Friday, April 30, 2010

Confessions of a food blogging mass murderer

OK, so I lied, but somehow A confession of somebody who cooks dinner then write about it just doesn't have the same ring to it. But the confession is good, I promise. Are you sitting down?

I don't like tomatoes. It's true. Forever I've been looking at beautiful photos of tomatoes, and trying, no, forcing myself to like them. Except I don't. It's not that I hate them. They're perfectly good as a paste on pizza, or in a hearty lamb shank stew, or semi-dried as part of an antipasto platter. But as the main event? I'm unconvinced. To me they always seem a bit lacking. In taste, in smell, in texture. But, like us South Africans say, die hoop beskaam nie, which loosely translates into hope will never let you down. I'm always on the lookout for nice tomato recipes, and have quite a few on my to-cook list, but mostly I'm disappointed. I just cannot get enthusiastic about them like here and here.

Admittedly, my tomatoes come from the local supermarket, as somehow having a Little Girl largely interferes with early morning trips to the farmer's market, and I realise they're not half as good as ones grown with love and care, preferably by yourself. I have bought some lovely heirloom tomato seeds, and will plant them next season, but in the meantime Maxi's will have to do.

One of my recipes with tomatoes as one of the main ingredients is this pumpkin, tomato and orange soup. I found it in some magazine, made it, loved it, and wrote it down in my little recipe book I'm planning to have dozens of and people will fight over when I die. It's quick, easy, healthy, and delicious, a rare combination indeed. You'll note that tomato is just one of the flavours here rather than the star, and is made with one of my pantry staples: tinned tomatoes (the horror!). So I can't really call this a tomato recipe. But it's better than nothing. I'll always be looking out for that elusive tomato dish to change me into a devoted fan forever, but in the meantime I'll be having this soup. Hope you enjoy it too.

Roasted pumpkin, tomato and orange soup
Serves 4

2 - 4 cups pumpkin pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 - 4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon dried chilli, or to taste
2 celery sticks with leaves, chopped
juice and zest of 1 orange
two 410g tins of tomatoes
3 cups orange or chicken stock

Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.

Place the pumpkin in a roasting tin, coat with olive oil and brown sugar, and roast for 20 minutes or until done.

Heat some oil in a saucepan and cook onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Add the celery and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Add the orange juice and zest, tomatoes with juice, stock, and pumpkin with any juices left in the pan.
Simmer for 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

If you want a completely smooth soup, puree everything in your blender or with one of those nifty stick blenders. Otherwise remove some of the bits from the saucepan, and return after you've pureed the rest.

Serve and enjoy.    

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: A Tasting Platter of Steamed Puddings

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Oooh, I love pudding! For ages I wondered what to make. The beauty of the steamed pudding (like ice cream), is that it's a blank canvas for whatever your heart desires, and the variations are endless. In the end I couldn't decide, so I thought I'll make a few. I initially wanted to make both the sponge pudding and the crust pudding, but decided that I'm not going to make life difficult for myself (more than I already am by deciding to make four different puddings). The Little Girl is cutting her teeth at the moment, and not sleeping that well, so I thought it's best to get in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. You never know when she might wake up and want some mummy time. Luckily this is one of those forgiving desserts. Abandoning it at any stage for an unforseen time is perfectly okay, and if it steams for a few minutes more, that's perfectly okay as well. My kind of recipe. As it turned out, the Little Girl is still sleeping soundly, even after making, photographing and eating the puddings, and now writing about them.

The four puddings I made were: White Chocolate and Raspberry, Dark Chocolate and Pear, Pistachio and Rose Petal and Pecan Nut, Treacle and Bourbon pudding. I loved all of them. The Fabulous Man loved all of them. But our favourite favourite was the raspberry one. I've always loved the combination of tart raspberry and sweet white chocolate, and this time around I wan't disappointed either.

I found that the 6 to 8 tablespoons of milk in the original recipe wasn't near enough. I ended up using about 12, and after dividing the batter into 4, I added some more milk to two of the batches. These two ended up a bit spongier (is that a word?), so next time I'll do the same. Alway go with your instinct.

I'm really glad with how well this all turned out. Steamed pudding isn't something I would've considered making before this, so thanks to the Daring Bakers for pushing me out of my comfort zone. Can't wait to see what's next.

Steamed Pudding Four Ways

100g flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g breadcrumbs
75g caster sugar
75g suet
1 large egg
10 tablespoons cold milk

1 tablespoon dried rose petals
4 drops rosewater
2 tablespoons chopped pistachio nuts

1 tablespoon cocao
4 tinned baby pears

1/3 cup pecan nuts, toasted
2 teaspoons treacle
1 teaspoon bourbon

1/2 cup frozen raspberries
20g chopped white chocolate

30g chopped white chocolate
3 tablespoons cream

30g dark chocolate
3 tablespoons cream

2 tablespoons rose petal syrup (or make your own by heating 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons caster sugar, 2 ml rose water and a drop of pink food colouring together in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar has melted)
extra rose petals for garnish
  • Butter 4 ramekins, tea cups or pudding dishes thoroughly. Keep aside.
  • Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Add breadcrumbs, suet and sugar. Mix to a soft batter with beaten egg and milk. If the batter isn't soft enough, add more milk until you're happy with the consistency.
  • Divide the batter into 4.

For the chocolate and baby pear pudding:
Mix the cocao into one quarter of the batter. Place the baby pears into the bottom of the dish, and cover with the chocolate batter.

For the raspberry and white chocolate pudding:
Place the frozen raspberries into the bottom of the dish. Fold the chopped white chocolate into another quarter of the batter, and spoon over the raspberries.

For the pistachio and rose petal pudding:
Place the chopped pistachios in the botton of the dish. Fold the rose petals through another quarter of the batter, and spoon over the nuts.

For the treacle pecan nut pudding:
Spoon the treacle into the bottom of the ramekin dish. Pack the pecan nut halves to form a single layer on the treacle. Mix the bourbon into the leftover batter, and spoon over the pecan nuts.

Cover the ramekins securely with greaseproof paper and string, and steam for 1 hour.

Turn the puddings out onto a big  tasting platter. Spoon the white chocolate sauce over the raspberry pudding, the chocolate sauce over the chocolate and pear pudding, and the rose petal syrup over the pistachio and rose petal pudding. There should be enough treacle over the pecan nut pudding to form a sauce.

To make the white chocolate sauce:
Melt the white chocolate and the cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water until smooth.

To make the dark chocolate sauce:
Melt the dark chocolate and the cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water until smooth.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Winner!

Good morning everybody! I hope it's been a great week. Up on the mountain life is interesting. I got all excited last week with the cold and the rain, but this week it was summer again! Sun shining, warm weather. Very confusing. They say it's colder again next week (if you believe the weatherman), so maybe then we'll be able to light the fire and cook some lamb shanks.

This week I also had the lovely job of chosing the new Paper Chef winner. A few weeks ago, with the help of the Little Girl, I pulled 3 ingredients out of a lovely crystal bowl I found in my husband's cupboard after moving in a few years ago, which impressed me tremendously. The ingredients turned out to be lobster, apricot and orange. Initially I was overcome with panic and considered pretending it never happened, and redraw. But then, in good Paper Chef spirit, I accepted the challenge on all the participants' behalf, and added ginger as the fourth ingredient.

First up was Karen, from Prospect: The Pantry, with a wonderful Orange-roasted Lobster Salad. She wrote beautifully about the joys and liberty of cooking for yourself, and made a wonderful dish consisting of lobster marinated in an orange, ginger and homemade apricot jam sauce, then roasted. She served this on some greens with some extra marinade, sliced apricots and herbs. Beautiful and delicious.

Next came Fiona from Nice Profiteroles who made Ginger-poached Lobster with an Orange/Apricot Salsa. The lobster was poached in a buttery gingery broth, then served with the salsa, and as Fiona said, it turned out so delicious she might even serve it to "people"!

Thirdly, Tricia from Jonski Blogski, with Apricot-ginger rice cakes, with sauteed spinach, and orange-ginger lobster chunks. Or “ginger, ginger, everywhere, and many pans to clean!” She also added "The ╬Ťobster was tender and sweet and mild. It was a good mix of textures. The real winner was the orange-ginger sauce – a zingy splash of flavor. Altogether, it was a really nice dinner – very tasty, and very satisfying." Sounds satisfying indeed. The recipe came with a little science lesson about lobster and crab, and what faux lobster, or ╬Ťobster if you want to be clever, consists of, and was very interesting.

Now, to the winner. I thought long and hard about each entry, and in the end decided I like Fiona's best. The combination of the ginger and lobster, combined with the lovely zesty salsa looks delicious and fancy, but easy enough to make on a weekday. Congratulations, Fiona! I'm very happy to pass the spatula to you, and I'm looking forward to see which ingredients you come up with for the next round.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cross Cultural Cooking: a Competition

You know how you always see those interviews and meme's going around, where whenever people are asked what they like most about blogging, they say it's the people you meet? For months I was a silent lurker on numerous blogs, but the moment I started my own blog, I realise how nice the feedback is, and I jumped in with both feet. And now I can also brag about the wonderful people I meet on a daily basis. And, of course, the recipes. Never in my life have I had so many recipes at my fingertips, in any cuisine imaginable. And every recipe will have feedback from likeminded devoted fans. It's great. I love it.

I also love how people take recipes and run with it. Everybody will tweak and change and make it their own. Whether it's a long-forgotten recipe you've been looking for for ages, or an ethnic dish you need to impress the in-laws with, chances are somebody has written a post about it. In fact, chances are many people have written about it, so not only do you have several recipes, but also several ideas to play with.

One cuisine I've never known much about before, and enjoy reading more about, is Lebanese, and my good friend Arlette's blog, Phoenician Gourmet, is one of the great ones around. I love reading her posts, and I always learn something new from her recipes. Arlette and I have decided to celebrate our cross-cultural friendship with a competition for our readers. We challenge you to take any Lebanese or South African recipe, tweak it, chop and change it, and make it your own. We will do a round-up, and the most original adaptation will win our prize, which we will send to you wherever you are.

The prizes are two beautiful dish towels and a fabulous Nordic Ware reversible cookie cutter, with 4 winter shapes each side, from

Excited? Here are the rules:
  • Choose any South African or Lebanese recipe from any blog, book or internet site, and adapt it to your own taste and/or culture.
  • Blog about it before Monday 17th May, and send a link and photo to willworkforbiltong (at) gmail (dot) com
  • If you don't have a blog, send your post to me, and I will post it for you on my blog.
  • Arlette and I will post a round-up, and announce the winner.
  • Your entry should be for this competition only.
I'm very excited to show off my cuisine to everybody out there, and I know Arlette feels the same. I hope you have a great time inventing.

UPDATE: Here is Arlette's post for the competition. Have a look, it's lovely!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Daring Cooks: Brunswick Stew

No, your eyes are not misleading you: I am also now a Daring Cook (as well as a Daring Baker, but more about that later). Every month from now on, in a very daredevil way, I am going to take up the challenge and cook the chosen dish with grace, style and, unlike today, on time. I do realise that the reveal date was yesterday, only yesterday I spent the whole day with the Fabulous Man looking at houses. That's right. You think the Daring's Cook's a challenge? Try moving house, having a baby, and then moving house again, all within one year. So I would like to apologise very sincerely for my lack of reveal post yesterday. Not a good way to start, I know. I was considering not doing it at all,  but decided rather late than never, as they say.

The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

I was pleased to see my first challenge turned out to be a stew. Impossible to mess up, right? Just chop a few things, throw in the pot, simmer for a while and voila! Dinner is served. And this is exactly what you do to make Brunswick stew, almost to the letter. What makes it interesting is the bits you chop up. The recipe asks for chicken and rabbit, which sounds great, except you can't find rabbit in the usual mums-with-babies haunts. What you do find next to the normal everyday chicken and lamb in Australian supermarkets is kangaroo. Which is amazing, because the number of Aussies I've come across so far who actually like kangaroo I can count on one hand. No, actually I'm wrong. I can't think of anybody I know who likes it. Supposedly it tastes too gamey. I don't know about that. I think it tastes marvelous. And it's a winner in Brunswick Stew.

My Brunswick Stew will not win any beauty prizes. In fact, let's just be honest and call a spade a spade: it looks like a mess. But it's a delicious mess, let me tell you. I'm not sure if it's the kangaroo or the chicken stock I used, or maybe just the magic of the right ingredients coming together. The smell was delicious straight from the start, and I couldn't stop my self from fishing out little bits of chicken to taste. The Little Girl also had a few slivers of chicken, and obviously thought it was much nicer than the organic sweet potato, pumpkin and apple baby mush I was trying to get her to eat. Sophisticated tastes, this Little Girl. I don't blame her. It tastes great, and according to the recipe it will taste even better tomorrow when the flavours had chance to develop. Yum. Can't wait.

Brunswick Stew
Serves 6

50g bacon, diced
2 dried red chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
250g kangaroo fillet, diced
1 kg chicken pieces, skin removed
sea salt and pepper for seasoning
4-6 cups chicken stock
1 Bay leaves
1 large celery stalk, chopped
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup butterbeans
1 can tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
Tabasco sauce to taste

In the largest stockpot you have, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops. Remove to bowl with the bacon.

Season liberally both sides of the kangaroo and chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper. Place the kangaroo pieces in the pot and sear off all sides possible. You just want to brown them, not cook them completely. Remove to bowl with bacon and chiles, add more bacon fat if needed, or olive oil, or other oil of your choice, then add in chicken pieces, again, browning all sides nicely. Remember not to crowd your pieces, especially if you have a narrow bottomed pot. Put the chicken in the bowl with the bacon, chiles and kangaroo. Set it aside.

Add 2 cups of your chicken stock, and deglaze the pan, making sure to get all the goodness cooked onto the bottom. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling delicious. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half. Add your remaining stock, the bay leaves, celery, potatoes, chicken, kangaroo, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ hours. Taste the stock, according to the recipe, it “should taste like the best chicken soup you’ve ever had”.

With a pair of tongs, remove the chicken and kangaroo pieces to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the meats will be very tender and may start falling apart. Remove the bay leaf and discard. After you’ve allowed the meat to cool enough to handle, carefully remove all the meat from the bones, shredding it as you go. Return the meat to the pot, throwing away the bones. Add in your carrots, and stir gently, allowing it to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots have started to soften.

Add your onion, butterbeans, corn and tomatoe. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and onions, corn and butterbeans are tender. Remove from heat and add in vinegar, lemon juice, stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired.

You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot, either on its own, or with a side of corn bread, over steamed white rice, with any braised greens as a side.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chocolate and Custard Torte

Good morning dear readers. Today I have a question: How do you measure the success of your recipes? Does it need to be cheap and easy? Better than the mother-in-law's? Contain chocolate? I'm really strict when it comes to my own, and have a long list of boxes to tick before considering a recipe worthy of being remembered and remade.

First of all I have to like the sound of it. Either it has to have a great name, like Chocolate Insanity, or Hot Cross Bunnies, or Puddle cookies, or the name must tell me that this sounds interesting, like Salmon with Strawberry and Feta crust. Then the dish has to look good. By this I don't mean styled and dressed to death. I'm always slightly suspicious of dishes that has a hundred and one different garnishes, with a serviette folded into a swan on the side. Then again, plenty of dishes don't score high in the looks area, but taste divine, like stew, or chocolate tart, for that matter. Looks can bring you far, but is nothing without substance. A little bit like in real life.

It helps if a dish is made of fairly cheap and readily available ingredients, preferably already in the pantry, and doesn't take all day, but again this isn't essential. I'm very happy to spend time and money on something if I know it will be worth the effort.

And of course, it goes without saying, it has to taste fabulous. I'm happy to settle for delicious if it's dead easy and cheap and to be served on a Tuesday, but really, I prefer my dishes to be swoon worthy. Life's too short, as they say, to eat mediocre food. And both I and my guests must rate it this highly. I remember a fig ice cream I made for a dinner one night (I'll post the recipe one day): Everybody started off with their two scoops, but soon I had to bring out the leftovers, and at the end of the evening one of my guests was licking the bowl! Now that's what I call a success.

Which brings me to this post's recipe. I searched for a dish to use up stale hot cross buns, and found this chocolate and custard tart on It was a bit different than your usual bread and butter puddings (which is delicious, don't get me wrong): you make a base of thinly sliced hot cross buns and melted chocolate (also a good way to use up easter eggs), cover it with a creamy custard and set it in the fridge. Sounds great, doesn't it? The reviews were mostly raving about it, so I decided to make it for a family gathering last night.

Everybody said it was delicious, and liked the idea of the hot cross bun crust, but I couldn't shake the feeling that they were just being nice. How do I know? Nobody, not a single one, had seconds, and there were plenty left. Now in my book, that's a failure. Admittedly, there are a few things I'd do differently next time, like sprinkling some liqueur over the buns, and have more of a custard filling that's not quite so creamy, maybe baked. Maybe chocolate. But will there be a next time? Do I really want to spend time on a recipe that's already let me down once?  I'm not sure. What do you think, dear readers?

Chocolate and Custard Torte
Serves 8

70g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
600ml thickened cream
4 egg yolks
200g good-quality dark chocolate (or leftover Easter eggs), coarsely chopped
100ml thin cream
4 bought hot cross buns, thinly sliced vertically
2 tablespoons warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons gelatine powder
2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Place the sugar, vanilla extract and half the thickened cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil. Pour into a heatproof jug.
Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the cream mixture. Return to the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill.

Meanwhile, combine the chocolate and thin cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Use a metal spoon to stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.

Line the base and sides of a round 24cm (base measurement) springform pan with non-stick baking paper. Arrange half the hot cross bun slices, in a single layer, over the base of the pan. Spread half the chocolate mixture evenly over the base to cover completely. Repeat with the remaining hot cross bun and chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.

Whisk the remaining thickened cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Use a large metal spoon to gently fold the cream into the custard mixture.

Place the warm water in a small heatproof jug. Sprinkle with gelatine and whisk with a fork until the gelatine dissolves. Gently fold the gelatine mixture into the custard mixture. Pour over the chocolate base. Cover and place in fridge for 3 hours or overnight to set. Dust with the cocoa powder to serve.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy...

I was away in South Africa when the 50th Paper Chef winner was announced. This was the first Paper Chef I participated in, and was very excited about the whole thing. For the first time I could actually come up with a recipe, and made Ricotta, dill and honey crumpets. The Fabulous Man tasted the final product, and looking surprised, said he loved it (maybe it was the dill that scared him off initially). Then we both considered the other entries in the round-up. Being polite, he told me I'll definitely win. I wasn't so sure. Everything looked so wonderful. I couldn't wait.

In South Africa I told both my mother and brother about this great event I entered, and how it works. Everybody suitably excited, we kept our eyes peeled for the announcement of the winner. You won't believe it, it was me! I was very surprised and so, so happy about it. Thank you very much to Karen from Prospect: The Pantry for your lovely words. Before I started this blog, I'd never realised how good it feels to know that people like what you write.

And then, to top it all off, the announcement for the winner of Sugar High Friday was made, and it was my Lucky Green Guinness Cupcakes! People, my cup runneth over. I cannot put in words how happy this made me.

So, as Paper Chef queen (for this month at least), I get to randomly chose the next round's ingredients. Everybody has their own little way of doing this, but I was helped by the Little Girl. I wrote each ingredient on a slip of paper, put it in a bowl, and decided to take the first three ingredients she pulls out.

First one out (and straight into her mouth, I might add):

So apart from being beautiful and smart, the Little Girl is also a bit of a Gourmet!

Next one out:


My choice for the fourth ingredient is ginger.

I'm not sure about the apricot, but luckily that's what Paper Chef is all about - creating something wonderful from slightly crazy ingredients.

So, everybody, thinking caps on. If you need reminding about the rules, head over to Paper Chef. All entries need to be posted and a link emailed to paperchef AT gmail DOT com by next Tuesday. Hope you have an interesting time.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Caramelised Bocconcini with Strawberries

I don't think it's necessary to look pretty in life, but sometimes it helps. Dessert is the same. The main meal is done, the wine is finished. Any dessert at all is a bonus. In my house you will be served coffee definitely, dessert maybe. Pretty dessert? Unlikely.

And yet, sometimes a pretty dessert is called for.  It may be the boss that's over for dinner, or some loved one you want to make something special for. Either way, this dessert is pretty, unexpected, and, most importantly, easy. And very impressive.

So, next time when the boss is over for dinner, or you're cooking for somebody important on the third date, remember this one.

Caramelised Bocconcini with Strawberries
Serves 4

1 punnet strawberries
150g sugar
300g bocconcini
basil or other herb to serve

Wash, hull and half the strawberries. Taste them, and sprinkle with a little bit ofcaster sugar if they're not that sweet.

Melt the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan until caramelised. Be careful not to burn it.

When ready, put the bocconcini in the saucepan and cover with the caramel. Let it harden on some baking paper.

Combine the strawberries, bocconcini and basil in bowls.

Serve and impress.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hot Cross Bunny (with chocolate in her tummy)

Dear readers. This was going to be my most beautiful post ever. I've been thinking about it for ages. The idea was to make hot cross buns, but in bunny shapes. I thought I'll make them look like the Lindt easter bunnies, complete with ribbon and bell. And to reproduce the photo, the one with the one bunny in front in focus, and all the others faded in the background (except I don't know how to do that with my camera).

Anyway, let's just say I had problems. I never got round to making them in South Africa, and back home we're in full recovering from jet-lag/getting ready for camping-mode. And working with yeast in between all this didn't work out at all. I can't blaim the recipe. It's Australian Women's Weekly's, and we all know they never make mistakes. It must have something to do with leaving the dough for several hours before getting round to it again. The buns tasted very yeasty and not sweet enough without the added chocolate.

I also had trouble with the different shapes. They had flat sides where they touched each other while baking. In the end I only had one body shape that was actually round, except the chocolate I hid inside beforehand had leaked out during baking. The glaze turned out one big mess, so I'll defenitely use another recipe next time.

I really want to have another go at this, as I think they can be ultra cute. Unfortunately I won't have time before leaving for the weekend tomorrow, so I'll give you the recipe and ideas of how I will do it next time, based on what I learned making this batch. This post is for Bread Baking day #28, this month hosted by Tangerine's Kitchen. The theme is Buns, and I don't think anything says Easter like hot cross buns. I hope you have some nice ones.

Hot Cross Bunnies
Should make about 8, depending on the size

4 teaspoons (14g) dry yeast
1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) warm milk
4 cups (600g) plain flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
80g butter, chopped
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/3 cup warm water
100g milk chocolate

Combine the yeast with one tablespoon of the sugar and all of the milk in a small bowl, whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Cover the bowl and stand in a warm place for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is frothy.

Sift the flour, spices and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter, and stir in the remaining sugar, yeast mixture, egg and enough water to make a soft dough. Cover the bowl and stand in a warm place for about one hour, or until the mixture has doubled in size.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

To form the bunnies:
Make 6 rounds of about golf ball size, wrapped around a couple of blocks of chocolate. (start with 6 to make sure you have enough dough, you can always make some more later). Make 6 more rounds of about big marble size for the heads, 6 balls slightly larger than peas for the tails, and about 2cm long log shapes with tapered ends for the ears. Keep in mind that the dough will still rise, so make it smaller than your desired outcome. Keep all shapes on oiled baking trays, but don't let them touch each other, as you will lose the nice round shape. Keep in a warm place for 20 minutes or until the dough has almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220C.  Bake the buns until they sound hollow when tapped. Keep in mind that the smaller shapes will bake quicker. For the bodies, check between 10 and 15 minutes, and for the tails and ears just over 5 minutes. The heads should be done somewhere in between. Brush with glaze (I didn't like the AWW one, and can't really comment on any others), and cool on wire racks.

To assemble:
Melt the rest of the chocolate and spoon it into a sandwich bag with a small corner snipped off (or whatever you use). Stick the head and tail to the body, and the ears to the head, with the chocolate. I had a tough time getting the ears to stick, and ended up using toothhpicks to anchor them. Maybe it will help to cut off the bottoms of the ears to make a flat surface. Pipe on little faces on the heads, and crosses on the body (otherwise it will only be hot bunny, and is it just me, or does that sound more like a Valentine's day treat?).

Some extra tips:
  • If you want fruity bunnies, add 1 cup sultanas and 2 tablespoons chpped mixed peel to the mixture.
  • Make sure the dough is comnpletely wrapped around the chocolate, so that it doesn't leak out.
  • Leave plenty of space around each shape on the baking sheet, otherwise the end result is out of shape.
  • I love cardamom, and added some to the mixture. Of course you can use whatever spice you want.
I'll try this again next year, and will do another post then on the outcome. Hope everybody has a lovely Easter!