Friday, 29 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns

Home-made Easter buns studded with dried fruits then slathered with butter and jam are an extra special way to start the day on Good Friday, either for breakfast or brunch feasting, or for morning tea. I find making my own yeasted buns is deeply satisfying and sharing them with friends and family is pure pleasure. It's really not that hard and all you need is simple ingredients, and a bit of time and patience. The kitchen fills with such a delicious perfume as the spicy buns bake, and one taste alone is reward enough for any effort spent making these Easter specialty delights. Go on, have a go at following this recipe, you'll be glad you did when you have beautiful hot cross buns to share and enjoy.

Makes 12
1 tbsp active dry yeast powder
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp caster sugar (super-fine sugar)
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
4 cups plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted (gives the buns a nice depth of flavour)
2 tbsp mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup chopped mixed dried peel
50g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup water
1 tsp gelatine
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Place yeast, 1 tablespoon of measured sugar and 1/2 cup measured milk in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes until foamy.
2 Combine flour, cocoa, spices, dried fruit and peel, and remaining sugar in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add yeast mixture, remaining milk, melted butter and egg to well. Mix together until a sticky dough forms.
3 On a lightly floured surfaced, knead dough for 5 minutes or until dough feels smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (this will take up to 1 hour).
4 Grease a 20 x 30cm deep-sided rectangular tin and line with nonstick baking paper. Divide dough into 12 equal portions; roll into balls and place in tin in neat rows. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.
5 Preheat oven to 200°C. Make cross mixture by blending flour and water together until smooth. Place in a piping bag and pipe crosses onto buns. Bake 25-30 minutes or until browned and springy to touch. Remove to cool.
6 The glaze is optional, so if you want to, brush surface of buns with warm glaze made by boiling all glaze ingredients together until sugar and gelatine dissolve.

Chef’s tricks: Foaming yeast mixture indicates that the yeast is activated. 
It is important to leave the dough to rise in a warm place to stimulate the yeast. Cover the bowl of dough with either plastic wrap or a damp, clean tea towel and leave until dough has doubled in size.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Late harvest tomatoes

With our long, hot, dry, New Zealand summer, juicy-red tomatoes are still coming thick and fast from my tomato plants. Tomatoes that have been allowed to ripen on the vine while the suns turns their skin a deep crimson are pure pleasure to eat. Simply sliced and topped with a little salt and pepper, the tomato provides a perfect balanced taste of sweet and tart. These days, tomatoes come in many colours, shapes and sizes – red and yellow, multi-coloured heirloom varieties, tiny cherry, big beefsteak, Italian plum or roma (oval, low-acid), green, purple, vine-ripened and pear-shaped – they’re all delicious. Whichever variety you choose, the tomato forms the heart and soul of many recipes for sauces, tarts and pies, bakes, soups and preserves. And nowhere does it shine better than in a salad, tossed with a tasty dressing. So with the following recipe, I invite you to indulge in, and enjoy, the wide variety of summer-sun-ripened tomatoes while at their peak and most flavourful.

Use as many different tomatoes as you can find in this salad mix.
Serves 4-6
8 roma tomatoes, halved
6 tomatoes, sliced
1 punnet red cherry tomatoes
1 punnet yellow cherry tomatoes
Torn oregano leaves (optional)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Place all the different types of tomatoes along with the basil leaves in a large bowl.
2 Place dressing ingredients in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and whisk to combine.
3 Pour dressing over tomato salad and toss well. Scatter with torn oregano, if desired.

Chef’s secret: Sweet-tart flavoured Pomegranate molasses is a Middle Eastern ingredient, made from reduced pomegranate juice. It can be purchases from delicatessens and specialty food stores and can be used in a variety of recipes from dips and spreads to salad dressings and marinades.