Sourdough Surprises: Hot cross buns

Sunday, April 20, 2014

These buns were made in the USA with starter made in Malaysia. I am visiting my sister and her family in California over the Easter holidays and since I knew I would only be making these sourdough buns for the Sourdough Surprises challenge while I was here, some of the starter had to fly over with me. It behaved very well, and has produced these dual-nationality hot cross buns.

If I had made these in Malaysia, they would probably have contained some stout, a variety of spices and fillings. But my sister said to keep it child-friendly for her little girls, so it only has raisins and a light cardamom flavour.

I didn't follow a precise recipe. What I did was feed my starter twice. There was just over a cup of it after the second feeding to which I added an egg yolk, less than a half cup of brown sugar, ground up cardamom seeds, salt, and enough flour to mix to a soft dough. Then in went some softened butter and two cups of plumped up raisins. The dough was left to rise overnight, then I shaped nine buns, baked them without (I forgot!) an eggwash and later brushed on some jam to give them shiny tops. I would have preferred baked-in flour crosses, but my sister said to use icing instead.

I know I would have been more precise with weights and scheduling back home, but the buns turned out edible so I'm okay with them.
Happy Easter!

Upside-down cake in a ring

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is it right to mess with a classic? Should the traditional look of a pineapple upside-down cake be altered? Well, I think if I can get more pineapple in every bite, then it's forgiveable. Normally, the cake has full rings on it, but an American chef ~ darn it, I cannot remember who it was other than that it was a lady ~ gave this suggestion of using pineapple ring halves so that the whole surface of the cake would be covered in the fruit. About using a ring pan instead of a round or square one, well, I had to for practical purposes: the middle of my cakes sometimes don't cook because of my wonky oven. One final change to the classic recipe: it's not a sponge cake; it's made with a sour cream pound cake batter. A little heavier, but it still managed to absorb all the lovely brown sugar syrup.

Two-step mushroom lentil ragu

Monday, April 14, 2014





If portobello mushrooms weren't so expensive, I'd cook them three or four times a week. Unlike other fungi, portobellos don't disintegrate so easily or shrink when cooked in dishes like stews. They have such an intense flavour, even being compared to meat; and like meat, benefits from being seared before being added to stew-like dishes. That is what I did when I made this mushroom and lentil ragu: braise green lentils in a chilli tomato-based sauce; separately fry thickly sliced portobellos and flavour with soya sauce; combine the two components and simmer for a bit before tucking in. I served them (to myself!) with potato-cheese pierogies only because I had a stash of those and needed to clear out the freezer. Portobellos play second fiddle to no one.