Monday 29 April 2019

Carrot cake for 12th blogiversary

When I started my blog, I felt I needed to make every great recipe in the world and get them onto my blog immediately.  Fast forward 12 years I am more aware of how impossible that would be given that many recipes I want to make and that these continue to grow every week.  And so it came to pass that after posting 4 fancy carrot cakes on my blog, I go plain and high with a carrot cake this year.  The one thing you can rely on in blogging is change!

My blog started 12 years ago on this day with a vampire cake I had made for my husband's birthday.  Ever since E and my blog have shared a birthday cake.  Some years when Easter is nearby too, we make a birthday cake that can also be Easterly.  I try to keep the red carpet speeches about the blog anniversary to a minimum as I like to do most of my thank yous in my annual new year post.  However who can resist saying thanks to you wonderful people who are visiting, reading, commenting and all.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

But enough dramatics.  Back to the cake.  I really love a carrot cake that is choc full of dried fruit, nuts and pineapple.  Seeds?  Yes please!  Coconut?  Bring it on!  Purple carrots?  Now you have my attention!  But plain old carrots with just a bit of spice and no other add-ons was what was ordered by E.  Though I have my suspicions that this was really down to Sylvia who was doing most of the planning.  We agreed it would be a layer cake with cream cheese frosting and fondant carrots.

The carrot theme was partly because the birthday was around Easter.  We took the cake to my parents to share with family at Easter, and decorated in my mum's kitchen the day before the lunch.  My sister told me that my niece really wanted to make fondant carrots.  Stella wanted to make them so much that she even had some orange and green fondant.  So we invited her to help us.  She was so excited she could barely sit still.

I discovered that not all fondant is equal.  Stella's fondant seemed to last better than ours which had dried out around the corners.  Stella's seemed to have dried out but could be kneaded back into softness.

We looked online at sites like this and worked out the best way to make the carrots.  They took some concentration to make but they weren't too difficult.  The hardest part was making carrots that were the same size.  And we ended up with far more than we needed for the cake. 

Likewise we also had more frosting than we needed.  We added a squeeze of lemon juice to take the edge off the sweetness.  It was quite soft frosting.  My mum suggested that I should use the block of cream cheese rather than the spreadable type that I used.  So I have suggested this in the recipe.  It might have made the middle spread of frosting higher.  I think my lack of experience with layer cakes was also a contributing factor.  Having had a few where the layers threatened to part company, I am just pleased if they stay on top of each other.

Despite my wariness about layer cakes, I was very happy with this carrot cake.  It was soft and full of flavour.  In searching the web for carrot cake recipes, I noticed some had a lot more spices but I thought a teaspoon of cinnamon was just enough.  The cream cheese frosting took it to another level and layers all look fancy.  It looked great on the Easter dessert table and we were pleased to take home some leftovers. Poor E.  His birthday got a bit lost in Easter celebrations this year but he did enjoy his cake.

I have lots more ideas for posts so I am looking forward to more blogging.  Meanwhile I wanted to acknowledge some of the bloggers I enjoy reading regularly.  Some are missing because I found that not everyone has a carrot cake recipe.  As I said, you can blog for a long time and still find that there is still much more to try.  In the end I have 12 bloggers to represent my 12 years of blogging.  So much to bake and so little time!

More carrot cakes from other blogs:
Turmeric carrot cake - Allotment to Kitchen
Vegan carrot cake - Tinned Tomatoes
Browned butter carrot loaf cake - Joy the Baker
Cranberry swirl marmalade carrot cake - Kellie's Food to Glow
Hawaiian carrot cake (GF) - Not Quite Nigella
Carrot cake country show style with glace ginger - Laws of the Kitchen
All American carrot cake - One Hot Stove
Carrot cake with cider and olive oil - Smitten Kitchen
Simple carrot cake - Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
Vegan carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and lebkuchen spice - Seitan is My Motor
Healthy vegan carrot cake - Wallflower Kitchen
Carrot cake with streusel topping - Pinch of Yum

Layered carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
Adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups carrot (about 4 carrots), grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups self raising flour

Cream cheese frosting:
250g block of cream cheese, softened
50g  butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice

To decorate:
1 small Lindt bunny
green and orange fondant

Grease and line 2 x 20cm round cake tins.  Preheat oven to 180 C.

Using electric beaters, beat brown sugar and vegetable oil together.  Add eggs one at at time, beating for a minute or two after adding all eggs so the mixture is creamy and airy.  Fold in remaining ingredients until mixed.  Scrape into tins.  Weigh if you want them to be equal sizes (I did this).

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the cakes are starting to pull away from the edges of the tin. Rest cakes in tin for 5-10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

When cakes are cool, make the cream cheese frosting (or this can be made in advance and stored in the fridge).  Make frosting by beating the cream cheese and butter until soft and creamy.  Add icing sugar gradually until you have a nice creamy frosting and then beat in a bit of lemon juice.

Place one cake on a cake plate.  Spread about half the cream cheese frosting on the cake.  Place second cake on top.  Spread remaining frosting on top.

If you wish to decorate with bunny and fondant, place unwrapped bunny in the middle.  Make carrots by making a thin cone of orange fondant, put a little hole up the thicker end and put in a thin piece of green frosting.  Shape orange carrot a little more to hug greenery tightly.  Flatten out green piece and cut into little strips like carrot tops.  Use a knife to make a few lines across the orange part of the carrot.  Place carrots around the edge.

We made the cake the day before and kept it in the fridge overnight because it had cream cheese frosting.  I took it out a few hours before dinner so it would come to room temperature.  It lasted a few more days.

On the Stereo:
Music from the Gilmore Girls: Various Artists

Saturday 27 April 2019

Sugar cookies at Easter

E asked me why I didn't make ANZAC biscuits this year on ANZAC Day.  I told him because Easter was too close.  Easter was so late this year that I could sandwich one day of leave between all the public holidays and have a week off work.  When ANZAC Day came, we were still finishing baking our Easter biscuits (which some may call cut out cookies or sugar cookies but in my day were just plain old biscuits).

Months ago, Sylvia and I bought an egg shaped cookie cutter and decided we would make cookies when Easter rolled around.  It was meant to be.  In April Coles Supermarket magazine had cookies on the cover.  And my friend Alison visited with a present of Easter shaped cookie cutters.

Our first batch was a chance to use the Easter cookie cutters.  We did these the day before Easter because we didn't get organised enough to do it earlier.  But we were racing around before we went to my parents'.  One batch of cookies was enough commitment on a busy day.

The other half of the dough was left in the fridge for 5 days.  ANZAC Day was the last day of holidays before Sylvia started Term 2 and I went back to work.  Easter was close enough that we could justify using our egg shaped cookie cutters.  It was just as well we used up the dough because it was hard as a hockey puck and took a lot of convincing to be soft enough to come at with a rolling pin.

The cookies were delicious - quite short and nicely flavoured but not that sweet.  They were a great base for sweet frosting and sprinkles on top.  They did not have egg in them so I would be willing to try them with margarine to make them vegan but we made ours with butter.  I thought it odd they did not have any raising agent in them but this worked and meant they kept their shape well.

We went to my parents' house armed with biscuits and buttercream.  My mum had the sprinkles.  My niece came with fondant, which was nicer than our fondant.  I am no expert at biscuit decoration.  Nor were the two kids helping out.  We just played with all the buttercream, fondant, sprinkles and icing pens at hand.  We also helped decorate bunny biscuits that my mum had made.  My favourite decoration was the carrot with the orange and green fondant.  We even made a few little fondant carrots but those will wait for another post.

On Easter Sunday a few of my siblings needed to leave mid afternoon to see in-laws.  So we started early with an Easter egg hunt.  My dad started it off with a briefing, complete with a white board and a pointer.  Then we were relieved that they could find all the eggs (or chocolate bunnies, in fact).  My dad put letters on each chocolate bunnies and each kid had to find bunnies with the first three letters of their name.  Another fine moment in cooperation from my dad!  Then we had the pinata which Sylvia made.  After three kids had hit it (and one made it fall) my nephew hit it so hard I thought he was going to hit it over the roof for six!

So yep, by the time lunch came around the kids had sampled one or two Easter eggs.  I on the other hand piled up my plate like a Gilmore Girl.  (When we were not running around during the holidays we were binge-watching the Gilmore Girls on Netflix.)  My lunch was so impressive.  I took along a favourite vegan nut roast.  I ate this with chutney, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin, cauliflower cheese, a spinach, pumpkin and lentil salad.

Dessert was a feast of toblerone cheesecake, carrot cake, pavlova and iced cookies.  We were all stuffed afterwards and there were lots of leftovers.  And of course there were lots of Easter eggs.  Plus lego.  My mum gave my niece a Lego kit that Sylvia helped make before she left.

We drove home listening to a true crime radio show (Crime at 10,000 feet) about Martin McNally and Garret Trapnell.  I digress but we were quite amazed at how the latter criminal had written his memoirs which had led to a criminology student falling in love with him, dying in the attempt to break him out of gaol with helicopter.  Saddest of all was when her 17 year old daughter hijacked a plane to try and break him out of gaol.  The show also highlighted how many plane hijackings there were before airport security tightened up.  It was fascinating.

On ANZAC Day we decorated the second batch of eggs.  It was fun to get out our sprinkles.  Sylvia found some eyes, moustaches and mouths to play with.  I was glad to finally finish up the buttercream that was leftover from her birthday.  And with that Easter and ANZAC Day were over and we were back to our regular routine.

More cut out cookies on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Best ever chocolate cut out cookies
Choc cherry cut-cut cookies
Chocolate and black tahini cut out biscuits (v)
Cookie wands (gf) 
Gingerbread bush buddies
Lego sugar cookies (v)

Easter sugar cookies
From Coles Magazine, April 2019
Makes 48

250g butter softened
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 cups plain flour
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp rice flour
buttercream and sprinkles, to decorate

Cream butter, brown sugar and golden syrup (I did this with electric beaters).  Gently mix in remaining ingredients until they clump together.  Use your hands to bring this together into a ball and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  (This could be done in the food processor too.)

Wrap dough in clingfilm and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  We did half the dough for about 4 days and it was like a hockey puck - it needed to be kneaded in small pieces to get it soft enough to use but was fine in the end.

Roll out to about 3-5mm on a lightly floured surface.  Cut into shapes.  Bake at 160 C for 12-15 minutes (15 minutes for us).  Cool on a wire rack.  Decorate with buttercream and sprinkles or as desired.  Note: if you want to decorate with fondant, spread a thin layer of buttercream underneath.

On the stereo:
The greatest hits: the Teardrop Explodes

Friday 26 April 2019

Swing Bridge Cafe and Boathouse, Lorne

While holidaying in Lorne recently, we found ourselves at the Swing Bridge that I loved as a kid.  We were hungry.  So we had lunch at the Swing Bridge Cafe and Boathouse.  The cafe is right at one end of the Swing Bridge and I gather that the taller end of the cafe is the Boathouse.  This part had some nice artwork but as we couldn't find a seat there, I didn't really get to appreciate it fully.

Instead we sat out on the deck.  It was unseasonably warm for Autumn.  The sun beat down fiercely in the middle of the day.  We sat in the sun at first but it was rather hot, despite the breeze.  Fortunately someone left a shady table and we moved quickly before another family turned to the same table.  In the shade, it was much more enjoyable looking out at the fine view of the bridge.

Sylvia had a Swingbridge juice (watermelon, apple and lemon).  It seemed nice but did not quench her raging hunger.  She had a cheese toastie with it.  (On the menu it was listed as ham, cheese, mustard and cornichons so I was pleased they were willing to make changes.)  It was delicious with really good sourdough bread and vintage cheese.  Sylvia didn't eat all of it as she did not like the salad dressing on the rocket touching her toastie but she was too hungry to reject it all. 

I was very tempted by The Dazza: Smashed avocado on seed and sprout toast with apple, pickled chilli, roasted walnut, coriander and goats cheese.  I saw it at a neighbouring table and it looked beautiful.  There was also Dr Marty's crumpets, polenta wedges and a burger roll with mushroom, cheese, rocket and sauces.  Lots to choose from.

I was happy I ordered the Swinging Poke Bowl.  It was a generous bowl of brown rice, quinoa, cabbage, cauliflower, pickles, cucumber, sweet potato and special sauce.  The sauce was slightly spicy in a Mexican sort of way.  I chose to have tofu with mine.  It wasn't cheap at $21.50 nor the fanciest presentation but I loved it this dish.  It had lots of flavour and is the sort of healthy dish I love to come across on holidays when it is harder to come by dishes of lots of vegetables. 

The cafe is situated in a really lovely location with lots of green space and beach nearby.  I was impressed that there were some really good vegetarian options and that my "poke bowl" was vegan.  It is a great place to come to get away from the main street and beach area of Lorne, though it is walking distance.  It was quite busy in Autumn so I imagine it would be really busy in Summer.

The Swing Bridge Cafe and Boathouse
30 Great Ocean Road, Lorne
0423 814 770
Faecbook page

The Swing Bridge Cafe and Boathouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Lorne accommodation: Grand Pacific Hotel

I can't resist a gorgeous historic building.  So when I was looking for accommodation for an overnight stay in Lorne, I was delighted to find a room in the Grand Pacific Hotel (dating back to 1875).  It was not quite as central as a lot of other accommodation but I will sacrifice location for an amazing cast iron verandah any day.

We were in one of the cheaper rooms.  As we weren't spending much time at the hotel I was happy to pay less for a double room that the website clearly stated did not have a view.  That meant it did not look out onto the sea, though as we were on the second floor, if we craned our necks we could see a bit of sea.  I was surprised that although there wasn't much space around the bed, that we had a rather spacious bathroom.  I spent some time thinking about if they could have designed it so we had more bedroom and less bathroom.  But it was a nice enough room.

What made it all worthwhile, even the two flights of stairs (no elevator), was that we could walk out onto the balcony which had a magnificent view.  I really loved at the West side that the sun shone through the cast iron work to make even more beautiful shadows on the verandah.

The views of the ocean where really wonderful.  If we had had time, we could have sat on a chair with a good book and a spectacular view.  As well as being able to see the beach, we could sit on the beach and gaze up at our hotel in the distance.  This was particularly lovely as we ate fish and chips on the beach in the evening and watched the lights turn on in our hotel like a welcoming beacon.

As we stood on the balcony, this rather bold kookaburra flew down to the railings and sat there rather close to us for a while.  We were also able to watch cockatoos swooping, the setting sun and the pier from up high.

The hotel has a bistro but it seemed to be mostly seafood and steak when we were there (though the website suggests more vegetarian options so maybe we will check it out another time).  There was also Lorne Pier Seafood Restaurant very close by, which according to the website has a few vegetarian dishes.  If we had stayed longer I would have checked out these options.  Or even taken a walk along the pier.  But not on this flying trip.

As I have mentioned, the location wasn't the best.  Ideally I would like a place to park and be able to walk everywhere.  But we had to drive down to the beach.  Not great on a busy day when parking is hard to come by.  However there was a little path down to the beach and I think you could walk along there to the main beach.  Or it would be nice to spend time here with the splendid view.

However be warned that the signs ask you to go slow, even when snakes are nearby!!!!  (I know you are not meant to make sudden moves when you see a snake but I think if I did see one I would be tempted to run like I stole something!)

I hope to return to the Grand Pacific Hotel.  It has lots of lovely period details: the verandah, lead lighting, chandeliers and archways.  These give some charm to the lack of an elevator and the occasional creaking floorboard. And perhaps one day I shall get to see the grand ballroom too.  But for now I am pleased I have sampled some of the splendour.

Grand Pacific Hotel
268 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
(03) 5289 1609

Monday 22 April 2019

Lorne holiday and eating out

Lorne is a sentimental favourite seaside town of mine.  We went there a lot when I was young.  So I am probably biased when I say it is one of the best beaches in the world.  It was a surprise when I suggested to Sylvia we go for a quick overnight break and she said she did not remember going there.  Seems our trips there when she was much smaller had no impact!

We drove along the Great Ocean Road which always sparks joy.  It is so beautiful.  And I appreciate it even more because I think of the returned soldiers and unemployed men who carved the road into the side of the cliffs so we can enjoy superb views on the way to Lorne.

There are quite a few places to stop along the Great Ocean Road to admire the beauty of the ocean

Our first stop upon arriving at Lorne was Louttit Bay Bakery.  Sylvia had an apple turnover full of cream.  She was so happy that it was all the things she loved in life: pastry, cream and apple.  I had a chocolate almond croissant.  I was so happy because it was all the things I love in life: bread, chocolate and nuts.  Both were huge and so so filling.

Then we went to the Swing Bridge.  I loved going to the Swing Bridge as a kid.  We used to sometimes swim at the mouth of the Erskine River just near by.  Actually part of the reason I went there was that parking in the main street was really busy.  But I also wanted to go there.  The bridge was replaced in 2013 and is not quite as wobbly as I remember.  We had lunch by the bridge (cafe post up soon), had a lovely time in the sea and then headed to our hotel (that Grand Pacific which I will write about).

For old times sake, we went back to Lorne Fish and Chips where we went on a previous visit.  We took our chips, corn jacks and potato cakes down to the beach.  It was stodgy but piping hot, crisp and great comfort. 

We went there early enough to enjoy watching the beach in the twilight.  Visiting the beach in April means that there are no long light evenings.  At this time of year we were lucky to have a balmy evening but the sea seemed freezing cold if the way people dipped in and out.  In fact the next morning after breakfast the sea was still so cold that our feet felt like ice blocks.

Lorne is great for kids with so much to play on near the beach in the huge grassy area.  Sylvia had a 10 minute session on the outdoor trampolines (for $7 which seemed a bit pricey compared to city trampolining centres but someone suggested this was the way to make it viable).  And she had lots of fun.  Then we went to the park, which is huge and impressive.
When we told my sister that we went for fish and chips (or at least to the fish and chips shop if not for fish), she said she hoped we went to the Salty Dog.  So we had to check it out when we walked along the main street.

Whereas the Lorne Fish and Chips was pretty old school with off white walls and old style booths.  Salty Dog has more colour and zing about it., Salty Dog is far more modern and cheerful.  It has a large menu, including deep fried mars bars and fried pumpkin cakes.  There are cute picture around the place, wooden benches and key dates in Lorne's history written on the walls.

The Salty Dog Fish and Chippery had baked potatoes.  We decided that sounded great for lunch.  Sylvia had the baked potato with garlic butter and cheese.  I had the baked potato with the garlic butter, cheese, sour cream and coleslaw.  I added baked beans too.  The baked potato was good.  It was a bit weird that the cheese was melted over the whole lot and I would have liked the potato skin more crispy.  However it was a pretty decent lunch.

What I can rave about is the pumpkin cake.  That means a slice of pumpkin dipped in batter and fried.  It was so good I must come back for some chips and corn jack some time soon.  Sylvia loved her hash brown too.  Sadly we were too full for deep fried mars bars.

Even though we were too full for deep fried mars bars, Sylvia still needed an ice cream at the place next door.  She had a really good english toffee ice cream and some so-so mini melts.  We had been discussing mini melts recently and had to sample them.  A spoonful was enough.  Not surprisingly, neither of us could eat much of either. 

We also had ice creams the previous day, and it was not terribly successful either.  Butterscotch and brownie sounded good but big chunks of brownie in the ice cream did not work for me.  And Sylvia hardly touched hers.

The main street of Lorne has a lot of places to eat.  Kaos Kafe, where we ate years ago, is still there.  So is the Bottle of Milk.  We wanted to try the Chopstix Noodle Bar.  But there just wasn't the time.  I loved the above sign even though I don't drink either coffee or wine.

We had a last paddle in the waves, climbed over some rocks and drove home along the Great Ocean Road, stopped at my parents in Geelong and then were very happy to be home.  But it was great to be at the beach.  It is good for the soul.

Louttit Bay Bakery
46B Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
(03) 5289 1207

Lorne Fish and Chips
42 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
03 5289 1843

The Salty Dog Fish and Chippery
1/150 Mountjoy Parade, Lorne
(03) 5289 1300

Friday 19 April 2019

Overnight Sourdough Hot Cross Buns (no knead)

If the fates were kind this week, they might have offered a warm autumn night last night for rising hot cross bun dough.  I can't complain though, as we managed to spend a couple of days at the beach over the past week.  But warm weather does make a difference to sourdough rising.  And today being Good Friday, my sourdough starter has been doing amazing things with hot cross buns.

Given that I made overnight sourdough bread often, I am surprised it has taken me until this year to make overnight no knead sourdough hot cross buns.  Now there is no turning back.  This post is quite a long one with lots of comments about what I did to help me (and you) to make these buns.

This Easter season is particularly conducive to baking hot cross buns because it is so late this year.  I have been baking hot cross buns every year for a long time.  However, I usually find that by Good Friday I am just starting to hit my stride with hot cross buns.  This year we have had the school holidays before rather than after Easter.  So I have had some time to bake a few batches before Easter.

The first batch we tried had green crosses and were filled with grated apple, chopped hard toffee and grated apple.  The green crosses were fun but I realised I preferred the white crosses.  It was a shame as I had visions of dried blueberries with blue crosses.

I was very happy with the hot cross buns.  We took some to a friend when we picked up her daughter for a sleepover with Sylvia.  She was rather impressed.  However I wanted more traditional ones.  Sylvia is fixated on the dried apple and cinnamon buns from Bakers Delight.  I didn't want to buy dried apple while I still had so much dried fruit left from Christmas baking.  We made a deal that she could buy some apple buns while I made more traditional ones.

This second batch of dough was slightly less sticky but still very soft.  I found an old scraper in the drawers that has been great for cutting dough.  I think I have benefited from regularly baking bread rolls with the overnight sourdough dough.  Doing no knead bread means treating it very gently to keep as much air in as possible.  I have tried to give some instructions as well as step by step pictures below.

This second batch were amazing.  Soft and flavoursome and so so so so good.  I did as my mum had suggested and increased the spices.  My main problem with them was that the roasting dish makes them a little mishapen around the edges.  Rustic is ok with me but I want them approximating round rather than triangular.

Otherwise I was very proud of my buns.  They were adapted from a previous sourdough hot cross bun recipe I made a couple of years ago.  It seems I have been gradually simplifying my sourdough hot cross buns recipe until I just dump all the ingredients in and leave it overnight with no kneading.  Honestly I think I was perhaps too tired this year to knead with life being so busy.  I also was inspired by seeing Karen's no knead sourdough hot cross buns at Lavender and Lovage.

One of the changes I made was adding pumpkin.  It did not make much difference to the taste but I think it made the buns much softer.  I have made some suggestions in notes about other options if you don't have pumpkin.  As I just mashed mine with a knife, there were a few small pieces of pumpkin visible.  Sylvia hates pumpkin and was most displeased.  Of course, if anyone was going to find a tiny speck of pumpkin it was her.  Despite this she has managed to eat a few buns, mostly picking out the dried fruit.

I have also reduced the amount of glaze I was making.  I used to make a lot in a saucepan and brush the crosses over and over, based on a recipe I found years ago.  This year I reduce the glaze and then I burnt it in the saucepan.  I have never done this before.  So I made more quickly in the microwave which I find much easier.  My mum says this is what she does too.

We gave some hot cross buns to my neighbour and some to my mum and dad when we went to Geelong prior to a couple of days in Lorne.  I will tell you more about Lorne is some coming posts.  It was great to get some relaxing days at the seaside.  I came back for a busy day of work before Good Friday.  Today I made more hot cross buns.  It is a treat to have already made a few batches and know what I am doing.  And it is so wonderful to eat hot cross buns warm out of the oven with butter melting into them.

So with more time today I have taken some step by step photos to help me next year and to also explain to you if you have a sourdough starter and want to try this recipe.  I have also made some notes about how to make variations to suit what you have about your kitchen. 

You might notice that I made this third batch of buns on a large baking tray so they had a better shape and I could make 16 rather than 15.  The main problem I had with this was the when I went to turn the tray around halfway through baking, the last row of buns stuck to the back of the oven tray so I had to prise them off and get them back on the tray before turning.

I have also included the above collage to show a few things.

The top two photos show that the buns don't rise much from when I shape them to when they have sat for about 2 hours.  The main rise where they get lots of air in them is overnight (as you can see in the step by step collage higher up).  But it does seem to help them to sit before going in the oven.

The middle photos are to show that my cross mixture is quite thick and not so smooth.  I use a silicone piping bag and a tip that is perhaps 0.5cm wide.  My crosses are pretty plain but work well between the bun and the glaze.  I suspect they are what one of the journalists in the age called wallpaper paste crosses.  But we love them a little thick and fight over the crosses.  In fact I have found one or two buns with the cross eaten off it by Sylvia because it is the best bit.

And the bottom two photos show that when the buns come out of the oven they can look a little dusty with flour but once they are brushed the flour dissolves and is no longer visible.

So today I cut up some fruit to have with our hot cross buns.  I like that the pumpkin and the fruit reflect us celebrating Easter in autumn down under.  The fruit came from a few different sources.  The plums were from the supermarket.  The grapes were leftover from a cheese platter at an evening meeting last night.  The apples came from my mum's backyard tree.  The fruit makes me feel a little healthier but honestly I could just eat these hot cross buns all day and not need any other food.  They are so good.

Five fun online articles about hot cross buns:

The history of the hot cross bun - Gourmet Traveller
History going back to pagans, monks and Queen Elizabeth I.  I like the idea the hot cross buns would protect the house from bad spirits

10 crazy ways to eat hot cross buns 2019 - Biffens Kitchen
We have all heard of hot cross buns in bread and butter pudding and french toast but who ever heard of it in treacle tart or with beetroot and feta.  Wow!

How to eat hot cross buns - The Guardian
A comprehensive article on different styles of eating HCBs.  I say no to marmite (or vegemite in Australia's case) but yes to a slice on cheese on the HCB.  I am surprised that they only give toasting or microwaving as reheating options.  Since I have been little I have had HCBs reaheated in the oven.

Hot cross buns get political at Ballarat Station - Power 103.1 FM
Clever union slogan on the napkins served with hot cross buns: "Liberal wage cuts make us hot and bothered".  Yes there is a federal election campaign in Australia right now and even hot cross buns are fair game!

Can eating hot cross buns put you over the drink driving limit? Criminal Defence Lawyers
Don't worry the police say there is little concern that hot cross buns will give you a drink driving conviction but this also means they wont take "I've just eaten a hot cross bun" as an excuse for a high blood alcohol test reading!

Ten fun variations on Hot Cross Buns on the internet:
No knead sourdough hot cross buns - Lavender and Lovage
Vegan chai hot cross buns - Seitan is my Motor
Hot cross pancakes - Tin and Thyme
Nutella swirl hot cross buns - Not Quite Nigella
Miffy hot cross buns - I am a Food Blog
Sultana, lemon and thyme hot cross buns - Only Crumbs Remain
Hot cross bun loaf - Bit of the Good Stuff
Orange blossom banana hot cross buns - Cardamom and Tea
Hot cross buns with marmalade glaze - Kitchen Sanctuary
Vanilla glazed choc chunk hot cross buns - Laws of the Kitchen

You can also read more of my Easter recipes.

Overnight sourdough hot cross buns
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe
Makes 15-16

1 cup pumpkin puree (approx 325g unpeeled chunk of pumpkin)*
250g ripe starter (100% hydration)
3/4 cup soy milk, room temperature
1/2 cup aquafaba*
100g vegan margarine, room temperature
200g dried fruit
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried ginger
550g white bread flour

1 cup water
1 cup flour (or a little more)

2 tsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
good shake of mixed spice

Peel and dice pumpkin.  Microwave in a covered container until soft (about 4-6 minutes) and
roughly mash with a fork.

While the pumpkin cooks, measure out the starter (mine is best when it is rising and had lots of little bubbles and smells lovely and is still a bit thick in texture) and stir in the margarine.

Once pumpkin is cooked and still hot, stir in milk and aquafaba from the fridge and the mixture should be room temperature and ready to stir in.  (If not room temperature, cool or warm as needed.)

Add remaining ingredients and stir well.  Leave for 30 minutes.  Knead in the bowl for 15 seconds.  It will be very soft still but you should be able to knead it and wipe most of the mixture off your hands.  Cover well with clingwrap or beeswax and leave overnight - about 8-10 hours until well risen.

When dough is risen, scrape out onto a well floured surface.  Cut into 15-16 pieces (depending on the size of your tin - 15 in a rectangle and 16 in a square tin).  I use a plastic cutter but a large sharp knife will do - and might need some flouring.  The dough will probably need some flour to make it easier to handle it.

Gently roll each piece into a ball.  Do this by putting the corners as tightly as possible around the bun (without squishing the bun) so the floured bottom of the bun is like a little blanket around the bun.  Toss in flour as though it is very fragile just using finger tips so it is not sticky.  Then use your hands to shape into a smooth ball. 

Line a large dish with baking paper (or grease) and arrange balls in it quite close to each other so they are just touching but not really snug against each other.  You can do this on a baking tray or in a roasting dish (about 13 x 9 inches).  Cover buns with beeswax or clingfilm and leave to rise for 30 to 2 hours.  Heat oven to 220 C while buns rise (or 30 minutes before you are ready to put in the oven).

Mix flour and water together to make the mixture for the crosses once buns ready for oven.  It should be thick enough to be almost stretchy and drop off the spoon in soft clumps.  Pipe crosses onto the buns.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped.

Five minutes before buns come out of oven or just as they come out, mix glaze ingredients together and microwave for about about 30 seconds on high or until the mixture boils.  Remove buns from oven.  Transfer to a wire rack.  I have found it this easier if the baking paper has some overhang so you can use it to pick the buns up (even easier with another person who can pick up the other two corners to help you lift it).

Brush buns with prepared glaze and see if you can wait for them to cool before you sample one.  They are good for 2 to 3 days or can be frozen.  I reheat my buns from room temperature for 10-12 minutes at 180 C.

  • This is not a quick recipe to put together.  It has taken me about 30 minutes to get the pumpkin cooked and organise all the ingredients for the dough.  Additionally there is shaping the dough, doing the crosses and glazing.
  • You could substitute all sorts of things for the pumpkin: tinned pumpkin puree, mashed potato, fruit puree, grated apple, mashed banana, applesauce, fruit mince etc.  It should be something to keep the dough moist.  Update - in 2021 I used a mixture of an egg and plain yoghurt instead of pumpkin.  Or you could use soy milk with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar to sour it.
  • If you don't have aquafaba (water drained off a tin of chickpeas) then use more milk or some water.
  • These buns are vegan but you could easily use an egg instead of 1/4 cup of aquafaba and make up the difference in milk and use butter instead of margarine.
  • You could use your own spice preference - nutmeg, cloves or cardamon could all be in here, though not too much of any.  If you don't have mixed spice, pumpkin pie spice or your favourite spice mix could be substituted.
  • Use your own preference for dried fruit: apricot, apples, cranberries, figs etc.  Or use choc chips or jersey caramels if that is your thing!
  • The dough is really sticky and it seems it might be too sticky but it does become more cohesive after the overnight rise.  And it is the high ratio of liquid to flour that makes these so soft.  If the dough is too sticky, use a bit of flour to handle it.
  • This recipe can be quite flexible with timing and the rising dough and rising buns can wait til you are ready.
  • Don't worry if the cross mixture seems a little lumpy.  as long as you give it a good stir it should be fine.
  • Don't worry if the buns seem a little floury when they go in the oven and when they come out.  Once brushed with glaze the flouriness will go.
  • The glaze should be just enough to brush all the buns once.  Update 2021 - when I made them this year, I microwaved the glaze for 1 and a half minutes and it boiled down so much that it was sugary on the buns.  So next year I am going to heat the sugar and water in the microwave just until it boils to make a thinner the glaze.

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