance on Easter eggs, and you will find a bowl of mini eggs in the kitchen a week or two heading up to Easter. Since I started blogging hot cross buns too are consumed before Good Friday. Of course they are only eaten for taste testing of recipes I play around with. So eating them is sort of considered a ‘have to chore’ and therefore I feel I am still sticking to tradition. It works in my mind, so let me have that one, please. Read more →
Squeezing in one more pre Easter recipe post before I head up to Coolangatta on Thursday morning. Business meeting and visiting with my Mum & Dad who moved up there last February. Is only a short trip and will be back in time for Easter Sunday with Mac’s family.
I was flicking through the April edition of MasterChef Magazine and came across a recipe for torta pasqualina. I have heard of this Italian Easter pie before, but have never attempted to make it. The recipe in MasterChef caught my attention as it uses a sweet Italian shortcrust pastry with lemon zest.
With a search on the internet I soon discovered that the recipe was far from traditional. The original recipe calls for 33 layers of pastry for the pie. The significance being that this represents Jesus’ age of 33 when he was crucified. Most modern day recipes call for 4-5 sheets of pastry. I even discovered one that uses 12 sheets of pastry to represent Jesus’ disciples. Read more →
Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns! One a penny two a penny Hot cross buns If you have no daughters Give them to your sons One a penny two a penny Hot cross buns
I have fond memories of my mum singing and teaching me this old English rhyme when I was a child. Always seemed to magically spring from her lips a couple of days before Good Friday. So as tradition would have it a couple of days before Good Friday this rhyme seems to spring unconsciously from mine. I wonder when/if Josh has children, if he too will be effected by this seemingly hereditary tic.
Growing up we only had hot cross buns on Good Friday. Until just this year my household was the same, hot cross buns were only eaten on Good Friday. No nibbling on them in February when they first hit the shelves or the weeks leading up to Easter. Due to the meaning behind the bun I always found it strange that people would eat them on any other day than Good Friday – yes I am strange. It is only due to “research” that I have eaten them leading up to Easter this year.
My favourite part of a hot cross bun has not changed from when I was a child. Nor has the way I eat them. I judge a hot cross bun by its cross. Yes the cross is a very important part, not only due to its religious significance. A cross has to be hard and crisp.
So how do I eat them? The bun needs to be warm and the cross is the first thing I devour. I need to be able to pull it away from the soft spicy bun and munch on it. Like most people I cut the bun in half and I then lavishly spread it with butter, has to be butter. I then eat the top half first leaving the crustier bottom till the end.
I attempted to make hot cross buns for the first time last year. Let’s just say it was an epic fail. Have you seen the Charlies Angels movie (I think the first one) where Alex Munday (played by Lucy Liu) makes muffins? You may remember they refer to them as Chinese fighting muffins, where one is promptly thrown at a door and makes one mighty hole. My hot cross buns basically fell in to that category . They were rock hard and dangerous if thrown.
The Chinese fighting hot cross buns I made last year (hangs head in shame)
This year putting the pathetic effort of my last attempt behind me, I had another go. The result was much more successful, but not perfect. I tweaked a recipe from Gourmet Traveller. I am not a fan of peel and I had some glace figs and apricots in my fridge which I wanted to use. Sadly I made one big mistake, for some reason dumbo here didn’t add the correct amount of yeast. Instead of the 14g stated in the recipe I only added 7g.
In a large bowl place flour, caster sugar, yeast, spices, salt, fruit and zest. Mix. I find it best to get your hands in to the ingredients and make sure that all your fruit has separated and has been covered with the flour. This ensures and even distribution of fruit through your buns.
Place milk and butter in a saucepan and over a low heat warm until the butter has melted. Your mixture should be of a tepid temperature. Whisk in the egg.
Stir the milk mixture in to the flour mixture. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel. Let the dough stand for about 40 minutes in a warm spot or until it has doubled in size.
Once doubled in size knock the dough back and separate in to 12 pieces. Knead in to balls and place in a lightly greased 24cm x 30cm slice tin (or cake tin which you have available of similar dimensions). Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubles in size.
Preheat oven to 220C. Combine remaining flour and ¼ cup water and stir to a smooth paste. I suggest you add a small amount of water at a time to ensure you get a nice thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle or if you are like me and use disposable plastic ones, snip off the end for the cross size you desire. Pipe lines down each row to form crosses.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden. They’re ready when they sound hollow when tapped.
To make the glaze, combine sugar and mixed spice with ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Brush glaze over hot buns. Place buns on to a wire rack to cool.
The fig and apricot combination worked really well. As the apricots were glace, when kneading they smushed through creating sweet ribbons of apricot in the buns.
Considering my mistake and the good result, if you are attempting hot cross buns for the first time this recipe is worth a go. Please feel free to substitute my choice of fruit for what you desire.
Wishing you all a lovely Easter next week with family and friends. I am curious, am I the only one that is quirky in the way they eat their hot cross buns?
I was inspired to create a recipe for hot cross bun ice cream after my visit to WD-50 in New York earlier this year. On the menu Wylie Dufresne has a dish called Everything Bagel which has a mini ice cream bagel incorporated in the dish. It was his process of making the bagel flavoured ice cream that inspired my recipe.
The end result tastes like a hot cross bun. Just something a little different for Easter.
Once done mix through the reserved sultanas and place in the freeze until ready to use, enjoy!
Break up the hot cross buns in a bowl and pour over the milk and the cream and give it a stir through. Place this mixture in the fridge for a few hours.
Use a fine sieve to gently strain the mixture and then place the left over soggy bun mixture in muslin/cheese cloth or even a new clean chux and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Discard the left over soggy bun mix. You do not want any of the bun in your milk/cream.
Bring the infused milk/cream mixture and vanilla bean to the simmer in a heavy based saucepan.
In the meantime whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and combined.
Whisk milk/cream mixture into the egg mixture and then return to the saucepan and to the the stove top.
Cook over a moderate heat continually stirring until the mixture thickens and will coat the back of a spoon.
Strain mixture into a bowl, add a handful of sultanas and place in the fridge to chill.
Once chilled strain out the sultanas and reserve before placing the custard mixture in to the ice cream maker. (This just allows the sultanas to plum up a little)
Churn the mixture in your ice cream machine as per the manufacturers instructions.