Saturday, 30 March 2013

Friday, 29 March 2013

Guest Post - Chris Bakes Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters, 
Give them to your sons,
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns.

Happy Hot Cross Bun Day!

My house smells amazing, Chris was in the kitchen all morning baking Hot Cross Buns and Greek Easter bread!

As Chris has made them I am handing my blog reigns over to him today so that he can share his recipe with you!

Here he is!

I love baking, especially anything yeast leavened. Easter gives me a good excuse to bake some sweet breads and buns. My hot cross bun recipe is based on the one in the Elizabeth David book English Bread and Yeast Cookery. I like this recipe as it doesn't have the nasty white stripes on them. I know they look good but I think they taste horrible. These buns just have a cross cut in them. The cross doesn't always show but it's the thought that counts.

There's not much I'll bake without adding some of my sourdough starter. It's been with us for about a year now. I'd encourage you to have a go, it's easy and fun, there's loads of geek bread sites with instructions. Even if you don't make sourdough bread you can add it to all sorts of things (it's really good in pancakes) to get that sour taste. That's what I'm using it for here and I've used quick action yeast to get the rise. If you have the time try giving it a go without the yeast.

At Elizabeth Davids suggestion I've added a little cumin to my mixed spice. I also popped in a pinch of mahlab. Mahlab is a spice used in greek and middle eastern food. It is the ground stone of a small wild cherry. It has an intense flavour, slightly aniseed and a lovely almondy smell. One of my sisters got this for me as she lives in Crete but you should be able to find it online. If you can't get any don't worry.

Finally I've used a little wholemeal flour. I love the darker colour and texture you get from using it. Infinity Foods in Brighton used to have a big hot cross bun Easter display in the window and their bakery makes the most delicious wholemeal buns. All wholemeal is a bit worthy for me but adding a little gives you a nuttier bun with a good texture.

Anyway here's the recipe...

Hot (and Sour) Crossed Buns


The Buns
100g wholemeal strong (bread) flour
300g white strong (bread) flour
100g sourdough starter
1 tsp of fast acting yeast
1 tsp salt
125 g dried fruit (I used currants and a little candied peel)
60g butter (softened and cubed)
60g golden caster sugar (white would be fine as well)
230 ml milk (warmed slightly)
2 eggs beaten
2 tsp mixed spice
a small pinch of ground cumin
a small pinch of mahlab
a couple of scratches of nutmeg
Rind of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 an orange (grated)

For the Bun Glaze

2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of milk


Rub the butter into the flour so that there are no big buttery lumps (you'll not quite get 'breadcrumbs' as there's not much fat).

Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir to mix.

Add the sourdough starter, the beaten eggs and the milk.

Mix until a soft (and rather sticky dough) forms.

Turn onto a floured or oiled surface and knead. You'll end up in a sticky mess but keep on, it should start to form a slightly more elastic dough.

After ten minutes kneading place it back in a large clean bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film or a shower cap if you've got one and pop it somewhere warm to rise for an hour or so.

Once the dough has doubled in size it's time to make the buns.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a quick knead.

Cut the dough into 12 equal sized portions.

Roll each bun into a round.

Place the buns onto a greased baking sheet (I like to give the greased tin a light dusting of corn meal as well) place the buns quite close together so that when they rise you'll get a nice kiss crust.

Cover with oiled cling film and place somewhere nice and warm again for a second rise. This will take about 30 minutes or maybe an hour. Once the buns have doubled in size again they are ready to go.

Gently brush the buns with milk.

Make the cross by cutting across the top of each bun fairly deeply with a sharp knife. It's easier if you wet the blade before each cut.

Place the buns in the centre of a fairly hot oven at about 200c and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Near the end of the baking you'll want to start the bun glaze.

Boil the milk and sugar together until a syrup forms.

Brush the glaze on to the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. 

Leave to cool, then enjoy. 

I like mine split and toasted with butter and a cup of tea. 
How do you eat yours?

I bake bread for the week most weekends. Today has been extra busy with all of the Easter treats. With a little help from Ruby and Jacob I baked 2 wholemeal cobs, a dozen hot cross buns and some Tsoureki bread. Tsoureki is a greek easter bread, sweet like brioche and scented with orange and mahlab. Emma and I used to live near Green Lanes in North London when we were at university. It's a big Greek, Cypriot and Turkish area and at easter the bakers shops were full of the plaited loaves with red eggs embedded in them. The red eggs represent the blood of Christ. Unfortunately we didn't have any red colouring so it seemed a good excuse to have a go at a rainbow coloured loaf. There are loads of recipes online. I based mine on Paul Hollywoods but added some fennel seeds to get little pops of aniseed.

We'll be serving these tomorrow for an Easter tea along with the Simnel cake and Easter nests that Emma and Ruby have already made. I can't wait!

Do you eat anything special at Easter?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Ruby Makes - Easter Nests Recipe

Yay, it is Easter! and that means I can eat lots of these!

(Easter nests, not Rubies)
I only use this recipe at this time of year. I love the way the shredded wheat makes them so nest like.

I had help making this batch and I found it really hard handing over the Easter nest making reigns. Ruby is a very capable baker and she wanted to make these all by herself. And she did with the exception of the hob part. I had to sit and supervise and restrain myself from "helping"which was hard when this is normally my job. I feel a bit surplus to requirement! At least until she learns to read and write I get to share the recipe with you.

The recipe is from a Tate and Lyle cookbook that belongs to my Mum. I've made many times over the last 30 odd years. Give it a go!

Easter Nest Recipe
Makes approx. 12 nests

150g Butter or Margarine
100g Rich Brown Soft Sugar
100g Golden Syrup
50g Cocoa
150g Shredded Wheat
A Bag of Mini Chocolate Eggs

You will need:
Approx. 20-30 minutes
Cupcake cases
Cupcake trays
A helper (optional)

How to make:
Put your apron on and enlist a helper!

In the saucepan, over a low heat, melt the butter, sugar and syrup. 

Whilst the mix is melting get your helper to break up the Shredded Wheat into little twigs. You might need to help with some of the tougher bits as they can be a bit rough.

Go back to the saucepan and take it off the heat. Stir in the cocoa.

Mix thoroughly until you get a lovely glossy sauce like this. Then pour over the Shredded Wheat "Twigs".

Mix really well, it takes a few minutes to get it all combined.

Allow your helper to spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases and make a dent in the centre to make them a nest shape. 
Finish off with some mini eggs and put in the fridge to set.

We used Smartie Mini Eggs as the two supermarkets I tried had run out of Cadbury Mini Eggs! You can buy them on boxing day but not four days before Easter! The Smartie ones are nice but I'd rather have the Cadbury Mini Eggs.

All done and so yummy! 
It's the school bake sale today and I am begrudgingly parting with some :( I might have to buy them back later!

Are you going to make some? Are you a fan of Mini Eggs?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Mini Yarn Bombed Easter Tree

I first saw this image of a yarn bombed bus by Magda Sayeg a few years ago. Isn't it amazing? It's so cheerful. I love the way the colours and textures brighten up the street. I would be more likely to travel by bus in Brighton if they looked like this.

Photo from
At Christmas as part the Advent Walk at Nymans there was a small installation on the fence that really stood out against the misty winters day. I remember thinking at the time that something like that would look pretty cool in the garden but as the weather has been so cold I put the idea on hold until spring. Then a couple of weeks ago I was reading the lovely House of Nicnax blog and saw that she had made a mini one for indoors. 

I thought it would be a great idea for this year's Easter Tree (I normally just stick a twig in some playdough and hang fake eggs). So yesterday I braved the cold, found a twig in the garden and dug out the embroidery thread. 

Here is is my Mini Yarn Bombed Easter Tree...

I trimmed the twig into a better shape and started wrapping the thread around the branches.

I chose spring pastel colours and spent a few hours wrapping whilst watching tv.

Chris bought me some cute birds from Tiger for mothers day and they are perfect to sit in the tree.

There were snow flurries outside when I took these photo's, luckily my Easter Tree provides spring cheer in my living room!

The finished tree, sitting amongst my Easter display that you will have to wait a few more days to see!

What do you think? Have you ever yarn bombed anything?

Friday, 22 March 2013

Flashback Friday - Birthday Cakes

I was at my friends house the other day and she showed me some photo albums from when she was little and pointed out that there was always a photo of the birthday cake. In the photo albums at my mum's house there is always a birthday cake photo too. My Mum always made our birthday cakes and one of my earliest memories is of looking through the books like this choosing my birthday cakes. I still love looking through these books and now have some of my own that Ruby loves to look at. Here she is planning her 7th Birthday cake. With three years to go she is starting her planning early!

Writing this post made me wonder where the tradition of birthday cake comes from. A quick look at Wikipedia and I discovered that birthday cakes have been part of a western birthday tradition for nearly 250 years. That is a lot of cake! In our house the cake is something that is taken for granted and an important ritual of a birthday celebration. A couple of times I have said not to bother with a cake for me, with my birthday being in early January and I feel a bit caked out after Christmas and Ruby's birthday, but my kids have been in uproar and insist on a cake. It seems it is as important as cards and gifts.

For me the best bit of a kids party is the cake. Not all Mums bake the cakes themselves and that's great because I love the Chocolate caterpillar supermarket cake and the cake tray bakes. I make and decorate cakes for my kids because I love doing it but I do sometimes feel like it's a chore, especially when I am trying to ice a cake at 1am on New Years Eve/Day through blurry eyes.

Do you buy or bake? What did your Mum do for your birthday cakes? Are there photo's of cakes in your childhood/children's photo albums?

These are some of my favourites...

Jacob's 1st Birthday
Jacob's 4th Birthday Cake
Jacob's 5th Birthday Cake

Jacob's 7th Birthday
Rainbow cake with autumnal colours.
Ruby's Cakes
2nd Birthday
Two cakes for the 3rd Birthday. That is the trouble with a family party one day and a friends party another. 

4th Birthday
p.s. Thank you Kay Fletcher for inspiring this post! x


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Easter/Spring Wreath Tutorial

Anyone who has been to our house at Christmas will tell you that for the month of December we live in a grotto. We love Christmas, especially decorations and the Christmas tree. Easter decorations are a newish thing for us. We didn't decorate for Easter when I was little but since I've had my children we have started putting some eggs and chicks around the house for Easter weekend. Each year I have been adding a couple of things to the decoration box, mostly bits and pieces made by me and the kids.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been making this spring wreath.

Here is how I made it...

I used:
A wreath ring/base - Mine is the one Chris used for the Christmas wreath that survived the weather. We bought it from a garden centre for not a lot of money.
Wool, colours of your choice.
Sewing pins or wreath pins
Easter chicks

I used white wool as a base colour. First I made a loop and knot in the wool and pinned the end to the back of the ring. I then wrapped it round the ring. After my first "lap" I realised that it would be quicker to put eight strands of wool together and wrap it around at the same time. When I came to the end of the wool I made another loop and pinned it into place. All of the ends look neater if on the back. I marked the joins in the wool with a pin.

When the white was finished it look like this. I then took the coloured wool and put eight lengths of wool together and started wrapping them over the joins in the wool. I secured them in the same way, pinning them in place at the back. Sometimes the wool didn't finish in the right place so I unwrapped the wool, moved the start point and re-wrapped. I used different colours and kept adding them until I was happy with it.

Decorating time! 
I was planning on making and attaching some felt flowers but whilst I was wrapping wool I noticed my yellow flower brooch on the sideboard (see, it's sometimes good not to tidy up) and decided to incorporate some of my spring jewellery into the wreath. I made some felt leaves and pinned the brooch into place.

The yellow wool flower is made from a piece of french knitting and pinned into a flower shape. I made this bit of knitting whilst in the early stages of labour with Jacob. It has taken me 7.5 years to make something with it.

I bought these cute colourful chicks at a garden centre last year and attached them using the wreath pins. 

I love this Chevron ribbon that came free on this month's Mollie Makes magazine and it was perfect to make a bow and hanging loop with. I finished it off with a little rabbit button on the bow.

Finished and waiting for the Easter Bunny!

Do you decorate for Easter? 

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