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Easy Hot Cross Buns & How I Avoid Getting Bored During Baking

Hot Cross Buns, looking good, and swiftly consumed!

Growing up, my mother made hot cross buns each year at Easter, and gave some to all our neighbours. It was a lovely tradition, and I remember little Margaret kneeling on the kitchen chair, trying to help stir the dough. And by help stir the dough, I mean eat the candied fruit. (Apparently my sweet tooth was prominent at an early age!)

I don’t normally make a lot of fancy-ish breads, because I find waiting for the dough to rise such a pain (Patience? Me? Ha!) but in this case, I mixed up the dough and left it to rise while I went for a walk with the DH and my sister. Then I came back and let it rise for the second time while I made dinner. I baked it during dinner, and then was able to eat it for dessert! Now that’s my kind of baking!

A lot of fancy-ish breads (that’s the technical term, doncha know?) are what are called ‘enriched’, which just means that they have more butter/oil, milk, and eggs in them. I decided to start with my basic pizza dough recipe (Easiest Pizza Dough in the History of Ever) and enrich it with milk, a dollop of butter, and some eggs. And whadya know, it turned out fantastic!

I think my goal of making an easy, no-fuss hot cross bun recipe was achieved! Want to make some yourself? Let’s!

Easy Hot Cross Buns

Dough

  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 1 c. warm to hot milk (not boiling, but not lukewarm)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter, cooled
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. dried candied fruit
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Icing

  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. icing sugar

Mix yeast and milk and let sit until foamy, about 15 minutes. In a mixer (or by hand), mix in remaining ingredients, except for raisins, candied fruit, and one egg, until dough forms. Then mix in raisins and candied fruit.  Let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until dough is doubled in size.

Punch down dough, and cut into 12 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and place on a greased cookie tray, or silicone mat. Let rise again, until doubled in size.

Beat the remaining egg, and brush it on the tops of the buns. This will give the buns the characteristic golden-brown crust. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until buns sound hollow when you knock on the bottom of one.

Let cool. Mixing icing sugar and lemon juice together, and drizzle on buns in a cross shape. Eat! And delight in your deliciously fruity buns! (Hmm. Perhaps I should rework that last sentence.) Point is, they’re yummy!

Balls of dough, yo!

I realized after I made these, that I forgot to add in the spices (the cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon). I told my mom.

My mum: “Slight oversight, Margaret!”

Margaret: “Um, no, the candied fruit is the most important part!”

I guess I haven’t changed that much since I was little; once a sweet tooth, always a sweet tooth!

Next Post: Maybe some Easter cookies? I’m actually off to bake cookies with the son of a friend right now!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday, Happiness is Homemade, and Inspire Me Monday!

Foodie Trends: Hemp Seed Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl

The ying and yang of life, all in a smoothie bowl.

The ying and yang of life, all in a smoothie bowl.

I present: the Hemp-Seed & Kale Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl! It’s super-yum, super-easy, and so on trend that it’s practically on fleek.

I don’t have a crystal ball (or a crystal mixing bowl, for that matter) but I do read a lot of food blogs. Between the food blogs and Pinterest, you can totally see trends emerging, with pumpkin-spice-everything being the most obvious one. I’ve made a point to follow (almost exclusively) food bloggers on social media and it’s an education in itself to see how trends evolve and take off.

So I thought I’d try something different today, and talk about some of the trends I see developing on the foodie blog scene. And then try to develop my own trendy recipe, just ’cause I wanna go viral like that. (Referencing this post in which I talk about my plans for foodie world domination. Because why not?)

FOODIE TRENDS, according to moi:

  1. Cram-It-All-In Recipes — Take all the key words (gluten-free, low-carb) and/or mash-up a couple of types of recipes (brownie, cake, cookie), and voila! You’ve got a recipe that’s a) original and b) hopefully will go viral. Case in point, the Pumpkin Fudge Brookie.
  2. Dessert for Breakfast — As I’ve previously written, I have insomnia and as such am not a morning person. A dessert person, on the other hand, I most definitely am! If you’re like me, when you have no time to prepare breakfast, just make one of this year’s popular breakfast desserts and pop them in the fridge.
  3. Candy-Store-on-Top Cakes — You have your cake, and then you add slabs of chocolate, lollipops, macaroons, candy floss, basically everything you can find in a candy store and stack that baby up. It’s a one way street to a diabetic coma, but oh, what a way to go! Another variation of this is the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink milkshakes. You know, the ones that have a donut, a slice of pie, whipped cream, chocolate AND caramel sauce, and perhaps a few chocolate bars, all balancing on a tall, frosty milkshake? Not familiar with the concept? Check this out.
  4. Smoothie Bowls — Take a smoothie, pour it in a bowl, sprinkle some toppings over it all, and call it a smoothie bowl. Add in a few trendy words to get the clicks.

Which brings me to my latest easy-peasy recipe! Smoothie bowls are one of the next big things, and I do love my kale smoothies, so I thought I’d see what sort of a delicious mash-up I could make.

Hemp Seed & Kale Antioxidant Smoothie Bowl

Terri’s smoothie from this buzzfeed article is my absolute favourite, so I adapted it for this recipe.

Smoothie Base:

  • 1 small banana, frozen
  • 1 cup kale, frozen
  • 1/2 ripe pear, frozen
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. dehydrated broccoli powder (greens powder from a bulk food store works too)
  • 1 tsp. goji berry powder (optional, but ups the antioxidant factor)

Topping

  • 1/4 c. hemp seeds
  • 1/2 c. blueberries

Blend all ingredients for the smoothie together. Pour into a bowl. Sprinkle toppings over the smoothie.

Yup, it’s that easy! And it’s surprisingly delicious! The protein keeps you full until your next meal, the goji berries and blueberries are full of antioxidants, you’ve got your veggies in the form of kale and broccoli, and healthy fats via the hemp seeds. And did I say it’s delicious? It’s basically like…dessert for breakfast! (See what I did there? Foodie trendz for the win! *high fives self*)

Honestly, this smoothie bowl is much more delicious than it sounds.  Try it out, switch up the toppings, and come up with your own trendy version! And then post your version in the comments. Maybe it’ll go viral!

Next Post: The Sandwich Bread post, probably. Because I’ve already made the recipe twice and there are two more loaves in the oven right now!

Making the Most of Leftovers: Easy Pickled Vegetables

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Given that I’m not a morning person, I usually prepare the day’s lunches the night before. Tonight I was making Thai spring rolls, and had some sliced green peppers left over. And given that I have a waste not, want not philosophy when it comes to food, you know I had to use them up somehow. So I made some pickled vegetables!

Want to make some too? They’re the work of a few minutes only!

Easy Pickled Vegetables

  • 3 small carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut in thin strips length-wise
  • pinch mustard powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. white vinegear
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes

Mix vinegars, water, and all spices (so everything but the veggies) in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. The pickling brine should be nice and hot when you pour it over the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Make sure to press down the veggies so that they all get bathed in the brine; I stirred and pressed down gently with a potato masher, repeatedly for about 5 minutes. Then I scooped the veggies into sterilized jars, making sure to top up with brine to cover all the veggies in the jar. Let them sit for at least overnight. And then voila — condiment time!

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

I used these quantities and ended up with just the right amount to fill three half pint jars. Given that I fully expect to eat these pickled veggies within a few weeks, I only sterilized the jars in the microwave. I’ll keep the jars in the fridge until used, but had I done a quick water bath, they would be properly canned and could stay on my cupboard shelves for several months. But they’re too tasty to last that long!

Now, what shall I use these pickled recipes on? I shall probably use it as a topping for veggie burgers, sandwiches, and salads. I’ve used previous batches on pizza, which was surprisingly delicious with crumbled feta. Mmm…now I want to eat! Maybe I’ll just eat one of the Thai spring rolls that I had leftover from tomorrow’s lunch prep. Yes, that’s what I’ll do!

Next Post: Cherry Pie, a la Francais! Followed by homemade copycat oreos. Chocolate-dipped copycat oreos. So. Good!

Post-Pub Edit: Do link-ups work? Bloggers say that they increase blog traffic, and hey, I’m all for that! So this is now my contribution to Christy Jordan’s latest link-up.

Memories of Meals Past: Homemade Soft Pretzels

Pretzels! Nummy, nummy pretzels!

Pretzels! Nummy, nummy pretzels!

Every now and then some recipe comes across my facebook feed that I really want try. In this case, it was a post by The Artful Parent that talked about the soft pretzels that she made with her daughter. They used Alton Brown’s pretzel recipe and raved about it so much that I had to try it myself. So I did!

I’m calling it a Memory of Meals Past post, as I’m posting it on a Thursday, and it’s not an original recipe from me, nor a bake-a-long recipe. Not strictly a Memory of Meals Past, given that I made it today, but…hey, it’s a Thursday, and I’m linking to a recipe as opposed to writing up a new one, so good enough!

The traditional brown colour of the baked pretzel is achieved by doing a number of things: once the dough is made and you’ve twisted it into a pretzel shape, you boil the unbaked pretzels in a baking soda and water bath for half a minute. Then you place them on a baking sheet and brush them with an egg yolk and water mixture, then bake until they’ve achieved that deep golden brown colour.

Baking soda bath!

Baking soda bath!

The baking soda and water bath sort of blanches the dough, if you will, so that when it bakes up, the outer (blanched) crust has to crack to let the dough expand. This creates those cracks in the deep brown texture that you often see in the professionally made pretzels.

How many whisks up would I give this recipe? Three and a half. Maaaaybe four. (I’m a tough critic, I think. Especially given that I’m criticizing a recipe from that famous, professional chef, Alton Brown! But I promised myself when I started this blog, that I’d always be honest, so this is what I truly think. Even if I’m wrong.)

Here’s why:

  • I had to add at least half a cup of water to the dough in order to get it to be as pliable as Alton says it should be.
  • Also, the baking soda bath should have been longer that the recommended 30 seconds, in order to get those traditional and professional-style cracks that I mentioned above.
Post boiling, and pre baking.

Post boiling, and pre baking.

What I did wrong and what I’ll change next time:

  • I admit it, I under-baked the dough by 2-4 minutes, according to Alton’s recipe. I generally under-bake, because I find most recipes call for a crustier whatever-it-is than I like. In this case, I probably should have at least baked the pretzels for 12 minutes as opposed to 10. Mea culpa!
  • Next time I make this recipe, I plan to boil the pretzels for at LEAST a minute, to see if that makes any difference to the crust. Will it make it browner? Or just more crack-y? (What? It’s a word!)
  • I’ll also use official pretzel salt. I only used standard size sea salt this time, and I think pretzel salt would definitely add a nice bit of texture.

The recipe makes for an easy and tasty dough, but if you make it, I recommend making the changes I outlined above. Or don’t, and let me know whether it was just me! I’ve packed some for the DH and I for lunches tomorrow. Now to figure out some delicious dipping sauces! Hmm…any ideas?

Next Post: Probably a salad post. Because IBS.

Kiwi-Mango Vanilla Pannacotta & Stomachaches ‘R’ Us

Kiwi, Mango, and Vanilla Bean Pannacotta

Kiwi, Mango, and Vanilla Bean Pannacotta

This week my bake-a-long group is making Mango Vanilla Pannacotta, from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi cookbook. For a few days before I made it and wrote this post, I was trying to think of a ‘hook’ for the post, something to make it funny, or tell a bit of a story, but nothing came to mind, and the recipe went (relatively) smoothly. Dorie writes delicious recipes, and this one is no exception. (I think. I didn’t actually eat it myself. But I’ll get to that in a moment!)

I think the only unique thing about this post (besides the fact that the mango I saved for the recipe went bad and I had to replace most of it with the only other tropical fruit in my fruit bowl, kiwis), is that this post is a day late. Possibly even two days late, by the time I finish writing it up. I’ve mentioned before that I have IBS and I had another lovely episode at work yesterday, so I came home all trembly and weak, ignored the dishes on the counter that were looking at me reproachfully, and lay down on the sofa with a blanket, a pillow, and Netflix. I didn’t move until the wee hours of the morning when I flopped myself into bed.

I felt better today, but the nasty, horrible IBS symptoms came back at work again. (Probably means I haven’t been sticking to my lettuce-for-lunch-five-days-a-week diet recently. Yay, lettuce.)

However…I persevered! Pain or no pain, I was going to make the pannacotta after work! Even if I couldn’t eat it myself. The pannacotta contains gelatin, and being a vegetarian, I gave eating this one a miss, and passed it on to the DH. I knew he would appreciate my sacrifice. My delicious, tasty, sacrifice.

Shot o' pannacotta! (playing around with presentation)

Shot o’ pannacotta! (playing around with presentation)

The recipe itself is pretty easy to make. Just make the fruit puree and spoon it into some pretty glasses. Boil up the cream/milk with a vanilla bean, add in the gelatin, let cool, and pour over the chilled fruit puree. Let sit in the fridge until set. Serve! Easy, yes? Even with a stomachache I could manage it.

The DH thoroughly enjoyed the pannacotta, and I will say, the puree itself was delish! I’d love to try making this recipe with some agar agar, or another vegetarian gelatin alternative. I wonder if any of the other bloggers did? Want to see what everyone else made? Check it out here!

Next Post: Something that won’t make my stomach hurt. Maybe time for another Salads I Have Known and Loved post!