Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

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Baking Hot Cross Buns every Easter Week has become a bit of a tradition in our house. For the past 6 years I have baked these buns with reasonable success. Initially, I used my trusted bread machine to provide the family with yeasted goods, to great effect, I might add.

However, with my increased baking confidence, for the past two years I have baked without the aid of a machine and used Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Bun recipe.  It is very straightforward and this year I have decided to adapt it to incorporate one of our family’s favourite spices – Cardamom.

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Welsh Cakes

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I have a soft spot for Wales.

Having spent four happy years there in my student days, I have very fond memories of my time in Wales and the great friendships I forged. We still return there as a family now annually to visit friends and it is a trip we all love.

During this time, and on our numerous return visits, I have eaten freshly home baked Welsh Cakes but have never made them myself.

With St. David’s Day (Saint David being the Patron Saint of Wales) fast approaching on 1st March, I thought I would give them a try.

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These little Welsh Cakes (or ‘Pice ar y maen’ in Welsh) are small, scone-like cakes traditionally cooked on a bake stone (I used a frying pan). They are usually served warm, coated in sugar but can be served with butter, or honey.

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So as this was my first attempt, some recipe research was in order. I looked at a number of trusted sources, Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith, ‘BBC Food’ online and a traditional Welsh Food recipe from ‘Flavours of Wales’ by Gilli Davies. It was interesting to see that the fundamental ingredients of flour, butter, sugar and egg were a constant, but other ingredients varied.

For me this was an opportunity to come up with some recipe development. (This is something I would like to experiment with in the future – so nice to come up with family, heirloom recipes, don’t you think?).

A spread sheet was therefore in order. It was interesting, for me anyway, how the quantities varied and the inclusion, or exclusion of certain ingredients.

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So for my recipe, I took the most common ingredients and applied the most common percentage ratios. I also, included ingredients that I have sampled and enjoyed in a local, home baked Welsh Cake. For me, sultanas are a must. So much more juicy and substantial than currants, or indeed no fruit at all as per one of the recipes. Mixed spice is also a definite for me here. What makes these a little bit more special to me is the butter. I used a salted butter – a course sea salt variety which adds a fabulous, random, salty crunch to the otherwise sweet little cakes. Delicious, even though I do say so myself.

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The cakes are a wonderful teatime treat and easy to make to boot. Put some daffodils in a vase, put the kettle on and heat the pan to make some lovely Welsh Cakes. Happy St. David’s Day!

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Welsh Cakes

Makes about 20 cakes

Ingredients

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 75g golden caster, or caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 110g course sea salt butter, or salted butter, cubed
  • 75g sultanas
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 'Splash' of milk
  • For the coating
  • 75g caster sugar, for coating (optional)
  • Alternatively, serve with butter or honey

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and mixed spice. Add the cubed butter and mix to form a crumb/sand-like consistency. Add the sultanas and mix further. Beat the egg and add to the mixture along with a 'splash' of milk. Combine until the dough comes together and form a ball.
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to a thickness of approximately 5-7mm thick. With a cutter, approximately 6cm in diameter, cut the rounds. Re-roll the dough and repeat until all the dough has been cut.
  3. Place a large pan over a medium/low heat. With a piece of kitchen towel, wipe the pan with a little butter. Place 4-6 rounds in the pan and cook for approximately 3 minutes each side. They will puff up a little and should be a rich, golden colour when cooked. Be careful as they 'brown' easily.
  4. Pour the sugar for the coating into a small bowl. Toss the hot cakes into the sugar, thoroughly coating. Repeat the cooking and sugar coating with the remaining cakes.
  5. Serve warm. As an alternative to the sugar coating, serve with butter and jam, or honey.
  6. Store in an airtight container. Still delicious when warmed through in the oven.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/welsh-cakes/

Source: The Contented Baker, as calculated above. Welsh name from Wikipedia.

Homemade Mincemeat

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Homemade mincemeat is easy to make and has the advantage that you can tailor-make it to your exact taste.

This version has a very citrus, orange flavour as I soaked all the fruit in freshly squeezed orange juice and Cointreau (optional).

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Stored in sterilised jars, the mincemeat should ideally be made about 4 weeks ahead of use to allow the flavours to mature and infuse. All the ingredients are mixed together and then lightly baked in a cool oven to allow the suet to gently melt, covering the fruit and preventing the apples from fermenting in the jars.

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Mincemeat is a useful store cupboard favourite. Perfect for mince pies!

Homemade Mincemeat

4 x 450g Jars

Ingredients

  • 225g vegetable suet
  • 225g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and grated
  • 125g candied peel
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 225g currants
  • 175g Demerara sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 100ml Cointreau (50ml, plus 50ml after heating)

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients together (just 50ml of Cointreau at this stage) in a large bowl. Cover and leave overnight.
  2. Pour the mixture into a large, glass oven proof dish and cover with foil. Place in a cool oven, 100 degrees C, or Gas Mark 1/4 for 3 hours.
  3. Remove from the oven, allow to cool completely. Stir in the remaining Cointreau.
  4. Spoon into sterilised jars, cover with waxed discs and seal.

Notes

To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids in soapy water. Place upside down in the oven, directly onto the rack. Heat oven to 120 degrees C, or Gas Mark 1/4. Allow to sterilise in the oven for 30 minutes.

http://thecontentedbaker.com/homemade-mincemeat/

Source: Adapted from BBC Food Recipes. Method adapted from Delia Smith’s ‘Complete  Cookery Course’