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

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

Zucchini Spice Bread

Another mini road trip meant it was time to bake another dessert that wouldn’t require refrigeration. This time I went with a Zucchini Spice Bread. If you are not a fan of zucchinis, or vegetables for that matter, no worries the addition of some warm spices masks the fact that a vegetable is the main ingredient in this delicious loaf cake. Luckily for me, I love all vegetables – even those bitter Brussels sprouts. Trust me; they can be delicious when made the right way.

I began by grating a medium-sized zucchini. While the recipe called for the zucchini to be coarsely grated I opted to finely grate it which I think added to the moisture of the bread.

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Next I whisked together the dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves.

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In another bowl I used a hand mixer to mix together canola oil, light brown and granulated sugar, two eggs, vanilla extract…

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And finally the zucchini.

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I then added in the flour mixture and mixed it until it was just combined.

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After pouring it into my prepared loaf pan – I sprayed it with baking spray – I baked it in a preheated 350 F oven for about 50 minutes.

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The cake smelled delicious right out of the oven and I couldn’t wait for it to cool so I could try a piece.

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After letting it cool for a half hour in the pan and then transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely I was finally able to slice into the loaf and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It was incredibly moist and the spices were a perfect touch. Next time I make it though I will probably add in some walnuts for a little texture and added flavor.

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Zucchini Spice Bread

Ingredients

1/2 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

A pinch of ground cloves

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

Directions 

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan (I used a 9 1/4 x 5 1/4 inch pan.) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cloves.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, light brown and granulated sugars, eggs and vanilla; mix in the zucchini. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not over mix.)

3. Spread the batter in the prepared pan bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Banana Nut Bread… A Single Loaf

As some of you may know I have a tendency to let bananas sit for a tad bit too long which means I won’t eat them – I prefer my bananas not to have any spots on them – but instead I bake with them. Over the course of my blogging I have made Marbled Nutella Banana Bread, Banana & Chocolate Cupcakes, Banana Chocolate Chip & Nut Muffins, Banana Cream Pie, and the first banana recipe I posted, Banana Nut Bread. Which I just made again, although the first time I made it I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with two loaves, this time though I only had three of the six called for bananas so I decided to halve the recipe and am happy to say it worked out perfectly, so I decided to share that with you today. I must say I never particularly cared for Banana Bread until I made it myself and this recipe was definitely key to me liking it. It’s the perfect amount of banana flavor and sweetness.
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Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
3 large bananas, very ripe, mashed
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts*
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 F & grease one loaf pan.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the cream mixture. Stir in the bananas and chopped walnuts.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
*The original recipe called for pecans

Sun-Dried Tomato Bread

As I may have mentioned before I have quite a few cookbooks that I normally mark recipes from but more often than not don’t get around to trying out. Recently I started going through some of these cookbooks to refresh my memory on those marked recipes and also to see if I can make room on my bookshelf for other cookbooks that I will get more use out of. In doing so I came across a Sun-Dried Tomato Bread recipe in Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table cookbook which I immediately decided I wanted to try. This is one cookbook that I didn’t purchase myself but instead received as part of a prize package I got a few years back and probably haven’t looked at it since. This also marks the first time I attempted to make bread, yes, I have made banana bread and such in the past but, I guess I should clarify that it’s the first time I am making a yeast bread. I’ve only baked with yeast once before, just this past holiday actually, and it was disastrous. I tried to make cinnamon rolls from scratch but my yeast never properly dissolved and reacted with the water so the rolls were a mess, but, they did smell good. Luckily this time my results were a complete 180. I can’t even tell you how happy I was when my loaves actually expanded while they rested prior to me putting them in the oven… Sometimes it really is the little things in life.

I began by preparing the sun-dried tomato – kalamata olive – garlic paste that I ultimately kneaded into the dough. I soaked chopped sun-dried tomatoes in water for ten minutes and after patting them dry I combined them with chopped kalamata olives. To prepare the garlic I cooked four unpeeled cloves in olive oil for about twenty minutes until they were softened and then squeezed the pulp from the cloves into the mixture. I then mashed all three items together with a spoon to form the paste.

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Next I combined the yeast, salt and water in a bowl and let it sit in a warm area until the yeast activated. While the recipe called for fresh yeast I used dry yeast instead. I was able to find the dry equivalent after doing a quick Google search. At first nothing happened with my water, but, after reading the back of the yeast packet I learned that I needed to add a bit of sugar to get the process going. It wasn’t long after that the yeast was ready.

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I poured that into the center of the two flours – unbleached all-purpose and wheat flour – the recipe called for.

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After some kneading the dough was ready to be incorporated with the tomato-olive-garlic paste.

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After some more kneading I formed the dough into two loaves which I placed in prepared (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) loaf pans.

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I covered them and let them rest for one hour in a warm area so they could double in size. My warm area ended up being right on top of my stove while the oven was on. And boy did they double…

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I then brushed the tops of the loaves with olive oil – I used the same olive oil that I cooked the garlic in to add a little extra flavor – and sprinkled some salt and freshly chopped marjoram on top.

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I baked them in a 375 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes uncovered and then another 25 minutes covered with aluminum foil. After letting the loaves rest in the pan on the wire rack for ten minutes I then removed them so they could cool completely.

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After cooling overnight I sliced them up and am happy to say that baking with yeast this time was a success for me! This bread is delicious!

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Sun-Dried Tomato Bread Recipe

Servings: 2 Loaves

Ingredients

1/2 cup roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped

2 oz fresh yeast (approximately 7 tsp. dry yeast)

2 1/2 tsp salt

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 marjoram sprigs, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in cold water for 10 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.

3. Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until softened, shaking the pan occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then squeeze the pulp from the cloves into a bowl and mix with the olives and sun-dried tomatoes to form a paste.

4. Combine the yeast, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 2 cups lukewarm water in a mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve, then let sit in a warm place until the yeast begins to bubble, 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Place the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast liquid into the well. Slowly combine the liquid with the flour. Using your hands, work the flour and liquid together to form a dough. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato-olive mixture and knead until fully incorporated, about 5 minutes.

6. Divide the dough in half and form into 2 loaves. Transfer to two greased 81/2 x 41/2-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rest in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

7. Brush the tops of the loaves with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the marjoram. Place the loaf pans in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Cover the pans with aluminum foil and bake for another 30 minutes.

8. Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on the racks.

Marbled Nutella Banana Bread

A few months ago I came across a recipe for a Marbled Nutella Banana Bread on a fellow bloggers’, My Ninja Naan, blog  and I have wanted to make it ever since. I was all set to make it last weekend but then my dad ate one of my perfectly ripened bananas. It was probably for the best though, the bananas were practically over-ripened in my book so I am sure the taste of the bread would have been overpowered by the banana taste and the Nutella flavor would have gotten lost in it. While I am a fan of bananas I prefer to eat mine when they are pale yellow without any spots – when most people would say they are not ready to be eaten – so they won’t have the overpowering banana taste I am not fond of. So, I bought three bananas that were on the verge of turning a darker shade of yellow and let them sit for a week to ripen up a bit to make the bread.

I started off by sifting together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. While I do have a traditional sifter, I prefer to use a sieve to sift my dry ingredients as it’s much quicker and I find that it does the job just as well.

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I set the dry ingredients aside and I began to mix together the wet ingredients. First up, I mashed three ripe bananas.

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Next, I added in the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract and used my hand mixer to combine them all.

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I then mixed in two eggs.

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And finally I added in the flour mixture.

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Once the batter was well combined I divided it into two bowls and added the Nutella to one of them.

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To get the marbled effect I alternately spooned the banana and the Nutella-banana batters into my prepared 9-inch loaf pan (I just sprayed it with baking spray) and then swirled it with a knife.

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After baking for an hour in a 350 degrees F preheated oven the bread was done.

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I let it cool for a bit and then sliced a few slices to see the marble effect and of course to try it and it was delish!

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Marbled Nutella Banana Bread

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 bananas)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup Nutella

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift the together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together banana, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy and well combined – about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs until well combined – about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Divide 1/2 of the batter into a medium bowl; stir in Nutella until combined.

Alternate spoonfuls of batter into loaf pan until all of the batter is used up. Swirl batter gently with a knife (not too much!).

Bake 1 hour or until well risen, deep golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into bread comes out with moist crumbs attached.

Makes 1 loaf.