Wow, more than a week is gone in April – and it has flown by. So happy to see the rain the last few days, and hoping the dust and brown is soon bright and green. Lovely to hear and see the birds, ducks and geese back, little signs that spring is really here. One of my favourite sweet things, is an enriched dough with fruit – it doesn’t matter the type really, but hot cross buns are my all-time favourite with a cup of tea. With Easter coming, I thought I’d share Darina Allen’s recipe – as soon as you make the dough, you can smell the spice, mixed with the fruit and the lovely smell of a yeast dough working.
Darina Allen’s Hot Cross Buns
25g fresh yeast (13g dried yeast)
225 – 300ml tepid milk
110g berry sugar
450g strong white flour
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 – 3 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
25g candied peel (optional)
50g all purpose flour
1 tbsp melted butter
4 – 5 tbsp cold water
Dissolve the yeast with 1 tbsp of sugar in about 50ml of the tepid milk. Put the flour into a bowl, rub in the butter, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, sugar and a pinch of salt. Whisk the eggs and add to the remaining milk. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the yeast and most of the liquid. Mix to a soft dough. Cover and leave to rest for 2 – 3 minutes, then knead until smooth. Add the currants, sultanas, and candied peel and continue to knead until the dough is shiny. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Knock back the dough by kneading gently for 2 – 3 minutes. Divide the mixture into 14 balls. Knead each slightly and shape into buns. Place on a lightly floured tray. Leave to rise for 20 – 25 minutes, gently push one of the buns with your finger, if an indent stays, they are ready to bake. Egg wash the buns. Make your liquid cross by mixing the flour, melted butter and water together to form a thick liquid, fill into a piping bag and pipe a liquid cross on top of each bun. Place the buns in a preheated oven (425F) for 5 minutes, before reducing the temperature to 400F and baking for a further 10 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Eat warm with a good bit of butter.
I am looking forward to my two upcoming trips that I mentioned in my last newsletter – heading to Brighton, England before spending a week in Sicily on a culinary tour, with hands on time in the kitchen, a street food tour, and of course wine. I’m home for a busy two weeks before heading back to Ireland for a food and wine festival at Ballymaloe. I have a class scheduled between trips which will be completely inspired by the course I am taking in Sicily – Spring in Sicily. Spring is one of the most exciting times in the kitchen, rhubarb, asparagus, radish, lettuce leaves, leading into the bounty that summer offers, it really can’t be more welcomed after the “hungry” months that are March and April. There is no better time to teach (or learn!) than when you’re feeling inspired. I will be adding some new classes on May 1st, including some kid and teen classes to the schedule for June and early July.
Liane Faulder recently wrote a note in The Edmonton Journal about my upcoming Sourdough Workshops, the response has been incredible. Classes are filling up, and by demand I have added a couple of new dates – June 6th from 6pm to 9pm and June 9th from 6pm to 9pm. . As an extension of my Sourdough Workshop, I have a Fermented Dough Workshop Part 2 where I teach the perfect thin crust pizza using your sourdough starter. I am also offering these two workshops as a two day workshop, the first day will be my basic Sourdough Workshop, and the second being the Fermented Dough Workshop Part 2.
John and Cindy Schneider from Gold Forest Grains asked me to join them at The Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market when Edmonton Food Tours pops by their booth, with samples of my sourdough. I recently read this quote: “Whilst the sourdough is a collective of microorganism’s that co-exist in a pot, it seems to extend its principles of the symbiotic relationship beyond, to the world around us and suddenly your sourdough becomes part of life.” – Vanessa Kimbell. I don’t think it could be more true, and I am so thankful for the relationship I have with John and Cindy not only for things like this, but also because as a local farm, they are doing so much good, growing heritage organic stone milled grains, while protecting the health and future of the soil, which is where it all starts. The quote reminded me so much about one of the things I love so much about working with food. It is always bigger than it seems, in this case, bigger than the loaf of bread. Whether you’re buying commercial crap (sorry!) bread, or buying from a local artisan baker, there are so many steps in between. We often talk about from farm to fork – it’s a great concept, but it sometimes leaves out the in between – even on the farm, there are so many steps before we see the bag of flour on the shelf
Lastly, a little bit more about sourdough, what I often refer to as Real Bread. The definition, in my mind of Real Bread (or sourdough), is a naturally leavened bread, which means there is no added yeast or chemical rising agent. Sourdough is made using a starter, which is flour and water, it ferments, and uses natural yeasts, bacteria and lactic acid to bring the flavour, texture and rise to the bread that you may be familiar with. It is the original way bread was made, and it is how bread should be made today. Based on a concept from The UK, and Ireland I am working to start a “group,” to get like-minded people together – whether they are just starting to learn about real bread, already baking it or eager to learn more about why and how real bread differs from commercial bread. We have had one meeting already, and I am hoping to organize another meeting for May or June, if you’d like more information, please get in touch with me (link), and I will add you to the mailing list
“Baking your own delicious home-made [real] bread is certainly achievable – all it takes is patience and practice.” – Casper Andre Lugg + Martin Ivar Hveem Fjeld