Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Creme Egg Chocolate Drizzle Cake for a blogiversary

It may seem rather late to be posting an Easter cake.  Easter was over a week ago.  However I started my blog seven years ago with a birthday cake for my husband, E.  Ever since I have had a blog tradition of posting his birthday cake to celebrate my blogiversary.  We usually share a cake with my family.  This year due to the craziness of school holidays, Easter and ANZAC Day in April, we took a cake to Easter lunch to celebrate his birthday with family.

I had had plans for a fun cake for E's birthday - but as we had decided to celebrate it as part of Easter lunch, as soon as I saw Karen's cake on Lavender and Lovage I wanted to make it.  There was the added bonus that is was spectacular without requiring too much work down at my mum's place where we were having lunch.

I have reproduced the recipes I have used.  I made a few changes, including making my own chocolate and cream cheese frosting because I couldn't find the ready-made one Karen suggested.  (Even though it had been there other days.  Grrrr!)  Mine was a bit less spreadable but tasted lovely. 

I also had problems with the white chocolate drizzle.  I melted the white chocolate in the microwave and it was never drizzly enough.  My mum later suggested sitting it over a bowl of boiling water to keep it from setting.  I added some cream to make it go further but it still was hard to get to run down the sides - it just wanted to roll down in dollops.  We also wondered about using cream instead of white chocolate to match the inside of creme eggs. 

Speaking of which I found not all the creme eggs oozed as they should but there was no shortage of volunteers to help dispose of recalcitrant eggs.

The cake looked great on the Easter sideboard with the salt dough eggs we made at home and the dough eggs my nieces made.  It was very dense and very intensely chocolate.  This made it excellent for sharing.  Just a small slice was enough.

E later commented that the cake was more my sort of thing than his.  But it was Easter.  That means celebrations, chocolate, and spectacle.  It was also my brother in law's birthday and my blogiversary.  Poor E didn't get his own cake this year.  I have promised him a boring vanilla cake soon.  Everyone else was suitably impressed.

As for the seventh anniversary of my blog, I can't believe it has been so long but somehow I am still going.  I do a round up of changes on my blog at each New Year so I wont repeat it all here.  However I will just note that I took away my wallpaper background recently.  It felt a bit tired.  White seems the modern thing to do.  (You can see how it used to look on the page on my previous blog designs.)  I am still not sure if it will stay like that.  But change is nature of blogging.  What do you think of the white look?

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Vegan Victoria Sponge Birthday Cake
Two years ago: Ghost cake, birthdays and wildlife
Three years ago: Guitar Birthday Cake
Four years ago: Viking cat cake with a butterscotch secret
Five years ago: Happy Birthday to E and GGGiraffe
Six years ago: Green Gourmet Giraffe Birthday Cake
Seven years ago: A very vampire birthday

Creme Egg Chocolate Drizzle Cake
Adapted from Great British Chefs

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup (60ml) plain yoghurt
175g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
50g finely grated dark chocolate
pinch of salt

To decorate:
200g cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 cup dark choc chips
40g white chocolate
1 tbsp cream
4 to 6 Creme Eggs
a mixture of white dark and milk choc chips

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Line and grease 2 x 20cm round cake tins.

To make the cake, mix all ingredients together in a powerful mixer OR if you have less power beaters like mine, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, beat in the eggs, then yoghurt, then remaining dry ingredients until the batter is creamy and quite thick.

Tip batter into prepared cake tins and smooth the surface.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  (It took me 40 minutes.)  Cool cakes before decorating.

To decorate, first make the chocolate cream cheese.  Beat together cream cheese and icing sugar until creamy.   Melt dark choc chips.  Beat into the cream cheese mixture until well combined.  Place one cake (top down) on a serving plate.  Spread half the cream cheese mixture over it.  Place other cake, (bottom down) on top of the cream cheese mixture and spread the top with the remaining misture.

Melt white chocolate with a tablespoon of cream and drizzle in blobs down the side of the cake.  (To keep the white chocolate really well melted have it sitting over a bowl of hot water so it doesn't start to set.)  Use a sharp knife to cut the Creme Eggs in half.  Arrange 8 to 10 halves around the edge of the cake and scatter choc chips over the cake.

On the Stereo:
A history of American folk: Various Artists

Monday, 28 April 2014

Kryal Castle: a medieval fantasty in rural Australia

On the weekend we had an outing to Kryal Castle, near Ballarat.  If you are thinking that Australia doesn't have medieval history and historic castles, you are right.  This is a medieval fantasy adventure park that was built in the 1970s and re-opened last year after a facelift.  We had a great afternoon there.  The prices are high and the food is average but the buildings are romantic and the activities are fun, especially for kids.

We arrived on a dreary wet morning.  The castle loomed up out of the mist as we drove towards it.  After walking across the drawbridge and being greeted by a roaring dragon that didn't even fool sylvia, we paid (gulp) $81 for two adults and a child.

The first activity was a walk through the Dragon's Labyrinth.  It was the story of the queen whose children ran away after the dragon.  Lots of dark shadows, armour and skeletons.  Sylvia found it creepy so we hurried through quickly.

The tournament between the knights was just beginning in the Castle Arena.  So we joined the other onlookers huddled under the awnings to watch.  A few brave souls in plastic ponchos stood in the grandstands.  It was interesting but not enough of a crowd to create the right atmosphere.

Perhaps it was just that it could not live up to my memory of my first visit to Kryal Castle as a child.  That was the first time I ever saw a man hanged.  It was thrillingly terrible.  I puzzled over how he could be hanged with the thick rope around his neck and not really die.  It seems they don't do this sort of thing there any more.  I guess modern health and safety forbids it.

We wandered into the Village Kitchen and Alehouse in search of sustenance.  I asked what vegetarian food was on offer and was told nothing.  E asked about the spinach and cheese pastries.  The young boy behind the counter corrected himself.  Then when E asked about sausage rolls he found there were none.  In spite of the service, E's chicken pie and my pastry were both hot and good quality.  Sylvia got a hedgehog slice but just licked the sprinkles off the top. 

Later we went to the Mountain Inn Bakery for some hot chips.  There was also a Tooth Fairy Lolly Shop.  Overall the food on offer was not very impressive.  Fortunately I had brought along smoked almonds, ANZAC biscuits and apples.  I quite liked the roughly hewn stumps of wood in the Alehouse and the royal chairs in the Bakery.

While we ate our hot pastries in the Alehouse, we watched the knights jousting outside.  I liked the jousting because it was reminiscent of The Court Jester.  (Though there was no flagon with the dragon or chalice from the palace.) 

Then suddenly there was great drama when a knight apparently kidnapped the princess and the knights bashed in the doors with a battering ram.

Actually I found it hilariously silly.  I preferred to view it from a feminist perspective of the female knight rescuing the princess from the brutal men who then had to bring out their biggest phallic symbol to rescue her!

By now the rain was off.  Hurrah!  That meant we could explore.  There are a few shops for browsing, the most interesting being the man who handcrafted wands.  I loved the castle and dragon themed playground for the children.  Some of the slides were a bit wet but it was fun to see Sylvia crawling out of a dragon mouth.

I loved all the little details.  No one would be fooled into believing this really was a Medieval castle (or that here-be-dragons) but you could easily imagine it was.  It is set up so that you could live out all your fantasies.  Sit on a throne?  Why of course, sir!  Sword fights and archery?  Step this way, good sire!  Be locked in the stocks and have rotten fruit thrown at you?  Um ... well there were stocks but no baskets of rotten fruit to be found. 

They also do accommodation, functions and weddings.  It would be fun to have the work Christmas party there and put the managers in the stocks.  Some people just like to come and wander about like the guy in the long black cape that initially I thought was one of the actors.  Perhaps he was just living out his fantasy of being in Lord of the Rings.  Albeit surrounded by gum trees.

One of my favourite places was the maze.  E and I had our heads above the walls but it was confusing to see each other a few walls away and still not be able to work out how to get there.  We were relieved to find the exit so we could go to the pantomime.  It was a fairly basic affair but the three actors had lots of fun and drew in the audience.  We had a good laugh.

Craft activities are held in the morning and afternoon.  At first I was bemused by the calligraphy activity set out on the roundtable as we entered.  Sylvia is still only learning to write.  Once I asked I found there was face painting, perfume making, bracelet threading and a cardboard crown to decorate.  Must of it upstairs in the Throne Room.  Clever Sylvia bought some stickers that she used to decorate her crown so we didn't have one with wet glue and glitter to take home.

While Sylvia did craft, E went to the torture museum.  Which is his idea of fun!  Then it was time for more fun with stocks and cages, to read silly epitahs in the graveyard, have a go at pulling the sword out of the stone and one last glance at the crenellated walls and thatched rooves before heading over the moat back to the carpark and reality.

Kryal Castle
121 Forbes Road
Leigh Creek (Ballarat)
Victoria 3352  AUSTRALIA
Tel: 03 5334 7388

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Southwestern stuffed spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is one of those odd vegetables that appear on blogs often but not in the places I usually shop.  However I have some vague memories of eating it as a child and not being particularly fond of it.  So when I encountered spaghetti squash at a farmers market recently I searched for a recipe that would really make me love it.  This Southwestern stuffed spaghetti squash recipe hit the spot!

Spaghetti squash is fascinating because it looks a little like spaghetti when cooked.  As you can see in the above photo, it does not look at all like spaghetti when uncooked. 

I baked mine intending to make the Southwestern recipe that night.  I got caught up with other things like hot cross buns, bathing Sylvia and watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  A quick curry sufficed.  I forgot about the spaghetti squash in the oven.  Oops!

The next night I had a well baked spaghetti squash and good intentions to try harder!  I then made mistake after mistake.  I misread the spices.  It seemed lacking in flavour.  Once I upped the seasoning, it was fine.  (The below version of the recipe has the spices at what I think is a reasonable level for me.)  I neglected to read I should discard the seeds and had to fish them out of the frypan when they looked wrong.  I used a non-identified citrus fruit out of the fruit bowl that I hoped was a lime.  I think it was.

Despite all my failings, the filling tasted great.  The spaghetti squash flesh had the stringy look that gives it the name.  The shell was rather crisp and unlike in the photos of the original recipe but I never intended to eat it.  Black beans, corn and cheese make it quite substantial.  I worried it might be a bit light on without grains or other carbs.  Yet it was incredibly tasty and satisfying. 

This was the perfect meal to make on Good Friday in the midst of a flurry of hot cross buns.  I had had my fill of carbs and just needed some good hearty vegies.  I am happy to say that I will gladly pick up spaghetti squash next time I see one.  It was no hardship at all to eat half a medium squash.

I am sending this stuffed squash to Anneli at Delicieux for the Four Seasons Food April Challenge (an event she runs with Louisa of Eat Your Veg).  The theme is Celebrate Vegetables.  Anneli was inspired by Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  However there are lots of lovely vegies to be had here now that Autumn is upon us Down Under.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: MLLA Lentil and cauliflower taco filling
Two years ago: Preston farmers market
Three years ago: Chow Mein - revisited on ANZAC Day
Four years ago: Fruits of Autumn: figs, rhubarb and walnuts
Five years ago: WTSIM ... Retro Parkin
Six years ago: Toothpicks, Tacos, and Oaxaca
Southwestern stuffed spaghetti squash
Adapted from the Comfort of Cooking
Serves 2

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 green chilli pepper, finely chopped (leave seeds in for more heat)
1 red capsicum, chopped
1 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned corn, drained
1 tbsp tofu bacon marinade (or 1 tsp liquid smoke)
Juice of 1 lime
2 handfuls of grated mozzarella cheese

Cook spaghetti squash until soft.  I cooked mine for over an hour because I forgot about it (recipe says 50 minutes at 190 C).  Then I turned of the oven and left it in there.  My shell was quite crisp.  Cool so it is ok to handle (at least 30 minutes but overnight is fine).  Spoon out and discard the seeds. 

Heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Fry onion, garlic, chilli and capsicum until onion is soft.  Add cumin, oregano, smoked paprika and seasoning.  Stir for 1 minute.  Stir in black beans, corn, tofu bacon marinade and lime juice.  Scrape the spaghetti squash flesh into the pan with a fork.  (Don't throw out the shell.)  Mix filling mixture with one handful of mozzarella and the spaghetti squash flesh until everything is well combined.

Spoon mixture into spaghetti squash shells, pressing down with the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle with a handful of mozzarella cheese.  Heat under the grill (5 to 15 minutes) until cheese is melted and golden brown in spots.  Eat hot.

On the stereo:
I don't feel at home in this world any more: Various Artists

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Adventures with plums: stewed, jam, with tempeh, soup and crumble

Plums are the latecomer in the stone fruit world.  While my fruit bowl is filling with cherries and peaches in early summer, there is nary a sign of plums.  Then in Autumn when most of the stone fruit has disappeared, plums are still hanging in there.  And most welcome.  Unlike most stone fruit, I don't eat lots of fresh plums but I love stewing them and baking with them.  Here are a few of the ways I have used plums this Autumn.

I have a penchant for plum jam.  When plums were cheap at the end of February, I bought some plums and strawberries to make jam.  Sylvia requested the strawberries be in the jam but we ate them.  Instead I added raspberries.

Plum and raspberry jam
It was my third jam of the summer so I was in the zone.  I was fairly cavalier with measurements.  Then I worried it wasn't sweet enough when we opened the first jar.  Later I tasted a supermarket jam we have in the fridge and it was like sugar.  It made me appreciate how good it is to taste the fruit in my jam.

apple, plum and quince crumble
One of our household's favourite dishes to make with plums (or any stewed fruit) is a crumble.  I made this apple, plum and quince crumble.  I cooked the fruit separately and then mixed it.  It probably would have looked better (and more plum coloured) if I had cooked it together before making the crumble.  But a nice crumble mixture means that it just doesn't matter.  E love custard with crumble so much that he actually made some custard while I was at the movies with a friend.

This post actually started off with decided to write about an odd tempeh bacon and plum sauce bowl that I made.  It wasn't the most brilliant dish but I enjoyed it and liked the idea.  The tempeh bacon (facon) was yummy though not crisp.  I made the plum sauce out of some stewed plums on a night when I was lacking inspiration and went to the fridge to see what was there.

Tempeh bacon bowl with plum sauce
The plum sauce was good with the tempeh bacon.  Any other grain or vegetable could work here but I highly recommend the combination of plum sauce and tempeh bacon.  I often think plum sauce is too rich for vegetarian dishes.  You could try this with tofu bacon or even smoky chickpeas but I think tempeh is a more robust flavour that is a great foil for the sauce.

Tomato, plum and white bean soup
I gobbled up the leftover tempeh bacon easily but was not sure about how to use the sauce.  Then again fate presented me with ageing tomatoes to use and a surplus of white beans in the freezer.  I blended them together with some extra seasoning and served it with cheese on toast.  It was pretty good.  I enjoyed the leftovers even more when I stirred in yoghurt, smoked paprika and black pepper.  It is more an idea than a completed recipe but again I wanted to record it because you never know when I will need ideas for leftover plum sauce.

Plum oat and cinnamon slice
I also made this favourite plum oat and cinnamon slice that I have made a few times.  It seemed less fruit this time.  Yet I still love it.  So full of crumbly, oaty, fruity yumminess.

Stewed plums
Lastly I thought I might take a photo of a recent saucepan of stewed plums.  We have had a lot of stewed plums this season.  Often eaten after dinner with a dollop of yoghurt.  I stone and chop them, throw them in a saucepan with a splash of water, two or three spoonfuls of honey and a cinnamon stick.  Then I simmer until the plums are soft.  Just enough honey so they lose their tart edge.  Delicious enough to eat from the saucepan.

Every time I see cheap plums I buy a bagful.  I bought some this week.  They are definitely at the end of the season.  I am not sure our kitchen will see any more this year.  Thanks goodness for apples coming into season.  It is some consolation as we farewell plums.

I am sending the jam to Karen of Lavender and Lovage who is co-host of Tea Time Treats with Jane of the Hedgecombers.   This month the theme is jams, curds and preserves. I am sending the soup to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays.  And I am sending the tempeh bacon bowl with plum sauce to Healthy Vegan Fridays #15, hosted by Suzanne at Hello Veggy, Anna at Herbivore Triathlete, and Kimmy at Rock My Vegan Socks.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Apple cider cake
Two years ago: WSC Chocolate Nut Roast with Chocolate Gravy
Three years ago: Why Does Food History Matter?
Four years ago: Cookbooks update and easy roast dinner
Five years ago: Tempting prune cake
Six years ago: ANZAC Day and the Biscuit Police

Plum and raspberry jam
Adapted from my previous jam recipes
Makes about 1 litre or 4 jars

2 scant cups of sugar
850g plums, stoned and chopped
150g raspberries
juice of half a lemon

Bring all ingredients to the boil and simmer 60-80 min.  To test, put a small teaspoonful on a saucer that has been in the freezer.  When you run your finger through it, the jam should stay either side of the trail where you finger has been.  (It will firm up somewhat as it cools.)  You will also know the jam is done when it clings to the spoon rather than all running off.  I sterilised my jars in the oven and boiled the lids (See previous sterilisation notes.)  Spoon jam into sterislised jars and screw on lids tightly.  Keeps in the cupboard for months.

Tempeh bacon bowl with plum sauce
serves 2

1 cup cooked pearl barley
2-3 golden beetroots, chopped
1 large zucchini, thickly sliced
oil spray
tempeh bacon (below)
plum and mustard sauce (below)

Place beetroot and zucchini on a baking tray lined with baking paper and spray with oil.  Bake for between 1 and 2 1/2 hours until soft and golden brown.  Heat the pearl barley.

Arrange pearly barley, beetroot, zucchini and tempeh bacon in a bowl.  Drizzle with plum and mustard sauce.

Tempeh bacon
Adapted from my tofu bacon recipe

3 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp liquid smoke
good pinch salt

300g tempeh, sliced into 0.5 cm strips 
2 to 3 tbsp of rice bran oil (or other oil)

Mix everything except the tempeh.  Arrange the tempeh strips in the marinade and marinate for about 30 minutes.  Heat oil over medium heat in heavy based frypan.  Fry tempeh slices for about 20  to 30 minutes until a deep golden brown with a little charred edges.  (I can just fit the slices from a packet of tempeh in my very large frypan but if you can't have them all lying flat in your frypan, you might need to do two batches.)  Retain any marinade left in the container for the plum and mustard sauce or other soups and stews.

Plum and mustard sauce

1 cup stewed plums*
2 tbsp tempeh bacon marinade (above)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp seeded mustard
1 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp each of smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion salt

Blend all the ingredients and then heat in a small saucepan.

*I stew my plums with honey but other sweeteners such as maple syrup or brown sugar work just as well for a vegan version.

Tomato, white bean and plum soup
serves 2 for a light lunch

2 tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup cooked white beans (mine were unseasoned)
100ml plum sauce
1 cup water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp stock powder
1/4 tsp onion salt
Dollop of yoghurt, some black pepper and smoked paprika, to serve

Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan for 15 minutes.  Blend.  Mix in yoghurt, black pepper and smoked paprika.  Great served in a mug alongside cheese on toast.

On the Stereo:
Little Victories: Wild Pumpkins at Midnight

Monday, 21 April 2014

Easter chick crackers, salt dough easter eggs, and an egg hunt

It has been a fun Easter.  We have made chocolate easter egg nests, painted salt dough eggs, baked (and eaten) lots of sourdough hot cross buns, made easter chick crackers for a lunch and had a fun colour coded egg hunt.  Having a 5 year old about is fun.  Sylvia has been very excited about the Easter bunny and eager to go to church to hear stories about Jesus.  So here is a rundown.

On Good Friday, we stayed at home and kept ourselves busy.  Too many hot cross buns were eaten.  At lunchtime I decided to make a light lunch of crackers and cheese.  For a few years I have admired some cute cheese and cracker chicks.  Finally I made them myself.

The chicks were made of garlic crackers, cheddar cheese, black sesame seed eyes and carrots for beaks, feet and hair.  They were easy and yummy.  We also snacked on some smoked almonds so I had fun making them into a nest.

We enjoy chocolate Easter eggs but I love some alternatives, especially when home made.  I decided it would be fun to make salt dough egg cut outs with Sylvia.  I didn't have an egg shaped cutter but we found a cap off a doll's baby drinking cup that seemed about the right shape.  We had also thought about doing flowers.  Any shape would do, especially at other times of year.

Despite following a recipe, the eggs were a little puffy and soft when they came out of the oven.  Not unusual for my oven to be slower than others.  We managed to paint one side of the eggs before Sylvia went to bed.  I painted the other side while she was refusing to sleep.

We took the salt dough eggs to my parents' place when we went there for Easter.  They have a little seasonal tree on the sideboard.  My mum had also made some dough eggs with my nieces.  They had rolled out a dough of flour and water and made decorations on them by colouring some leftover dough and sticking it on the eggs before baking.  All the eggs were strung from the tree and made a very striking centrepiece on the table on Easter Sunday.  And we gave some with Easter eggs to Sylvia's cousins.

As always we ate well when at my parents' house.  On Saturday we had burgers for dinner before going to mass.  Everyone else had meat burgers but my mum grilled some saganaki for me.  It was so good with the charred edges in toasted buns with fried red capsicum. lettuce, onions, tomato and sauce.  Reminded me of the ones we had when I was a child.  Or perhaps it tasted so good after an afternoon swim in Geelong.

I also took along a golden beetroot nut roast for the roast dinner on Sunday.  Plus some chocolate cake (that I will write about later.)  I loved the Toblerone cheesecake my mum made for dessert on Sunday.  And there were hot cross buns galore.

Sylvia had made a special basket for Easter bunny to put eggs into.  She was also very excited about an Easter egg hunt.  I had seen an easter egg hunt with colour coordinated easter eggs.   My dad organises the easter egg hunt and embraced the idea of each child collecting a different colour.  Below you can see his colour chart.

The egg hunt was great fun.  My dad had done a great job of hiding the eggs.  Almost too good, in some cases.  Colour coding the eggs meant there wasn't the mad scramble to be the kid to find the most and there was some interesting cooperation between the kids.  The only drawback was having an extra child unexpectedly turning up.  Fortunately one of the toddlers hadn't turned up yet and never missed it.

Above is another sneak peak of my chocolate cake and just some of the Easter eggs lined up.  E gave me a Koko Black easter egg.  He said he had to queue for it.  Having sampled it tonight, I can understand why you might queue for it.  The chocolate was far superior to many Easter eggs I have tasted.  And that is just the way I want my Easter to end.  With some great chocolate.

I am sending the Easter chick crackers to Louisa from Eat Your Veg for the Family Foodies event which focuses on Healthy Snacks in April. It is hosted on alternate months with Vanesther from Bangers and Mash.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: WSC Chocolate Chip and Honey Scones
Two years ago: Zucchini Layer Cake plus random thoughts
Three years ago: Marzipan choc chip cookies
Four years ago: Curried Paneer and Birthday Cheer
Five years ago: Easter Nut Roast and Feasting
Six years ago: NCR Moody Mushroom Stew

Salt Dough Easter Eggs
From Design Mom

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
egg shaped cutter

Mix flour, salt and water.  Knead briefly until you have a smooth dough.  (It was slightly tacky but didn't really need extra flour).  Roll dough out on baking paper to about 0.5cm thick.  (I am not sure this is essential but it keeps the work surface clean.)  Cut out egg shapes (I used one of Sylvia's toys because we don't have cutters).  Transfer to lined baking tray.

Use a chopstick to poke holes towards the top of the eggs.  Bake at 120 C for 2 hours.  (Mine were not quite done after this so - some had some softness still but I didn't have the time to leave it longer.)  Cool the eggs.

Paint eggs on one side, let dry, turn over over paint other side.  When both sides are dry, threat a piece of string through each egg and tie a knot.

On the Stereo:
Blonde on Blonde: Bob Dylan

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sourdough hot cross buns, playdough and some firsts

Another Good Friday.  Another batch of hot cross buns (HCBs).  I have been making them every year since I started this blog.  I don't get too excited by Easter eggs but I could live on hot cross buns.  All year round.  Homemade of course.  This year I have been excited to be able to use my sourdough starter.  The HCBs take longer but they taste A-Maz-Ing!

I have made two batches of hot cross buns this year.  I haven't actually followed a sourdough bread recipe since making my starter mid-last year.  I can't get my head around them.  Intuition is so much easier.  So I was wary about finding a sourdough hot cross bun recipe.  I thought I needed a practice run in case it all went terribly wrong.

I turned to my sourdough guru, Brydie at City Hippy Farm Girl, and then swapped notes with my mum who is into Dan Lepard right now.  I added my usual HCB crosses and glaze.  By the time I had noted what I had done the first time, I felt I could claim the recipe as my own. 

The first batch was started at 9am and out of the oven at about 7pm.  I was very pleased with it.  My mum tasted the HCBs and declared them to be the best I had ever made.  I agree.  They were soft and fluffy, spicy with sweet sticky chewy crosses. 

The second batch was made last night in readiness for Good Friday.  I started at 4pm, left them for 4 hours before the fold and stretch, left them in the fridge overnight, and finally had them ready to eat at midday.  The dough was so soft that it seemed almost cake-like rather than that tough dough that I usually bash about.  It also didn't seem to rise as much as usual.  I guess it is weighed down by butter and egg.

I have a feeling they would be ok at room temperature overnight (based on a tester bun and previous sourdough breads) but would need to check to be certain.  I also believe that this recipe could be veganised easily with a chia seed egg and non-dairy milk and margarine.  (This is based on making a vegan version of my favourite recipe.)  I was able to confirm that it is best to line the tin with baking paper to stop them sticking.

There is much that is counter-intuitive in this recipe.  Making crosses without any sugar seems wrong but they are just lovely once covered in sticky glaze.  The glaze seems too much for the buns but if you keep brushing it on, you will use it all.

Sourdough baking is so forgiving of a ride to the park or a favourite television show (Janet King).  However this recipe does need a bit of attention at the start.  It is worth it.  The results were every bit as good as the first batch.

Sylvia loves the thick chewy sticky crosses.  She rips off the crosses and leaves the buns.  Which does not make me happy.  I love the crosses too.  At least she is as excited by HCBs as I am and had eaten some of the buns.  Hot cross buns have always been a part of my Good Friday.  It is usually a quiet day at home for us.  There is something solemn about the day that prohibits going out and having fun.

Instead we stayed home and had fun.  In a quiet way.  Once the hot cross buns were made, we made salt dough easter eggs and playdough.  We read Hurrah for the Circus by Enid Blyton.  I made Easter chick crackers.  We even discovered camelia flowers in the garden.  Then Sylvia started to turn over the tub of mint to find worms.  My favourite comment of the day was when she said to me, "You go in and clean up the playdough.  I will look at worms."

In fact, Sylvia has had quite a few firsts lately.  It makes me feel like she is growing up quickly.  I guess school does that to a child.  Here is a list of recent firsts:
  • being on school holidays
  • swimming without a flotation aid and keeping her head about water
  • riding her (new) bike with me riding alongside
  • going to the cinema with a group of friends
  • searching for worms in the garden by herself
  • reading Where is the Green Sheep by herself (almost).
  • making salt dough shapes

Sylvia also believes that Hot Cross Buns are square.  Perhaps it is because I like to make them snuggled together with a cross that joins them together.  I know my HCBs aren't as round and pretty as some but I am very partial to these rustic buns.

I am sending these hot cross buns to Susan for YeastSpotting, the regular round up of all things yeasty online.

Previous Hot Cross Buns on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
Original recipe by Green Gourmet Giraffe, inspired by City Hippy Farm Girl and Dan Lepard 
Makes 16 to 20 buns

400g starter (100% hydration)
550g unbleached flour
275g mixed fruit
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
50g sugar
250ml milk (I used soy milk)
100g butter, room temperature (I used margarine)
1 egg
2 tsp salt

1 cup  plain flour
1/2 to 1 cup water

1/2 cup water
1/4 cupcastor sugar
1 tsp mixed spice

Mix all the buns ingredients except the salt.  Cover and rest for 30 minutes.  Mix in the salt - the dough will be quite stiff.  Cover and stand another 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 15 seconds and stand covered for 10 minutes.  Knead for 15 seconds and rest 10 minutes.  Knead for 15 seconds and rest for 1 to 4 hours.  (Use a floured board if required.  If the dough comes together nicely you could add a little oil to the board.)

Stretch and fold (or knead for 15 seconds).  Cover and leave for 1 to 2 hours.  Tip the dough onto a lightly floured (or oiled) board and cut into 16 to 20 balls with a sharp knife.  (When I tried 15 buns they were a little big.)  Roll each piece into balls and place in a lined 13 x 9 inch baking tray.

Cover and set aside to rise for 1 to 3 hours until risen.  At this point you can leave them in the fridge overnight.  I think you could also leave them at room temperature but need more experimenting on this.  If you leave them overnight you will need an hour or two for them to come to room temperature the next morning.

About half an hour before you are ready to bake the buns, preheat the oven to 220 C.  When the buns are ready to go into the oven make the crosses by mixing flour and water into a thick paste.  I used about 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup of water but it changes every time.  I like a thick cross so if you want neat thin ones you may need less flour and water than me.

To pipe the crosses I spoon the mixture into a ziplock bag, seal it and snip a tiny corner.  Then I pipe lengthways and then crossways over all the buns. 

Bake bun for 20-40 minutes (Brydie at City Hippy Farm Girl said 20-25 minutes.  I did 40 for my first batch but did just shy of this for the second batch and it could have been in a little less.  My oven is slower than most.)  They are ready when golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  They will look quite dull until glazed.

About 5 minutes before the buns are ready to come out of the oven, mix all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes without stirring.  When the buns are out of the oven, turn onto a wire rack with the crosses facing upwards.  Place an old teatowel either on the rack before placing the buns or on the surface under the rack.  It will get messy with the glaze.

Brush glaze over the buns.  It seems like too much but just keep brushing over and over until all the glaze is used up.  (Do not just tip over the buns - it will just pool under the buns.)  Wait at least an hour before eating - if you can wait that long.  Reheat for 10 - 15 minutes at 180 C (I find I do 15 minutes but my oven is not over powerful).

On the Stereo:
Love: The Beatles