The ultimate Easter bun! Who doesn’t love hot cross buns?! Given the baked good’s long history, legends and superstitions have had ample time to develop and grow around them.
Hot cross buns are inseparably linked to Easter and to Christianity. But in reality, they probably have pre-Christian origins. Cross buns were baked to celebrate ‘Eostre’, the Germanic Goddess after which the season of Easter is said to be named.
Over the years, the bun has evolved and changed. Victorian recipes suggest various glazes to top the bun with after baking, including molasses or a honey/turmeric combo. The buns have become spicier too, with the addition of mace, caraway seeds and even coriander.
While some hot cross buns appear on grocery and bakery shelves as early as New Year’s Day, the sweet bun is usually associated with the end of Lent.
Every year I like to try and make a different version of these traditional, seasonal treats. This year I’m going with a ‘rum raisin‘ idea. Should be good!
Rum & Raisin Hot Cross Buns
Rum & Raisin Filling
In a bowl, combine raisins, warm rum & sugar. Cover with plastic wrap & allow to sit for at least 40 minutes. Strain, discarding liquid.
In a large bowl, combine lukewarm milk, yeast & 1/4 cup sugar. Let stand until mixture is frothy, about 10 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together 5 1/3 cups flour, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg & allspice. When yeast mixture is ready, add half of the flour mixture to it, beating until just combined. Beat in melted butter, eggs & rum/raisin mixture. Gradually add remaining flour mixture, kneading until smooth dough forms. Add remaining 1/3 cup flour if needed as the dough should not be sticky.
Grease a large bowl, place the dough in it& turn to grease top. Loosely cover & allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Cream Cheese Filling (Balls)
In a shallow dish, combine sugar & cinnamon. Cut cream cheese into 12 cubes. Roll each into a ball shape then roll them in the cinnamon sugar, coating evenly. Divide dough into 12 pieces. Place a cream cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough, pinching to seal seam. Roll each piece of dough into a ball & place in PARCHMENT lined muffin cups. Cover & let stand in a warm, draft-free place for about 20 minutes.
In a small dish, whisk together egg & a Tbsp milk. When buns are ready to bake, brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. While the are baking prepare RUM GLAZE & CROSS PASTE.
Rum Glaze & Cross Paste
In a small saucepan, place water, spiced rum & sugar. Over medium heat, bring ingredients to a simmer & allow to bubble gently for 3-5 minutes. The volume of the mixture should drop by at least half. Remove from heat & set aside until ready to use.
In a small dish, whisk together cornstarch, flour, sugar & water until a thick paste forms. You want your paste to be stiff enough to be able to pipe in a clean line, but still manageable.
Brush warm rolls with rum glaze & allow to cool. Using a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip, pipe paste over top of buns to form a cross.
- If you prefer, don't hesitate to make these buns without the cream cheese inside. I'm sure they will be just as good --- they're hot cross buns!!
More than ever, our souls need Valentines Day right now. It’s time to embrace the challenge and think outside of the box on how to create something special for the occasion. Since February 14th falls on a Sunday this year and the pandemic keeping many celebrations at home, its the perfect excuse to enjoy a brunch with a grilled cheese …. ‘angel food grilled cheese‘ that is!!
When most people think of grilled cheese they imagine a savory, cheesy sandwich served over lunch, but have you ever tried a sweet grilled cheese? Is it dessert? Is it breakfast? It really doesn’t matter.
Sometimes we get stuck in a rut with that cheddar on white bread thing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that there’s so much more cheesy goodness out there to be melted. Grilled cheese ideas only continue to evolve.
Obviously, a good cheese is the key to grilled cheese success, but the truth is, you can never really go wrong. Its your personal preference that really matters.
The tone is set for a great grilled cheese with the first slice of bread or in this case, loaf of angel food cake. Lime flavored cream cheese gets melty and gooey spread between the cake slices. Its the perky part of the sandwich that adds something unexpected.
If strawberries aren’t your thing, try raspberries, blueberries, mango or even kiwi and if you prefer a sturdier outside, use a sweetened brioche or challah bread. Whatever works for you!
Brion absolutely L-O-V-E-S angel food so for me the choice was clear. The fact that the ‘grilled cheese’ is not overly sweet made it a real nice brunch item for us.
Angel Food 'Grilled Cheese'
Angel Food Cake (Yield = (8) 1-inch thick slices)
Angel Food Cake
Preheat oven to 325 F. Have a 9-inch loaf pan available. Do not line or grease the pan in any way.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, flour & cornstarch. Set aside.
In another bowl, add egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar & salt. With a hand mixer on medium speed, beat until foamy, about 30 seconds. Slowly stream in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Continue to beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, gently FOLDING them into the egg whites using a rubber spatula. Repeat with remaining flour mixture in two increments. FOLD EVERYTHING TOGETHER GENTLY so egg whites do not become deflated in the process.
Pour batter into the loaf pan. Place the loaf pan on a baking sheet & bake for 35-40 minutes. When cake is baked it should not be sticky to the touch.
Once the cake comes out of the oven, immediately turn it upside down & invert it over two cans. The cake needs to cool upside down so it doesn't deflate. Allow it to cool for at least an hour.
In a small saucepan over low heat, add sliced strawberries, sugar, lemon juice & cornstarch. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, & cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.
Lime Cream Cheese Spread
In a small dish, beat together cream cheese, lime juice & powdered sugar until smooth & creamy.
Grilled Cheese Assembly
Slice angel food loaf into 8-inch slices. In a shallow container, whisk together 2 cups milk or half & half, 2 eggs & 1/4 tsp cinnamon.
Soak cake slices in milk/egg mixture for a couple of minutes, then cook on a griddle (or skillet) like you would with French toast. When the slices are golden on both sides, divide cream cheese spread between four of the slices. When cheese is warm & melted, top each with one of the remaining four slices.
Place on four serving plates & top with strawberry sauce. Serve warm.
When I think about Easter, one of the first foods that comes to mind are hot cross buns. I’m sure you think I’m going to have a nostalgic memory of my mother’s hot cross buns, but strangely enough, I don’t. The memory I do have from that time in my life is of some very yellow, cylinder shaped loaves. They were soft, sweet and yellow from the many eggs used in the dough. My mother just called it ‘Easter Bread’. It didn’t have icing, candied fruit and nuts or extra spices, it was just plain and gloriously good.
Each year, at Easter time, I really enjoy to make some version of Easter bread or buns (of course, trying to make it just a bit better than the year past). This year I’m going to make a hot cross bun ‘loaf’.
While hot cross buns are now sold and enjoyed throughout the year, they were once reserved for Good Friday alone. There is no one clear explanation … some theories rest in Christian symbolism while there are also more than a few stories that indicate hot cross buns were baked on Good Friday for superstitious reasons.
No matter what the reason, Brion & I have always loved these soft, spicy little buns. No doubt, this ‘loaf’ will probably make some good french toast for an Easter brunch.
Hot Cross Bun Loaf
In a large bowl, whisk together milk, oil, eggs & sugar. Sprinkle yeast over mixture. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
In a bowl, combine 4 cups flour with 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Add to yeast mixture & combine. Mixture will be very sticky. Cover bowl with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
In a small dish, combine 1/4 cup sugar with cardamom & ginger; set aside. In another small dish, combine paste ingredients for crosses, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag with a small opening; set aside.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour with baking powder, baking soda & salt. When dough has risen, add this mixture & combine. Move dough to a lightly floured surface. Press to slightly flatten dough.
Sprinkle 2 Tbsp spiced sugar & a third of the fruit mixture over the dough. Fold dough over on itself & flatten again. Repeat the process two more times, ending by folding the dough in on itself. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. With floured hands, quickly roll the pieces into balls.
In a buttered, OVERSIZE loaf pan, place 6 rolls then top with remaining 6 rolls. Pipe whatever cross design you prefer on loaf. Cover & allow to rise for about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 30-40 minutes. If the loaf is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil over it to prevent this.
Combine sugar & lemon juice. When loaf is baked, warm glaze for a few seconds in microwave then brush over loaf.
- If you do not have an oversized loaf pan, a bundt pan will work just fine.
About five years ago, Brion and I planted a ‘Cupid’ cherry tree in our back yard. I don’t know if you have ever heard about these ‘prairie’ cherry trees. They were developed here in Canada at the University of Saskatchewan for colder climates. A sour cherry was cross pollinated with a Mongolian cherry. This resulted in a variety of very hardy, smaller trees with a tart-sweet cherry about the size of the well-known ‘Bing’ variety. A group of five cherry trees were developed and became known as the ‘Romance’ series.
We chose this particular one because it is an early bloomer with large, dark red cherries that are both sweet and slightly astringent. The fruit matures in late August -early September with about a three week harvest period. The tree size is perfect as it matures to around eight feet tall. In the fall it’s glossy green leaves turn a beautiful yellow-orange. Last year we harvested over five pounds of cherries. Not a bad yield for a young tree.
I was going through the freezer the other day and noticed I still have some cherries left from last year. A Sour Cherry Cheesecake Galette seems like the perfect way to use them.
Sour Cherry Cheesecake Galette
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed; if not, add additional cold water, 1 tsp at a time. Do not overwork dough.
Press dough into a disk shape & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two or it can be wrapped airtight & frozen for a month. Thaw, still wrapped in refrigerator.
In a bowl, beat cream cheese, egg yolk, 2 Tbsp sugar & vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. In another bowl, toss cherries with cornstarch & remaining 1 Tbsp sugar.
Remove pastry from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out pastry dough into a 12-inch circle. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Spoon the cherries over cream cheese, leaving any excess juice in bowl. Gently fold pastry over cherries, pleating to hold it in. Brush with egg wash & sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 35-45 minutes until filling bubbles up & crust is golden. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before serving.
It seems Angel Food cake has been around forever. I remember my mother making it from ‘scratch’, having those wonderful farm fresh eggs at her fingertips. It seemed she had no problem at all to bake this very tall, feather light cake even if she was using a wood burning stove and had no control over an exact oven temperature.
Of course today, all we have to do is buy a ready made mix, add some water and there you have it, one big lovely angel food cake.
Brion has always loved this kind of cake, so when I noticed this little recipe on the ninjakitchen.com website, I decided to make a few mini cakes. Of course, these little morsels were gone in no time!
Mini Kiwi Lime Angel Food Cakes
Angel Food cake with fresh fruit what could be more 'guilt free'.
Preheat oven to 325 F. In a small bowl, combine flour with 2 Tbsp sugar. With an electric mixer on high, beat egg whites, vanilla, salt & cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add 1 tsp lime zest & 1 tsp lime juice. Gradually add remaining 4 Tbsp sugar. Beat on high until mixture is fully incorporated, glossy & stiff peaks are formed. Fold in by hand flour/sugar mixture in thirds until fully combined, keeping batter as voluminous as possible.
Fill a 12 cup silicone mini muffin pan( or non-stick mini muffin pan) with batter. In a shallow baking pan (larger than the mini muffin pan), place a wire rack. Pour water in & set muffin tin over water on rack. Bake for 15 minutes or until cakes rise & a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Remove from oven & let cool.
Stir together remaining lime zest, 3 tsp lime juice & powdered sugar to make glaze. Drizzle on cakes & top with kiwi wedges.
- I think these little minis would be great with any topping you favor. Next time I make them I might try a caramel topping on them.