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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).

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Belgium Buns for Red Nose Day

If you ever find yourself singing "Five currant buns in a bakers shop" what is the mental image of those buns? I realised the other day that my mental image is probably a Belgium bun and at the same time I realised I had never attempted to make them. A quick search on the internet confirmed that they are indeed very much like a Chelsea buns but with icing and a cherry on top. As I am no stranger to making Chelsea buns, I concluded that Belgium buns would also be fairly straightforward so I gave it a go.

Often when I make Chelsea buns I make a plain sweet bread then use some of my Jammy Cow mincemeat within the whirl to add the fruity yumminess. The Belgium bun recipes, however, often seem to feature a smearing of something like Lemon Curd with a scattering of currants within the whirl. Well, I don't make fruit curds. Two reasons: 1) I can't grow citrus fruit in Milton Keynes, 2) the use of egg within curds only give a 6 week shelf-life. I do, however, have a variety of lemon-themed marmalade in my cupboard right now so I thought a smearing of Honey & Lemon Marmalade would do the job nicely.

Having successfully made a batch of these cheery buns it occurred to me that with their silly cherry topping, they would make the ideal bake for a Red Nose cake stall so thought I should share my recipe. With Red Nose day a week away, stock up on some bread flour and some glace cherries and get ready to bake.

Belgium Buns (makes 12)

100ml milk
1 egg
225g strong white flour
½  tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
55g butter, diced
1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
2-3 tbsp Lemon Marmalade (or curd)
A scattering of currants or other dried fruit
100g of icing sugar
12 glace cherries

Whisk together the milk and the egg and put into the bread machine pan. Put the flour on top to form a complete layer. Put the salt, sugar and butter into separate corners of the pan and the yeast in the centre. Set the machine for dough. Once the machine has finished, remove the dough from the pan and place on a floured surface. Knock back then roll out until about 1 cm thick. Smear the marmalade over the dough then scattered over the currants, leaving about 1cm around the edges. Start at one edge and roll up completely. Cut the roll into 12 equal slices and place each slice onto a well greased large baking sheet so that the swirl is horizontal. Cover and leave to double in size. Bake in a pre-heated over at 190°C, gas mark 5 for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Remove from the tin onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. In the meantime, mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water to make a sloppy icing. Spoon icing onto the top of each bun and finish with a glace cherry in the centre. Leave in the air until the icing has crusted over.