Best Ever Hot Cross Buns

Isn’t it tradition that you should eat hot cross buns on Good Friday? Well, it might be tight but you may just get these done in time!

I love making hot cross buns, i think it’s the warm spices that make the house smell heavenly whilst they’re baking. Besides, I think there is also something a bit special about seasonal bakes. You need to make the most of them whilst they’re around, so it’s hot cross buns for breakfast and tea all weekend! Ok, I know you can probably buy hot cross buns all year these days, but somehow that feels wrong – why not make them special and only make and eat them at Easter time, then you’ll appreciate them far more.

All of my hot cross bun recipes are great, have you tried the sticky toffee ones or the vanilla and spice, they’re both super special. But this recipe takes the texture and longevity up a notch. I’m using a technique i’ve recently learnt about creating a moister, brioche type dough. I’ve adapted the recipe to give a good double dosing of spice, easy measurements and an option of chocolate or sultanas (for some reason my family hate sultanas so I always have to make a choc chip version instead!) The resulting texture is so perfect, i’d definitely recommend giving these a go. Besides, the added fat gives a better shelf life and they keep loosely covered for a good 4 or 5 days (and they also freeze brilliantly). I know it’s already Good Friday, but i won’t tell anyone if you want to keep having these for the next few weeks too 😉

Best Ever Hot Cross Buns

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian, and vegan)

Makes 18

500g strong bread flour

7g instant dried yeast

75g caster sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

340ml dairy-free milk

75g dairy-free butter (the one in paper rather than a tub)

75g chocolate, chopped or 75g sultanas

25g dried mixed peel.

  1. Place the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and spices into a bowl or a tabletop mixer bowl. Add the milk and bring to a dough. Knead for 10-20 minutes until you have a lovely elastic dough.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes and gradually knead into the dough. Make sure each bit is fully incorporated before adding the next bit. You should end up with a glossy elastic dough.
  3. Add in the chocolate/sultanas and mixed peel, make sure they’ve evenly spread.
  4. Cover with cling film and prove in the bowl for 30 minutes.
  5. Then line two baking sheets with parchment. Knock back the dough and divide into 18 even sized pieces. Roll into balls and place well spread on the baking sheets.
  6. Cover and prove at room temperature for 4-5 hours until about doubled in size.
  7. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees fan/170 degrees non-fan
  8. Make a batter for the crossed (equal flour and water) and pipe onto the top of the buns.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and immediately brush with a hot sugar syrup (equal sugar and water, briefly brought to the boil)
  11. Enjoy fresh or keep loosely covered for up to 5 days.

Pain Perdu aka French Toast

Pain perdu, French toast, gypsy toast, eggy bread – whatever you call it, this dish is a brilliant one to have in your repertoire. Basically, it’s a batter soaked stale bread made into a sweet or savoury dish, perfect for a quick breakfast, brunch, lunch, pudding or snack. Plus it’s a great way to use up some state bread, you can’t argue with a recipe that does that!

I’ve been attending a plant-based patisserie course to extend my knowledge and I’ve learnt so much, it’s been just brilliant and it’s really going to enhance my recipes 😊 

Last week we made brioche with no butter or eggs – I’ve made a brioche before but the techniques I’ve recently learnt give a much improved rich, but light result and it was the perfect bread to turn into a platter of pain perdu. Like many home baked breads, it went stale fast – making it the perfect vehicle for this new improved recipe.

Dairy-free and egg-free brioche

Don’t worry if you don’t have homemade plant-based brioche on hand (I’m sure not many people will!), any slightly stale sliced bread will do. You’d think you might miss the eggs in an ‘eggy bread’ recipe, but as the principle is soaking the bread in a batter (and pancakes work pretty well being egg-free), this recipe is equally successful. In fact, this recipe just uses some leftovers (stale bread) plus a few store cupboard essentials to combine to make a rather superior dish. If you don’t have any stale bread, just cut some slices an hour or so early and leave out to air dry and you’re good to go.

I’ve flavoured my batter with cinnamon but you don’t have to if you’d rather no spice, or vanilla would be rather lovely too. Serve your pain perdu with berries, a sprinkle of icing sugar and a squeeze of honey or syrup for a delightful quick and easy sweet treat.

Pain Perdu

 (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

30g flour

20g cornflour

30g caster sugar

½ tsp cinnamon (optional)

Pinch of salt

120g dairy-free milk

6-8 slices of slightly stale bread

  1. Sift the flour and cornflour into a shallow bowl, stir in the sugar, salt and cinnamon (if using).
  2. Pour in 1/3rd of the milk whisking together to make a paste, then add the rest in two further additions. This helps avoid lumps forming in the batter – you can of course add the milk in one go if you’re not so bothered about a few small lumps! Let the batter rest for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Place a frying pan on the heat to warm up.
  4. Place the bread slices in the batter, letting them soak up the batter for a couple of minutes before turning over and making sure both sides are drenched in batter.
  5. Melt a knob of vegan butter or 1 tsp of oil in the pan. Drop in a drip of the batter, if it sizzles then you’re ready to add the batter soaked bread
  6. Fry the slices until golden on each side.
  7. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and drizzled with syrup. A garnish of berries is also rather nice.

Tropical Granola Bars

 There’s something so handy about a cereal or granola bar, the can fit into so many situations – breakfast on the run, a quick pre-lunch snack, a picnic staple, or a post-workout refuel. As people are heading back into offices, these could be the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich in a packed lunch.

 When I used to go into an office regularly I always felt super pleased if I had a homemade packed lunch addition, rather than an additive filled less superior shop bought bar; hopefully these will make you just as pleased too 😊

This recipe is loosely based upon Yotam Ottolenghi’s Granola Bar recipe form the original ‘The Cookbook’, so you know they have good pedigree, and they have to taste delicious.

 

Tropical Granola Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan, can be gluten-free if use gluten-free oats)

 Makes 8 large bars

 

22g dried cranberries or sultanas

22g dried mango, chopped

22g dried pineapple, chopped

120g oats

22g sunflower seeds

15g desiccated coconut

50g dairy-free margarine

50g golden syrup or honey

50g demerara sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

 

  1. Place the dried fruits into a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soften for ten minutes. Then drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade
  3. Line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment
  4. In a bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower seeds, drained dried fruit and coconut and set aside.
  5. In a large saucepan melt together the margarine, syrup and sugar until the sugar has totally dissolved.
  6. Fold in the oat and fruit mixture, adding the salt and cinnamon. Make sure the mixture is well combined.
  7. Tip the mixture into the lined loaf tin, press down and level off.
  8. Bake for 22 minutes until starting to turn golden around the edges.
  9. Remove from the tin and cool completely before cutting into bars.
  10. These bars keep well for up to a week if placed in an airtight container.

Iced Buns

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2014 photo!

Here we have another updated recipe. I rarely make Iced Buns but this has been another recipe that has gathered a lot of great comments and likes over the years, so it needed revisiting, updating and embellishing with some shiny new photos! (Although I have kept one of the previous photos just for my own nostalgia – haven’t cameras improved over the past years!)

Iced buns, viewed in the window of any English bakery, are a must for a collection of comfort food. For some reason they make me think of roaring fires and cosy knitwear – odd I know! Apparently some iced buns found in supermarkets are dairy-free, but I’ve never found any that are also nut-free – if you know of any safe brands please let me know?

Anyway, these iced buns are the perfect tea time treat, and this recipe will give you authentic but friendly buns to please your friends and family. They certainly go down a treat in this house 🙂

Iced Buns 

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 6

  • 150ml dairy-free milk
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 260g strong bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3g or 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 50g caster sugar

for the icing:

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water

– Melt the margarine into the milk (don’t make it more than tepid though)
– Place the flour, salt, yeast and caster sugar in a bowl and pour in the warmed milk and margarine mixture.
– Bring to a dough and knead until smooth and bounces back when you press a finger onto the surface.
– Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to double in size in a warm place.
– Divide into 6 even sized pieces and form into balls, then roll out to sausage shapes, trying to make them nice and even.
– Place about 1cm apart on a lined baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes
– Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade/180 degrees fan, or gas mark 4
– Bake for 15 minutes until golden, risen and they sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

– Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and water to form a very thick, smooth icing. Start by adding 1 tbsp of water and gradually add more as required.
– Once the buns are cool top with the thick water icing.

Bounty flapjacks

Well , doesn’t it truly feel like we’ve been in January for about 3 months so far? What is it about the post Christmas/New Year period where everything seems to slow down and weeks drag on forever?

It also means that we’re well back into the routine of packed lunches and working lunches, so I needed some tasty additions to pop in along with the usual sandwiches. Flapjacks are a brilliant packed lunch option – they’re slow release energy oats but also bundles of sugar to keep the spirits and energy levels up. People seem to presume that flapjacks are healthy because they’re made of oats, all I can say is that they surely have never made their own as they’d know how much sugar/syrup they contain!

We particularly like coconut flapjacks, and this recipe is a riff on that, Bounty flapjacks featuring a coconutty flapjack base and then a dark chocolate and coconut topping. These little bites of paradise will certainly help you get through the never ending January days!

Bounty Flapjacks

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

  • 200g dairy free margarine
  • 200g demerara sugar
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 400g oats (preferably not giant oats)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (preferably fleur de sel)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 85g dark dairy-free chocolate
  •  
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix in the oats and coconut (keeping aside 1 tbsp of coconut for the topping)
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the bars, sprinkle the remaining coconut over the top

Blueberry muffins

I do have a fondness for blueberry muffins, they’re a great excuse to eat cake for breakfast, or anytime for that matter! Are blueberry muffins a little out of favour these days? They don’t seem to be on my radar anymore… maybe it’s because you don’t come across them often, or maybe it’s because I don’t get out very often these days 😂

Maybe it’s time to put the humble but rather delicious blueberry muffin centre stage once again? Well you can certainly do just that with these friendly versions. The sponge is light and fluffy just like a muffin should be, and once you’ve added a good handful of blueberries, the fruity tart morsels and delicate sponge make a stunning combination. If like in this house, some people have an aversion to fruit in baked goods, it’s pretty simple to divide the batter and add choc chips to half and blueberries to the other, then everyone is happy 😉

If using choc chips simply replace the lemon zest with 1 tsp vanilla extract and use a big handful of choc chips rather than the blueberries.

These muffins keep well for a few days in a loosely cover container, or freeze well if you’d rather 😀

Blueberry Muffins

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 12

230g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp cornflour

Pinch of salt

170g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon (for the blueberry version)

200ml dairy free milk

70g dairy free margarine, melted

1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar

A big handful of blueberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade and line a muffin tray with paper liners.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together and add the zest if using.
  3. Combine the milk, melted margarine and vinegar and pour into the dry ingredients.
  4. Gently mix so the batter is a bit lumpy but there are no patches of raw flour.
  5. Stir in the blueberries.
  6. 2/3rds fill each muffin liner and bake for 15-20 minutes until we’ll risen and golden. Cool.

Easy Cinnamon Bun Twists

I love an easy pastry, one of those recipes that throw a few ingredients together and end up with a superb tasty sweet treat that everyone wows over. These easy cinnamon bun twists are just that, taking only a few minutes and little skill to end up with something that’s sure to get plenty of compliments. After all, who doesn’t love the sweet combination of spiced sugar with flaky crisp pastry?

These little puff pastry twists filled with a sugar and cinnamon mixture, akin to the filling of a cinnamon bun make a drool-worthy delicious pastry. Serve them as a quick homemade easy breakfast cinnamon roll, a perfect addition to coffee time or as a dessert with a pile of berries and some cream or ice cream.

The twisting may make these pastries look fancy but it’s terribly easy – just hold both ends and twist each away from each other until you have a loose ringlet of dough. Once baked they’ll puff up into a delightful twist of deliciousness. You don’t need to add the icing but i do think it makes them seem a bit more like a cinnamon bun, and who doesn’t love a little drizzle of icing?

Easy Cinnamon Bun Twists

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 8-10

1 pack ready make puff pastry (ready rolled is easiest as you already have the required rectangle)

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

3 tbsp caster sugar

3 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp icing sugar to dust the pastries before baking

water icing (3tbsp icing sugar mixed with 1-2 tsp water)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade and line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment
  2. Roll out the puff pastry and spread half with the margarine, sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon
  3. Fold over and cut into 8-10 stops with the one end being held together where the join is (it’s easiest to use a pizza roller)
  4. Twist each strip into a pastry ringlet and place on the lined baking sheet. Dust with the 1tbsp icing sugar
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
  6. Cool and then drizzle with the water icing.

Caramel Muffins

When I last visited the supermarket (how is it that a simple trip to the supermarket is now the most exciting part of the week), I spied a sign for a delicious looking caramel muffin in the coffee shop window. Now a caramel muffin sounds like a great idea, why haven’t i thought of that before? It’s funny how I usually get inspiration from so many different places, now it’s either from a screen or a brief trip out of the house. I do hope that when this is all over we don’t take simple luxuries, like eating out, browsing the shops or just the signs of bustling life for granted.

Since we as family have become rather fond of the new caramel filled Nomo bars (simply the best free-from alternative to a Cadbury’s Caramel that you are likely to find), I had the idea of stuffing the muffins with a square to give a gooey caramel chocolatey centre. This results in a filling that remains gooey even once the muffins have cooled, and an oozy chocolatey caramel simply has to be a good idea. These muffins don’t need the icing, but it does add a bit of extravagance that is very welcome in the rather dismal winter of 2021.

Caramel Muffins

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 6 large muffins

20g caster sugar

25g soft brown sugar

1/2 tbsp baking powder

125g plain flour

pinch of salt

55g dairy-free margarine, melted

75ml dairy-free milk

75ml dairy-free yogurt

30ml golden or maple syrup

1/2 tsp caramel essence (optional)

6 squares of Nomo caramel filled chocolate 

for the icing:

40g dairy-free margarine

80g icing sugar

splash of dairy-free milk

  1. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade. Fill a muffin tray with liners.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour in the wet ingredients and combine. You do not want any clumps of raw flour but do not over-mix, a little lumpy is good.
  3. 1/4 fill the liners and then place a square of the chocolate in the middle. Cover with the remaining muffin mix.
  4. I topped mine with some Demerara sugar, but it’s not necessary
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden and a knife comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. If icing, whisk together the icing ingredients and pipe rosettes on the top of each muffin, topped with another square of caramel chocolate if you wish.

Berry crumble bars

img_1483It’s suddenly got to that time of year -Winter is most certainly here but it’s not quite Christmas! It may be the craziest year ever with days of lockdown merging into months, ever more depressing news and stress everywhere, but there is still something joyful and comforting in the seasons. I’ve always felt so lucky to live somewhere where years are marked by definite seasons, I think I’d really miss them if I lived somewhere with wet and dry instead.

Winter has its downsides (I’m mainly talking about the dark and the annoying habit of house spiders to scuttle about) but the beauty of the colourful leaves, the bounty of the harvest and the delight of a beautiful chilly morning easily out way them.

It’s time to get cosy, to eat comfort food and delight in the low sun and long shadows. These berry crumble bars are the perfect early Winter treat; comforting but with the remains of summer in the form of the berry jam filling. By all means use a different jam, but I find a berry jam adds a beautiful red band as well as a fresh tartness that brings the shortbread and crumble alive. Although it would be a travesty to only eat them in the Winter – big S has pronounced these her favourite sweet thing I’ve ever baked! That must be saying something as I bake new things all the time!

I’ve made these with both a simple crumble topping, or a fancier crumble and candied seed topping. Both are delicious, just pick the variety you’d prefer.

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Berry Crmble Bars with Candied Seeds
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Berry crumble bars with just the crumble topping

This recipe is inspired and adapted from one in the original Ottolenghi cookbook. I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit obsessed with Ottolenghi and his amazing flavour filled food, so I was dleighted to be able to adapt one of his delicious recipes to cater for us as a family. I have a few others up my sleeve, so keep watching 🙂

I like to serve these in packed lunches wrapped in paper, for a teatime treat or even warmed slightly and served with custard for an autumnal pudding. They’d even work for a breakfast if you were inclined!

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Berry Crumble Bars (with optional candied seed topping)

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

img_1479

makes 12 good sized bars

120g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

60g caster sugar

pinch of salt

75g oats

100g dairy-free margarine

5 or 6 tbsp jam (about half a jar)

for a crumble top:

60g plain flour

40g oats

10g pumpkin seeds (optional)

30g dairy-free margarine

25g demarara sugar

for the candied seeds:

30g 0ats

30g pumpkin seeds

30g sunflower seeds

30g caster sugar

30g dairy-free margarine

20ml dairy free milk

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Line a square baking tin with non-stick baking paper
  2. Pour the flour, baking owder, salt, caster sugar and oats into a bowl. Cut the margarine into small cubes and add to the bowl. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips until it ressembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Lightly press the mix into the base of the lined tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  4. Whilst the base is cooking make the crumble top: place the flour, oats, seeds (if using) and demarara sugar into a bowl. Again rub in the margarine until you have a craggy crumble. Set aside.
  5. To make the candied seeds (if using): melt together the margarine, milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the oats and seeds.
  6. Once the base has cooled a little, spread over the jam in an even layer.
  7. (if using candied seeds) Spead the seeds over the jam.
  8. Sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. 
  10. Let cool fully befre cutting into square.
  11. These bars keep for a good week in an airtight container.img_1481

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

Every thought of having a cookie for breakfast? Maybe you’ve been in a rush, missed your breakfast slot and that cookie looks especially tempting to have alongside a cup of coffee? Well, if that’s the case then these cookies are for you! Combining all the deliciousness of a chocolate chip cookie with crisp and crunchy cornflakes, these cookies are a match made in heaven (for any time of the day). Besides both cookies and cereal go with (dairy-free) milk so it has to be a good idea 🙂

I was looking for cookie inspiration, because you always need a new recipe to try, right? These Afghan cookies came to mind (not only because they’re very tasty and I haven’t made them for a while, but also New Zealand is probably one place it would be great to be right now) and I started thinking about how breakfast cereal should be used more in cooking. It has such unique taste and texture and most people have some box of cereal hanging about in their larder. It turns out it’s a fabulous addition to a cookie recipe; adding a crispy crunchy cornflake coating to a soft sweet, chocolate laced cookie takes the cookie to whole new dimension.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 12-14

110g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

225g plain flour

50g chocolate chips

50g cornflakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade (160 degrees Centigrade fan). Line two cookie sheets with baking paper
  2. Pour the cornflakes into a shallow bowl and set aside
  3. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Whisk in the cornflour, milk and vanilla.
  5. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and stir to make a soft but not sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Roll into golf ball sized rounds and slightly flatten. Roll in the cornflakes to coat (I say roll but you will more likely have to press the cornflakes into the dough to make sure they stick). Place spread apart onto the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes until turning slightly golden around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets until they’ve firmed up and then move to a wire rack to enjoy.
  7. These will last for a good few days in a sealed container.