Posted on April 21, 2017
I’ve got a great recipe for homemade hot cross buns. Also, I have a ton of exciting news!
First: If you don’t feel like making 30 hot cross buns with this recipe I’m bringing to Fiesta Friday today, after a long and regretted absence on my part, you can make two giant hot cross buns and just bake them a little bit longer than for individual buns.
This Easter I had 15 hot cross buns and 1 hot cross loaf and both iterations of the recipe turned out delicious. Since I nearly always use whatever flour I have on hand for baking, I’ve used half spelt flour which gave an added earthiness and detracted from the usually very sweet taste of hot cross buns, at least for my palate.
Next: As many of you know, we moved to Vancouver, WA in August last year!
More pics at end of post . . . .
The weeks leading up to the move really socked it to my emotional equanimity but once we arrived, all turned out well. Vancouver is just across the bridge, literally, from Portland, OR, where I work and where I’ve been eating my way through town. My husband took a job in Amboy, WA, which is kind of in the middle of nowhere but wow is it beautiful country out there. Stay tuned in the coming months as I share with you all about our move, how strange and fabulous Portland is, and what I’ve been up to in my kitchen and out at restaurants. For now, I’ve got these awesome hot cross buns, some winter and fun Portland and Washington pics, and a giant hug to all my old friends who are a part of the Fiesta Friday community.
Finally: I’ve also begun writing restaurant reviews with the amazing ladies over at Female Foodie. Another double-F for the win! I’m beyond excited, and honored to be a part of this community that not only has the most delicious restaurant recommendation resources for anybody who loves to travel, but also some invaluable information and tools including photography and wordpress blogging tutorials for aspiring food blogger/photographer entrepreneurs. I have truly learned a ton about photography, monetization, and social media as it relates to food blogging via these gals. I especially want to mention that for the Female Foodie elite members, there is an upcoming (next Tuesday) webinar with Si Foster from A Bountiful Kitchen who has been a very successful food blogger since 2008. She will talk to us about her experience growing a food blog/business dedicated to tried and true recipes for the at home cook trying to make practical and delicious food, and will be available for questions. Since I am trying myself to navigate whether I want to put some more intention and business mindedness into my blog, I for sure will be attending. Join me!!
Very finally, definitely hop on over there to read my bittersweet burger goodbye song review of one of my favorite places in Los Angeles: The Apple Pan.
Now, for the homemade hot cross buns recipe:
For the Buns:
For the Cross:
For the Glaze:
Now for some fun pics:
Posted on April 19, 2014
As you my loyal readers know I have been on somewhat of a history kick for inane and slightly off-beat foodstuffs lately. I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t been able to eat any proper food (only softies) since my dental event, but I’m still on a roll. Here is a very traditional Easter dessert recipe that I adapted slightly to utilize way less sugar and yet it still turned out delicious. It is homey, rich, creamy and it smells awesome while baking. It’s called Pastiera Napoletana.
The Pastiera is a tart always eaten at Easter time in Naples, Italy. It is made from a very special and centuries-old recipe which has two particular ingredients which make it unique: moisture taken from the orange tree blossom and cooke wheat berries. Also used in the recipe are ricotta cheese, candied fruit peel and classic short pastry. I added a few dates and molasses, as well as a hearty ladle-full of Fig Sue . . . just because. Making this tart does not require any great ability, just a little time and patience. And a springform pan!
The Pastiera is tied to early pagan springtime festivals and the modern version was probably invented in a peaceful and secret Neapolitan convent, Sa Gregorio Armeno. Apparently an unknown nun wanted that cake, which had come to be a symbol of the Resurrection to have the perfume of the flowers of the orange trees which grew in the conent’s gardens. She mixed a handful of wheat to the ricotta cheese & eggs, and added water which had the fragrance of the flowers of springtime. The nuns of this convent were considered to be genus in the complex preparation of the Pastiera and used to prepare a great quantity for the neighborhood families during Easter time.
Every good Neapolitan housewife considers herself to be the one and only authentic baker with the best recipe for the Pastiera. There are two different ways of preparing the Pastiera: the oldest one mixes the ricotta cheese to the eggs, the most recent and innovative one recommence to mix thick pastry cream into the ricotta which makes the Pastiera softer.
The pastier must be cooked some days in advance of Easter, no later than Good Friday, in order to allow the fragrances to mix properly to elicit the unique citrusy-sweet taste.
I adapted my recipe from the wonderful Emiko Davies‘s recipe, who writes a weekly Italian column for Food52. I did not use powdered sugar in the crust, and in place of sugar in the filling I added dates and a touch of molasses.
1 stick unsalted cold butter (I like to freeze mine)
2 cups flour
1 whole egg, plus one yolk
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbps sugar
Ingredients for the filling:
10 ounces (280 grams) of cooked wheat berries or about 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) of uncooked wheat berries
1 cup cream or milk
2 tablespoons butter
12 ounces fresh ricotta
6 fresh medjool dates, soaked for a couple of minutes in warm water
1 Tbps molasses
2 whole eggs, plus two yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
2 oz. candied citron, finely chopped
2 oz. candied lemon peel, finely chopped
Make the Dough:
1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl (I used a food processor this time, but with the dough blade; often I just mix by hand with a fork and knife). Chop the cold butter into small pieces and pulse together in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and lemon zest and knead just until the mixture comes together. If you find it a bit dry, add some cold water, a tablespoon at a time until it forms a dough; if it’s too wet, add a bit of flour. Cover in plastic wrap and rest at least 30 minutes or overnight.
I didn’t have enough dough because . . . well I didn’t really measure (I’m terrible this way!) so I made a little more for the lattice:
Make the filling:
1. Place the cooked wheat berries in a saucepan over medium heat with the butter, milk and lemon zest. Bring to a boil gently, stirring occasionaly until it becomes very thick and creamy like oatmeal, about 15 minutes. Let cool until needed.
2. In a blender, food processor or mixer, beat the eggs and extra yolks with the ricotta, dates, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon and orange blossom water until creamy. Leave this mixture to rest several hours (better if overnight) in the fridge. Fold the cooled wheat berry cream and the rested ricotta mixture together with the finely chopped candied citron.
3. Roll out about two thirds of the pastry and place in a 10 inch greased springform tin. Cut off any overhang and add to the remaining pastry, roll out again and with a pastry crimper wheel, cut long strips about ¾ an inch wide. Fill the pastry base with the ricotta mixture and even out the borders of the pastry to the level of the mixture. Lay the long pastry strips gently across the top to form a a criss-cross diamond pattern, pressing the strips on the edge of the pastry very gently. If desired, you can brush the lattice gently with some egg wash to make it shiny.
4. Bake the pastiera for 1 hour at 390ºF (200ºC) until the pastry is golden and the pastiera is amber-brown on top. Allow to cool completely inside the springform pan before removing or chilling. Ideally serve the pastiera the next day (remove it from the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating to take away some of the chill). Store any leftovers in the fridge.
Posted on April 18, 2014
Do you remember your grade school history?
George Washington and his cherry tree, the Mayflower, making construction paper hats, that kind of thing . . . but did anybody tell you that John Adams began each day with a tankard of hard cider, that the Mayflower was loaded with barrels of beer, or that after the war, Washington traded his sword for a whiskey still?
That’s because traditional histories don’t usually mention that our colonial forefathers (and mothers) swam in a sea of booze from breakfast till bedtime. Whether they were working, fighting, traveling, writing . . early Americans were often tipsy—perhaps rationalized by the belief that fermented drinks were safer than water. Back in the day, the day didn’t begin until after a “dram” of bitters or “stiffener” of beer.
Due to this boozelust, early Americans came up with an amusing variety of pseudo-cocktails from their pantry of ale, cider, rum, milk, cream, sugar, molasses, eggs, spices and citrus. You may have noticed that some of these drinks —such a “shrubs” and meads are making a comeback in bars and restaurants.
Let’s talk about the posset, because I recently bought one at one of my favorite neighborhood eateries.
You may know it as a custard or pudding type dessert as pictured above but . . . .
A posset was originally a British hot drink of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced, which was popular from medieval times to the 19th century. In the Middle Ages, it was used as a cold and flu remedy and was more of a drink than a mousse. Lady Macbeth used a poisoned posset to knock out the guards outside Duncan’s quarters. These days a posset is a cold set dessert loosely based on the drink, containing cream and lemon.
As I was researching the posset I came upon a version called a “Fig Sue” which, given that it is Good Friday, and given the other facts/terms/wordplay as described below, is the indisputable choice for birgerbird’s Fiesta Friday #12 dish.
Fig Sue was a bread posset once served on Good Friday in some parts of the English Lake District. It was made with ale, bread, figs, treacle and nutmeg. I love bread, love figs, love treacle (molasses); used to but don’t anymore love ale. The figs were meant to represent the Crucifix, which was traditionally thought to have been made with the wood of a fig tree. Fig Sue was traditionally served from a ‘piggin’ or ‘bicker.’ I love that word ‘piggin’ and Lord knows I can love to ‘bicker.’
To make the drink, milk was heated to a boil, then mixed with wine or ale which curdled it, and the mixture was usually spiced.
A well made posset was said to have three different layers. The uppermost, known as ‘the grace’ was a snowy foam or aereated crust. In the middle was a smooth spicy custard and at the bottom a pungent alcoholic liquid. The grace and the custard were enthusiastically consumed as ‘spoonmeat’ and the sack-rich liquid below drunk through the ‘pipe’ or spout of the posset pot.
I decided to make a traditional Fig Sue recipe that I found on the internet on some godforsaken ancient parish township newsletter column, which included a library of recipes. It tastes like . . . Christmas pudding smoothie? Yes, Christmas pudding smoothie.
This mixture of sourdough bread, ale (I used a belgian “sour ale”), sweet cream, figs, molasses, rum and nutmeg . . . served hot . . . truly surprised me with its deliciousness. It’s a tummy full, but if you’ve fasted for Good Friday, you can drink it as your dinner and it will satisfy . . . and probably transition you to dreamland.
Here’s the Recipe:
1/2 pint strong ale
1/2 cup cream
2 Tbps butter
3 slices bread
6 dried figs
1 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 Tbsp rum
Cook bread gently in ale with figs, molasses, brown sugar, nutmeg and rum for about 10 minutes. Transfer to blender with butter and blend until smooth, thinning out with water if necessary.
Posted on March 4, 2014