Monday, 11 March 2013

Whiskey Hot Cross Buns

For the last three years I have been using a FreshLoaf recipe for Hot Cross buns (lost the actual recipe now) – my very first year attempt was quite successful, but lately I was getting a bit disappointed with the recipe, the buns were coming out small and quite dense. So, I thought its time to try a new recipe and decided to start trying out recipes well in advance of Easter.

Hot Cross bun is basically a sweet dough with a lot of fruit and spices, and when you are after a sweet dough, you can’t go wrong with The King of sweet dough – Richard Bertinet. I found his recipe for Hot Cross buns online and it looked like a good place to start. You know me, I can’t live a recipe alone, gotta mess with it a bit, otherwise my name wouldn’t be Messy Baker J

Hot Cross Buns
Makes 13

250ml milk, warmed up
1 egg
50ml whiskey
1 pack of instant dried yeast
2 Tbsp (heaped) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g unsalted butter, melted
370g white flour
130g whole-wheat flour
1 tsp salt
40g orange peel, chopped
50g glace cherries, chopped
200g sultanas or currents
1 tsp (heaped) ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Crosses :
100g white flour
1 Tbsp oil

Glaze (optional, but highly recommended) :
100ml water
100g caster sugar
50ml whiskey

Egg wash (optional):
1 egg
Pinch of salt

Start by measuring out your fruit – I used sultanas, chopped orange peel and glace cherries. You can use any combination you like, as long as you make up the required weight. I would have used a lot more of the peel, but I ran out and I had some cherries left over from Christmas, so I figured fruit is fruit, right?
Richard’s recipe calls for mixed spice, but again I ran out of it (you think that I would be better prepared for Easter baking after all this planning, wouldn’t you?) so I used cinnamon and nutmeg. Mixed spice is basically a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I would have used cloves too, but I guess you figured by now that I ran out of that spice as well. Anyway, back to the recipe – I love cinnamon, so I used quite a lot of it in the recipe and I think it could probably take more – use as much as you like.

Place warm milk, whiskey, egg, yeast, vanilla essence, sugar and butter in a stand mixer. Add flours and salt and mix on slow speed (speed 1 on my KA) for 5 minutes until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Switch to speed medium speed (speed 2 on my KA) and mix for further 8 minutes. Add dried fruit and spices an mix for 2 minutes on slow speed.

The dough turned out quite soft and sticky, but I didn’t mind that, I quite like working with wet dough, as long as it means that the buns are going to turn out nice and soft.
Make sure that the fruit is evenly distributed through the dough, give it a couple of hand turns if it isn’t and place it in a large oiled bowl (I used my stand KA bowl to save up on the washing). Cover the bowl with glad-wrap (or a plastic shower cap in my case – recycling at its best, not that I am an eco-warrior or anything, I just don’t like waste). Leave the dough in a warm place for an hour – an hour and a half, until its nearly doubled in size.

Take the dough out of the ball and cut it into even-sized pieces. Richard’s recipe calls them “satsuma-sized” pieced and makes 20 buns. I wanted to make chunky buns, so I’ve made them a big bigger, and no matter what recipe I try I always end up with a baker dozen – 13 buns in total. Again the dough is going to be quite sticky, don’t be tempted to add any flour  - oil your hands and/or workbench with some vegetable oil to make it easier to roll if you like, but I repeat – step away from the flour

 Place the buns (well spaced) on a baking tray lined with parchment, cover it and leave in a warm draft-free place for an hour or so until the buns have nearly doubled in size. Now, I understand that’s covering a baking train can be quite challenging, so here is my trick – get a large rubbish bag (clean, obviously!), lay it flat on a table, slide the tray inside the bag, gather the ends of the bag loosely, quickly blow inside the bag, and tuck the ends of the bag under the tray. What I’ve essentially created is a little hot house for the buns, and that extra blow of air at the end will keep the bag puffed up and away from the surface of the buns.
While the buns are doing their magic, pre-heat the oven to 190C or gas mark 4, now I have a gas oven, I am going to be thinking in gas marks. My oven is VERY temperamental, but that’s a story for another day.
When the buns are ready, wash them with an egg beaten with a pinch of salt – or skip this step if you prefer less shiny bun, that’s all an egg wash does, as well as gives you a nice crust. Actually, just get a damn egg and do it! J

Next you need to pipe crosses on top of the buns – yes, post the egg wash, as you want the whole bun to be shiny and the crosses matt. Mix the flour and oil in a small bowl, add enough water to make a reasonably thick paste, about 4-5 Tbsp, but as thick/liquid as you like, thick enough to pipe it out. Now, I do have a piping bag, but I didn’t want to mess it up (it’s a bastard to clean), so I went for a paper cone option – use whatever you have/can use. To make a paper cone bag take a square piece of parchment paper (baking paper), roll it into a cone and spoon the cross mixture inside the cone. Once the cone is filled, cut a small-ish end of the cone to make the piping “nozzle”. Make sure to cut the end AFTER you filled the cone, as the paper will move as you fill the bag, and the mixture WILL leak out if you do it the other way around.
Pipe the crosses on the buns, its easier if the buns are lined up in nice neat lines, that was you can do a couple of long straight lines length-way of the tray, and a few shorter lines across the width-way of the tray. Don’t worry if the lines are a bit wonky of break/overlap in places, it will all turn out fine after they’ve been baked.
Bake the buns for 20-25 minutes, until light-golden on top and baked through (check that the bottom is lovely golden colour too).

 While the buns are baking, make the syrup by placing water, sugar and whiskey in a small pot, bringing it to the boil and then simmering for 10 minutes until all sugar has dissolved and the syrup has turned a very light golden colour.

As soon as the buns come out of the oven, place them on a cooling rack and glaze them with syrup.
Please a piece of baking parchment under the rack to catch any rogue syrup drops.

Wait an hour (or half an hour at least if you are really desperate), break a bun, slather is with butter and enjoy.

 I must say, this is the best hot cross buns recipe I have made so far. As mentioned, the buns could take a bit more spice, so I might up it a bit next time I make them. Whiskey flavour comes through really well, mainly due to the glaze rather than the dough – you might want to omit the glaze if you are making the buns for little munchkins, but little Ms Rantlet loves it as it is.
I really like the mix of white and whole-wheat flour, I much prefer it to all-white buns – the balane of the flours is bang on.
The buns are delicious freshly baked, and just as great the next day, toasted with some butter. I am going to eat the rest of them tomorrow for breakfast with some jam – mmmm, yummmm

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Slow White Sourdough

I’ve finally been shamed into updating my blog – can’t believe how rubbish I’ve been. Especially as I did promise to improve last time I posted on here. Lesson learnt – don’t make promises, full stop
In my defence, I do have an excuse for the lack of posts, last three months were a bit hectic to say the least, we finally got on the property ladder and now I am officially a co-homeowner! Moving houses a week before Christmas has made the holidays ever so special and stressful.
New house is wonderful, thanks for asking, with lots of room and a lovely garden, but the most important thing – a different oven, and a gas one too.
What I forgot to mention is that the house is a Victorian house, and the oven seems to be near-Victorian one too. I decided to take that as a challenge rather than an obstacle and week 2 in the new house I had made a sourdough. Well…… Its been a while since I had such a disaster – flat (poor shaping), under-proofed (cold Victorian house), under-baked on the bottom and burnt on top (“wonderful” new oven) loaf of bread. If was so bad, it went straight in the bin.
To be honest that experience has put me off bread baking, for a while. Then proper cold days kicked in and I knew that my starter as much chance to survive as ex-Pope Benedict to live through another year,  so I didn’t even bother with it.
I did bake some yeasted breads meanwhile, but I will leave it for another post on quick yeasted breads.
So, finally spring is slowly creeping in and the weather is getting warmer, so I decided to have another go at waking up my starter. White flour did nothing to it, it stayed flat and smelly (a bit like Tracey Emin) so it was time to bring the big guns in, warm water and rye flour did the trick and I had if not bubbling, but at least  a half-awake starter – time to bake!!!
Then came the challenge of fitting bread making into my work schedule – how to plan for sourdough bread when I leave for work first thing in the morning and don’t get home till late at night? That’s where the powers of fridge and cold weather comes in! But I am getting ahead of myself, here is the recipe with all the details
Slow White Sourdough
120g rye starter
305g cold water
450g white bread flour
50g dark rye flout
1 tsp salt
In the evening, around 9 pm :
Place water, starter and flours in a free standing mixer and mix everything on speed 1 for 6 minutes.
Don’t worry if you don’t have rye starter, use any starter you have, but you might want to re-adjust water a little bit if you are using wholemeal or white starter – rye is very thirsty, so it takes a lot of water, the “whiter” your starter is, the less water you will need. I’d say 290g for wholemeal starter and 280g for white starter.
I am a huge fan of Shipton Mill flours, but I ran out if their plain white flour, so I had to go for Hovis White Bread flour. But honestly, you can use any white strong or bread flour, use any brand you like.
I do like Shipton Mill flours and I have a lot, and I mean a lot of different flours from them – rye, Canadian, wholemeal, seeded, sodabread, malt, and a few other ones. – I am still finding bags of flour as we are unpacking last boxes from the move. I also got given a whole selection or “rare” flours from a former neighbour, gluten-free flours that I don’t really know what to do with. Anyway, I have so much flour that Ranty Man has placed me under a flour-buying ban until I use at least some of my current stash. What he doesn’t understand is that even though I have all these bags, I still need, and I mean NEED more flour, cause the one I have is not the right one.
Actually I wonder if I can use the same argument on him – he has a lot of whiskeys and still wants to buy more. I shall place him under a whiskey-buying ban until he drinks more of the ones he has. That’s right, that’ll show him!!
Errrr….hold on, that won’t work ……………….
Anyway, where was I?
Leave the dough coved for 20 minutes. Add salt (just plain table salt variety) and mix on speed 2 for 2 minutes.
Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic (or a shower cap in my case) and leave overnight (8-12 hours) at room temperature. My room thermometer is showing about 18-20C at the moment (and I have a huge heating bill to prove it) which I thought might be too warm for overnight proofing. So just to be on the safe side, I have turned all of the radiators off in the kitchen and opened windows too for good measure. Nights are still quite chilly, around 1 to 2C, so I figured that should do the trick.
Next day – morning
Well, I am not sure about the dough, but I did feel the cold when I walked in the kitchen this morning – brrr!!
The dough is looking quite good, at least double the volume and doesn’t look too puffy, which tells me it hasn’t over-proofed.
Flour a banneton generously with rye flour, shape the dough, place it in the banneton, dust the top lightly with more rye flour and cover with plastic again (or shower cap again). Flouring the top will prevent the dough from sticking to plastic, which means that you won’t tear the surface when you take the plastic off.
Place the dough in the fridge for 8-10 hours.
Next day – evening
Take the dough out of the fridge as soon as you get home and place in a warm place – under a radiator is the warmest place in my house – and leave it there for an hour or two, until its well risen.
Preheat the oven to 200-220C for an hour or so before baking, remove plastic from the banneton, flip it out on a baking tray, slash it and bake for 40 minutes, turning the bread around half way through.
Take the bread out and place it on a cooling rack. Cover it with a towel if you prefer a softer crust.
Cool for at least 4 hours (or overnight) before cutting.
So, in summary the schedule for this bread 24 hours in total :
Day 1 evening – mix dough
Day 1 overnight – first proofing
Day 2 morning – shape
Day 2 – second proofing
Day 2 evening – bake