South Leigh Seasonal Recipes

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Supermarket hot cross buns are available pretty much throughout the year (with or without the cross) but there is nothing like the warm, spicy fragrance that wafts through the kitchen when you make your own.

It really isn't all that labour intensive but it's not a 30 minute exercise either. You probably need to allow about four hours, as you do need to give the dough time to rise between kneadings, when of course you can do other things, but why not take time out and enjoy a few hours devoted to relaxing and tending your dough?

Of course, with Easter on the horizon, I thought it would be nice to include a rich and indulgent chocolate desert. I hope you enjoy this one.

Happy Cooking. EL

Hot Cross Buns ~ Makes 12

The instructions here for are making the dough by hand. You can use a mixer with a dough hook, which cuts down on the hard work!

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g salt
75g caster sugar
10g fast action dried yeast
40g unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
120ml full-fat milk, warm
120ml tepid water
150g sultanas
80g chopped mixed peel
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and mixed spice
For the crosses:
50g plain flour
50ml water
To glaze:
sugar syrup or warmed apricot jam, sieved

Put the flour into a large mixing bowl. Mix in the salt and sugar then sprinkle over the yeast. Add the butter, eggs, milk and half the water and begin to combine mixture with your fingers. Continue to add the water, a little at a time, until you have a dough that is soft, but not soggy - you may not need all the water. Keep working the mixture until you have a rough dough.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 5-10 minutes until the dough feels soft, smooth and silky. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until it has risen to double its size. This will take at least 1 hour.

Tip the dough onto a floured surface, flatten it slightly then scatter over the sultanas, mixed peel, and spices. Fold the dough in on itself and knead until all the fruit and the spice is evenly incorporated. Return to the bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to rise for a further hour.

Knead the dough once more, until all the air is knocked out. Divide into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Place, fairly close together, on 1 or 2 baking trays lined with baking parchment or silicone paper. Cover the trays loosely with cling-film and set aside in a warm place to rise for the final time.

Heat the oven to 200º C / 180º Fan / Gas 6. When the buns have doubled in size, mix together the flour and water to make a paste and, using a piping bag with a small nozzle, pipe a fine cross onto the top of each bun.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. To glaze the buns, brush with sugar syrup or warmed, seived apricot jam while still warm.

Little Chocolate & Sea Salt Pots ~ Makes 6

These little pots are incredibly easy and quick to make but are pure indulgence to eat. Because they are very rich, make them in little coffee cups or shot glasses.

175g dark chocolate, or a mixture of dark and milk
300ml single cream
1-2 tblsps dark espresso coffee
a generous pinch, or two, of sea salt
whipped cream and chocolate coffee beans, optional

Assemble your pots, cups or glasses on a tray.

Place the chocolate in a food processer and blitz until it is reduced to a rubble. Heat the cream until it is just below boiling point and pour over the chocolate. Process again until the mixutre is smooth. Add the coffee and blend again. Sprinkle in the seasalt. Try not to taste ;-)

Pour the mixture into the prepared 'pots' and chill for several hours or overnight until the mixture is firm.

When ready to serve, top each pot with a small blob of whipped cream and a chocolate-coated coffee bean.