All I wanted in life were homemade hot cross buns that were as tall and fluffy as the buns you buy at the stores. Was that really so much to ask?
“Yes!” Screamed the universe, time and again.
Hot cross buns have long been my kitchen kryptonite. I faithfully follow recipe after recipe, only to end up with vaguely spiced house bricks. Even my most trustworthy sources result in sad, flat, dry discs. My first attempt was so unlike the intended product that they were dubbed “not cross buns” by the not-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is Master 8.
And the crosses were indeed my culinary cross to bear. So many failed methods tried, like spooning them into scored dough. I’ll spare you the humiliating details of that venture and leave it at nope. However I did it, they were always either too fat or too wet or too messy or too straggly, and never quite enough like ancient execution contraptions jauntily placed upon seasonal baked goods.
So, I didn’t really expect that a recipe that randomly appeared on my Instagram feed would be any different, especially as I didn’t think I was interested in a chocolate bun recipe, but it’s 4 days until Easter, and I just couldn’t resist.
And thank heavens I did not, because let me tell you, I have found The One. The holy grail of HCB recipes. Tall, fluffy, soft, and – despite the chocolate – just sweet enough to be sweet. Delicious.
I’ve adapted the linked recipe to suit my own preferences, equipment and pantry items. I suspect this is a relatively forgiving recipe, or at least as forgiving as baking gets.
Choc Cross Buns
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup milk, warmed
1tbsp caster sugar
3 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2tbs caster sugar
60g butter, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup chocolate chips (a mix of milk and white chocolate is the best)
1/2 cup plain flour
2 teaspoon raw caster sugar
4tbs cold water
1 teaspoon gelatine powder
2 teaspoons raw caster sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water
Prepare a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
Combine yeast, milk and 1 tablespoon sugar in a bowl. Cover and set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes or until foamy.
Sift flour, cocoa and spices into a bowl. Rub in butter until mixture resembles damp sand.
Make a well in the centre. Add yeast mixture, egg and sugar. Stir to combine. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and super elastic. When you think you’ve kneaded enough, go for 2 minutes more.
Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover. Set aside for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Make a well in the centre, and add 1/4 choc chips. Cover chocolate with sides of dough and knead to combine. Repeat until all chocolate chips are incorporated.
Roll into 16 equal-sized balls. Place in prepared pan. Cover. Set aside for 30 minutes or until dough has almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 200°C.
To make crosses, combine flour, sugar and cold water in a bowl. Spoon the paste into a piping bag or strong sandwich/zip-lock bag. Snip 1 corner from bag. Pipe crosses onto the top of each bun.
Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 160°C fan-forced. Cook for 15 minutes.
To glaze, whisk gelatine, sugar and boiling water in a heatproof jug until gelatine has dissolved. Brush over hot buns.
We do not have biscuits and cookies in our house as a staple, because we try to keep our pantry healthy I have no self control. Of all the delicious biscuits in the world – from Tim Tams with all their splendid new flavours to the humble jam drop – the pack of cookies I am most likely to devour in one sitting is the favourite of Grandmas Australia-wide, the Venetian. They’re so light, so yummy, so moreish, that I just cannot help myself. However, Spunky Tech Guy has a bizarre preference for un-iced currant biscuits, and I try to avoid Venetians, which led me to track down one disappointingly dull brand after another. As necessity is indeed the mother of invention, I took it upon myself to adapt several recipes into the only currant biscuit you’ll ever need.
What resulted was a treat so delightful, so crumbly and subtly tasty, that Spunky Tech Guy has been heard complaining in the kitchen, “I don’t know why you make these cookies! Why can’t you make normal boring cookies? This is number six. SIX!”
Okay, so they’re just as addictive as Venetians, although they’re vastly different. Even the kids have had to have their hands swatted away all morning. In fact, Miss 5 got kicked out of the kitchen just so I’d have some dough left to put in the oven. Yes, I let them eat small amounts of raw cookie dough. I am a terrible mother, but I cannot deprive my kids of the simplest pleasures of cooking!
I’ve been making these for a while now, but I ran out of citrus fruit this morning, so I used OJ instead of zest. I also made a rookie mistake and used SR flour instead of plain by accident. These changes lifted the biscuits (literally) in a way I wouldn’t have imagined.
If you’re searching for the perfect companion to a cup of tea, look no further! Depending on how much of the sticky, scrummy dough gets pilfered, the recipe yields around 20.
2 cups self raising flour (plain works just as well, but SR gives it a satisfying dome shape)
150g butter, cubed
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1tbs pulpy orange juice
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 trays with non stick paper.
2. Sift flour and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles damp sand (I know everyone says breadcrumbs, but I really think it is more sandy).
3. Mix in sugar, chocolate and currants.
4. Combine egg and juice. Add to mixture and stir to combine.
5. Dollop tablespoons of mixture onto trays and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
6. Try not to eat them all in one day. Ha. Good luck.
Despite my left-wing history teacher training and mindset, I have absolutely no issue with cultural appropriation when it comes to food. I love eating at diverse restaurants, and when that’s not an option, travelling around the world without leaving my kitchen. Authentic is best, but I’m also open to a creative mish-mash of cultures. I’m$ not above using authentic recipes and substituting for what I can find or what I have on hand.
I also am quite confident that if I had to choose just one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, I’d be fighting tooth and nail to ensure that all Asian national foods were able to be lumped together as “Asian cuisine”, with an appalling disregard for cultural sensitivity. I simply can’t decide which I love the best (as long as it’s not nasty deep fried Chinese takeaway. Even I have standards).
Luckily, the men in my life are also partial to a variety of Asian foods. (Miss 5 is less enthusiastic about some dishes, but my MO for that little issue is to ignore it and cook it anyway). As such, Master 8 was delighted when I came home from grocery shopping with all the ingredients for sushi for lunch. It’s safe to say with some assistance, the kids made lunch today. About time 🙂
Miss 5 wouldn’t eat it, she’s never liked sushi (how could someone who is a mix of Spunky Tech Guy and my DNA not like sushi?!), so she had a fried egg and cheddar sandwich, the old-faithful of this house.
Doesn’t mean she didn’t have fun making it… she just reminded us intermittently that sushi is gross!
It comes as no great shock to anyone who has met our little family that we’re a group of nerds. Over the past 14 years, Spunky Tech Guy has led me further and further down the rabbit hole of fandom and together we’re successfully raising our kids to appreciate traditional and graphic novels, comics, video games, super hero multiverses, and quality television from around the globe.
Even I was surprised that our love of anime would infiltrate into my savory cooking repertoire. Yet here we are. Tonight’s meal was 100% inspired (stolen) from the second episode of Food Wars, an anime about chefs in an exclusive cooking school, whose only response to each others’ dishes seem to be revulsion or vivid foodgasm (it’s not one for the kids).
This dish, transformation rice, is what awards our hero Soma-kun a place in the cut-throat school. It is a seemingly simple rice and chicken meal, with a burst of umami deliciousness from the melting of a meat broth jelly that is made from the most divine stock I have ever made, over the rice and chicken. It’s time consuming, but not in the slightest bit difficult. And it’s fun!
I don’t think the credits had finished rolling when my phone went off that night. It was STG, who was sitting right beside me, sending a link:
Crafty bugger had found a website that details all the major dishes in the anime. And the look on his face was reminiscent of a puppy who heard the word chicken. Sigh. So because he is pretty spunky, and the dish did look phenomenal, I felt no alternative was possible but to adapt the recipe and make it my own:
–2tbs of sesame oil
– 12 chicken wings
– 500ml good quality fish stock
-2tsp minced ginger
-3tbs brown sugar
-75ml soy sauce.
-100ml vodka (the original recipe calls for sake, but I’m cheap and already had vodka)
-2 teaspoons powdered gelatine.
-1.5 cups white rice.
-4 green onions.
1. Fry the wings in sesame oil, in 2 batches, for 10 minutes per batch until golden brown.
2. Bring the stock and water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add chicken, leaving any juices and burnt bits in the frypan. Turn heat down to low.
3. Add the soy sauce, vodka, ginger, and brown sugar to the frypan, and cook on low to thicken and deglaze the pan. Pour into the stock.
4. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Scoop off any scum, and set the chicken aside.
5. Add gelatine to 100ml water, and stir thoroughly. Add to stock.
6. Grease a large, deep dish (such as a roasting dish) with butter, and pour in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
7. Meanwhile, pull all of the chicken off the bone, and set aside in fridge until needed. The chicken is freaking delicious, I’ll be serving it as a stand alone recipe in the future. Try not to eat it while deboning.
8. Cook the rice using the absorption method. In the last few minutes, add the chicken to warm.
9. Cut the aspic jelly into 2cm cubes. No bigger, or the melting effect will be lost.
10. Scramble the eggs. Don’t dry them out!
11. Place rice into individual bowls. Top with egg and green onions.
12. While everything is piping hot, top with aspic. Watch it melt. Try not to cry tears of joy.
The golden rule in our house is that Mama doesn’t make 2 meals in one night. No kiddie dinners. I believe this is why my kids are so easy to feed now. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had to suffer through the odd tantrum or Mexican standoff over the years, but now that they’re completely out of the little kid stage, our kids enjoy a vast range of foods (Master 8 is a champion foodie!) and eat their veggies happily. It is a great source of relief to me that my kids are not picky, nor do they have sensory issues with food.
Vegetable soup is, oddly, a huge winner in our house. Master 8 loves it, Spunky Tech Guy and I love it, but no one loves it more than Miss 5, who asks for it almost weekly.
If you’re looking for a healthy, tasty, quick and super cheap meal that the kids will love, look no further. It’s nothing fancy or unique, and it actually seems ridiculous to provide the recipe, but so many of my parent-friends are astounded by my kids’ love for this soup, that maybe jotting it down isn’t such a bad idea. It’s been adapted from multiple sources, and perhaps it’ll work for you, too. This guideline yields about 4 adult serves, and freezes like a dream, so make double.
1tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced. (Ha! Who am I kidding? 2tsp from a jar is fine)
1 red capsicum, roughly chopped (bullhorn peppers work well as a slightly more fiery substitute)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
6 tomatoes, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
300g peeled potatoes, diced (eh. About 3 small potatoes, or a large and a medium. Don’t’ stress, it’s a forgiving soup.)
2 onions, peeled and chopped.
1.5 litres good quality chicken stock
I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by properly writing out a method. Heat the oil, saute the veggies and garlic for a few minutes, add the stock, and cook for about 25 minutes, partially covered, until everything is tender. Then pop it all in a blender, or attack it with a stick blender (my preferred method, at least, it was before I accidentally cooked the cord) until it looks like soup. No cream needed; the potatoes provide a guilt-free creaminess that is just divine. A good crack of black pepper, and you’re home and hosed.
Got some time under your hat? My favourite way to serve these is with a Moroccan bread that Spunky Tech Guy adores, and if I’m really feeling the Middle Eastern vibe, I heat a drained can of chickpeas into the soup for 5 minutes or so (after I’ve blended it, of course).
And there you have it – the easiest way to squeeze veggies into your little people.
As a general rule, there is no place for boxed cake mixes in my life. However, Miss 4 received the coolest Olaf brownie kit from her awesome great-grandmother, and we both knew it just had to happen.
And happen it did.
Our little egg-cracking extraordinaire made the mixture, smooshed the brownie slab into crumbs (there is a reason we call her Smoosh more often than her real name!), shaped them into balls, and rolled them into white chocolate and crystalised sugar, to make the funkiest Snowman brownies in town.
Oh, the praise she received from the men in her life. No wonder she likes cooking! I wish I could have men gushing at me for making a box cake!
And, because we’re an extremely classy and mature lot, these delectable desserts aren’t, in fact, known as Snowman brownies or Olaf cakes or Frozen balls or anything like that.
No. Tonight we supped on Butt Brownies.
From Master 7, who donned them Butt Brownies:
They looked like Olaf from Disney’s Frozen.My rating is 5 stars <3.
**NB: Everything from Master 7 gets either 5 or 2 stars. Almost everything gets 5 stars. My very best efforts, or a jam sandwich on crappy white bread I slap together to keep the kids from starving to death. A 2 star dish is usually the kind of experimental meal that is so inedible, we end up ordering a pizza. Miss 4’s scale is 5 out of 10 for her favourites, or 2 out of 5 for a dish that comes with a side of last-minute take-out. She starts kindy next fortnight, she’s not so crash hot with fractions and conversions just yet.
We made pretzels today. I thought it was easy folding it but it was hard. My dad taught me and my mum how to fold it. I learned to wash your hands before and after cooking. I also learned to put flour on your hands before rolling it because if you don’t the batter sticks to you.
Every now and then, I wake up and think: Michelle, you work full time, study hard, and are raising two kids – you slacker. Go challenge yourself. And then I decide to make something ridiculous. Today was one of those days. What was I thinking?!
I was thinking that Deb from Smitten Kitchen is awesome, and I want to be her when I grow up. So we made her pretzels.
It all started well. The kids learned about proving dough, kneading dough, dusting with flour, and knocking back (and for those of you who have both read Master 7’s post AND eaten his cooking, I promise that he already knew about washing his hands before hitting the kitchen today). Master 7 also learned more about division and ratios. Despite the school holiday maths lesson, they had fun kneading and rolling the dough into snakes, and making a huge mess.
Little hands making big results!
And then we had to shape the bloody things.
Suffice it to say that Spunky Tech Guy, who, unlike his wife is not all thumbs, had to come and give tutorials to Master 7 and I. That I didn’t burst into tears and throw the dough into the bin is a miracle. I can guarantee that the pictured pretzels were made by the boys of the house – Miss 4 gave up after the snakes step, but I think I’ll be telling the world that she made my sorry attempts. They looked fine until we poached them. Then they expanded, lost their shape, and just looked like dog turds. Salty, sad dog turds. I really am not good at this kind of thing.
Harder than it looks!
But the boys’ look good, Master 7 learned a lot today, and had fun in the process. And they taste fantastic. Even my lumps of abstract bread art. So it’s a win! A very grown up way to enjoy the fruit of my kids’ labourEventually, I gave up shaping the pretzels and made a really tasty loaf. Who says laziness doesn’t pay?!