Easter Baking

Naomi is coming over this weekend, we haven’t managed to get together for a few weeks. She asked me if I would make some hot cross buns and maybe some fruit cake.

I haven’t made hot cross buns for a few years, last year we were away and the year before I think we couldn’t get together or maybe I just didn’t have the time. I’m never entirely happy with my hot cross buns. I never seem to be able to get yeast to rise the way I would like. I’m a traditionalist about hot cross buns. I don’t want them chocolate flavoured, or with chocolate chips or worse with no fruit. You can buy hot cross buns in the supermarket more or less from Boxing Day which annoys the heck out of me.  I wouldn’t eat mince pies all year round even though I adore them and I consider that hot cross buns should only be eaten at Easter. The rest of the year they could be sold as yeasty fruit buns with no crosses. I don’t know why they just don’t do that.

I have a few recipes but as I was not sure if I had enough plain flour I decided to look online to see if there was a recipe that would work with self-raising flour.  I found a couple on an American website and learned that if you use self-raising flour you don’t need yeast or salt. In the end, I decided that I had enough plain flour and I’d just bought yeast so I went to an Australian site and picked a recipe from that.

The recipes included the instructions for making the baked on crosses with flour and water and to my surprise, several people who commented on the US site were quite suspicious of this idea and thought it would taste awful. Most of the Australian and British recipes put this as a matter of course unless the crosses are to be iced on later.  Some readers were going to make their baked on crosses with sugar instead. I don’t know how that would have worked out.

Now me, I don’t do either as I have a lot of trouble with piping anything. I just can’t get the hang of it.  What I do is to use pastry and stick them on. Well, I used frozen pastry but I didn’t want to thaw out a whole packet of it just for that so I planned to make sausage rolls as well and do the crosses with the leftover pastry. My sausage rolls are nothing fancy. I just mixed my sausage meat with a little chutney for some extra flavour.

My first batch of buns made on Wednesday, I wasn’t too happy with. I left them in the oven a bit too long and while they were not burnt they were not quite right so I made another batch today which I thought looked better. They are very fruity because I always put more fruit than required in any recipe that involves it.

Here is the recipe I used. There are many variations on this of course. I have a similar one in my Margaret Fulton Cookbook but decided to use this one as I had raisins and peel I wanted to use up. I may have thrown some currants in there as well. Surprisingly for me, they came out looking not unlike the ones in the recipe.

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/27816/hot-cross-buns-for-easter.aspx

Homemade hot cross buns

 

It’s a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll.

Here are the sausage rolls, some of them will be eaten tomorrow no doubt.

As long as I had the oven on I thought I might as well pop in a batch of cupcakes. Naomi likes Red Velvet Cake and as I didn’t think I’d get time to make one from scratch I bought a packet mix.

Red Velvet cupcakes (from a packet).

My fruitcake was also a bit of an experiment. Mum used to make a fruit cake that I really liked and I knew she put cold tea in it instead of water to mix. I can’t recall where the recipe came from so I just looked online to find something similar. One was quite complicated and I knew mum’s recipe was very simple so I found another which basically just called for soaking the fruit in a cup of black tea until it cooled. I did a practice run earlier in the week and as with the buns left it in the oven just a bit too long although it was still edible. When I came to make it again yesterday I found I had run out of brown sugar. As going to the shops would have taken too long, I just used some baking sweetener I had on hand. I adjusted the cooking time a bit, longer than the recipe said but not as long as I’d left it the other day. I think that it came out quite well.

Fruit cake made with tea.

I got both the fruit cake and hot cross bun recipes from Allrecipes.com.au

At the moment the site is not letting members save recipes so I had to search again to find them, lucky I printed mine out. There are a few variations of the fruit cake. This one is called Mixed Fruit Barm Brack, the others, which are mostly Irish and Welsh recipes, involve soaking the fruit overnight. I knew mum never did that so thought this one was more true to what she would have made.

http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/358/mixed-fruit-barm-brack.aspx

Vegetable Vengeance

onion and garlic on white surface
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In my last food-related post I mentioned I wrote about how cabbage smells bad when boiled for too long. I was doing a bit of reading about it before writing that post and found an article that said that cabbage is one of a family of plants that defends itself. Cabbage contains sulfur compounds that are released in the cooking process. The longer you cook it the worse the smell. Another member of this family is the onion. Onions are mean, they make me cry.

This is a description of what happens when you peel onions.

Amino acid sulfoxides form sulfenic acids as you slice into an onion. These enzymes which were isolated are now free to mix with the sulfenic acids to produce ​propanethial S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound gas which wafts upward and into your eyes. This gas reacts with the water in your tears to form sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid burns, stimulating your eyes to release more tears to wash the irritant away.

https://www.thoughtco.com/why-do-onions-make-you-cry-604309

All I know is that I find it extremely difficult to peel onions as my eyes get sore and watery. It was a kitchen chore I would always pass off to David who didn’t seem to be affected by it.

There are supposedly a few cures for it. Someone told me that eating dry bread would help. Well, I enjoyed the bread but I still cried.

Wearing safety goggles over my glasses had not occurred to me. I am not sure I’d do that if I had them I’d probably just forget until it was too late. I’ve also read that rubbing your hands on a stainless steel odour absorber can help.

Somehow I feel passing the onion chopping job to someone else is still a better idea. Or possibly just buying frozen onions. As it is I keep a box of tissues handy when I have to do this job.

 

 

Cabbage

If you were to ask me what vegetable I like the least I think it would be a toss-up between spinach and cabbage.

I’ve got nothing against them as vegetables but I didn’t have a good introduction to either in my younger years.

basil leaves and avocado on sliced bread on white ceramic plate
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Spinach didn’t figure very largely during my childhood. I mostly knew it as something that Popeye ate out of a can. It didn’t look appetising. Later I was introduced to frozen spinach. David liked it so I’d buy it sometimes but to me, it was a green soggy mess.  I’ve cooked with fresh spinach and while I think it has a better texture than the mushy stuff I am still not enthusiastic about it.

So much for spinach.

Cabbage, as a child I really hated it. Mum used to boil it and it smelled terrible. I still remember an old ad for air freshener. Husband comes home and asks if his wife is cooking cabbage.

“How did you know?” she asks

“The whole street knows.” was the reply.

Boiled cabbage stinks. It also looked revolting, white and soggy, it looked as unappetising as it tasted. I didn’t often refuse food at mealtimes but mum had a hard time getting me to eat boiled cabbage.

It wasn’t until I was much older and discovered coleslaw that I could bear to eat cabbage at all. I also learned that there were other types of cabbage. Red cabbage and the curly leafed Savoy cabbage. They made salads more interesting but I still don’t really like cabbage cooked.

closeup photo of pink and white kaleidoscope artwork
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
Cabbage
A Savoy cabbage with curly leaves.

In mum’s day there was no Google to ask for a better way to cook cabbage and even if there was I doubt that she would have done it. I did though and learned that cabbage contains sulfur compounds which are aggravated by long cooking. If you cook it quickly it doesn’t stink. How I wish I’d know that years ago. I might have cooked it myself sometimes. As it is I might make or buy a coleslaw in warm weather but apart from throwing it in the wok to stir fry it, I wouldn’t normally eat it in cooler weather. I prefer my food crunchy or chewy to mushy anyway.

Apparently, one way to make cabbage less soggy is to salt it prior to cooking. You shred the cabbage, toss it with the salt and leave it in a colander for an hour before squeezing it out. I would not have thought of this because I practically never add salt to food either before or after cooking. I may wave the salt cellar at the pot when cooking boiled eggs, pasta and potatoes but the idea of putting a whole tablespoon of salt into food would never have occurred to me.

I really wrote this post in order not to waste a nice photo of a Savoy cabbage that I took last week but it has got me thinking that I might try a few different cabbage recipes. Maybe after more than 50 years, I might start to like eating cooked cabbage.

 

Links:

https://oureverydaylife.com/cook-cabbage-smell-36005.html

https://www.thekitchn.com/3-mistakes-to-avoid-when-cooking-cabbage-228334

 

 

The Great Australian Pie

This is a piece I first posted in December 2014 and I thought that I’d rerun it. In Australia we don’t have a National Pie Day like they do in the USA. (It was on 23 January in case you missed it) We probably should because Australians love their meat pies. So here is my edited post on The Great Australian Pie.

meat pie and tomato sauce by freeaussiestock.com is licensed under a Meat pie and sauce. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
meat pie and tomato sauce by freeaussiestock.com is licensed under a Meat pie and sauce.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

I saw an item on the news about how Australian entrepreneurs are trying to introduce Americans to the good old Aussie pie. It was a fun story and reminded me of the time back in the eighties when I used to have penfriends in the USA. That was how I learned that Americans don’t eat meat pies the way we do. I still find that hard to grasp  Pies have been part of my life ever since we first came to Australia and I guess I just thought that everyone ate pies.  I thought pies would be something that would be familiar to Americans who are always talking about pie, for dessert at least.

One of the would be pie sellers even had what I thought was an Adelaide specialty, the pie floater. A pie floater is a meat pie turned upside down and served in a bowl of pea soup and topped with tomato sauce. It looks pretty fearsome, bright green soup and bright red sauce. I didn’t try one until David bought me one at the Pie Cart outside the Adelaide Railway Station when we were first going out together. If you can get over how it looks it’s really good to eat. When my American penfriend Christie came to visit we took her to the Pie Cart too and she bravely tried one and admitted that she quite liked it. The Pie Cart at the Adelaide station was great. It wasn’t the only one in the city, there was another at the Town Hall but it was the one that I went to most often. In those days it was one of the few places open late at night. It was not uncommon to see well dressed people who had come from the Festival Centre or the Casino eating a Pie Floater at the counter next to a worker on a late shift. You might even see an MP from the nearby Parliament House after a late sitting. We often stopped there for a hot drink before catching the last train home in the days before we had a car.  When I worked late at the station it was a handy place to get a drink or a snack in my late break.

On our last visit to Adelaide I was upset to see that the Pie Cart had gone. The Casino is located in the upper part of the railway station and apparently I believe that management had wanted it gone for some years but what did it in the end ws the extension of the city tram line down North Terrace past the station. Still I feel sure that the pie cart could have been relocated nearby.  I believe you can still get a Pie Floater at one of the other Pie Carts but for me it’s not the same.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowley%27s_pie_cart

 

Pie floater in Adelaide SA.jpg
Pie floater in Adelaide SA“. Licensed under PD via Wikipedia.

The Sydney version of the Floater is a pie with mushy peas but I’ve never had that. I imagine it is similar. The place to get those is Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. The original Harry’s was and still is in Wooloomooloo but now it is a franchise and operates from several locations around Sydney. I have yet to visit a Harry’s. Maybe on my next trip.

In the 1970s this advertisement for Holden cars featured a catchy jingle with the lyrics “We love football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.” most people soon learned the words by heart.

Everyone has their favourite brand of pie and they can vary from state to state.  In my childhood we had Balfour’s and Gibbs. Later we discovered Four’n’Twenty pies and later, in Adelaide, Vili’s pies started up. Vili’s make very nice pies. The owner has a Hungarian background and their goulash pies are the best.  Here in Tasmania we have National Pies and they are good pies too.

Cheap pies don’t have much meat in them, it’s nearly all gravy and will drip all over you as soon as you bite into it. I prefer a chunkier pie myself with lots of meat and not much gravy. Well actually what I really like is a Cornish Pasty but we’re talking about pies right now. Real Aussies like sauce in or on their pies. I’m not a real Aussie and I’m not a big fan of tomato sauce so I don’t.

If you can’t get pies in your part of the world here is a link to a recipe on Taste.com.au

Pies:

http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/8984/aussie+meat+pies

https://www.theupsidedownunder.blog/pie-floater/

 

 

 

 

Christmas Cooking- My Favourite Recipes Reblogged – Mince Pies

I thought that I would re-run this post again as it is my favourite recipe for mince pies.

DISCLAIMER

I am not a professional cook. It’s not even really a hobby. The main time of the year that I bake is at Christmas because I love all the traditional British Christmas goodies and I get more pleasure out of making them than buying them as it brings back pleasant memories of past Christmases that I’ve shared with my family.

Mince Pies

I love mince pies and look forward to having them every Christmas. The shops usually start selling them months before Christmas but I like to make my own. I do remember mum teaching me to make these when I was in my early teens and I took charge of making them for our family when I was about fifteen. I don’t think I have ever missed a year. I’ve experimented with various recipes. I used to make them with sweet short crust pastry but I’ve never been a very good pastry cook. When I was first married mum gave me the first Margaret Fulton Cookbook and in it was a recipe for mince pies made with biscuit pastry. I liked it so much I have been using it ever since. Every year my battered old book comes out and I make two dozen mince pies which is enough for Hubby and me and for my sister to have a batch as well. They can be frozen if you want to make them ahead of Christmas.

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces (yes this is an old recipe) of butter. I sometimes use cooking margarine instead.
  • 2 ounces (1/3rd cup) castor sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10 ounces (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder To my horror when I came to make these this morning I found I had no baking powder so as hubby was unavailable to go to the shop I substituted bi-carbonate of soda. Baking powder is basically bi-carb (baking soda) with some other salts in it so it will work the same way.
  • 1 jar fruit mince. (The book has a recipe for home-made fruit mince but I’m too lazy to make it.)
  • icing sugar

    image ingredients
    What you will need.

Method:

  • Cream butter and sugar well
  • Add  the egg and beat well
  • Sift flour with baking powder and stir into the mixture.

If you are lucky enough to have a food processor or mixer with a dough hook go ahead and use them. I don’t have either so I mix with my old Sunbeam hand mixer which I remember getting for my mum when I was about thirteen. There is a story to that but I’ll save it for another day. I mix the flour in with a knife and then with my fingers. This may be why I don’t make pastry too often. Still I’m better off than my grandmother. She did all her mixing with a wooden spoon or a fork. This Fork.

image bowl of butter and sugar
Cream butter and sugar
image creaming butter and sugar
creaming the butter and sugar
image adding flour to bowl
add the sifted flour and baking powder

After mixing the pastry you knead it lightly on a floured board. At this point Margaret Fulton says chill the pastry for one hour but I have to admit I skip this step. I used to do it but I found the pastry even harder to handle chilled so now I just get on with it. I should mention that Margaret Fulton is an Australian and the recipes in the book are probably designed for Australian conditions so maybe if you are in a cool climate the chilling is not so essential. As I said, I’m not a chef. So chill or don’t chill as you please. If my dough is crumbly I sometimes add a tablespoon of cold water  to the mixture too. I didn’t today though.

Roll out your pastry thinly and cut rounds to fit your patty pans. If you don’t have biscuit cutters a small glass is fine for this. Cut the same number of smaller circles for the tops. I digress from Margaret here and cut all mine the same size.

image pastry making
Roll thinly and cut rounds
  • Place your larger rounds, or just half of them if you made them all the same size, in greased patty tins and moisten the edges with beaten egg.
  • Fill each pie with 1 heaped teaspoon of fruit mince. I like the English-made Robertson’s Fruit Mince best. I’ve tried other brands but you can’t beat this one in my opinion. One jar of it will make 15-20 pies, that’s what the jar says and it is true. Of course if you don’t like them really fruity it  will go a lot further.
  • Make a small slit in each pastry top or cut centre with a small star-shaped cutter and put into place on top of the fruit mince. Press edges together to seal the pastry.
  • Brush with beaten egg to glaze.
image fill with fruit mince
Fill with fruit mince

Cook in a moderate oven, 350 Fahrenheit. I do them at about 175 Celsius for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Depending on how thinly you roll your pastry and the size of your patty tins you should get between 12-20 mince pies from this mixture. I tend to roll mine quite thick and I still usually get about 15.

image ready to bake mince pies
Glaze with beaten egg and bake
image mince pies
Mince Pies

Don’t forget to make a wish when you eat your first one for the year. We did a lot of wishing on things in our family.

 

More Mince Pies

 

 

Christmas Cooking – My Favourite Recipes Reblogged – White Christmas

Here is another post from  2014 when I shared some favourite Christmas recipes. I thought that I would share them all again this year for those that may not have seen them last time around. White Christmas is a great no-cook recipe.

White Christmas

Unlike the previous recipes in my Christmas Cooking series of posts White Christmas is a relatively new thing to me. I had never heard of it until I was well into my forties. It has become a firm favourite though and I sometimes make it to give as gifts to friends  as well as for the Christmas goodie basket I give my sister. It is very easy to make and doesn’t take long. In fact it’s so easy you could hardly even call it cooking.

I have two recipes for it to share with you.  One is made with copha and the other with white chocolate.

Go on, you have still got time to make some before Christmas.

Recipe One: submitted by austhome on www.allrecipes.com.au

Ingredients:

Serves: 6 

  • 3 cups Rice Bubbles
  • 1 cup dried mixed fruit
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup dry powdered milk
  • 3/4 cup of sifted icing sugar
  • 225 grams copha
  • drop of vanilla essence

Method:

Preparation:10min  ›  Cook:10min  ›  Ready in:20min 

  1. Put 3 cups of rice bubbles, 1 cup of mixed fruit, desiccated coconut, dry powdered milk and 3/4 sifted icing sugar in a bowl.
  2. Melt copha in saucepan. Add copha to dry ingredients in bowl and mix well.
  3. Press mixture firmly into a biscuit tray. Set in a refrigerator. Cut into squares.

    Mix the dry ingredients
    Mix the dry ingredients
Press into a biscuit tin
Press into a biscuit tin
White Christmas, this is the version made with copha.
White Christmas, this is the version made with copha.

It doesn’t get any easier than that!

Recipe Two: White Christmas with white chocolate

Sadly I didn’t make a note of who came up with this recipe but it came from the internet, either from allrecipes.com.au or a similar site. It is delicious and my favourite of the two.

Ingredients:

  • 375 grams white chocolate melts
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 cup dried mixed fruit
  • 1 cup rice bubbles
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup dry powdered milk – skim or full cream as you prefer
  • 1/4 cup halved glace cherries (optional).

Method:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a heat proof  bowl over a pot of simmering water, don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water.
  2. Boil the cream in a small saucepan
  3. Mix the dried fruit, rice bubbles, coconut and milk powder into the melted chocolate.
  4. Stir in the cream and cherries and mix together carefully until well combined.
  5. Press into the tin and allow to set at room temperature (should take about an hour).

Cut into small squares with a knife dipped in boiling water.

This can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

I’m dreaming of more White Christmas:

http://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/8738/white-christmas-made-with-white-chocolate

http://www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/2007/11/white-christmas-recipe.html

http://www.bakers-corner.com.au/recipes/slices/rocky-road/fruitless-white-christmas/

The food dish "White Christmas"
The food dish “White Christmas” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christmas Cooking – My Favourite Recipes Reblogged – Rich Fruit Cake

This is my favourite Christmas Cake recipe. I love rich fruit cake so I will probably make one this year. I’m not so good at cake decorating so I usually top mine with nuts but it is a very good cake to ice and decorate not just for Christmas but would probably work nicely as a wedding cake too as it keeps well.

Christmas Cake

This rich fruit cake is very easy to make and although I like to make it ahead you don’t really have to. It’s just as nice if you make it the night before Christmas, but do allow sufficient time for baking. I first found it in the Australian Women’s Weekly (published monthly) of November 2006 and I have been using it ever since. The measurements are in metric and I have included a couple of conversion charts as links for readers overseas.

Fruit Cake Recipe
Fruit Cake Recipe

Night Before Quick Mix Christmas Cake

Sizes:

The mixture will make either:

  • one large cake in a 22cm round or 19cm square deep cake tin
  • two smaller ones in either a 17cm round or 15cm square tins
  • four small cakes in 12.5cm round or 9.5 cm square tins

Ingredients:

image ingredients for Christmas Cake
Ingredients for Christmas Cake
  • 475 gram jar of fruit mince
  • 750 grams dried mixed fruit
  • 125 ml/  1/2 cup sweet sherry
  • 250 grams butter/cooking margarine, melted and cooled
  • 200 grams/ 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs beaten lightly
  • 300 grams/2 cups plain flour
  • 150 grams/ 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • blanched  whole almonds, pecans, Macadamia and walnuts to decorate

Note: If you don’t have sherry you  can use brandy or rum or for a non alcoholic cake use 2 tablespoons of  brandy or run essence combined with 1/3 cup of orange juice.

Preparations:

Read the instructions before you go any further. One or two of these things need to cool before you can use them and planning ahead saves time.  Melt the butter and heat the fruit first. While you are waiting for them to cool you can prepare the baking tin as follows:

Line the tin with two layers of brown paper and two layers of baking paper. Extend the paper 5cm above the top of the tin. I have never seen brown paper being sold by the roll around here so getting brown paper is a bit of a problem. Usually my hoarding instinct saves me and if I get anything wrapped in brown paper during the course of the year I save it. A couple of years ago I was volunteering at our local radio station and one of the sponsors sent round some goods to be used as raffle prizes in brown paper bags. After the bags were no longer needed I asked if I could have them so  I have a good supply of brown paper for the next couple of years. If you really can’t get any brown paper just use extra baking paper instead.

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius or if you have a fan forced oven 120 Celsius is fine.

Method:

image fruit soaking
Soaking the fruit

Combine the dried fruit, fruit mince and sherry in a large microwave safe bowl and heat it, covered, on HIGH (100%) for 4 minutes, stirring once. Cool, uncovered, for half an hour.

Stir in the cooled, melted butter and sugar until combined. By the way if you don’t have dark brown sugar I’ve done it with light and it turns out fine.

Stir in the eggs and the sifted dry ingredients.

Spread mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top.

image uncooked fruit cake
Cake about to go into the oven

In my recipe you can then decorate the top with nuts before putting it into the oven. If you prefer not to have nuts skip this step and you can ice the cake later.

Cooking Times:

This may vary according to your oven of course.

  • For 1 large cake 3 1/2 – 4 hours
  • For 2 medium-sized cakes 2 – 2 1/2 hours
  • For 4 small cakes 1 3/4 – 2 hours

Remove cake from the oven and brush it with more sherry. Cover the hot cake with foil and wrap it in a large towel. Leave it to cool in the tin overnight.

image fruit cake with nuts
Fruit cake decorated with nuts.
image fruit cake
After cooling overnight in the tin the cake is turned out.