Thursday, 28 March 2013

No Added Sugar Hot Cross Buns

I mentioned last year that it has been a long standing tradition in my family to gather together on Good Friday and participate in an ever so slightly competitive hot cross bun bakingcompetition! Unfortunately I’m not heading home for Easter this year, but that hasn’t stopped me from making my own hot cross buns.

Last year my tropical vegan hotcross buns were a real success and I wasn’t really sure where to go from there. I had been contemplating creating a gluten free version of this seasonal product but in the end opted for something a little simpler and went for a hot cross but with no added sugar (just a little sweetness added from apple juice and a tiny dollop of honey). But with the right balance of spicing and the natural sweetness from the dried fruit these had the perfect amount of sweetness and a really lovely light texture. My housemate and colleagues were suitably impressed with my efforts and I think if I was at home I would certainly be a front runner in this year’s competition!!! So if any of my extended family are reading this you are lucky I’m not at home this year because I would have been tough to beat (and if you want to take this blog post as a long distance entry even better!!).

So Happy Easter everyone, I’m now off to start my celebrations in my family’s traditional manner….by stuffing myself with A LOT of hot cross buns!!!


350g plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1 7g sachet dried instant yeast
1 teaspoon honey
150ml apple juice
150g dried fruit (I used a mix that contained raisins, golden raisins and cranberries but any mixture of raisins, sultanas, cherries, cranberries, mixed peel would work well)
70g margarine
25ml milk


50g plain flour
45 ml water


1 tablespoon sugar free apricot jam (I used St. Dalfour’s jam which just contains fruit and uses grape juice concentrate as a natural sweetner)
 1 tablespoon water

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C

Start by putting all of the dried fruit into a bowl and add the apple juice and honey. Cover with cling film and set aside for at least 2 hours to allow the fruit to soak up some of the apple juice (although if you have time you can leave the fruit soaking overnight).

Place the flour, yeast and spices into a large bowl.

Put the milk and margarine into a small saucepan and place over a gentle heat until the margarine has melted, remove from the heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly until luke warm.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture along with the dried fruit and any remaining apple juice that hasn’t been soaked up by the fruit.

Bring the wet and dry ingredients together with your hands until a large ball of dough is formed.

Tip the dough mixture out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until springy to the touch, return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen divide into 8 equal portions and shape each into a round ball. Evenly space the balls on a large baking tray and score the tops with a knife to make a cross. Then allow to rise again for another 30 minutes.

In the meantime mix the 50g of flour and 45ml of water together in a small bowl until you have a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a piping bag (you can make one of these out of a square of greaseproof paper, or alternatively just use a plastic sandwich bag with the corner snipped off).

Once risen pipe a cross onto each bun along the crosses previously scored into them. Then bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Place the jam and water in a small bowl and heat in the microwave for a couple of seconds until nicely runny. As soon as the hot cross buns are removed from the oven use a pastry brush to glaze the hot cross buns with the syrup.

Allow to cool just slightly then tuck in….add a knob of butter to a warm slice of hot cross bun for an extra indulgent addition to these seasonal treats.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Chocolate and Hazelnut 'Egg White' Ice Cream

Spring has perfected the disappearing act and as temperatures plummet and much of the country is engulfed by snow and hit by raging winds what could be better than getting into the kitchen, staying close to a nice warm oven and whipping up some ice cream!!! Yup you heard right, it’s spring…summer is just around the corner (well possibly not but hey I’m an optimist) and there is never a bad time to eat ice cream. I think I have declared my love for ice cream many times on my blog (check out my recipes for Mint Choc Chip, Pineapple and Coconut and Yoghurt and Pistachio among others!). I also frequently moan about how after an intensive ice cream churning session I am left with mountains of egg whites that I just don’t know what to do with.

I’m not a massive fan of meringue and unless otherwise inspired I usually just bung the egg whites into little food bags and pop them in to the freezer in the hope that I will eventually amass enough to make an Angel Food Cake (most recipes for these normally require at least 12 egg whites!). But whilst watching a TV cookery show the other week (I think it was Great British Menu, but to be honest I can’t remember exactly and watch so many foodie programmes it may well have been something else) I saw a chef produce egg white ice cream. I had never heard of such a concoction before and immediately thought what a great way to use up the egg whites left over from making ice cream….make more ice cream.

A little internet trawling later and I learnt that you can make ice cream out of egg whites by folding Italian meringue into whipped cream. Italian meringue was also something I was yet to conquer and so I set about to make this egg yolk free, no churn ice cream. Despite taking a little bit of time and effort I was really pleased with the results and definitely know what I will be doing with my left over egg whites in the future!


100g egg whites (approx. 3 egg whites)
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
310g caster sugar
100ml water

Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla pod
320ml double cream
100g milk chocolate
50g dark chocolate
100g hazelnuts

A sugar thermometer is also needed

To make the meringue;

Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until they start to look foamy. At this point add the cream of tartar and continue to whisk until the egg whites form stiff peaks (this means that if you lift the mixer out of the mixture a peak should form and it won’t collapse or ‘wilt’ once the mixer/whisk is removed….check out Delia for more info!)

Place the sugar and water into a large saucepan and place over a medium heat. Swirl the saucepan gently (but don’t actually stir the mixture) until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear.

Stick your thermometer into the mixture, raise the heat and allow the mixture bubble rapidly until 112 °C / 234 °F is reached.

Remove the sugar syrup from the heat.

Begin beating the egg white mixture again and slowly (and very carefully) begin to pour the sugar syrup into the egg white mix, beating all of the time. Once all of the syrup is added continue to beat the mixture for another 10 minutes or so until the mixture has cooled and has a nice glossy finish.

Stop beating and set to one side (this is the Italian meringue done)

For the chocolate cream;

Scrape the seed from the vanilla pod and transfer to another large bowl along with the cream.

Beat the mixture with an electric hand mix until it has doubled in volume and is light and fluffy.

Break the chocolate into chunks and melt in the microwave for a few seconds or in an bain marie.

Allow the melted chocolate mixture to cool slightly before beating into the cream mixture.

Place the hazelnuts into a food processor and pulse until ground into a coarse powder. Fold these into the chocolate cream mixture.

Now for the ice cream to come together!

Add about a third of the cream to the Italian meringue and gently fold in until well combined. Continue adding the rest of the cream to the meringue bit by bit until well combined (but try not to overmix the mixture at the point). Transfer to a freezer proof container and bung in the freezer overnight (there is no need to churn or mix the ice cream once in the freezer). Then wait for slightly warmer weather before enjoying a big scoop of this delicious ice cream.

Recipe inspired by this recipe from Julia Child.

I have also entered this recipe into the Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream Recipe which is organised by Kavey Eats.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Guinness and Gruyere Bread

Now that I am living over in Ireland it is pretty impossible to fail to notice that it is St Patrick’s Day today. Shamrocks seem to be popping up everywhere and parades are taking place throughout the emerald isle to entertain the nation! Across the country (and much of the world) people will also be celebrating by consuming copious amounts of the black stuff (or occasionally artificially dyed green stuff!). But I thought I would celebrate in my own way by incorporating Guinness into this savoury bread recipe. Like other traditional Irish breads (soda bread and wheaten bread) this is a yeast free recipe and uses the Guinness as the raising agent.


300g whole wheat flour
350g plain flour
30g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
100g gruyere cheese (grated)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 440ml can Guinness

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C / 375°F

Sift both flours into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, salt, baking powder and paprika and mix together until fully combined.

Next add 75g of the grated cheese (reserve 25g for sprinkling on top of the loaf)

Finally add the tomato puree and then gradually stir in the Guinness to the dry ingredients adding a little at a time, stirring after each addition of beer until a firm dough is formed.

Liberally dust a work surface with plain flour and turn the dough out onto the flour. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. (I found that my dough was quite wet and soon absorbed all of the flour on the work top so required more flour to be added during the kneading process).

Shape the dough into an oval and transfer to a lightly greased baking tray. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the dough and place in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes until golden brown.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Clemantine and Rose Hip Syrup Cake

On a recent trawl through my cupboards I came across a bottle of rose hip syrup that I had received in my foodie pen pal parcel back in October last year. I had kept meaning to find a use for this unusual ingredient but it generally kept slipping my mind and I consistently failed to get around to using it. But finally on a lazy Sunday afternoon a few weeks back I dug the syrup out again and began trawling the web for some inspiration on what to do with it as I wasn’t really sure what rose hip syrup could be used for! 

A little bit of Googling and I came across this gorgeous looking Winter Cake (which also provides instructions on how to make your own rose hip syrup if you feel inclined to do so). It may no longer be winter but this cake uses olive oil as the fat and doesn’t have any eggs so is perfect for vegans. I was inspired to add my own twist to this recipe by using clemantines to produce a cake with a really rather nice subtle aromatic flavour from the rose hips. This cake is great served spread with a little butter (or vegan spread) and enjoyed alongside a refreshing cup of Earl Grey tea.


200g plain flour
150g whole wheat flour
150ml rosehip syrup
120ml olive oil
Zest from 3 clemantines
130ml clementine juice
1.5 tspn bicarb

Pre heat the oven to 180 deg c / 350 deg f and line a loaf tin with non-stick baking parchment.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl add all of the wet ingredients and then gradually pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, stirring as you go until everything is well combined.

Transfer the cake batter to the lined tin and place in the oven for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes the cake should be golden brown on top and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and enjoying.

This cake will keep well in an air tight container for up to a week.

With thanks to Tamzin at Salad and Sequins who originally sent me the rose hip syrup. And the grgeous Winter Cake recipe that inspired me to make this cake over at Delightful Delicacies.