Hot Cross Buns

I keep thinking that I should bake something that challenges me, rather than something which is easy.  The problem is (isn’t it always) that I’m tired of challenges and so instead I met this halfway.  When a friend asked if these were easy to bake, I had to respond “yes, if you enjoy baking bread”.  Because really, that’s the thing.  The issue is time rather than technical difficulty. 

The last time I baked hot cross buns I was 10 years old.  I don’t remember much of the experience other than at that age I had no mental processes constantly questioning my wisdom.  Age, huh!  Anyway, here we are, a number (lots) of years later and I thought I should give these another try.

I love a good hot cross bun, and I am usually very traditional, none of those fancy variations for me……until Marks & Spencer brought out their chocolate and salted caramel hot cross buns.  Oh, heaven!!  These are divine.  I can’t however aspire to baking something quite as delicious and so I thought I’d stick with traditional, although I quite fancy trying a cranberry, orange and ginger variation at some stage.

I couldn’t find my original recipe and my google search took a while since a lot of the recipes made larger quantities than I hoped for.  I found this Mary Berry recipe on the BBC Food website, and so here it is.


500g strong bread flour

75g caster sugar

2 teaspoons mixed spice powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 lemon, finely grated zest only

10g salt

10g fast action dried yeast

40g butter

200ml milk

1 egg, beaten

200g sultanas

50g finely chopped mixed candied peel


Put the flour, spices, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and yeast in a large bowl and gently mix to combine.  Add the sultanas and candied peel.

Melt the butter in a small pan and then warm the milk so that it is tepid, in a separate pan.

Add the butter and half the milk to the dry ingredients and add the egg, using your hands to bring the mixture together.  Gradually add more milk as necessary so that you have a soft pliable dough, you might not need it all.

Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for around 10 minutes until the dough is silky and elastic.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave somewhere warm to rise – around 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 balls (if you are a perfectionist, weigh each ball so that they are all exactly the same size).

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and place the balls on the tray fairly close together, flattening them slightly.  Cover with a large polythene bag, or a cloth and leave for around an hour to rise – until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan).

For the topping, put 90g flour in a bowl and mix with 100ml water to form a smooth paste (you might not need all the water).  The paste should not be too thick or too runny, as you want to pipe the paste on to the buns.

Once the buns have risen pipe a cross on each bun.  Put the buns in the oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are pale golden brown.

The recipe calls for golden syrup to be brushed on each bun as it comes out of the oven, to make a glaze, but I made a mix of icing sugar and water and brushed this on the buns instead.

Wait for these to cool before eating, and enjoy!  These buns also freeze well.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Pan de Muerto


Get yourselves a large mug of hot sweet tea, and an ice pack for your heads.  This was a traumatic journey.  Years ago, I saw a recipe for Pan de Muerto and really wanted to try it, the combination of orange and aniseed flavours sounded intriguing.  But at that stage I didn’t have much confidence with bread baking.  Roll on the years and I have baked focaccia, whole-meal bread rolls, seeded bread as well as sourdough loaves – and made my own starter for this too, I have also baked cinnamon buns – my first foray into enriched dough.  Now I was feeling a lot more confident, and so out came my recipe for this bread – completely co-incidentally on the 1st November, so it was timely too.  I would use the recipe from the book “Bread” by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno, a book I have baked from many times.

I read this recipe over and over again.  Yes, this I can do.  My first stumbling block however was ingredients.  I couldn’t find orange flower water, or anise seeds.  I Googled substitutes for both ingredients.  I could use star anise for the anise seeds, and I could use orange extract for the orange flower water but only a few drops as the extract is much stronger.  I’d have to wing this bit.  I wasn’t sure either how the strength of star anise versus anise seeds would compare.  I ground up three star anise, using the seed pods as well as the seeds.  I was feeling reasonably confident.

I mixed up all the ingredients for the dough and broke my trusty old faithful wooden spoon whilst trying to get the dough to come together.  Cue rising stress levels.  Then my dough was more like a cake batter than a bread dough, and as such it was it was impossible to knead.  Due to the lack of wooden spoon, my hands were now coated in the batter / dough mixture.  Panic was starting to set in.  I re-read the recipe, checked the ingredients.  I had done everything I should have.  In fact, there was marginally less liquid due to me using a few drops of orange extract instead of a tablespoon of orange flower water.  This was not making sense.  I had no option but to add more flour to get the mixture to the point where I could knead it.  I added flour, and more flour, and more…….until finally I turned it out of the bowl and started kneading.  Aaah…..kneading is so therapeutic, it is one of the many enjoyable parts of baking bread. I completed the kneading, put the dough away to rise and felt slightly more confident. Two hours later I went to check on the dough.  It had not risen.  Not one bit. Cue rising stress levels.


I decided to give it another hour.  But, still no rise.  I took it out of the bowl and slapped it around for a while.  What to do?  I felt resentful at the thought of throwing it all away.  What a waste.  Also, being one of those irritating people who can’t give up, I was determined not to let this failure stand in my way.  I would persevere, I would make this work………I hoped!  I warmed the bowl and put the dough back in the hope that it might rise.  I also mixed up a little extra yeast with lukewarm water and flour and left it to settle. Half an hour later I hauled the disobedient dough out of the bowl and mixed in the additional yeasted mixture.  I put this aside for another half hour to rise.  Reader, would you be surprised to know, it didn’t make a difference?  Sod it, I thought, I’m going to bake it anyway.  But I didn’t want to waste my time shaping and decorating the loaves (the recipe makes 2 loaves) if it might not even be edible at the end.  I shaped it into one oblong loaf and left it for a further half hour, and then, death or glory, I put it in the oven to bake.

Do you know what that sodding loaf did? It rose three times its size in the oven.   There was a chance it would be edible!  The scent of orange and star anise whilst it was baking was wonderful.  If nothing else, there was that good thing!

It cracked along the top of the loaf during baking.  I was past caring.  I knew now, that however delicious – or not – the loaf might be, I would never bake this bread again.  Never.

And the taste? It was good, it was very edible (pheeew!).  But the effort, the stress……and I just don’t know where I went wrong, that’s what bugs me.  For what it is worth, here is the recipe, I have omitted the part about shaping the smaller bits of dough for the decoration, because, life is too short, but there are many recipes on the internet where you can see those.


1 sachet instant dried yeast

4 tablespoons water

500g plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

6 eggs, beaten

125g unsalted melted butter

125g sugar

2 teaspoons anise seeds

1 tablespoon orange flower water

Zest of one orange, finely grated


In a large bowl mix the flour, yeast and salt.  Mix together the beaten eggs, melted butter, orange zest, water, sugar, orange flower water and anise seeds. Mix into the dry ingredients to form a soft, sticky dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes. Put the dough into a clean, buttered bowl and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 2 hours.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces, to make two loaves.  This is the point where you might want to do the decorative part (or not!). Place the loaves on a buttered baking sheet, cover with a towel and leave to prove until risen, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).

Brush the loaves with an egg glaze and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for around 35 minutes until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

I wish you better success than I had with this.  I am glad that I made this, and glad that I didn’t give up and bin the dough.  I suspect the fault very much lay with me rather than the recipe, as it is from a book I have used time and again, with success.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Cheesey Garlic Focaccia

I had decided to eat lightly for one day this week with mostly fruit during the day, and in the evening I would have soup.  But I wanted just that little bit more to go with the soup.  Why not bake focaccia?  Indeed, why not.  Once baked, I can slice it into portions and freeze them separately.  This way, I can heat up just the amount I need, and still have spare portions for future use.

My focaccia of choice is garlic, olive and rosemary.  Unfortunately, I only had rosemary.  I contemplated cheese and onion, but in the end chose an even easier solution.  I had garlic granules which I would use in the absence of fresh garlic, and I had Emmental cheese.

The recipe I used was based on the one for Focaccia con Olive in the book “Bread” by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno.  I do love this book as the recipes are really well written out, step by step and they give options to vary the recipe, including using different yeast types (fresh or dried).


500g strong white bread flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 sachet fast action dried yeast

150ml olive oil

175ml lukewarm water

Cubed cheese (Emmental or Gruyere work well) (use the amount of choice)

2 tablespoons garlic granules

Extra olive oil for drizzling

Sea salt flakes


Mix together all of the dry ingredients, make a well in the center and add in the oil and water.  Add in the cubed cheese.  The amount of garlic granules might make you panic, but the end result doesn’t actually taste that strongly of garlic.


Mix together carefully until it all comes together, then turn out onto a clean surface lightly dusted with flour.  Knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic – around 10 minutes.  I did debate the wisdom of adding the cubed cheese so early on, as kneading was slightly awkward, but in the end it turned out fine although the dough looked (obviously) very lumpy.  Place the dough into a clean lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knock back.  Leave to rest for 10 minutes then place on a lightly oiled baking tray rolling / stretching it out to the size and shape of choice.  You’ll want it to be about a centimeter thick.  Cover with a cloth and leave to rise until doubled in size – about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan).   Using fingertips, press into the surface of the dough to form dimples about 1cm deep.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

Place in the oven to bake for around 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Sprinkle with more olive oil and leave to cool.  That aroma of fresh bread – heaven!!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Wholemeal Bread Rolls

I wanted bread, but not to have to spend the next few days just eating the loaf in order to finish it.  What better then, than bread rolls.  They can be individually wrapped and frozen, and simply heated in the oven to thaw each time you want them.  Perfect!!  And, given the choice between buying bread or rolls, home-made wins every time.

This particular recipe I got from the book “Bread” by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno.  It is a lovely recipe book, giving many different bread recipes, clear instructions and options to vary the recipe.  The recipe I used in this particular case was for Pain Ordinaire, but I opted for making the bread rolls rather than the loaf, substituting some of the white flour for wholemeal flour, and substituting some of the water for yogurt and using a sachet of instant dried yeast instead of fresh or dried yeast.

Bread making is surprisingly simple……depending on the type of loaf you bake, but it is usually just a few ingredients, mixed together, kneaded, left to rise, knocked back, left to rise again and then baked.  And the result is delicious.


1 sachet instant dried yeast

175ml lukewarm water

175ml plain yogurt

325g strong white bread flour

175g strong wholemeal bread flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt


Mix together the two flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl.

Mix together the water and yogurt in a jug.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid, using a wooden spoon until the mixture is combined.  The dough should be firm but moist.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours until doubled in size.

Knock the dough back and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, place on a lightly floured baking tray.  Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size – approximately 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C for fan ovens).

Lightly dust the rolls with flour and bake for 25 minutes, until hollow sounding when tapped underneath.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Now, pass the salted butter!!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Cinnamon Buns

Following my eventual success last year with baking sourdough bread, I felt more confident to try to bake other types of bread.  My next challenge I decided would be an enriched dough bread, possibly a brioche or some other type of sweet bread.

Fast forward to April this year and I saw this recipe for Hot Cross Cinnamon Buns.  I am not overly keen on raisins in bread or cakes – with the exception of Christmas cake – and nor did I want the bother of making the “cross”.  I decided (surprise!) to adapt the recipe slightly and just bake cinnamon buns.

I was halfway through and began to have doubts in my ability.  Maybe trying this new recipe with my head clouded by chemo fog was not such a good idea.  But, oh, how glad I am that I persevered!  This is my version of the recipe:


250ml semi-skimmed milk

zest of one orange

25g butter

500g strong white bread flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

85g golden caster sugar

7g sachet fast -action dried yeast

1 medium egg, whisked

Filling and topping:

125g softened butter

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

50g light muscovado sugar

1 medium egg, whisked

Warm the milk with the orange zest until steaming.  Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until melted.  Put to the side to cool slightly.

Mix together the flour, caster sugar, yeast, cinnamon and one teaspoon of salt in a large bowl.  Pour in the milk mixture and the whisked egg and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic – approximately 10 minutes.  Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm room to prove for approximately 2 hours, until doubled in size.

For the filling, mix  the cinnamon with the softened butter, and light muscovado sugar until well combined.

Tip the dough onto a work surface and knock the air out.  Roll it out into an oblong shape approximately 30 x 40cm.  Spread the cinnamon butter mixture all over the dough.  Starting at the long end of the dough, roll it tightly into a long sausage shape.  Cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Lightly dust a baking tray with flour and place the pieces with a small gap between each one, making sure the open end of the scroll faces inwards so that it doesn’t unravel during baking.  Lightly cover the tray and leave in a warm room to prove for approximately 1 hour until almost doubled in size – their sides should be just touching.


Heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C (fan).  Brush the top of the buns with the beaten egg, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until deep golden brown.

Once the buns are baked, leave them on the baking tray for 10 minutes.  I brushed a thick glaze of icing sugar, water and vanilla over the top.  Remove to a rack to cool.

Well, my first time baking sweet buns, and baking with an enriched dough.  And, I am so impressed with myself!   I was concerned that the cinnamon might be overpowering, but it wasn’t. The buns are lovely, soft and fluffy.  I couldn’t have hoped for better.  Definitely a success!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂


Sourdough Bread aka a work in progress

Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked bread?!  And, let’s be honest, nothing, nothing beats home-made bread.  Apart from the fact that it just tastes so much better, you also control what you put in it – no chemicals or preservatives.

I enjoy baking bread – I don’t have a bread-maker, I don’t have a food processor with a dough hook, I enjoy kneading the bread, that feeling when it goes from no longer being a lump of dough, to something that has the start of life in it, and, of course, kneading is so therapeutic!  I have never wanted to bake sourdough bread though, until I came across this recipe for sourdough bread  in the BBC Good Food magazine, which also involved creating your own starter. Yes!  None of this cheating nonsense for me!  I would create a starter and bake the bread.  I am woman, hear me roar…. To be honest though, I was more interested in the process than the end result.


The idea of creating this “living thing” out of just flour and water fascinated me.  I did have a moment of panic, thinking what if this recipe is wrong and there should be some additional ingredients in the starter……and so to Aunty Google, only to find there are numerous different recipes for starters and I was more confused than ever.  I decided to stick with this recipe, and see it through.

And so began day 1.  A mix of white and wholemeal bread flours and a bit of water, and wait for the natural airborne yeasts to dive in.  That was it. The recipe called for the starter to be left open, before sealing and setting aside for 24 hours.  I kept looking at it.  You know how when you get a new washing machine you feel you have to watch the laundry tumbling around inside? Silly, isn’t it! 24 hours later I started to have doubts – there was some condensation on the inside of the jar.  This didn’t seem right to me, it would encourage the wrong stuff to grow.  I threw it away and started again.  This time I just covered the top of the jar with a cloth, I didn’t seal it.

Each day I threw half the starter into the compost heap, and replaced with the same quantity of flour and water.

A few days in on starter number 2 and a layer of clear light brown liquid had developed on the top.  Back to Aunty Google…..this liquid was hooch, and indicated that my starter was needing a feed – one recipe called for a twice a day feed, or that the feed I was adding each day to the starter was too wet.  Urgh…there was no one definitive answer.  I figured it wasn’t lack of feeding that was the problem, and decided to stick with once a day.  At “feeding time” I made sure the new mixture was drier.  A couple of days later there was a small dark patch on the top of the starter.  Was this mould?  Was it an optical illusion??? I decided to sod it, binned the starter and started once again from the beginning.

This time I was moving  house and took my starter with me to my new home.  And so the process continued.


My starter was beginning to look really healthy, with textbook behaviour.  At last, I was on the right track!  Although I could have used it earlier, in the end I baked on day 12.  I was somewhat nervous – would this new starter really work?

I mixed the two flours, a bit of salt, some water and some of my starter and began the therapeutic knead.  Slowly, I could feel the dough becoming more pliable and elastic. The process required two 3-hour rises. I am not usually patient enough, but I’d committed myself to this and followed it through.

The second rise called for a linen cloth to be dusted well with flour and put in a proving basked or a bowl.  I had to settle for a bowl.  So far, so good….until the time to take the dough out and put it in the oven to bake.  The dough had stuck to the linen cloth (cue weeping and wailing from me). In my effort to extract the dough from the cloth and put it on the baking tray, the dough deflated, leaving me convinced I would end up with a thick pancake instead of bread.  I’m guessing I could have just given it a light knead and left it to rise again before baking.  In addition, it had a crease in it from the cloth, which meant that the “design” I had hoped to cut onto the top of the loaf wasn’t an option.  Instead I had to improvise.  Lack of experience led me to cut the dough too lightly – I know now that I can create much deeper slashes in the top of the dough to create a pattern.

Into the oven my dough went…..halfway through the cooking time I peered through the oven glass….my dough had somehow risen quite significantly – a bit puzzling but at least it wasn’t going to be a pancake.  And finally, the end result.  My loaf was a bit mis-shaped (that “home-made look”) and my slashes could have been deeper.  The true test was when it had cooled and I could cut it and taste my sourdough bread.

The bread smelled lovely, it tasted lovely, but… guessed it, there’s a big but….I discovered the reason for its sudden rise in the oven.


A huge air-bubble.  It looks like Batman flew through the center of my loaf……or is that a sad face I see… research tells me the oven could have been too hot, I could left my dough to prove for too long, I could have just inadvertently folded a huge air-bubble into my dough…..I just don’t know.  I am very disappointed, but the bread itself is perfectly edible.  I still have the starter on the go, and so I will definitely make this bread again soon, and I have more confidence in what to expect.  I am determined to get it right!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Apricot & Walnut Soda Bread


One of life’s great joys is the aroma of freshly baked bread, not to mention, that first lovely fresh slice of bread you’ve baked yourself.  I love baking my own bread, from the raw basic ingredients to the end product, it is easy, and so satisfying!  I don’t own a breadmaker – I am the breadmaker!!  I find baking generally relaxing and therapeutic, and you can’t get much more inbuilt therapy than kneading dough and feeling it transform from a lump to something magically “alive”.  To be honest, the kneading is the best part of baking bread.  Well, for me it is!  The only down side is the time it takes, because you can’t hurry a good loaf of bread.

I have wanted to bake walnut bread for ages – lovely fresh walnut bread with cheese…..heaven! But I couldn’t find the recipe I had kept and so I searched….when suddenly this one caught my eye.  Apricot & Walnut Soda Bread.  I haven’t baked soda bread before, mainly because it is best on the day of baking, and I prefer my bread to last just a bit longer than a day.  But…this one had to be tried, it would be quicker because it is not a yeasted bread, and so I persuaded myself.

Chopped dried apricots, chopped walnuts and the addition of oats to the mixture, made it a nice wholesome bread.  The dry ingredients were mixed with the fruit and nuts.

and then a mixture of milk and yoghurt was added and everything mixed gently together.  The dough seemed a bit damp to me, but I was hesitant to add more flour in case it toughened the bread, and not having made soda bread before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The mixed dough was turned out on to the baking tray, it was a bit too damp to shape neatly, never mind to make a nice neat cut across the top.  But sometimes if you just grit your teeth and pretend it’s not all going wrong, it can still work out, and so into the oven it went.


This is the end result – I prefer to call it “rustic”……………..and the proof is always in the tasting…………

And yes, reader, it worked!  Appearances are not always everything.  It tasted good, I got the vote of approval from my Kitchen Taster, and now I have a new bread recipe to add to my repertoire.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂