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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Unobtrustive Jam

Have you noticed that when jam is required in a recipe as a glue or a glaze, it is always Apricot Jam that is suggested. You know, for using to stick royal icing to a cake or as a glaze on sticky buns. The reasons for this are obvious, of course. Apricot Jam is unobtrusive in both flavour and colour. These are occasions when the jam is not the star, merely a helpful tool so something like Blackcurrant or even Raspberry Jam would just not be appropriate.

I don't make Apricot Jam due to a lack of apricots. I did plant an apricot tree about 3 years ago. I knew it would be a challenge to grow apricots because we don't really have the climate for it. For two years, it  blossomed nicely, formed little fruitlets and then all but about 2 of the fruits would fall off. Of course, the weather in recent years hasn't really been ideal for apricot growing but it matters little as last year my apricot tree died completely when the root stock suddenly started to grow instead of the grafted tree on top. Unfortunately, I didn't realise what was happening straight away and by the time I did, the vigorous root stock tree (whatever that was) had smothered the more delicate apricot graft part of the tree.

So, with no Apricot Jam to hand, what do I do when a recipe calls for it? Well, there are several jams that can be readily substituted as they too have a pleasant but not domineering flavour and little colour. The most obvious choice is Apple Jam, although Apple & Ginger Jam can also be used. Pear and Vanilla is also excellent. This week, when looking for a jam to glaze my batch of hot cross buns, I discovered that Greengage Jam can also fit the bill nicely. So, as sad as the loss of my apricot tree is, at least there are other jams willing to fill its role.

Hot Cross Buns (makes 12)

250ml (9 fl oz) milk at room temperature
1 egg, beaten
450g (1lb) strong white bread flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
55g (2oz) butter, diced
1 1/2 tsp yeast
110g (4 ox) mixed dried fruit
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp flour
Jam to glaze

Put the milk and egg into the bottom of the bread pan of a bread machine and cover with the flour. Place the spices, salt, sugar, butter and yeast in separate hollows in the flour. Set the machine to dough. 5 minutes before the kneading cycle finishes, add the dried fruit and lemon zest. Once finished, knock back the dough on a floured surface and cut into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and space out on a large, greased baking tray. Cover with greased clingfilm and leave to double in size. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 190°C, gas 5 and mix together the milk, flour and water and decant into a food bag. Snip the corner off the bag and pipe a cross on top each bun. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked. Transfer the buns onto a wire rack to cool, but whilst still warm, brush each bun with a little warmed jam to glaze. Serve hot, cold or toasted with butter (and jam).

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