Category Archives: baking

Is it Bunday?

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Every Easter we bake hot cross buns. In fact I have eaten hot cross buns on Good Friday more or less all my life. Not for religious reasons but because it’s a seasonal culinary treat. A brief interlude when I lived in Belgium, but otherwise I’ve always lived in one bun country or another.

Ever since the coronavirus lockdown I have been taking it very easy in the mornings, we’ve even become confused as to what day it is, but this morning i woke early and hopped up to put the buns on. It’s great to have a mission for the day even if it’s only to make buns. Hot cross buns are made with a brioche type dough but with added fruit and spices. Deliciously simple if you have time – which we do have right now. There’s no problem waiting for dough to rise, sure what else would we do?

Hot Cross Buns – makes 20 (plenty to share with the neighbours)

250mls milk

250mls water

1kg flour – maybe a little more

1dsp dried yeast or 20g fresh yeast

100g sugar

100g butter

2 eggs

2tsp cinnamon

2 tsp cake spice

100g currants

100g raisins or sultanas

100g candied peel

a small piece pastry dough to make the crosses

egg wash – egg  mixed with little milk

I use Dcl (freeze dried yeast) but fresh yeast is good too. The sachets of quick yeast are not suitable for this method. If you are using fresh yeast just mash it with little sugar before adding to the liquid.

Heat the milk and water to blood heat- the temperature you would comfortably bathe a baby in. Be careful, too hot and it will kill the yeast.

Put the liquid in a large bowl and sprinkle over the dried yeast and a teaspoonful of sugar. give the bowl a shake then leave until the yeast re-activates and pops to the surface. If you are using fresh yeast stir into the liquid.

Whisk some flour in until you have a thick batter. Add the sugar, 2 eggs, the spices and fruit then mix well.

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Melt the butter, stir into the batter then begin to add more flour. Stirring the flour in until the mx begins to leave the sides of the bowl.

Turn the mix out onto a clean, well floured surface. Scrape the bowl out then begin to bring the dough together . This is where a dough scraper or egg flip come in handy to prevent the dough getting stuck all over your hands. Flip the dough , adding more flour to the counter ( not on top of the dough) until it comes together. Continue kneading with your hands. Knead until the dough is bouncy and stops picking up flour.

Clean the bowl, dry and wipe around a little oil. Put the dough in the bowl then leave in a warm place to rise. Sunshine is ideal but otherwise any warm spot –  not direct heat .

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When the dough has doubled in size tip it to onto a lightly floured surface – this is where the oiled bowl comes into play – and knead once more. Put the dough back into the bowl and leave to rise once more.

Heat the oven 180c.

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper

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Roll the dough into a fat sausage, cut into two or three pieces lengthwise then cut into equal sized pieces – you should end up with 20-22 bits. Roll each piece into bun and place on the baking tray. Leave to rise until double in size.

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When the buns have doubled in size roll out the pastry quite thin then cut into strips.

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Glaze the buns with egg wash then lay the pastry over the buns to make a cross, then egg wash once more

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden,

Cook 2tbs sugar with 2tbs water. Boil for one minute then brush over the buns

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Time for a cup of tea!

 


Torta Pasqualina

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If Apples be the Food of Love….

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If apples be the food of love we have an orgy on our hands. The apple trees in our garden are laden with fruit that has an age old reputation of desire and temptation..

Some of the apple trees are ancient, espaliered around the walls of the garden, others, that we have planted whilst living here, are more manageable, free standing dwarf varieties. There’s a huge variety of different shaped and sized apples. Crisp and juicy, gnarled and perfumed, sweet and floury and tart green cooking apples.

To be quite honest after our initial tart tatin frenzy it’s not raising so much desire as a ‘what the heck are we going to do with them all’ question. Our kitchen looks like an apple sorting station with rows of buckets waiting for attention.

Apart from the obvious just eating gazillions of apples, we are getting creative with the glut.

There’s apple cooked in cider, apple chutney, apples in the salad, with beans, apple tart tatin, crumbles, muffins, cakes…..

Here is a new recipe that we’re making for the shop

A spicy apple cake, which is easy to make, delicious and just happens to be vegan and gluten free. If you don’t want to faff around with several flours just replace the rice, oat and buckwheat flours with 120g regular white or wholemeal flour,

To make the apple puree simply peel, core and dice the apples evenly and quite small, and put into a saucepan with a tablespoon of water. Put the pan over a low heat and cover with a lid. Stir every few minutes until the apple breaks down. If it looks like it might stick add a little more water. It’s ready when you can fluff the apple into a smoothish puree. I beat mine with a wooden spoon.

Spicy Apple Cake

35g oat flour

50g rice flour

35g buckwheat flour

25g cornflour

1 level tsp baking soda

1/4tsp salt

1 level tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

75mls olive oil

120g sugar

350g apple puree

1 tsp vanilla

2-3 eating apples for the top

maple syrup to drizzle

 

oven 180c

Line a 20cm x 20cm  cake tin/brownie tray with parchment paper.

Whisk the sugar and olive together until smooth

Stir in the apple puree

Mix all the dry ingredients together then fold into the wet ingredients

Pour into a lined cake tin/brownie tray

Wash and quarter the eating apples then cut into quarters and remove the core. Slice into thin wedges

Arrange the apple slices on top of the cake in 3 lines

Bake for 25 mins, until a knife comes out clean then drizzle maple syrup over the apples. If you have a pastry brush gently brush the syrup over the apples – if you don’t, it’ll look after itself. Put the cake back into the oven for 5 more minutes.

Allow to cool before eating.

www.lettercollum.ie

 


Up the Pumpkins!

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We went on holiday for ten days and when we got back I could have sworn the grass had grown by 10 inches! As always in this beautiful fertile island the grass keeps growing. The drop in temperature doesn’t mean that everything else is as keen to keep growing though. The spinach and chard are now on a go-slow and even the kale production has slowed down. Mind you they all get picked so hard for the kitchen at the shop that it’s hardly surprising that they need a break.

Luckily the pumpkins are ready to harvest. We grow the Crown Prince and Queensland Blue varieties.. They aren’t huge this year but they’re not going to grow any more now – in fact pumpkins don’t like the temperature to be below 18c so it’s a wonder that they grow at all.

For us it is a precious crop. Pumpkins store very well and are very versatile, we make them into pies, soups, cakes, hummus, curries, with pasta, pilafs…. The options are endless.

They also have many nutritional benefits, being high in antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.

Each 100g of pumpkin provides 26 calories, no saturated fat or cholesterol, plenty of vitamin A – great for eyesight, vitamin C and B

So all in all it’s a great vegetable to include in your diet.

It’s delicious simply roasted as a side vegetable but it’s also the beginning part of many recipes, which transform it into something more substantial.

To celebrate the pumpkin harvest and with Halloween arriving at the end of this month here’s a pumpkin recipe. This recipe for filo pie is inspired by our recent holiday in Greece where the bakers are the masters of filo pies.

Filo is very easy to use. Just go to your local shop or supermarket and pick up a packet and follow the instructions below. Don’t worry if it breaks up a bit , just patch it up. It’s quite forgiving.

This recipe is for the dense orange flesh type pumpkin. Halloween pumpkins are too watery for this recipe so if you can’t find the hard skinned blue/grey variety it’s best to substitute a butternut squash.

 

Pumpkin Filo Pie

 

750g pumpkin flesh

2 onions

200g feta cheese

2 eggs

half tsp ground cinnamon

about 200mls olive oil

salt and pepper

a packet of filo pastry – defrosted

 

Pre heat the oven to 180c.

Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into roughly 2cm cubes. Put the pumpkin onto a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle over the cinnamon and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. It doesn’t need to brown nor go crispy. Leave aside to cool .

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Peel and chop the onions. Sautee gently in a little olive oil, until they soften and becomes translucent.

Crumble the feta onto the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together.

Stir in the cooked pumpkin and onion, giving it a bit of a mash as you go. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Oil a baking tray that is 20cm x 30xm and has about a 5cm rim. If you don’t have one of these try a large cake tin.

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Open the packet of filo and carefully unroll it. Take the first sheet and lay it in the tin leaving the excess to hang over the edge of the tin. Brush with olive oil. Turn the tin and lay the next sheet so that the overhang is on the other side.

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Brush with oil Repeat this 3 times – there will now be 6 layers of filo.

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Spread the pumpkin mix over the filo then cover with 4-5 sheets on top, brushing with olive oil between each sheet and tucking in some of the overhang as you go .

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This will make rough parcel. Brush the top with olive oil. Score the top of the pie down the middle with a sharp knife then cut each half into 4. This will ensure the tart can be sliced once baked.

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Cook in a pre-heated oven 180c for 40- 60 minutes or until golden on top. Allow to cool for fifteen minutes before eating..

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