Hot Cross Bun Recipe

By | Easter, Hot Cross Buns | No Comments

Here is a quick post for all those listening to Overnights with Trevor Chappell – Check this page  Hot Cross Buns  for some history of these buns, Perhaps you will agree with the Tudor law banning their sale, except on certain days. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. Below is my favourite recipe from the wonderful Elizabeth Baird. Hot Cross buns are at their best toasted and topped with lashings of good butter

Makes 16 buns.

65 g granulated sugar

125 ml warm water

1 package (8 g) active dry yeast (traditional)

175 ml whole milk

60 g butter

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

500g plain flour

125 g dark raisins

40 g mixed peel

3 tablespoons corn syrup

Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar to the warm water, then stir in yeast. Leave until the yeast has softened and bubbly and yeast.

Meanwhile, heat the milk, butter, remaining sugar and salt over low heat until the butter melts and sugar has dissolved. Let cool to lukewarm.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle, mix the eggs, egg yolk, and spices, then, add the yeast and milk mixtures.

Add half the flour and mix at medium speed to make a smooth batter, about 3 minutes. Add the  raisins and peel and then with a wooden spoon mix in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft sticky dough. Turn the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 hour.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Knock the dough down and leave for 10 minutes. Then tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in two. Flour your hands and roll each piece into a log, the cut each log into 8 pieces (I use a scale to make my buns equal in size).

Form each piece into a ball and place onto the baking sheet, leaving space around them. Cover with a towel and leave to rise, in a warm place, for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Meanwhile, hone your sharpest knife. With light but deft strokes, cut a shallow cross in the top of each bun. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until evenly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Brush the top of the buns with the corn syrup and place the pan to a rack and leave to cool.

White Asparagus Part 2

By | Paris, white asparagus | No Comments
As I said in White Asparagus Part 1, I’d always just boiled my white asparagus. Well this asparagus season we went to Spring restaurant in Paris. My favourite taste in the meal was the grapefruit jelly for many reasons, but the white asparagus were delicious too and a revelation. Obviously  chef Daniel Rose shares my opinion that white asparagus should be big and fat, look at these beauties in the photo. You can read about Daniel and his restaurant in an article written by my friend Lesley Chesterman.
The asparagus at Spring were roasted, you can see their brown colouration and served in a shellfish sauce with sorrel leaves and toasted buckwheat. It was a great combination, however it was the idea of roasting them that hooked me. Of course I’d roasted green asparagus in the oven and even put them on the barbecue, but that was before I became an asparagus snob.
I talked to a couple of Parisian friends who pointed out that this was how Alain Passard cooked them at L’Arpège. I’ve eaten there twice, but never in the spring and perhaps never again, given the prices. Well I began with a heavy cast iron pan and butter. My husband did the trimming and peeling and I could only fit 6 fat asparagus in my pan. I added butter to the pan with a drizzle of olive oil and when the butter melted I added the asparagus. I “roasted” them turning them in the pan until they were nicely coloured, with the heat on medium. It took about  12 minutes. At this point my asparagus weren’t completely cooked, so I reduced the heat to low and covered the pan. After another 5 minutes or so, my asparagus were cooked, I tested them with a cake tester. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, added more butter to the pan, and when it began to melt, I served them with the butter and pan juices.
They were delicious, so much so I’m going to have to buy a bigger pan so I can share this treat with friends. And I guess I really pan-roasted and steamed them, if we want to be exact.

White Asparagus Part 1

By | Paris, white asparagus | 2 Comments
I’m an asparagus snob. For me asparagus are white and fat. You have to peel white asparagus, so you want something left when you finish and I’d rather eat three fat ones than half a dozen skinny ones.  When I first came to France eons ago, green asparagus, the only ones I was familiar with at the time, were no where to be found. You could find skinny wild green asparagus, but everything else is white. Today green are everywhere. To my taste white asparagus are superior to green. They are the same plant except the white ones are buried under a mound of sandy soil. This protects them from the light and stops the formation of chlorophyl resulting in a pure asparagus taste, free of the grassiness of the green ones.
One of the main reasons we come to Paris in the spring is to eat white asparagus. I just cook them, my husband does all the work. They must be trimmed at the base and carefully peeled, a small knife is the best tool. You can see how much of the stringy outside he removes, that’s why you buy fat ones.

Now there are always instructions to tie asparagus into neat bundles and steam them standing up. Well bundles are a good idea if you are cooking large numbers, and as for standing them up, how many people own a special steamer for asparagus? I usually cook 12 to 16 at a time so I let them float around in my roasting pan. The roasting pan, on an oval burner, is ideal. You can move the pan so most of the heat is concentrated to one side. (You can also do this with frying pan on a regular burner if you’re careful). Then you place the asparagus in the pan so their bases are over the heat and the tips are further away.  The tips of white asparagus are more robust than green and the stalks are uniform, which makes them easier to cook.

Put the asparagus in the pan to make sure they fit in a single layer and cover with cold water. Remove the asparagus, add about 1 teaspoon of salt and a good pinch of sugar to the pan. Bring the water to a boil, add the asparagus, bases towards the heat and lower the heat so that the water simmers. No matter what you read you need to cook white asparagus longer than green, at least 15 and maybe 25 minutes. The fatter and the older they are the longer they’ll take to cook.

Test by piercing the base of the asparagus with a cake tester, or a fine skewer. You want them cooked NOT crunchy. You also don’t want them overcooked and mushy. Pay attention.  Drain them well on a towel, to help absorb the water, and keep them warm if you plan to serve them hot. You can cook them ahead of time and reheat them in the oven.

Asparagus are often served cold with mayonnaise, or a vinaigrette. My friend Caroline makes a sauce with an egg yolk, mustard and crème fraîche, which she often “lightens” with a stiffly beaten egg white. I prefer them hot and I make a sauce maltaise, a variation on hollandaise with blood orange juice. The blood orange and white asparagus seasons overlap and they match brilliantly. This photo show another good mach for asparagus – scallops Here they are both served with a blood orange butter sauce. Just reduce the zest and juice of a blood orange down to a couple of tablespoons, add 1 tablespoon whipping cream and then whisk in about 100g of unsalted butter, making sure it emulsifies into the sauce and does not melt in.

Simmering asparagus is my main method for cooking this fabulous vegetable, but this spring I discovered another thanks to a dinner at Spring restaurant. More soon.

Fat Dinner part 2

By | Fat, Switzerland | No Comments
Well after all that fat, dinner began with lean duck breast and salad, although it did have a healthy layer of fatty skin, I’m happy to say. Neumarkt chef Rene Zimmermann followed my recipe, using figs, which were in season, rather than blackberries that weren’t. This is exactly how recipes should be approached, smart alternatives rather than following them to the letter.
The main course was braised oxtail with suet dumplings. Cooking for over 50 guests and making my recipe for 6 are very different exercises. Chefs are good at scaling up recipes, but Rene made a small mistake, which he explained at the end of the meal. He used dry not fresh breadcrumbs to make the dumplings thinking it would be fine. It wasn’t and he was the first to admit it, the usually light dumplings were unfortunately dense.
We began with pork fat,  then duck fat followed by suet and now it was butter’s turn to star. Every fat covered in the meal – perfect. The final course was my pepper and orange pound cake, a rather Germanic choice, I thought as I never serve this type of cake for dessert. We washed all this down with a delicious Swiss red wine and then Rene introduced my husband to Alpwhisk.
This is a unique product and it’s history is here with a photo of chef Rene, he’s the taller one. If, like me, your German is very weak run the page through the translator, it is not great, but you’ll get the sense. Alpwhisk was the idea of Rene and Stefan Keller, an alcohol based on a mash of smoked chestnuts. The distilled alcohol is then aged in wine barrels. The production is small, a hundred or so bottles, and I bet we have the only bottle in North America. If you want to taste it you’ll probably have to go to Switzerland, we only have a couple of shots left.

Epiphany – Galette part 2

By | Epiphany, Galette des Rois, Step-by-step | No Comments

Well I hope you have leapt out of bed and gave your puff pastry two more rolls this morning. Now you are ready to make the galette.

Pop it back in the refrigerator and take out the almond filling. It will be firmer, but still sticky. Place it between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll or pat it into a 23cm / 9in circle. Slide it onto a baking sheet and pop it back in the refrigerator. Now find une fève or dried bean. As you can see, if you click the link, you can use almost anything, I use a dried kidney bean, you need something with contrasting colour to the filling, and look for the biggest bean you have, so that it isn’t swallowed by accident, yes it has happened to me, and then you’re left without a king or queen!
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut your puff pastry in half and roll into two squares, about 28cm / 11in, then cut out two circles, one 25cm / 10in, and the other 26cm / 101/2in in diameter. (If you find the pastry elastic, springing back on itself, then simply return it to the refrigerator and let it rest). Now, you are probably saying I don’t have the fancy metal discs for measuring the circle, I think this is the only time I use them. Be creative, the top of a cake tin, the bottom of a springform pan, or if you can’t find anything cut a cardboard circle. Keep the trimmings, you can freeze them, to make palmiers p 60.

Turn the 25cm pastry circle over and place on the prepared baking sheet. (Turning the cut pastry over helps it to rise more evenly).
Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the almond circle and centre it on the pastry. (In the book, I place a layer of drained, cooked rhubarb, which adds colour and tartness, but this year I am staying very traditional). The almond mixture will still be soft, by keeping the plastic on it you can move it more easily. You can also smooth and adjust it with a spatula. Remove the plastic wrap, insert the bean, and  brush the edges of the pastry circle with egg wash, remember you set it aside yesterday.

Now flip the larger pastry circle and place on top.  Press to seal very well, trimming the top circle if necessary. Scallop the edges with the back of a knife and cut a steam vent in the top. Using a sharp knife, gently score the top of the pastry by cutting curving lines form the center steam vent to the edge.
Brush with egg wash and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and preferably one hour. (Be careful not to get the egg wash on the cut edges of the pastry, as it will stop it from rising).

Heat the oven to 220C /425F.
Brush the galette with egg wash again and bake until the pastry is puffed and dark golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve at room temperature. And you should have something that looks like this and even if it doesn’t it will taste good. Now all you need is a crown for your king or queen.