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

Fried egg crumpets

About 20 years ago, when I had just moved into my first flat, my flatmate Geoff specialised in what he called ‘egg windows’ – a fried slice of bread with an egg in the middle of it.

Geoff’s dad, an army major, had showed him how to make them when he was a kid and Geoff was a total pro. Then an architecture student, he cut the ‘window’ out of the bread with exacting precision, and he had the timing down pat. Alas, that was probably the apex of his cooking skills. His other memorable culinary moment was the time he came home drunk, put a tray of oven chips on to cook and fell asleep on the sofa. We were saved by the neighbours calling the fire brigade, but the chips were not so lucky.

I’d forgotten all about Geoff, egg windows and the fire until I saw Maya Adam show how to make what she called ‘Egg in a hole’ as part of the Child Nutrition MOOC run by Stanford University. Here was the egg window, transformed into a fast, nutritious breakfast for a child. It was genius. But even more genius is my fried egg crumpet – a fast, nutritious(ish) and utterly delicious anytime meal for everyone. Here’s how to do it.

Egg In A Hole Using Crumpets

Fried egg crumpets
One of these might do for breakfast, but I think you need two for lunch. The holey nature of the crumpet means it soaks up a) butter and b) egg, so there are lots of textural contrasts – soft, silky egg and crunchy crumpet edges. Add something green on the side and you might even be able to call it dinner.

You need:
An equal number of crumpets and eggs – let’s say two per person
A good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to stop the butter from burning
A heavy frying pan with a lid
A round cookie cutter or small glass (about five cm in diameter)
Salt and pepper
Sriracha sauce or some other spicy condiment
Grated Parmesan, optional

Cut the middle out of the crumpets with the cookie cutter or glass. You can eat the middle bit as a cook’s perk now, or toast it to eat later, or (sacrilege!) throw it away.
Melt the butter and oil in the heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Put the crumpets in, holey side down, and cook for a couple of minutes, until golden. Flip over and let the smooth side cook for a minute.
Carefully crack an egg into the hole of each crumpet. Don’t worry if some spills over the sides, this is no big deal. Put a lid on the pan and cook, covered, for about three minutes, until the egg white is set and the outer edges are getting nice and crunchy. Carefully flip over to cook the other side until it is just set to ensure a runny yolk (obviously cook it for longer if you prefer egg yolks to be firm).
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated cheese, if using. Dollop on the spicy sauce and enjoy!

 

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?

Dan-Lepard-Hot-Cross-Buns
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).

Little-And-Friday-Brioche-Doughnuts-With-Creme-Patissiere

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?

What to do with leftover egg yolks

Last week I ended up with 14 egg yolks in my fridge. I’d like to say I had no idea how this happened, or that it was the work of a particularly talented flock of chickens, but in truth it was directly related to the three pavlovas that were cooking  v e r y   s l o w l y  in my oven. I’ll tell you about them another day.

In the meantime, I want to share with you what I did with them. First, I considered doing what my mother-in-law does and tipping them down the sink. Then I came to my senses and asked Twitter for advice.

There were many suggestions relating to custard and hollandaise, but Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes came up with the most useful tip: freezing them. I knew you could freeze egg whites, but making yolk iceblocks was new to me. Jen said to freeze them with a pinch of salt or sugar (depending on their final use) – so that’s what I did with eight of them.

Four then went into dinner – I’d forgotten what a seriously easy and delicious dinner spaghetti carbonara is: four egg yolks stirred together with a good splash of cream (maybe four tablespoons?), some Parmesan, some finely chopped parsley and some crispy bacon or ham tossed through hot spaghetti.

Two somehow ended up on the floor – oops – but if they hadn’t I could have made mayonnaise or used one as a face mask (egg yolks are full of vitamin A, which is found in all the best beauty treatments, don’t you know?). Or if we had a dog I could have mixed an egg yolk into its dinner for a pelt-improving protein boost.

But the next time I end up with a bunch of egg yolks – or at least 10 – I’m going to make like my lovely friend Andy suggested and whip up this creme brulee ice cream. Well, wouldn’t you?

What do you do with leftover egg yolks? Or whites, for that matter?