The great thing about feeling a bit peckish after lunch and before dinner on Easter Sunday is that hot crossed buns are the go-to answer. You might have a bread bin full of them at this time of the year; or your might be like me and decide to work for your food and make them from scratch.
I followed Jamie Oliver’s hot cross bun recipe and it worked a treat - a hot, sticky, buttery treat.
The baked consistency of the finished buns is almost cake-like - at the upper end of cake right before it becomes bread - probably because this is an enriched dough ie: it has egg and butter in it. I was a bit stingy with the fruit having only a handful or two of sultanas because I’m not a big mixed dried fruit fan.
Soaking the sultanas in orange-juice for a couple of hours really plumped them up, and also provided a tasty liquid to make the crosses and the glaze with. Next time I’ll go with heaped measures of the spices too, just to give it more oompf.
Best thing of all about making these hot crossed buns from scratch today was that the whole house smells of spiced baking; just the most perfect kind of smells for an overcast, showery, Easter Sunday.
I am lucky enough to be related to a very fine baker. My son Simon baked this wonderful chocolate beetroot fudge cake devised by his beautiful fiancé Melissa. Doesn’t it look fantastic? So fantastic, in fact, that I thought something like this would befit the occasion of my boss’s birthday. Now I’m not going to lie, I thought walking in with such a delicious concoction would be a chance to shine; for people to admire my baking skills; skills I have honed over decades. Yes, I’ve baked a few things in my time. I’ve also watched hours of baking shows, ridiculing baking competitions, aghast at the contestant’s baking choices and mocking their failures. I believed I’ve got a really good chance of impressing the pants, not only off my boss, but my off all workmates.
I decided to unleash my baking prowess for everyone to marvel at my experience and expertise by baking a similar, but somewhat more spectacular recipe from Melissa’s website: Little and Friday’s wonderful Chocolate, Beetroot and Salted Caramel Cake.
This cake too some time to make. It had several components: a three tiered cake, sandwiched with salted caramel, and lashed with thick, rich, chocolate ganache. While I was baking, it occurred to me that there are very important lessons to be learned from all stages of the cake baking process. Things that I wished I’d learned when I was a less experienced baker. So, taking my experience of baking my boss’s birthday cake into account I give to you: ten important steps to making a fantastic birthday cake for your boss:
- Preheat your oven - sometimes getting your oven to the right temperature for your cake can take a while, so make sure you allow enough time for this important step. Don’t think you are smarter than the recipe or your oven and turn your oven on full whack/fan bake to speed up the preheating. Just turn it to the correct temperature and use your patience. Your oven should indicate the correct temperature has been reached - my oven’s red light goes off so I know we’re good to go.
- Use the tin the recipe calls for - people who write cake recipes know what they’re doing. They also know that different shaped and sized tins mean different temperatures and times needed to bake that particular cake. If the recipe calls for three 20cm baking tins, deciding to use one 20cm spring form pan with a plan to cut the cake into three later, might not end up being the best idea you’ve had all day.
- Leave the oven on - when you pop your cake into the oven, it’s very important not to turn your oven off when you think you’re just turning off your fan bake. It would be a terrible thing to discover after the timer indicates your cake batter has been in an ever decreasing temperature when it ought to have been busy baking. The cake will bake unevenly if you suddenly turn the oven back on and hope everything turns out okay. Because hope is a terrible, terrible thing.
- Cool the cake completely - this can take longer than you think if you think an hour is enough. The cake doesn’t even know its a cake until its at room temperature. Until then, it’s pretty much an unformed thing: quite unpredictable and prone to crumbling and tearing. Just saying.
- Careful cutting - actually it doesn’t really matter how careful you are when you slice a cake into layers if your cake is still hot you’re going to end up with an uneven slice and a very crumbled texture because, remember, your cake doesn’t know it’s a cake if it’s still warm from the oven.
- Let heated icing or caramel cool and thicken before using - pouring very warm salted caramel mixture onto a warm cake that doesn’t even know its cake yet won’t yield the results you might expect; especially if you thought that the caramel would soak into the layers of cake forming a gooey, chocolately fudginess - you are sadly mistaken. Seems that a warm cake plain refuses to soak any liquid. The the liquid does what liquid foes best and travels to the lowest point of the surface to either puddle or make its escape down the side of the layer.
- Cream is a fat, and therefore, slippery - even when whipped it can be rendered quite slippery if smoothed onto a warm surface. It will act less like the planned glue between the out of control layers of your overly warm cake and more like a lubricant.
- Ganache won’t save the day - as forgiving as ganache can be, it’s not a cosmetic surgeon and if you’ve been following along, you might imagine some cakes might be needing one of those about this time.
- Gravity is a bitch - if you have warm cake layers, soaked from unset, salted caramel and slathered in creamy lubricant - suddenly all those stories of Sir Issac Newton and the apple from way back in science class make so much more sense. The tectonic nature of a layer cake is as subject to gravity as the rest of us.
10. Have a backup plan - be prepared to abandon all hope. Stop at the supermarket on the way to work and buy a cake.
- Little and Friday
- Baking Makes Things Better
- New World Supermarket
- Chocolate, beetroot, fudge cake recipe (BMTB)
- Chocolate, beetroot, and salted caramel recipe (Little and Friday, BMTB)
I really love Saturday mornings. You might be thinking that’s a no-brainer I mean, who wouldn’t like Saturday mornings? If you live a life where you don’t have to work in the weekends, Saturday mornings promise non-alarm wakeups, long sleep-ins, hanging out in comfy clothes, maybe eating a late breakfast at a local cafe - all the sorts of things racing off to work on a weekend morning stops you from doing.
For me, and for a long time, weekends didn’t mean as much as they do now; but living in Australia has taught me not only to appreciate the weekends, but to try and make the most of them by getting up early and out the door.
This Saturday morning had me organise my errands in a large circular drive which landed me back home with my fresh batch of iron tablets, a set of digital kitchen scales, a box full of greens for me and the bunnies, and a few jars to store my increasingly variations of flour.
I hadn’t eaten breakfast before I left because I wasn’t hungry. Gathering my leafy green vegetables I was getting ready to construct my breakfast when I got home.
Both my blender and cast iron frying pan get a good workout most days and as I unpacked my produce, I dropped the appropriate ingredients right into either the blender or the moderately sizzling frying pan. I’ve really prefected a favourite green smoothie and it’s consistantly good. Pairing that with a dish of sauted vegetables and a couple of free range eggs, I settled down to break my fast while reading a new cookbook I’d picked up midweek.
Again I am struck by how amazing it is that I’ve shifted the way I think about food - and am sticking to it. That’s the most amazing part. I’m not missing the breads and pastries of weekend brunches; don’t need the drizzly honey or gloopy jam with melty butter over thick toast or sliced fruits over granola. I’m completely happy to get the dense nutrition of deep leafy greens into my system first thing in the morning and my entire day is better for it.
Since coming back from Australia I’ve been aquiring old plates and cups. I just love the charm of old china and, most especially, the Asiatic Pheasants pattern on crockery. It crops up from a number of different companies, and has been knocked-off and recrafted over the years.
I spotted a poor but charming rendition of the old Wedgewood pattern on Trademe.com the other week and couldn’t help but bid for the cup, saucer, and plate trios.
Part of this shift in my thinking about food is how I present it. I’m finding such delight in using mismatched vintage crockery when serving even everyday meals. Having a cup of tea poured from a lovely teapot, with milk in a sweet jug, and a tray to contain everything, gives me so much pleasure. Add some flowers to that mix and kapoo! what a lovely warm feeling.
Hope your Saturday is everything you want it to be. I hope to get kitchen chores done today including tidying and reorganising my over-loaded pantry, and cleaning out the damp hay from the bunny hutches.
What is your idea of a good Saturday morning?
Hey! Who wants to read along with me? I’m downloading this book and starting to read it this weekend. Want to Read-A-Long? Leave a comment to let me know you’re along for the ride.
- Things a Little Bird Told Me (website)
- Things a Little Bird Told Me (Amazon US)
- Things a Little Bird Told Me (Amazon AU)
Review (of sorts)
This was a quick read though I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone. Perfectly nice guy rights a perfectly nice book which could have done with a darn good edit. Biz has had an interesting life, and he has tales to tell, trouble is he’s not really a storyteller when typing. Maybe he can recount a story verbally with great timing and interesting tone, but that didn’t really follow him into the written word.
The overall feeling I came away with was “Well, if he can do it…” because Biz presents as ordinary, just like you and me. He’s lucky that Ev Williams could see through Biz’s constant chatter to be able to pluck the nuggets, I think. Biz is completely on target with his focus on the human side of the technology equation, and his need to communicate certainly helped Twitter users feel like they were part of the product. Which we are and which we do - or did.
Biz offers a few other ideas like “fake it til you make it” and “grow into your ideal you” and “grab those chances with both hands” and “be kind” are all good to be reminded about.