Hot Cross Buns

As Lent season comes to an end you may be seeing Hot Cross Buns available in the bakery section of your local supermarket or at your favorite bakery. They are synonymous with this time of the year due to their symbolism for the holiday.

I attempted to make them last year and while they smelled great while they were baking, the end result were buns that were hard and dry. And I instantly knew what the problem was, my yeast mixture was off. The recipe stated that when you added the yeast mixture to the flour mixture the dough should be shaggy. That never happened, but, I forged on hoping for a soft and tasty bun in the end. This time around though I got it all right. In my mind there’s an emoji of me jumping up and down with excitement.  See, I am not a fan of working with yeast. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I recently made bread three weekends in a row – Irish Soda Bread, Cranberry Walnut Bread and Jalapeno Cheddar Bread. Irish Soda Bread doesn’t require yeast so I am very comfortable baking it and the latter two while they do require yeast, both are no-knead breads. You combine all of the ingredients, form it into a dough and then place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 18 hours so it can rise – 100% foolproof.  And while these buns aren’t all that difficult to make, sans the yeast part, they do require two things from you, time and patience. Give yourself at least 3 to 3.5 hours to prep and bake them.

I started by making the yeast mixture. In a medium saucepan I combined water and milk and heated it on low heat until it reached a temperature of 100 F, making sure it didn’t go above 110 F. I used my candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature. Once it reached the right temperature I removed the saucepan from the heat and sprinkled yeast and a pinch each of sugar and flour over the surface. I left it undisturbed for about 30 minutes. I was waiting for the mixture to become foamy and begin to rise up the sides of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl I whisked together flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Once the ingredients were well combined I made a well in the middle.

Once the yeast mixture was ready I whisked in an egg yolk, melted butter and vanilla extract into it. Once all of these ingredients were well combined I poured them into the well I created in the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon I mixed all of the ingredients together and a thick, shaggy and sticky dough formed. I stirred in raisins and then turned the dough onto a floured surface and kneaded it until it was soft and elastic and formed it into a ball.

I quickly washed the large bowl I had used to make the dough and then rubbed the inside with softened butter. I returned the dough to the bowl and began turning it to coat it with the butter from the bowl. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 90 minutes until it was doubled in size.

Just before I began forming the buns, I greased a baking pan with softened butter and preheated my oven to 200F. Once the dough was ready I removed it from the bowl and formed it into a 16 x 8 rectangle. I then divided the dough in half lengthwise, then in half crosswise and then divided each of the sections into three equal parts. To make the buns round, I tucked the edges in and then placed them into the prepared pan leaving a little space in between each. Next time I make these I will form the dough into balls by rolling it between my hands to get a better round shape. The tucking method resulted in buns that looked a little more square / rectangle. I then covered the pan with a piece of plastic wrap that I coated with softened butter. At this point, I turned off my oven and placed the covered pan in the oven so the buns could rise. Here’s a tip, when yeast recipe calls for something to be placed in a warm spot to rise, preheat your oven to 200 F, turn it off and then place the item in the oven. It’s the perfect environment for it to rise. I left the buns in the oven for about 40 minutes, they more than doubled their size. Once I removed them I preheated the oven to 375F and brushed the tops with a beaten egg before returning them to the oven for 25 minutes, until they were golden brown on top and puffy.

I let the buns cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, I made the traditional cross pattern on each bun with a confectioners’ sugar glaze.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

For the Buns:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 oz. packages active dry yeast

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted (plus more at room temperature as needed per directions)

1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup raisins

1 egg beaten, for brushing buns

 

For the Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Directions:

In a medium saucepan combine the water and milk. Heat on low heat until it reaches a temperature or 100 F, not exceeding 110 F. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar and flour over the surface. Set aside without stirring until the mixture becomes foamy and begins to rise up the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and set aside.

When the yeast mixture is ready, whisk in the melted butter, egg yolk and vanilla extract.

Pour the yeast mixture into flour mixture and using a wooden spoon mix it to form a thick, shaggy and sticky dough. Stir in the raisins. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is soft and elastic, about 8 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with softened butter. Put the dough into the bowl and turn it to coat it with the butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Butter a 9 x 14 inch baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl and pat into a 16 x 8 inch rectangle. Divide the dough in half lengthwise and then again crosswise. Divide of each of these pieces into thirds and form the dough into rounds. Place in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each. Cover the pan with a buttered plastic wrap and set the rolls to rise, they will double in size, in a warm place. About 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and brush the top of the buns with a beaten egg. Bake until golden brown on top and puffy, about 25 minutes. The internal temperature of the buns should be 190 F. Let the buns cool in the pan.

In a medium bowl combine the ingredients for the glaze and stir until smooth. Transfer the glaze to a piping bag or zip bag and make a small cut on the end or corner. Ice each of the buns with a cross.

Recipe from Food Network

Hidden Heart Cake

Are you looking for something fun to bake for Valentine’s Day but are thinking that it’s too late? Well, this may just be the cake for you. All you need is 2 boxes of cake mix (I used white & chocolate), a loaf pan, a 2-inch heart cookie cutter and pink (or red) food coloring. While I used a white cake mix tinted pink for the hearts inside of a chocolate cake, you could try pink hearts inside of a white cake, red hearts inside of a white cake, red hearts inside of a yellow cake and so forth. It’s really up to you.

To begin, I prepped a box of white cake mix per the directions and then tinted it pink with a few drops of gel food coloring. I poured it into a loaf pan that I sprayed with baking spray and baked it in a 350 F oven for 40 minutes, the cake wasn’t quite done but was browning considerably along the top so I dropped the temperature to 325 F and baked it for another 10 minutes. I let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in the pan and then transferred it to a wire rack to cool completely.

After the cake cooled, I sliced it into approximately 1 inch slices. Some of the slices were a little thicker, some a little thinner. In the end, it didn’t matter.

Next, using a 2-inch heart cookie cutter I cut hearts from the slices of cake and set them aside. Those mini hearts were for a different baking project that turned out to be a fail… Oh well.

You will have a bunch of cake scraps left, I ended up snacking on a few pieces and then tossing the rest. If you make cake pops, or have been wanting to make cake pops, save these scraps for just that.

I then prepared the chocolate cake mix per the box directions. I spread about a 1/2 inch layer of the batter into the bottom of my loaf pan that I prepped with baking spray.

Next, I arranged the 2-inch hearts in a row down the middle of the pan, leaving a small space between the first and last heart and the pan, but, making sure the hearts in the middle were close together. This is why I said that if your slices aren’t exactly 1-inch thick it won’t matter. Once you line them together it will all be good.

I used a ladle to slowly pour the rest of the batter along the sides and on the top of the hearts. You don’t want to just pour the batter into the pan, this could disturb the hearts and you could end up with chocolate in between them. I did make sure that the hearts were completely covered with the batter. You don’t want a heart peeking out of the top of the cake… that would ruin the surprise.

I then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about 40 minutes. I inserted a cake tester and the inside was still a little underdone so I lowered the oven temperature to 325 F and baked it for an additional 10 minutes, similar to what I did with the pink cake. Once again, I let the cake cool for about 20 minutes in the pan and then removed it and let it completely cool on a wire rack.

Once it was cool it was time to slice and see if my hidden heart cake was a success (and it was)!

Pistachio Quick Bread

I’ve been using Jell-O pudding mixes for quite some time now as a base to make mousse fillings for my cakes. I’ve actually started picking up different flavors of the boxes to switch up my filling flavor. While there is nothing wrong with vanilla and chocolate of course, a chocolate cake with either a caramel or banana mousse flavor wouldn’t be too bad either. I sometimes wonder though what other desserts they can be turned into and then recently I found the perfect recipe to use a box of pistachio pudding, a Pistachio Quick Bread. Combined with a package of white cake mix and a few other ingredients you have two delicious loaves in less than an hour. For a little more texture and crunch add in a cup of chopped of pistachios to the batter, or scatter them along the top of the batter before baking. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe with a box pumpkin spice Jell-O (I finally found them at the supermarket, as you may recall I used my last box to make a Chocolate Roll Cake with a Pumpkin Mousse Filling) and a box of yellow cake mix. Baking from scratch is great, but, taking short cuts and sprucing up a box of store bought cake mix is never a bad thing.

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Pistachio Quick Bread

Ingredients:

1 Box White Cake Mix

1 3.4 oz. package of pistachio pudding mix

4 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup canola oil

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray 2 8×4-inch loaf pans with baking spray (or grease with butter) and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the cake mix and pudding mix. Add the eggs, sour cream, water and oil. Beat on low for 30 seconds to combine and then raise the speed to medium and continue mixing until well blended (the batter will be thick)

Divide the batter amongst the two prepared pans and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle come out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

The original recipe included a cinnamon sugar swirl which I decided to omit. The link for the recipe with the swirl is below.

Recipe from Taste of Home

Slow Cooker Sunday: Zucchini Bread

I recently started using my slow cooker again. Ideally it is the perfect appliance to use in the warm summer months to avoid turning on the oven, but, I just find that the meals it produces are bit heavy for the dog days of summer. Granted, I should have been looking for recipes for desserts as there’s never a bad time of year for a sweet treat. This recipe today, Zucchini Bread, is perfect for the summer months with the abundance of zucchini available at the supermarket and at your local farm stands, but, thankfully zucchini is one of those vegetables that is available year round and always seems to taste the same.

To start I made the batter. Using my food processor I grated two small zucchini and squeezed out the excess water. In one bowl, I whisked together the dry ingredients – flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl I whisked together eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil. I folded in the zucchini and then whisked in the flour mixture. I then transferred the mixture to my 4-quart slow cooker that I brushed with oil.

I covered it and set it to cook on high. Now, the directions said to leave the lid slightly ajar, I did this and after about 2.5 hours my bread was still undercooked in the middle. So, I decided to completely cover it and let it cook and it was done in about another 20 minutes. I turned off the slow cooker and let the bread sit uncovered for thirty minutes. I carefully removed it and let it cool completely.

I then sliced and enjoyed a piece. It was good, but, I think next time I make this I may use less cinnamon.

Slow Cooker Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups grated Zucchini, about 2 small zucchinis

9 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Brush the inside of a slow cooker (4 – 6 quarts) with 1 tablespoon of oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and the remaining oil until well combined. Fold in the zucchini. Add the flour mixture to the eggs mixtures and stir until just combined.

Transfer the batter to the greased slow cooker and spread in an even layer. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Uncover and let the bread cool in the slow cooker for 30 minutes. Loosen the edges of the bread and then carefully remove using a large spatula. Slice and enjoy!

Recipe from Savory Online

Pumpkin Bread

It’s finally Fall and you know what that means – well, it’s already in full effect – Pumpkin Spice everything! It really is amazing how many different things come in Pumpkin Spice. I actually picked up a box of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios last week while grocery shopping. I haven’t tried them yet though. And while at Target the other day I saw Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn, but, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. There has to be a line drawn somewhere… LOL!

So, in honor of Fall finally arriving I bring you my first pumpkin treat of the season… Pumpkin Bread. A simple yet delicious treat that I was quite surprised I hadn’t made before. I opted to halve the recipe and use the remaining pumpkin puree to make Pumpkin Pancakes, unfortunately they didn’t come out that great – there wasn’t much pumpkin flavor. Hopefully I’ll attempt them again before the end of the season, if not, there are some other pumpkin recipes that I can’t wait to try and share. But for now back to the… Pumpkin Bread!

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Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

3 (1 1/2) cups sugar

1 (1/2) cup vegetable oil

4 (2) eggs, lightly beaten

16 ounces (1 cup) canned unsweetened pumpkin

3 1/2 (1 3/4) cups flour

2 (1) teaspoons kosher salt

2 (1) teaspoons baking soda

1 (1/2) teaspoon baking powder

1 (1/2) teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 (1/2) teaspoon ground allspice

1 (1/2) teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/2 (1/4) teaspoon ground cloves

2/3 (1/3) cup water

*Please note the amounts in parenthesis are for 1 loaf

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. Butter and flour 2 9 x 5 loaf pans (I opted to use baking spray which contains butter and flour.)

Stir together the sugar and oil and then add in the eggs and pumpkin. You could also use a hand or stand mixer on the lowest setting.

In a separate bowl combine all of the dry ingredients, the flour to the ground cloves.

Blend the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture, alternating with the water.

Divide the batter among the loaf pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes and then remove from the pans and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Recipe from Food Network

Buttermilk Cheddar Not Quite Biscuits

We’ve all been there, a mishap in the kitchen. Could it be the recipe, a missed ingredient, an incorrect measurement or maybe it was just an off day for your oven? I had one of those mishaps happen to me recently when I made Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits. I had some leftover buttermilk in my fridge from a previous recipe and I didn’t want to go to waste and I wanted to make something different; I’ve never made biscuits before. Unfortunately my biscuits didn’t rise and I ended up with some pretty flat biscuits – I don’t even think I can call them biscuits. I’m still not sure what exactly went wrong.

My prep work seemed to be just fine… I started by putting flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of my stand mixer.

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With the mixer on low I added in cold diced unsalted butter.

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Once the butter looked like small peas I added in a buttermilk / egg mixture and continued mixing the ingredients until the mixture was moistened.

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In a small bowl I combined shredded cheddar cheese with a small handful of butter.

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After adding in the cheddar to the dough I dumped the dough onto a well-floured surface and kneaded the dough a few times and then rolled it into a rectangle.

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I then sliced the dough into 8 pieces and placed it onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and brushed them with an egg wash.

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After baking in a 425 F preheated oven for about 25 minutes this is what I got… Flat biscuits.

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Luckily they tasted really good and were a nice breakfast treat the following morning with my cup of tea! Thankfully my mishap wasn’t a total loss.

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What kind of mishaps have you encountered in your cooking and baking adventures?

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Yield: 8 Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken

1 cold extra-large egg

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 F

2. Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on low. Add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

3. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl or measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and mix only until it’s moistened. In a small bowl mix the cheddar cheese with a handful of flour. Add the cheese to the dough, still mixing it on low, and mix until roughly combined.

4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead lightly about 6 times. Rolled the dough out to a rectangle (10 by 5 inches.) With a sharp floured knife cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Can serve hot or warm.

Parmesan Herb Loaf

If you follow my blog you know that I tend to try out a lot of Food Network recipes. It’s one of my go-to stops for looking for a recipe when I have something in mind and since I receive their monthly magazine it’s hard to resist the amazing recipes they include each month. Also included each month is a tear out booklet with 50 recipes designated to a specific thing… for the October issues it was 50 Quick Breads. And I was quick to try out one of those breads, the Parmesan Herb Bread to go along with the soup I posted about yesterday.

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To begin I caramelized two onions on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.

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Following that I whisked sour cream, vegetable oil and eggs together in one bowl.

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In another bowl I combined flour, grated parmesan cheese, sugar, chopped rosemary, baking powder, lemon zest, baking soda, salt and pepper and finally the caramelized onions. If you are wondering why the onions were mixed in to the flour mixture as opposed to the egg mixture it’s because coating the onions with the flour will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bread. Hence they will be evenly distributed throughout the bread.

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After that I folded the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

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I then poured the batter into my prepared loaf pan – I lined it with parchment paper and sprayed it with baking spray – and baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for 40 minutes.

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I let the bread cool in the pan for about an hour and then removed it and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

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Then it was time to slice it up… As you can see each slice had a nice amount of onions throughout it as opposed to just on the bottom. This bread was super simple to make; granted waiting for the onions to caramelize does take some patience but the end product is definitely worth it. It was incredibly moist and flavorful, it reminded me of Thanksgiving!

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Parmesan Herb Bread

Ingredients:

2 onions sliced and caramelized

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons chopped rosemary*

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

*The original recipe also called for 2 teaspoons of chopped thyme which I omitted

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare a 9 x 5 loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang, and spraying it with baking spray.

2. To caramelize the onions, cook in olive oil over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

3. Whisk together the sour cream, vegetable oil and eggs in a medium-sized bowl.

4. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, grated parmesan, sugar, chopped rosemary, baking powder, lemon zest, salt, pepper and baking soda. Add in the onions.

5. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 40 to 50 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

6. Let cool 1 hour, then remove the bread from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.