Yeast take 2 - Totally Trad Hot Cross Buns

I'm doing it again. I'm scared and I feel a little weak kneed. Yeast AGAIN! I really thought that my last attempt with the Cinnamon Buns was middling at best - I got a couple of good comments though that I haven't yet had the guts to follow through with but fully intend to (once I pluck up the courage).

It's Good Friday here (not Easter yet, as I've learned at the Cathedral School where I coach. Easter is on Sunday folks!) and it's totally trad to serve Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday (which wasn't really 'good' at all - go figure that one out!) for obvious reasons. Plus, on Good Friday I'm not at work, which means that I have time to wait around for these things to happen (hopefully happen).

I tried a recipe from the joy of baking website. I know that it's a crap shoot finding something on the net but this one looked pretty middle of the road AND I had all the ingredients. I'm using some more of those awesome mixed dried fruit packages that KT so kindly hands off to me (she doesn't eat them with her morning oatmeal from Starbucks). They look beautiful.

The Sultanas, the cranberries, the currants - lovely mix of colours. I also added some grated orange peel (I actually used the tangerines that came in my food box) to the recipe as well. Unfortunately, as I was going through the recipe I failed to see that I needed to add 1/4 cup of butter to the batter. So, I have no butter in mine BUT I've made sure to add it to the recipe below! With all the spices and the orange peel, this batter smells great even before it's been baked and it looks pretty too.

Hot Cross Buns (
makes 12 buns
3/4 lukewarm milk (I used buttermilk just 'cause)
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 package of traditional yeast
3 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of light brown sugar (I only had dark)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp orange peel, grated (lemon, tangerine... whatever)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter @ room temperature

3/4 cup mixed dried fruit (I used dried sultanas, thompson raisins,
cranberries and currants)

Egg Wash:
1 egg white
1 tbsp milk

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp milk or cream

Add the sugar and yeast to the lukewarm milk. Mix thoroughly and set aside for about 10 min. or until it looks foamy/frothy.
Mix the flour, sugar, spices, salt and grated peel together in a large bowl. Once the yeast mixture is ready add it to the flour and mix well. Once mixed, add the eggs and mix well. Lastly, mix in the butter.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 - 10 min (I'm doing this by hand) or until it feels pretty smooth and silky. After about 5 min. or so of kneading begin to add in the dried fruit and continue kneading to incorporate it well. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, I also put a little butter on my dough ball, cover with a clean cloth and place in a warm, non-drafty spot to rise for about 1 1/2 hrs. or until it's doubled in size.

Once doubled, punch the dough down (it should make a nice sighing sound when it's letting out the air) and form into twelve bun shaped lumps. Place each lump on a parchment or silicone sheet lined baking sheet with enough room for each bun to double in size. Brush eat bun with the egg wash. Cover again with clean cloth and put in a warm spot to rise for about 45 - 60 min. or until it's doubled in size again.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Once the buns have doubled and are ready to bake, brush them again with the egg wash and with a knife make a cross on the top of each bun. Bake the buns for about 15 min. Buns should be nicely browned and a toothpick should come out clean.
Cool on a baking rack.

Mix together the glaze till smooth. Place in a little bag and cut off the corner tip of the bag. Pipe the glaze onto each bun in the cross shape that you cut on them.

These came out just as one would expect a yeast bun to come out. The spices and dried fruit complimented each other beautifully. I guess, you could say, that just maybe these were a complete success!!! ... even without the butter!

A Classic - Chicken Curry

I don't even think that I knew what Curry was until I moved to Montreal. I had never even smelled it! Of course, when I was finally introduced to it a whole new world openned up to me. The smells, the colour, the robust taste. How quintessentially Indian.... WRONG. Imagine my surprise, disbelief even, to discover that Curry is not Indian. It's English! Born and raised in jolly old. Just imagine what the world would be like without Colonialism. Well, let's not think too long about that. I think that in reality the world might be a much better place. . . Back to Curry! So, now after learning that Curry is not the Indian food connection to the world, I also discover that there are different types of Curry!
The Japanese make curry, there is west-indian curry, curries taste different depending on your geographic location throughout India and England. While I lived in Trinidad, I fell in love with west-indian curry. I'm not a total pro at this stuff but honestly, it's pretty straight forward. I would love to tell you that I have all the right ingredients, I truly wish that I did. I will do another post, once I've been to the west-indian grocery and update you on all that stuff. What I do have though is west-indian curry powder, onion, garlic, potato and chicken. Trust me, this stuff is heavenly!

I have a special pot for this stuff. Derek's Mom brought this beauty for me when she was returning from Trinidad a few years ago. I use it for a ton of stuff (Stewed Chicken, Callaloo) but Curry is right up there. I don't know... somehow it feels more authentic this way. I love it, it's heavy and kinda ugly and the price is written on the side in permanent marker! Dope!!

You can enjoy this curry with rice, quinoa, couscous or, if you are lucky enough to live near a west-indian roti shop, get some roti skins and do it like that.

Chicken Curry (West Indian Style)

2 lbs chicken pieces (not boneless if possible)
1/4 cup of butter (you can use oil too)
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 med. sized potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
4 tbsp west indian curry powder
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
dash of Angostura bitters
a few sprigs of west-indian thyme
piece of two of pumpkin (I just leave a hunk in the dish and then pull it out once the dish is cooked - adds a nice flavour)
dash of pepper sauce (to taste)
1 1/2 tbsp chicken bouillion (liquid reduction or powder)

In a smallish bowl combine the curry powder, bouillion, spices, salt and mix with the Worcestershire, Bitters, pepper sauce and any additional water that it might take to make a medium thick paste. Once mixed to the right consistency, set aside.

Heat a large dutch oven. Keeping the heat at medium or just under. Add in the butter, once melted down add in onion and potatoes. Saute until the onion is clear (a few minutes). Add in the garlic and saute for just a couple of minutes. Add in the chicken and brown with the onion, potato and garlic. A maximum of 5 minutes here.

Once everything looks properly browned, add in the spice mixture and coat everything well. Cook without adding any extra water for just a few minutes. Then, add enough water to just start to cover the veggies and chicken. Check for taste and if you need to, use the liquid from the pot to mix some more curry paste. Once the taste feels right, put a lid on it and let it simmer at low heat for a minimum of about 40 min.

Front Door Organics and ME!

I've done it my Peeps! I've been thinking about it for so long, researching possibilities, looking at options and I've finally gone and done it. No, it's not a car, a new house, plastic surgery... I've signed with an Organic Food delivery service. Front Door Organics has been in Toronto since the late 80's I believe. There are lots of other, great players out there now but these guys offered a lot of flexibility and they delivered on a good day for us.
YES, they deliver it... to my door! Crap! Sounds too good to be true - what took me so long? Organic crap does cost more and I've been balking at the price. But, I've been doing some long hard thinking about our planet and I realise that there isn't very much that little old me can do. However, as Derek so wisely pointed out to me, it's the small things that you do everyday that will make a difference. I've also been thinking about local economies - People! Big Box stores give us awesome prices but what is the real cost to our local people and community? Where was all the stuff made in the first place? Who made it?? Ach, I'm ranting, I know...

Back to Front Door, this is one of my many 'small' choices. Sure it's a sacrifice BUT

It supports local farmers

It doesn't have chemical crap on it

The less that we buy with chemical crap on it, the less that it will be spread on fields (affecting bird, animal and human populations... oh yeah, and our water supply)

Doing it this way is a little bit cheaper than buying organic at my big box grocery store!

It encourages me to eat more vegetables (maybe some different ones too)

In short, I'm committed and I'm going to put my money (a little more) where my mouth is.
What's really awesome is that the boxes look like this when you get them. How inspiring is that?

Chocolate Crackles... this one is dedicated to my DED laptop!

I am christening my Martha Stewart Cookies book. Can you believe that I haven't made a recipe from it yet? I've been so distracted with cake making lately (and successful cakes they were!) that all my cookie recipes have gotten pushed aside. Well.... NO MORE! Out they come with a vengeance. I've been eyeing a few cookie recipes for a while and I've got to get my hands into them. A cookie rut can be hard to break and I've definitely got my favourites. You can guess... it's not hard... Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal, Straight up Chocolate and lastly a peanut butter concoction that I've been doing for a lot of years. I need some new inspiration, to break me of the 'same-old' habit. At one point a few months ago I had made chocolate chip cookies for so many weeks in a row that my daughter asked me to 'Please make something else'. That's pretty sad.

So, I have eagerly been searching through some blogs - joy the baker is a good one - and, of course, I've been enjoying the Cookie Book. I have an aversion to anything 'Martha' but this book looked so good in the store that I had to walk away with it, consoling myself that probably the only real involvement Martha had in the book was putting her name on it. But, I still have to live with the fact that I'm making this person ridiculously rich... Ach! My conscience!!! Why did it have to be her cookie book - ah well... I have some 'Carrot Cake Cookies with Cream Cheese filling' and some sweet looking 'dulce de leche' cookies on the horizon.

For now I will appease myself with these chocolate cracklers. The picture was just too alluring. Couldn't resist... didn't even try. The result was quite amazing. It has a texture that is very close to a meringue, just a little more cakey. Gooey, squidgy and gorgeous - and very chocolatey!!

Chocolate Crackles (M. S. 'Cookies')
Should make about 5 dozen (just a little under for me but awfully darn close)

8 oz (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (unbleached)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 lg eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup icing sugar

In a bowl, over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Set aside to cool.

Sift together, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
Beat butter and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs, vanilla and melted chocolate. Mix well.
In small batches mix in flour and alternate with milk - begin and end with the flour.

Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, wrap them and refridgerate for about 2 hrs.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Divide pieces into 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar and then icing sugar. Space 2 inches apart on a lined cookie sheet (parchment or baking mat)

Bake about 14 minutes or until the surface cracks (rotate sheets half way through)
Cool on wire racks and store.

As a p.s. to this recipe. I have experienced a huge tragedy recently. My laptop died. It was a Macbook pro from 2003! To say that it had a long life is an understatement and to be quite honest, I'm sure that if we took it in we could have something soldered for about $90 and be back in business. The truth is though that it's time to say goodbye to it. We knew it was coming but just wanted to put off the inevitable as long as possible. I feel almost as attached to my Mac pro as I did to my first gen. green mac mini - ahhhh, my sweet baby!!!

I will be blogging from Derek's computer for a while but will let you all know when my new mac lands in my hands!

To my dear old laptop... this plate of cookies and glass of milk are for you. RIP xoxo

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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