Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Coming up to Easter

Tips for making Hot Cross Buns.If using a bread mix, then add a little lemon zest, about a tsp of mixed spice and cinnamon, a tsp. sugar, and about 4 oz of mixed dried fruit (incl. candied peel). Otherwise use your ordinary white bread mix, maybe a little more yeast and - after the first proving - knead in the dried fruit. When formed into buns, place them about 1"-2" apart on a greased baking sheet, brush the buns with water and on each bun lay over pastry strips to form the cross (use readymade shortcrust pastry). then cover and leave to rise until the buns are almost touching. The longer they rise the less dense they will be. If at all possible cover the buns also when cooking - the steam they give off will make them very light and the tops won't get crusty. I suggest a big tent of foil over might work. Just prick a hole or two in it to get rid of excess steam.
The buns should take about 15 mins to cook, and hopefully will have risen enough to be attached to each other. Remove the whole batch to a wire tray and brush with a glaze made from 2oz sugar and 3 fl oz water, boiled for three minutes before using.
Traditionally best eaten whilst still warm, and with lashings of butter.

As to Simnel Cake:
Again many different recipes, some with a lot of fruit, many with less. I tend to use my 'boil and bake' fruit cake - the recipe given in an earlier posting, or you could use either or both halves of the two-tone Australian Cake given in the posting entitled 'The Wizardry of Oz' (not sure which month). Here is an easy alternative recipe:
8 oz (225g) each soft margarine, sugar and S.R. flour
4 eggs
12 oz (325g) mixed dried fruit
4 oz (100g) glace cheeries, washed and chopped
2 oz (50g) candied peel
zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp mixed spice.
(1 lb marzipan - divided into three plus egg white and jam)
Put all the ingredients (except the marzipan, egg white and jam) in a large mixing bowl and beat until thoroughly mixed.
Place half the mixture into a well greased 8" round cake tin and roll out one third of the marzipan into a circle to fit the tin and lay this over the cake mix.. Cover with the remaining cake mixture and level the surface.
Bake at 150C/300F/Gas 2 for about two and a half hours until risen, golden and firm to the touch. Cover after 1 hour if browning too early. Cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto cake airer.
When cold brush the top with apricot jam and take half of the remaining marzipan and roll it to fit the top of the cake. Press down and crimp edges beteen thumb and finger. Brush the top with egg white and place on 11 small marzipan balls (these represent the Apostles excluding Judas) arranged evenly just inside the crimped rim.
Brush the top of the balls with egg white and place under a medium to hot grill so that the balls and the centre of the cake turn golden.
Tip: You can omit the middle layer of marzipan if you haven't got enough. The important part is the marzipan topping and the balls. You can of course cheat by purchasing a fruit cake and just top with marzipan yourself.