Treat me: Easy Easter Brioche

Do you dream of waking up on Good Friday to a trayful of freshly made hot cross buns? Me too. Over the years I’ve tried many ways of achieving this, ranging from buying them in the day before, to getting up at the crack of dawn. Neither one is particularly good – especially if you already get up at the crack of dawn and everyone in your household is ravenous at breakfast time. The first hot cross bun of the day is like the first cup of tea; you shouldn’t have to wait for it.

But this way – using a clever, no-knead, no stress method – is perfect. All you do is make up a batter-like dough the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Then all you have to do in the morning is wait for the oven to heat up, then these lovely, light, buttery buns are ready to eat 15 minutes later. If that’s not an Easter miracle, I don’t know what is.

Easy Easter Brioche Buns Recipe And Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Easter Brioche
If you’ve had hot cross bun disasters in the past or are a novice yeast baker, this is the recipe for you. There’s no kneading, just a bit of energetic stirring with a wooden spoon. If you don’t have a muffin tin you can make a giant loaf in a 23cm cake tin – it will take more like 25-30 minutes to cook.

200g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed peel (or finely chopped crystallised ginger, or other tangy dried fruit)
150ml milk
250g strong or high grade flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs, lightly beaten
140g unsalted butter, softened but NOT melted, and cut into little pieces

Put the dried fruit in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to steep while you get everything else organised.
Put the milk in a small pan and bring to nearly simmering point, then remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.
Put the flour, sugar, yeast, spices and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Drain the dried fruit and set aside.
Pour in the milk, the orange zest, the vanilla, the eggs and the dried fruit. Beat well until you have a smooth batter. Set aside in a warm place until doubled – this will take about an hour.
Beat the risen batter until it deflates, then add half the butter and beat well with a wooden spoon until it is all mixed in and there are no lumps. Repeat with the remaining butter and beat until the batter is smooth.
Grease the holes of a 12-cup muffin pan with a little butter or oil, and divide the mixture between them.
Cover the tin with a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.
In the morning, turn the oven to 170C and take the tin out of the fridge. When the oven has reached temperature and the buns have lost their chill (about 35 minutes, in my house) put them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
Leave them in the tin for five minutes, then gently ease out with a spatula. Makes 12.

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone x

Treat me: Homemade Easter eggs

I’m not really that keen on sweets or lollies, but it takes a lot of willpower for me to resist a marshmallow. This has been a lifelong problem – when I was about five I discovered a stash of marshmallows in a high cupboard and secretly scoffed the lot. I still remember the speech I got about how it was bad to take the marshmallows, but even worse to lie and pretend I hadn’t. I’ve been a terrible liar ever since (and still feel guilty about indulging my marshmallow habit.)

How To Make Marshmallow Easter Eggs

Last weekend my friend Agnes came over and made a swag of beautiful Easter eggs while I found whatever kitchen tool she needed and kept our daughters out of the chocolate (one of those tasks was much easier than the other). Agnes and chocolate are like Picasso and paint – it’s amazing watching her work. I was too embarrassed to make these eggs – the way I remember doing them with my mother – in front of her, but my taste for nostalgia (and marshmallow) meant I’ve been dreaming about them all week.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to make marshmallow Easter eggs at home without any fancy kit, this is how to do it.

Homemade Marshmallow Easter Eggs
Don’t be alarmed – the flour and egg are only used in the shaping process. Both can be reused in the normal way. You need electric beaters, or preferably a stand mixer, to make the marshmallow. Don’t attempt it with a rotary beater, it will only end in tears. This is a bit of a process but the results, which taste like chocolate-covered clouds, make it all worth it.

2 kg flour (use gluten-free flour if you have gluten woes)
1 egg – at room temperature (or the flour sticks to it)
1 Tbsp powdered gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup hot water
1 cups sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp lemon juice
Pink food colouring, optional
180g good quality chocolate – I used Whittaker’s Fairtrade Creamy Milk
1 Tbsp coconut oil or other plain, flavourless oil

Spread the flour into two or three large, deep baking dishes. The flour needs to be about 5cm deep. Gently press the egg (in the shell) into the flour to make a half-egg shape to make 20 hollows. Carefully set aside.
Put the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Stir well, then let swell for five minutes.
Put the hot water and the sugar in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatine mixture, stirring all the time, until it has dissolved too.
Bring this mixture to the boil and boil gently for six minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until lukewarm.
Transfer it to a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and add the vanilla, rosewater and lemon juice. Beat on high speed until thick and creamy (about five minutes, depending on your mixer). If you like, add a few drops of pink food colouring when the mixture is nearly done.
Carefully spoon the marshmallow mixture into the egg shapes, making sure it comes to the top.
Let set for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the halves from the flour by touching the top of each one with your finger and lifting it out. Join the halves together (the top stays sticky, so they ‘glue’ together nicely) and dust off the flour. A pastry brush is helpful here.
Cover a tray with plastic wrap and set aside.
Leave the marshmallow eggs in a cool place while you melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler over low heat. Let cool until lukewarm, then carefully dip the eggs in, using a fork or a dipping spoon, then put them on the plastic-covered tray. This is a messy job – just resign yourself to the fact that chocolate will go everywhere. When the eggs are covered (or as best as you can get them), put them in the fridge to set. Store them in a covered container in the fridge (wrap them in foil if you’re really fancy). Makes 8-10 eggs, depending on how much marshmallow you eat in the process…

Given that this is such a chocolate-filled time of the year (in our house, at least), it makes great sense to add this post to April’s We Should Cocoa challenge, where guest host Rachel Cotterill has chosen Easter as the theme.

Have a great weekend everyone x

Little & Friday’s famous doughnuts

After a truly hectic month, in which I spent far too much time out of my kitchen (not to mention being slightly out of my mind), I spent most of Easter weekend pottering between stove, sink and vegetable garden. It was great.

I even managed to make a menu plan and I only made one emergency dash to the dairy (in which I bought the last bottle of cream in the eastern suburbs). I managed to use some of my recent cookbook acquisitions AND my fancy new cake tin. The cake I made in it was a disaster, but that’s another story. My hot cross buns – Dan Lepard’s spiced stout buns – turned out a little heavier than I expected too, but anecdotal evidence tells me that a lot of people struggled to make decent buns this year. Let’s blame climate change, shall we?

Buns, blue cheese and rose petal jelly

Anyway, today I achieved a longheld ambition and made the Cream Doughnuts from Treats From Little & Friday. For non-New Zealanders, Little & Friday is an Auckland cafe with a cult following. The cafe’s owner/founder Kim Evans published a gorgeous book of some of her best recipes last year and I’ve been dying to make the famous doughnuts ever since. I won’t reproduce the recipe here, but essentially you make brioche dough (about 900g flour, 3 eggs, 140g butter, milk, yeast, sugar, salt etc), which is then deep-fried (!) and filled with jam and creme diplomat (a half-half mixture of creme patissiere and whipped cream) until they are at near-bursting point. Then you roll them in icing sugar and eat them, until you are near bursting point (and covered with icing sugar).


They are seriously, seriously good. I took a basket of them to an annual Easter bun-fest/chocolate frenzy at a friend’s place and while the kids ran amok hunting Easter eggs, the adults just ate doughnuts and reclined with beatific expressions. I can’t wait to make them again. But perhaps I’ll sign up for the Wellington half-marathon first…

What did you make this Easter? Have you made the L&F doughnuts before?

World famous chocolate recipes

OK, everyone, it’s time to pull on your legwarmers, leotards and headbands: it’s the We Should Cocoa Fame round-up. Since I’m writing this post with the Fame theme going round and round my head, here’s the link so you can listen along at the same time. Catchy, isn’t it?

We Should Cocoa usually asks participants to match chocolate with a special guest star ingredient, but this month I thought it might be fun to try something different. Instead, I asked everyone to come up with a ‘famous’ chocolate recipe – whether it was from a famous person, world-famous in their street, or just deserved wider recognition. Here’s what they came up with…

We Should Cocoa newbie Nicole Bremner dived in at the deep end and managed to reinvented the world-famous Oreo cookie not once, but twice. She’s made a vegan and a fructose-free version – and both look amazing. Nicole’s blog is new to me and it’s full of lovely things. You should check it out.

The always-inspiring Karen of Lavender and Lovage is famous enough in her own right (did you know she was a World Baking Day ambassador?) and she whipped up a treat with her usual joie de vivre. Her Famous Drinking Chocolate Cake took me back to the days of eating drinking chocolate out of the packet… come on, I know I’m not the only one to have done that!

And the similarly famous Dom of Belleau Kitchen, a legend in Lincolnshire, acquitted himself nicely with this Gluten-Free Chocolate Fudge Cake. Put this on your must-make list if you a) need something kosher for Passover next year and b) need to eat more vegetables (because it’s got potato flour in it. Cool, huh?)

Meanwhile, Craig of The Usual Saucepans chose a sachertorte by the lesser-known Delia Smith. And he made it for his Mum. Isn’t that cute?

Some guy called Nigel Slater, who apparently keeps some sort of kitchen diary (like Bridget Jones, do you think? Or Adrian Mole?) inspired Camilla of Fab Food 4 All to make this Pear, Ginger and Chocolate Crumble. Well played, Nigel old chap.

Mr Slater also inspired Kate of Turquoise Lemons – check out his (and her) Hot Chocolate Puddings. The man himself even tweeted her about them!

We Should Cocoa co-founder Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog was also inspired by a famous figure – and her post about Garibaldi Biscuits is a must for anyone who ever thought the Italian revolutionary had time to stop and bake along the way.

Phil of As Strong As Soup was inspired by some folks from a bit closer to home – the mysterious Debdens who apparently created this luscious Chocolate Pudding. Rumour has it the Debdens now own a weight-loss empire. Or they invented Photoshop.

Elizabeth at The Law Students Cookbook chose Nigella’s Chocolate Muffins – a recipe that certainly deserves wider fame. If you haven’t made these yet, add them to your repertoire, quick.

Caroline at Caroline Makes certainly deserves wider fame and fortune – she gets the prize for the cutest entry this month with her fabulous Pigs In Mississipi Mud Pie. Isn’t it brilliant? Check out her blog for close-ups of those pigs, which she made with her own fair hands.

Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe also slaved over a fabulously decorated cake – a Pirate Treasure Chest – for her daughter’s fourth birthday. Johanna is famous among her friends (and blog followers) for her incredible novelty cakes (last year she made THREE cakes for her daughter’s third birthday!) and this one deserves its place in her hall of fame. Read her post first if you’re considering making a cake of this nature in a heatwave as it may make you reconsider.

I wonder what Johanna, who hails from Melbourne, would make of the next entry – Caroline of Cake, Crumbs and Cooking took on Dan Lepard’s Double Chocolate Lamingtons. A version of his recipe drew a bit of flack when it was published on Australian website Good Food (some readers sniffed that these fancy pants variations weren’t real lamingtons) and Caroline did have a few issues with it. I wouldn’t say no to one though.

Suelle at Mainly Baking approached the task in a clever way – she chose a famous ingredient as the starting inspiration and poured a cup of Guinness into this Chocolate Guinness Cake. Just look at that icing!

Ness at Jibber Jabber UK had a similar idea – she also made Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake, but adapted it to suit a thrifty budget. We all need one of those, don’t we?

Claire of Under The Blue Gum Tree was among those who cursed me for my choice of theme, but after a few false starts she rose to the challenge brilliantly by making this Layered Cappuccino Mousse, apparently the dessert served at this year’s Golden Globe Awards.

Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery was also inspired by the screen – she made this incredible Twin Peaks Tart after a bout of illness saw her confined to the sofa with Agent Cooper and his pals. Worth getting sick for, I’d say!

I also went for something inspired by the small screen – adapting English actor Martin Clunes’ recipe for Cold Dog Biscuits. I got so addicted to this I had to take it to work to stop myself eating it slice by tiny slice.

Meanwhile, Katharine of Leeks and Limoni delved into the fascinating history of the humble chocolate chip cookie, coming up with these gorgeous Chocolate Chip and Pecan Oat Cookies.

But if cookies seem too wholesome and you have a taste for the dark and rich, you’ll love this Mississipi Mud Pie, chosen by Cookbooks Galore

… Not to mention this incredible Better Than Nutella Cheesecake from The Taste Space – believe it or not this is made from raw ingredients (so hot – but not too hot – right now). I want some.

I also want a big slice of Susan of The Spice Garden‘s Peanut Butter And Chocolate Mud Pie. No, scratch that, I want two. Susan pays homage to Debbi Fields (of Mrs Fields’ Cookies fame) in her post, but one look at this pie and you’ll want to pay homage to Susan. Or at least find out her address.

I don’t know about you but I need a lie down and a cup of chamomile tea after all that lot. Oh, go on then, maybe I’ll have a hot cross bun too.

Have a great Easter weekend, everyone x

The holy grail of hot cross buns

This time next week I hope to be getting ready to make my first batch of hot cross buns. As a child we never had them until Good Friday and there’s something nice about sticking to that – as long as you can resist the lure of cinnamon-scented butter wafting out of every shop door.

For ages I made Nigella’s hot cross buns from Feast – her own photo of them makes them look less than perfect and mine were more or less the same, as exhibited by this batch…

(In my defence, I did make these in France, where I only had a very vague handle on the sort of yeast I was using and a very temperamental oven. They did taste good!)

Last year I made Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Buns, which were very, very good – and obviously I’ve become a lot more adept….

But what am I going to make this year? In the past I’ve also made Delia Smith’s recipe and dabbled with a few Alison Holst versions. I’m tempted to go back to Dan’s buns, especially as we have a bottle of stout in the cupboard, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s another one out there that might be better.

What’s your favourite hot cross bun recipe? If you’ve got some Easter inspiration on your blog – be it buns, bread, bagels, muffins, whatever – add it in the linky list below. Otherwise, if you’ve got any traditional HCB advice, let me know in the comments.