Monday, April 19, 2010

Hot Cross Buns Redux: Bread Pudding

As delicious as my hot cross buns were, we couldn't finish them before they went stale. There was just too much competition from all the jelly beans, m&m's, bunny cake, robins eggs, cadbury eggs and whatnot. So I decided to give the hot cross buns a second chance at life and turned them into a bread pudding. We couldn't finish that either, we were recovering from all the sugar and the weather turned quite warm, not exactly 'curling up with a nice bowl of warm bread pudding' weather if you catch my drift. But that is beside the point. The point is this was my first attempt at bread pudding and I think it turned out quite nicely.

Start with some stale hot cross buns, I used about 4, and cube them.

Then take your eggs, I used 3.

Whisk them up with some milk, melted butter and spices. I used cinnamon and nutmeg because that is what was in the buns, you could use anything you want. Also, you could add some more dried fruit or nuts but I felt there was enough of that stuff in the bread.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread and sort of smush it all down together, which may or may not be unnecessary but it is fun. Sprinkle with muscovado sugar.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes and eat warm.

Hot Cross Pudding
about 4 stale hot cross buns (roughly 3 cups worth of bread cubes)
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
muscovado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350.
Cube the bread and place in a greased loaf pan.
Mix the eggs, milk, spices, butter and sugar together. Pour over the bread and sprinkle with the muscovado sugar (I like the crunch of the muscovado sugar, but you could use regular sugar if you want).
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes and serve warm.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hot Cross Buns

I know I am behind the times, and everyone else already posted all their hot cross bun recipes ages ago (ok maybe it wasn't ages, but I have completely lost my grasp of time, this new job of mine where I work in the morning and then have the day off and work again in the evening makes every day feel more like 2 mini days, which I feel is a somewhat valid excuse for not being able to remember when Easter was). Anyways, I am finding that I am quite fond of food that is connected to specific holidays (like hot cross buns and Good Friday), I want to try to incorporate more of it into my daily life, of course that means I am going to need to find some more holidays to celebrate with food on a daily basis. Hot cross buns are all kinds of wonderful according to wikipedia. They save you from shipwrecks and do good things for your friendships and make it so your bread always rises and nothing will burn in your kitchen. Of course I think technically speaking, you need to carry around a bun with you to make sure all these things happen, but if you are like me (I tend to be more liberal with my interpretations, for example I feel that going to a christmas pageant can certainly take the place of going to church christmas day, my mother does not always agree) baking these babies will keep you from encountering any perfect storm type scenarios for at least a year, no need to bring one along. I used this recipe, I don't know how much of a difference using honey instead of sugar made, but I liked the idea.

Making these buns is a bit of a process. Start by mixing the yeast and water.

Then mix the milk, butter, honey and salt together and heat until the butter melts. Depending on how hot this mixture gets during that process, you may want to let it cool a bit before mixing it with the yeast. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast and no one wants dead yeast.

Next, whisk the eggs and spices in a good sized bowl and add the yeast/milk/butter/honey mixture. Toss in your dried cranberries, or raisins or whatever dried fruit you are using. I personally dislike raisins, they make me sad for the grapes they once were, so I always either leave them out or substitute craisins.

Add your flour slowly, then knead until it looks something like this. Cover and let it rise for about an hour or until it has doubled.

After it has risen (like Jesus) (sorry, couldn't help myself, and it was for Good Friday after all) divide the dough into 24 pieces and roll them into balls. Dividing dough evenly is not my strong suit, as you can see. Toss them into a 13x9x2 pan and let them rise again. After they have risen a second time, cut a cross into each bun with a sharp knife, a dull one will be frustrating to use and a bit messy, trust me I know.

Bake for 15 minutes and then glaze with honey and bake for 5 more minutes.

In an ideal world, you would let cool and then put the icing crosses on each bun. In my world, certain people started eating them right away and doing individual crosses was a bit tedious not to mention my icing was a bit runny for that, so I drizzled it over all of them and called it a day.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

Spring has sprung here in the suburbs. Everything is turning green, even my car thanks to all the pollen. And, thanks to global warming, or something, it's 90 degrees right now. On the plus side I wont have to roam the house with my bread dough looking for the very warmest place I can find so that it will rise in a reasonable amount of time the way I was all winter. But, it has also kicked off a craving for some luscious tomatoes to make into fresh pasta sauce, and we cant quite get those yet. I must have made Nigella's spaghettini al sugo crudo once a week last summer, and I am sure I will be making it and posting it here soon, but until that day comes, we will just have to make do with this sauce adapted from Martha Stewart (I was going to link you to the original recipe, but I cannot find it on her website for some reason, o Martha what am I going to do with you). Roasting the tomatoes first bumps up the essential tomatoeyness, for lack of a better word, and gives the sauce a great flavor, while the fresh basil and mozzarella brighten it up some. O and I hope you all had lovely Easters and/or Passovers, I know I did.

Start with your tomatoes, ideally you want roughly 2 cups, I had less. We had these heirloom cherry tomatoes in the fridge, so that is what I used. Toss with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pop in a 375 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, tossing once or twice so they cook evenly. You want them to sort of collapse in on themselves, and it doesn't hurt if the skin pops.

Once the tomatoes are roasted, you can carry on making the sauce, or you could do this part ahead of time and just let them hang out in your fridge for a day or two until you are ready.

Now for the sauce. Pour a bit of olive oil into a skillet, enough to cover the bottom. Martha would have you do 1/4 cup, but I didn't do that much. Smash 3 cloves of garlic and saute them in the oil. Don't worry, you don't have to eat those giant cloves (unless you want to), you just want them to infuse some lovely garlic flavor into the sauce.

Once you can smell the garlic, add the tomatoes, I cut these in half, but made sure to get as many of the guts that squirted out into the pan as I could.

I wanted a slightly saucier sauce, so I added a small can of tomato sauce. But, you could also add a can of diced tomatoes if you wanted a chunkier sauce, or you could start out with more roasted tomatoes to begin with. At this point i also added a handful of basil that I cut into strips using my handy dandy kitchen scissors (I love kitchen scissors, when I use them it generally means I don't have to wash a cutting board). Let the sauce simmer until the pasta is ready.

Meanwhile, you should be boiling some pasta. The point of the pasta is twofold, obviously as a vehicle for the lovely pasta sauce, but also for the starchy water. Actual chefs put pasta water in their sauces, and I do too. Actually most of the time I forget, but this time I remembered, well mostly because I had the heat on a bit too high and the sauce was bubbling down more than I wanted so I tossed in a ladleful or two of pasta water.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and an entire ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes. Toss it all together, put the lid back on the pot and let it sit for a few minutes so the cheese can melt.

After the cheese is nice and melty, it is ready to eat.

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce
about 2 cups cherry tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, smashed
8 oz. can tomato sauce
about 10 leaves of fresh basil
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed

Toss the tomatoes in enough olive oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper (if using cherry tomatoes leave them whole, I would cut romas in half and anything bigger than that into quarters). Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast in a 375 oven until they collapse in on themselves, about 15 minutes for the cherry tomatoes.

Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and saute the garlic in it over medium heat until fragrant. Roughly chop the roasted tomatoes, then add them to the skillet. Add the tomato sauce, and the chopped basil.

Meanwhile, cook whichever pasta you love the most, adding about a cup of pasta water to the sauce, as needed. Once the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Toss with sauce and mozzarella, letting it sit until the cheese melts.