Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fruit buns -Hot Cross Buns


I was recently introduced to this delicacy and ever since we tried them, I have been working hard to master my own recipe for this delicious fruit buns.
Traditionally, the Hot Cross buns are eaten in countries with British influence during Easter time, but they continue to enjoy them throughout the year as fruit buns, which is basically the same bread but without the white cross on them.

I found that there are two ways to get the cross done and I color coded the options in this recipe so it is less confusing. Cross Option N°1 and Cross Option N°2.

The first option is mostly visual as it doesn't have any added flavors but it makes the buns look very professional. It's made is with a mix of flour and water and you have to draw the cross before you bake the buns. In the list of ingredients I refer to this way of making the cross as "Cross Option N°1"

The second option is easier and sweeter too, and it consists in drawing the cross after the bread has been baked and cooled down, with a mix made out of icing sugar and milk. In the list of ingredients I will refer to this way of making the cross as "Cross Option N°2"

I will take the time to explain both ways and i hope it is not too confusing. So, here we go with the recipe:
 
Ingredients
For the dough
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of warm milk
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup of chopped raisins (you can use any other dried fruit chopped)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of salt

For the Glaze 
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
For The Cross Option N°1
  • 1/2 cup of plain flour
  • 6-7 tbsp of water 
For the Cross Option N°2 
  • 3/4 cup of Icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp of milk 

Preparation
  1. In a large bowl mix eggs, warm milk, sugars, butter and yeast. Let it rest for 5 minutes until it gets foamy.
  2. Add to the bowl the rest of the dry ingredients including the raisins and mix with your hand until it forms a dough. (if it is too sticky add  an extra 1/4 cup of flour).
  3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes by hand or until it looks smooth and it doesn't break or separate anymore.
  4. Grease a large bowl and sit the dough in it. Cover it with a damp cloth or cling film and let it rest for 90 minutes. I am using here the pictures of my Burger Buns but it is the same procedure.
  5. Punch the dough down and cut into 16 pieces (first in half and then half of half...etc until you have 16 pieces) and form balls with them.
  6. Place the buns on a lined baking tray 1 inch or 2.5 cm apart from each other. (I use a silicone mat on top of the baking tray and with that I don't have to grease it or spray it but if you don't have one of those, you can use parchment paper and spray it with baking spray or grease it with butter. 
  7. Cover the buns with a tea towel, and again let them rest in a cozy place for an hour or until they double their size.
  8. Preheat oven at 350 °F - 180 °C (If you want the Cross Option 1, this is the right time to make it, the instructions are below)
  9. Bake for 13 minutes or until golden.
Make the glace while the buns are in the oven
For the Glacing now:
  1. In a small pot mix sugar, water and vanilla and bring it to a light simmer.
  2. As soon as the buns come out of the oven brush the glace all over them.
  3. Now you just have to wait for your buns to cool down a bit to eat them. (If you want the Cross Option N°2, after they are completely cooled down is the right time to do it, instructions below)
At this point, your Fruit Buns are ready, enjoy them with your family or wrap them to give to someone, they make a great homemade gift that anyone can enjoy over a nice cup of tea. 

Now you will see below the instructions for the cross on the hot cross buns. 

Cross Option N°1
  1. Mix flour and water and place it in a little bag and snip the tip of one corner of the bag so you can pipe it onto the buns.
  2. After Step N° 8, that is right before you are going to pop them in the oven, make a cross mark with the back of a knife on your bun making sure you don't cut through the dough, just mark it so the flour mixture doesn't fall of place.
  3. Pipe the mix following the marks you made. Now continue with step N° 9 and the glacing as indicated above.
 Cross Option N°2

  •  Mix milk and sugar and put it in a piping bag.
  •  After your buns have been baked, glaced and completely cooled down, draw the crosses on top of them with the icing sugar mix. After that you just have to wait until the crosses dry and you are done.


If you have any questions about the recipe or any of the techniques that I explain here, please leave me a comment and I will reply as soon as possible.

See you soon.







Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Teaching children to help around the house - Setting the table properly



When we decided to home-school our kids for the elementary stage, we knew that all the responsibility of teaching them everything they need to know until they reach first grade was on us, but our plan wasn't to teach our kids just information, we wanted them to learn good working ethics, to solve problems by doing things, by working hands on and of course have fun while doing it. 

So I started with a small task that proved to be very useful specially when I am onto a million things and dinner is on the stove and the recipe says that you have to keep stirring or else it will stick to the bottom... you know what I mean?

Anyway, this task is "How to serve the table properly". By properly, I don't mean the royal way... I just mean properly for a family dinner. We try to teach our children Kindness and Politeness over Etiquette and Politics, just because being kind has opened way more doors for us than being "politically correct" a kind person can recognize their mistakes and apologize easily, a kind person cares for others, they might not know where the fish fork goes, but they always try to be appreciative for other people's hard work and kind people are helpful whenever and wherever they see a need and this is what we want our children to be, kind people.

I came up with this little design of a place mat. I printed and laminated it. At the beginning I was planning on printing lots of them and use them as the actual place mats but, I am not one that likes to waste... so yeah, I just made one and they use it as their model.




My boys use this print as a guide to set the table and it has been working great for them. I hope you and your little ones find this useful.

Hope to come back soon with more fun ideas to teach children to help around the house.



Friday, March 18, 2016

No-bake Blueberry Cheesecake


Blueberries are new around this corner of the world. I can surely say that I have never seen a blueberry until I was an adult and travel around the world a little bit, so trying new recipes with them is a must for me. 

I am bringing you today a No-bake Blueberry Cheesecake recipe. This cheesecake is fresh, colorful and very easy to make,  the perfect treat for those summer months that are coming ahead.
I have seen in some supermarkets that you can buy the cookie base already made, but i like to make my own. 
This is the same base I used on my Lemon Meringue Pie  the only difference is that this is a no-bake recipe. 
Let's get started...

Ingredients:

For the base
  • 2 cups of crushed vanilla crackers (Mary Crackers)
  • 3/4 cups of melted butter

Filling:
  • 1 cup of thick heavy cream
  • 1 8oz bar of cream cheese
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (I use limes cause there are no lemons here)
  • 1 tbsp of uncolored unsweetened gelatin
  • 1/4 cup of room temperature water to dissolve the gelatin

Topping
  • 1 cup of Blueberry jam.
Note: I make my own Blueberry jam so I can decide how runny i want it. You can use store bought jam all right and if you notice that it is too thick, just add a little bit of warm water to it until you get a runnier consistency. 

Preparation

For the Base
  1. Melt the butter and mix it with the cookies until all is well combined.
  2. Pad it with your fingers into a 9 inches pie mold. I use a glass one, but it doesn't make any difference if you use a tin or a silicone one.

For the Filling:

For this step you can either use a blender or a stick blender, I only have the second one so that's what I use to make this cheesecake.
  1. Blend together the cream cheese, cream, condensed milk and vanilla until it looks smooth and everything is being combined well and there are no lumps.
  2. Add lemon juice and mix again.
  3. In a cup, mix gelatin with room temperature water and let it sit for 1 minute to soak up the water. Then heat it up for 30 seconds in the microwave, mix until it is dissolved and you can't see any of the grains. If it needs another 30 seconds in the microwave then it is fine, just repeat the process until you get a smooth mix. NOTE: All the gelatin packets come with their own instructions for dissolving it, so if the one you've got is any different then just follow the manufacturer's instructions, just remember that for this recipe we need 1 tablespoon of powder gelatin.
  4. Bring one tablespoon of the cream cheese mix into the gelatin and mix well, this is just to level the temperature and then pour it all back into the blender and blend until it is all combined.
  5. Pour mix onto the cookie base.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Pour the blueberry jam on top of the cheesecake, and it is done!
Keep it refrigerated, though I am sure it won't last long in there!

Hope you guys enjoy making this recipe and if you have any questions or comments just leave me a note and I will get back to you.

See you soon...
 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Meat Loaf Recipe


For the past 7 years, I have been aiming for recipes that are quick, mess free, easy to make and that i can freeze. This meat loaf fills all the requirements and also has a special feature... it is not only easy to make, mess free, quick and freezable but you can also turn the left overs into a completely different dish, which is a bonus for the picky eaters like myself that don't like to eat the same thing too close together in the month.

 
Before I start i will like to tell you how to add extra flavor into this recipe. What i do is I sauteé the diced onions until they are golden brown so they bring forth all their flavor instead of just adding them raw. So here is a little picture tutorial on how to do that.

  

This extra step is optional, if you are short in time then adding them raw is fine. So, let's get started...

Meat Loaf Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 700 grs. of minced beef
  • 1 white onion minced (method above optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • A handful of fresh herbs chopped (oregano, parsley and chives are my favorite mix)
  • Salt, Pepper

Method:
  • Preheat the oven at 180C / 375 F.
  • Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until they are all well combined.
  • Grease a rectangular small pyrex, I don't know about sizes but it says at the bottom 1.5QT / 1.4Lt.(use the picture below for reference)
  • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the juices are coming out clear and not cloudy when poke with a skewer.


To serve, you can pour on top some of this Homemade Ragu Sauce or you can make this quick gravy just so it doesn't look too dry on the plate... here is a quick photo tutorial for that...
 I didn't add any salt to it, cause the stock comes with lots of it but if the one you buy or make doesn't have any salt, don't forget to season it with salt and pepper.


And finally... serve with some rice or mash potatoes and.... tah dah!!!! Mess free Meat Loaf.
Hope you enjoy making this delicious Meat Loaf and let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Special thanks to all of my readers that keep waiting for me to finally find some time to blog, I have so much I want to show you, so I will try harder to keep you up to date with my latest recipes and crafts.
 
See you soon...