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Sunday, 31 March 2013

Russell Hobbs Creations kitchen machine and two hot cross bun recipes!

I have a shiny new Russell Hobbs Creations kitchen machine to use! I was so excited when the box arrived. I wasted no time in unpacking the box and having a go at a recipe using it.

The recipe I used to Christen my machine was a hot cross bun recipe. Quite fitting for the season, at the same time as giving me the chance to use the dough hook attachment that comes with the machine, something which I've wanted for quite a while.
What a novel experience for me to weigh out my ingredients into the ample sized mixing bowl that comes with the machine, and put the machine to work with the dough hook whilst I got on with making littlest baker's dinner (I told you I wasted no time in opening the box, we'd just walked in the door!)


I actually made two batches of hot cross buns, one was a Nigella recipe and the other was a Simon Rimmer recipe. I didn't realise until I started looking around at recipes just how many variations of the same thing there could be, a bit like everyone has their own Bolognese recipe.

First up was Nigella's. Something I was concerned about with this recipe is the lack of sugar in the dough, I always thought hot cross buns should be sweet, but I followed the recipe and they worked, go figure!

Ingredients:

For the dough:
50 gram(s) butter
1 orange(s) (zest)
1 cloves
2 cardamom pods
400 gram(s) bread flour
1 packet(s) yeast (easy blend)
125 gram(s) mixed dried fruit
1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon(s) ground nutmeg
0.25 teaspoon(s) ground ginger
150 ml milk
1 egg(s)

For the egg wash:
1 medium egg(s) (beaten with a little milk)
For the cross on the buns
3 tablespoon(s) plain flour
0.5 tablespoon(s) caster sugar
2 tablespoon(s) water

For the sugar glaze:
1 tablespoon(s) caster sugar
1 tablespoon(s) water (boiling)

This is Nigella's exact recipe, I deliberately left out the cardamom pods and ginger as I really don't like them I think with these things it's a case of cherry picking what you like and leaving out what you don't, you do have to eat it after all!


Kitchen machine, kneading my dough.
Finished dough, ready to rise.
Nigella's recipe makes the hot cross buns quite small (makes 16) and rustic, which actually makes them very good as a lunch time treat in little people's lunch boxes (keep them in the freezer, pop one in frozen in the morning, by the afternoon it is defrosted).

Ready for the oven



Method:

  1. Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove and cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then leave to infuse.
  2. Measure the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a bowl and add the spices. When the infused milk has reached blood temperature take out the clove and cardamom pods, and beat in the egg. Pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients.
  3. Knead the bowl either by hand or with a machine with a dough hook; if it is too dry add a little more warm milk or water. Keep kneading until you have silky, elastic dough, but bear in mind that the dried fruit will stop this from being exactly satin smooth.
  4. Form into a ball and place in a buttered bowl covered with clingfilm, and leave to prove overnight in the fridge.
  5. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/220ÂșC. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
  6. Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth and elastic. Divide into 16 balls and shape into smooth round buns. I wouldn't start worrying unduly about their size: just halve the dough, and keep halving it until it's in eight pieces, and use that piece to make two buns. Or just keep the dough as it is, and pinch off pieces slightly larger than a ping pong ball and hope you end up with 16 or thereabouts. Not that it matters.
  7. Sit the buns on a baking parchment. Make sure they are quite snug together but not touching. Using the back of an ordinary eating knife, score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross. Cover with a teatowel and leave to prove again for about 45 minutes - they should have risen and almost joined up.
  8. Brush the buns with an egg wash, and then mix the flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick paste. Using a teaspoon, dribble two lines over the buns in the indent of the cross, and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  9. When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, mix the sugar and boiling water together for the glaze, and brush each hot bun to make them sweet and shiny.





Finished and cooling, ready for the taste test!

Next up was the Simon Rimmer recipe, this one seemed to be a more traditional recipe, using sugar in the dough which gave them a bit more rise (in my opinion). This recipe made 12 larger buns.


Ingredients:

450g/1lb strong white bread flour
7g/½ oz dried yeast
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
100g/3½oz raisins
1 orange, zest only
100g/3½oz sugar
50g/1¾oz butter
250ml/9fl oz milk
1 free-range egg

For the cross:
75g/2¾oz flour
4 tsp caster sugar
4 tbsp water

For the glaze:
1 tbsp smooth marmalade (I used apricot jam, does the same job)
1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
2 tbsp water

Preparation method:

For the dough, sift the flour, dried yeast, cinnamon, allspice, raisins, orange zest and sugar into a bowl.
Warm the butter and milk together in a saucepan until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg.It is worth letting the milk/butter cool slightly first, to prevent the egg cooking.)
Fold the milk mixture into the flour mixture to form a dough.
Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces, shape into balls and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside for 12 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Meanwhile, for the cross, mix the flour, sugar and water together in a bowl and spoon into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
Place the buns onto a baking tray and pipe a cross onto each bun. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.
Meanwhile, for the glaze, heat the glaze ingredients in a pan until the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.
Remove the buns from the oven and immediately brush each bun with the glaze. Set aside to cool.
Serve the hot cross buns warm with butter.
Finished dough, rising...smoother than Nigella's.

All of the finished Hot Cross buns, ready for our meeting at work.
I much preferred the look of these buns, they look like traditional hot cross buns. They also felt softer and (probably due to the sugar) seemed to taste better.

A great way for me to try out my new kitchen gadget! I was very pleased with how the Creations kitchen machine handled the dough and the fact that it left my hands free to get on with other things knowing that it was busy kneading the dough for me!
My only slight negativity with it is that although the large steel mixing bowl is great for preventing flour flying up out of the bowl if not using the splash guard that comes with the machine it makes it difficult for the ingredients to mix well without a helping hand going in and stirring it a bit every now and then.
But that really is my only negativity, and for the price point of £199 it is easily far more economical than a Kitchen Aid. I have also heard that Kitchen Aids and the like have a tendency to 'walk' the Russell Hobbs wins there too as it has suction pads on its feet which prevent this. All in all a very useful machine for any kitchen.















Easter Chocolate cupcakes

What a busy few weeks! Just getting over the birthday baking bonanza then I acquired a brand new Russell Hobbs Creations kitchen machine to play with (lucky me!!!) which has kept me quite busy and then suddenly Easter was upon me! 
Having *just* finished getting things ready for the Easter egg hunt in the morning I thought I'd get around to writing my post about my Easter baking so far.

My first batch of Easter baking was some Chocolate Cupcakes, made using Stork spread, which is a bit of a break from the norm for me as I tend to go for own brand unsalted purely to keep costs down. Stork spread has long been synonymous with baking, so much so that they now make Stork in an easy to mix baking liquid!



The recipe is a basic cupcake recipe, with a chocolate frosting and mini egg decoration. Perfect for Easter baking with the kids!

Recipe:

115g (4 oz) Stork 
115g (4 oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, large
115g (4 oz) self-raising flour, sieved together with
1 tablespoon cocoa, and
½ teaspoon baking powder
I did not have any baking powder so made my own using 1/3 Baking Soda and 2/3 Cream of Tartar and used it immediately.

For the chocolate icing:

1-2 tablespoons milk
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa
85g (3 oz) Stork 
225g (8 oz) icing sugar, sieved
To decorate: mini chocolate Easter eggs

Method:

Beat the eggs and sugar together until fluffy and creamy, then gradually beat in the eggs and flour until the mix is smooth and all of the flour is incorporated
Spoon the mix into cupcake cases in a 12 hole muffin tin, I use an ice cream scoop and use one scoop per case to ensure all cakes are an even size.
Place in a pre heated oven at 190 degrees for 15-20 minutes until risen and a cake tester or skewer comes out clean with no wet mix on it.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Whilst the cakes are cooling make the chocolate icing by mixing all of the icing ingredients together until smooth.
Use a piping bag to pipe the icing onto the cakes in a nest effect, or use a spreader to spread icing on if you're not so good with piping (like me!) and decorate with mini eggs. 




Happy Easter everyone!




Sunday, 3 March 2013

Birthday Cupcakes...

As Littlest Baker's birthday was on a Thursday this year we held the (seemingly obligatory) party on the Saturday. Meaning that I had to decide between holding back on the Birthday cake until the Saturday, doing two cakes one for each day or what I ended up deciding to do which I think worked quite well.
Rather than making a big cake to share out amongst all of the party goers I decided to go for cupcakes as party favours, handed out with the party bags to each child as they were leaving. For me this was a great idea as it meant no worrying about there being enough cake for each guest or cutting the cake into equal slices or trying to wrap it all up to be carried home and spending time cleaning up from cutting it up whilst cleaning up the party room... just handing them a ready wrapped cake, perfectly sized for little and grown up hands. There was also the added bonus of there being two lots of cake in the week, not a fact that got past Littlest baker!

The cupcake recipe I used was a standard cupcake recipe, no need to play with something so tried and tested!

Ingredients:
175g (6oz) Self-raising flour
175g (6oz) Soft margarine
175g (6oz) Caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 medium eggs

Method:

Heat the oven to 180 deg C, 350 deg F or Gas mark 4. Put a paper case in each hole of a 12 hole deep muffin tray.
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla essence.
Beat the mix together until smooth.
Spoon the mix into the paper cases, dividing it evenly between them all. (The cases need to be about half full).
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm and golden on top.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

The cakes themselves really are that easy to make, and so nice to eat!

First batch of cakes cooling

 

The icing was a bit more difficult for me, as I'd never used an icing bag before in my life and was just hoping that I'd be able to get some half decent decorations piped onto the cakes (foolish I know!).

Though having said that, it wasn't as difficult as I'd imagined it to be, I didn't do traditional cupcake swirls as I think I need to practise that before doing it on cakes intended for people other than family. My main issue was filling the piping bag, dealing with that is what made the whole decorating take about an hour more than necessary. I *think* the problem was that the icing bag just wasn't big enough, and so trying to get the butter cream into it became messy and annoying. I don't like blaming the tools, but I don't see what else it could have been. I tried cooling the butter cream which then made it too hard to get through the nozzle (don't cool it by putting it in the freezer, even for 10 minutes!) and leaving it on the side to soften up which just made it squidge all over my hands (which I hated as I don't like having sticky hands, eurgh).
 
But, I persevered and after giving up on the piping bag, (which has now gone to the great dustbin in the sky) and making one out of grease proof paper with the piping nozzle I managed to get all 30 cupcakes decorated. Hurrah!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The 'ice cream' cupcakes were a little experiment I tried with the last bit of batter, hence there only being two. They were made by using one ice cream scoop of batter in each cone and baked in the oven at 180 deg taking 30-35 minutes to cook. The batter does actually fill the cone whilst cooking so don't be tempted to add more raw batter thinking it won't be enough - it will! Oh, and the cones stay perfectly edible, which makes the 'ice cream' cupcakes even more perfect as party favours as they can be eaten entirely on hoof and their novelty value is right up there.

 
 
The cupcake toppers were bought from an online baking store, which I now can't remember the name of, though they are widely available from most kitchen/baking stores and even supermarkets. Much easier than trying to make them yourself unless you have a steady hand and a lot of patience (two things which I do not have).
 

 


 
 
 
 

All in all, I'm quite pleased with how the cakes went, and there certainly wasn't much left by the end of the day, so I'm guessing everyone else agreed with me!
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

That's a wrap...

These are something I discovered making for myself a few week ago after promising Littlest Baker she could have wraps for her lunch and promptly discovering we didn't have any. That's where Google always comes in very handy!

After a minute looking online I had a recipe for wraps, which is almost too easy.

Ingredients:
225g fine corn flour or maize flour (for a traditional tortilla wrap) or strong wheat flour (what I used) or a mix of both.
1 medium egg
A little warm water.

Mix all of the ingredients together until they form a dough. Knead until smooth and allow to stand for 30 minutes.
Cut into 8 pieces, and roll out very thinly to 8 pancakes.
Griddle or dry-fry in a hot pan for 1 minute each side until speckled brown.

 



These went down really well and are perfect for lunch boxes. I cooked half of the wraps and froze the remainder of the dough for a few days until making some more. The wraps keep well in the fridge so long as they are well covered and not allowed to dry out (much the same as shop bought).

I've not worked out the cost, but I would think it's fairly safe to say that cost wise they are the same as if not cheaper (and healthier) than shop bought tortillas and great for getting the kids involved with you in the kitchen.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Littlest baker turned 5!

What a week last week was! Littlest baker turned a whole 5 years old on Thursday 21st and it feels like I spent most of last week (at least) preparing to celebrate and actually celebrating!

It all began with the cake, I've not actually done much cake decorating and certainly never tried to do anything on the scale that I was attempting with the Birthday cake so I spent quite a lot of time thinking about it and how it would work before I actually got down to the construction.

The cake itself was a chocolate sponge with a hint of espresso which added a lovely delicate twist to the overall flavour of the sponge.
 
One layer of the cake cooling


I went for a double layer of the chocolate sponge, covered in strawberry flavoured pink butter cream icing. With silver chocolate fingers wrapped around the outside and topped with strawberry flavoured pink chocolate buttons. All sounds simple enough, yet it still took the best part of six hours to make! Though having done it I think to do it again would be much easier and much quicker. I have always shied away of this kind of project for fear that I wouldn't be able to do it justice and was pleasantly surprised by the results. This was a big learning curve for me and I will use what I learnt to my advantage in the future.

The finished cake...

The finish isn't perfect but I was so very proud of myself for seeing the whole thing through and coming up with something pretty decent. Like I say, I learnt a lot of lessons doing this one so next time it will be much better. Though I will say I really liked the way the silver chocolate fingers looked against the pink of the icing, much better than plain white would have looked and added a touch of glamour.
 
They were super easy to make as well, simply get some Cadbury Dream chocolate fingers (I used just short of two packs on this cake) and lay out on a flat surface away from other food (and anything else that you don't want sprayed silver!) and spray evenly with some some Dr Oetker Shimmer spray. Leave the spray to dry for 10 minutes and then repeat the process until you have the desired level of colour. But beware! The spray has a knack of covering everything around it! It does wipe off very easily but still, don't say you weren't warned.
 
 
The oh so cute bunting you see adorning the cake was bought just before Christmas at a craft fair in Stafford and I sadly didn't keep the details of the person I bought it from. Though it should be relatively easy to make using two cake pop sticks and some fabric offcuts if you're the crafty type. 
 
All of this was done in secret whilst Littlest Baker was away at her Nanny and Granddad's for a few days for half term so was presented as a surprise on her actual birthday.

 
 
 
 

The cake was moist and the flavour of the strawberry butter cream and chocolate buttons worked wonderfully together with the chocolate and hint of espresso of the cake.

If you fancy making the Chocolate cake yourself the recipe is as follows:

 Ingredients
  1. 250g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  2. 200g dark chocolate
  3. 1 tbsp espresso powder (I actually used a Sachet of Millicano)
  4. 100ml whole milk (I used skimmed, though whole would have a creamier texture)
  5. 250g self-raising flour
  6. 40g cocoa powder
  7. 250g caster sugar
  8. 4 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  9. 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used .5 tsp vanilla and .5 tsp chocolate essence)
  10. 150ml soured cream (I used 0% Greek yogurt)
Method
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan140°C/gas 3. Grease and line a deep, 23cm round loose-bottomed cake tin, then set aside. Melt the chocolate, butter, espresso powder and milk in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. 2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl, then add the caster sugar. Fold into the chocolate mixture along with the eggs, vanilla extract and soured cream.
  3. 3. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with some moist crumbs sticking to it but not any raw cake batter. Set aside to cool completely in the tin.

The cake would be delicious smothered in Chocolate fudge butter cream and topped with a rocky road style topping of crushed biscuit, marshmallow, fudge pieces and cherries....I feel another project coming on!