A steam patisserie, Rachel Khoo & brioche buns!

I love new toys. Kitchen toys, that is. One of my friends once described me as ‘would choose to buy a fancy kitchen gadget over a designer handbag’ – and I have to admit that she was (and still is) absolutely right.

It was thus unsurprising that I was excited to hear bout the Miele range of combination steam appliances. Whilst I have vaguely heard about steam ovens, I have never properly understood how they work, and why someone would want one. So I decided to go along to the Miele ‘Steam Patisserie’, which hoped to showcase the diversity and adaptability of baking with steam – and also featured a few Rachel Khoo creations, which she created specially for this event. We also got to meet her, which was a definite plus!

So yes. Steam combination ovens.

The ‘steam’ component comes from the humidity setting, which can range from 0-100%. There are 3 ways you can use it:

  • Keep the humidity at 0% = conventional oven.
  • Switch off the ‘oven’ function and only use the ‘steam’ function = steamer
  • Use both the humidity and oven functions = combination steam oven

I was particularly interested in the combination steam mode, as I often bake with a water bath, or throw chilled water into the oven to create steam. We were also told that the oven can also be used to reheat food (a la microwave), but this would take double the time needed in a microwave. The advantage would obviously be the ability to heat more than one plate of food at a time!

Whilst I loved the concept, I felt that the oven was a little small. In an ideal world, I would want to only have one oven. Miele are however already on the case, and are currently developing larger (64L capacity) steam combination oven. The oven is also naturally more costly than the conventional oven.

miele steam patisserie 3 miele steam patisserie 4 miele steam patisserie 5 miele steam patisserie 6
miele steam patisserie 8 miele steam patisserie 10

Most importantly, the treats served at the Steam Patisserie were delicious. It obviously helped that everything was served in beautiful mismatched vintage china (which seems to be the new ‘in’ thing). I must admit that I would love to own such a collection… I doubt R will agree though, bearing in mind my already vast collection of mismatched plates/bowls. Ha.

But going back to the food – my favourite was the brioche bun, which was delightfully light, yet had a nice crust. I naturally had to recreate this at home (in a conventional oven with ‘water throwing’), and I am glad to say it turned out very well indeed. I made a few small substitutions as always, but I have kept the recipe below very similar to the original.

Many thanks to Miele for inviting me along to this event, and to Cesar & Dominic, who took the time to chat and explain their steam combination range to us.

Brioche buns
Makes 12-14 buns
Recipe from Rachel Khoo/Miele Patisserie of Steam

For the buns:

  • 240g strong white flour
  • 25g castor sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 2 tsp dried instant yeast
  • 70ml milk (I usually use cold milk)
  • 2 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened + cubed
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 30g Parmesan (or any other hard cheese), coarsely grated
  • 50g French saucisson (or any other ham), sliced into thin matchsticks

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk

Method:

  • Place flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with the dough hook).
  • Add the milk and eggs, and mix on low speed for 2 minutes until a very rough dough forms. Increase the speed to medium, and mix for 5 minutes until a smooth dough forms.
  • Turn the mixer down to low speed. Gradually add in the cubed butter, and mix until the butter is fully incorporated. You may need to use a dough scraper/spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl, to ensure all the ingredients are well combined.
  • Lastly, add in the herbs, grated cheese and saucisson. Mix on low speed for 10-15 seconds, or until they are fully incorporated into the dough.
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm or a teatowel, and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 180’C (fan).
  • Portion the dough into 12-14 equal sizes (depending on how large you want your buns!). Shape the portioned dough into smooth rounds, and place on lined baking trays. Remember to space the buns as they will rise/get bigger in the oven. Leave to rise again for 15 minutes.
  • Glaze the brioche buns with the egg yolk/milk mixture.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the buns are golden. You may place/throw
  • Leave to cool slightly, then eat!

* I attended the event as a guest of Miele, but all views expressed are my own.

Hot cross buns

I’ve realised recently that for someone who bakes a fair amount of bread/buns, I haven’t written many blog posts about them. In fact, I found some photos of sausage buns which I took TWO YEARS ago… still waiting to be blogged. (And I’ve made them at least 5 times since the photos were taken!). I suspect that a lot of the time I’m too lazy to take proper photos of the bread/buns, and just tweet a photo of it.
 

So when I made these hot cross buns over the weekend, I thought it would be a good excuse to break the ‘haven’t blogged much about bread’ habit. When taking the photos of these, I realised that I haven’t taken proper photos of my food in a very long time…. I blame Instagram! So much easier to just take a photo of the meal on the stove. No need for any fancy stuff. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t even style her photos very much – I truly have great respect and admiration for all the bloggers out there who take so much time and effort to style their food/photos.

But I digress. As usual.

I tweaked my recipe for Asian buns to make these sausage buns, primarily I am a firm believer in the ‘sponge + dough’ method when it comes to baking bread. It truly produces bread that stays soft for days, without the need for things like bread improvers. There is also the ‘tangzhong’ method of making bread, which involves cooking flour + water for the ‘starter’ (equivalent to the ‘sponge’), and also produces lasting, soft bread.

R isn’t a huge fan of raisins & sultanas, so I decided to make these with dried cranberries and dried apples. But truth be told, you can use any dried fruit you want – I think it is important that you enjoy what you eat, no point a hot cross bun being ‘authentic’ if you don’t like something in it. I felt like I didn’t add enough fruit into the buns, so will have to up the amount next time. (I’ve done this in the recipe below.)

I also decided to make them in two forms: 1) ‘pull apart’ form, baked in a 8″ cake tin 2) individual buns. Although the individual buns turned out prettier, I think I prefer the ‘pull apart’ ones as they look more homemade. 🙂

Speaking of homemade, my attempt at piping the crosses is so laughable. :/ I was too lazy to get a piping bag (Can make bread but noooo am too lazy to use piping bag. Sigh.) so used a ziplock bag… which unfortunately had a gusset, which meant I ended up with a massive gaping hole when I snipped off the edge of the bag, leading thicker crosses than I originally planned. Note to self: laziness never pays.

Hot cross buns
Makes approx 13-14 buns (I had 9 ‘pull apart’ buns, and 4 individual buns)

For the sponge dough:

  • 300g bread flour
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 180-200g water (I use cold water from the tap)
  • 3g salt

For the main dough:

  • 125g bread flour
  • 30g soy bran (optional – replace with wheatgerm/bread flour)
  • 20g milk powder
  • 7g instant yeast
  • 30g sugar
  • 6g salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp allspice
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 60g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup dried apples*
  • 1.5 cups dried cranberries*

For piping paste:

  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup water

To glaze:

  • Apricot jam
  • 2 tbsp boiling water

Making the sponge dough:
1. Mix the bread flour, instant yeast and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer, and mix with the dough hook attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can do this with a spatula.
2. Pour in the water slowly whilst mixing the ingredients together – the aim is to get a dough that is firm and dry to the touch. It should form a nice round ball. (You’ll find that you need more water when it’s cold, less when it’s humid.)
3. Add the salt, then continue to mix with the dough hook attachment for approximately 10 minutes.
4. Leave the sponge dough in a well oiled bowl in the refrigerator for 12 hours. (I usually make the sponge the night before, and leave it in the fridge overnight.)

Mixing the sponge dough with the main dough component:
5. When the sponge dough is ready, place it into the bowl of your stand mixer.
6. Add in the bread flour, soy bran, milk powder, instant yeast, sugar, and eggs. Mix on low speed (using the dough hook) for 2-3 minutes.
7. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium, add in the salt, allspice, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg & ground ginger, and continue mixing for 5 minutes.
8. Add the softened butter, dried cranberries & dried apples and continue to mix for 7-10 minutes until the dough is fully developed. (You should be able to get a nice thin “windowpane” membrane when stretching the dough between your fingers.)
9. Form the dough into a ball and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.
10. Divide the dough into portions of approximately 80g each, form into little rounds, and place on lightly oiled baking tray. (You can either make them as individual buns, or place them close together in a square/round cake tin to form ‘pull apart’ hot cross buns.)
11. Leave to rise for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.
12. Once the buns have risen, prepare the piping paste by mixing the flour and water together, till the form a thick smooth paste. Add more flour/water if you feel the paste is too runny/thick (I find that it’s rather variable!) Place mix into a piping bag, and pipe crosses on the buns.
13. Bake in 190’C oven for 10-12 minutes, until the buns turn golden brown.
14. Whilst the buns are still warm, glaze with the apricot jam + boiling water mix.
15. Eat!

* Replace with fruit of your choice

I hope everyone is having a lovely Easter weekend! 🙂

Akelare, San Sebastian

It has been a while since I last blogged, hasn’t it? I’ve been so caught up with lectures (I’m a student again for this year) and doing various bits of work that all the typing I’ve really been doing is the typing of my study notes! But a girl has to take a break once in a while, so I thought I’d blog about the epic meal we had at Akelare in San Sebastian. I can’t believe it’s been two months since I was there – how time flies.

Akelare is one of the many Michelin starred restaurants in San Sebastian (this region has the greatest number of Michelin stars per capita than any other city in the world), and holds three stars. The kitchen is led by Pedro Subjiana, who along with Juan Mari Arzak are known as the “founding fathers” of Basque cuisine.

Akelare is situated atop a hill – giving you stunning views of the Bay of Biscay underneath. I truly believe that the whole experience starts during the drive up to the restaurant, where you start to get glimpses of the magnificent view that awaits you. I mean, just check out the endless blue seas and skies! We left it a little late to book, so unfortunately did not get a window table, but got a table in the little ‘gazebo’ area of the restaurant.

We were there for lunch at 1pm (when the restaurant opens), and were the first people there… which was good as I could wander around taking photos! Whilst I was doing this, one of the lovely waiters came up to me, and offered to bring me on a tour of the kitchen.

The kitchen staff were having a coffee before the lunch service began –  I thought it was quite nice that they took the time to have a coffee together before the madness enfolds.

They also have a test kitchen in the restaurant – which I absolutely fell in love with. It would be hard to not be inspired to create delicious dishes when you had the amazing views of the Bay of Biscay right on your doorstep. There was also so much light in the kitchen, which I always think is important. I would love to have a kitchen like this in my own home, preferably with the views as well. 😛 One day, one day.

What I liked about Akelare’s tasting menus was that they offered 2 different ones: Menu A (Aranori), and Menu B (Bekarki). They allow each person at the table to choose their preferred menu, which I thought was a nice touch. Naturally, we each chose one menu – meaning we got to try a wider variety of dishes. Akelare also offers an a’la carte menu, which looked equally enticing.

To start off, we were served a set of ‘amenities’: On the back row from left to right – Tomato and basil gel, Idiabazal cheese moisturiser, Mouthwash cocktail. On the front row, from left to right – Onion sponge, Sea bath salts.

This was such an innovative appetizer, and I absolutely loved it. We were asked to squeeze the tomato and basil gel onto the onion sponge, and then to pop into our mouths. And oh man it was SO good. The onion ‘sponge’ bread was fantastic, and actually tasted like a sponge – it was crispy and was very flavoursome. I would do anything to learn how to make it (this turned out to be a recurring theme throughout the meal). The tomato and basil gel was also delicious, and I found myself squeezing it onto my spoon just so I could have more! If only actual handwash gel was edible, and tasted THIS good.

I also enjoyed the sea bath salts, which was essentially dried prawns in an edible plastic container. The mouthwash cocktail was made from sparkling cava – definitely the most tasty mouthwash I’ve ever had! 😛

The second appetizer: Oyster in an edible shell – the ‘shell’ melted away when you put it into your mouth, revealing a juicy fresh oyster within.

We snacked on some warm bread and olive oil whilst waiting for our first courses. Whilst the bread was good (we had a selection of traditional white, ciabatta, and multiseeded breads), the olive oil was fantastic – it was definitely THE best olive oil I have ever tasted. I mean, I would choose this olive oil over butter, and I love my butter. Upon questioning our waiter, we were told that this was an arbequina extra virgin olive oil, and some post-meal googling enlightened me to the fact the arbequina is a type of olive that highly aromatic, and is grown in large amounts in Catalonia region of Spain.

Aranori: Prawns and french beans cooked in “Orujo” fireplace. The prawns were cooked/flamed with wine, in a Le Creuset pot filled with volcanic rocks. They were then served with green beans, cream of green beans, and a powder made from prawn shells. The prawns were just slightly undercooked, were very fresh, and was delicious paired with the prawn shell powder.

Bekarki: Xangurro in essence, its coral blini and “gurullos”. This was a piece of crab claw meat cooked in crab juices, served with a crab roe blini and pasta which was shaped like rice grains (gurullos). The gurullos was a revelation – it was cooked al dente, and was lighter than normal rice. In a way, it was similar to orzo, just with a slightly different shape.

Aranori: Molluscs in fisherman’s net. This was a very flavoursome dish which tasted like the sea – a selection of shellfish (clams, squid, scallops and mussels) served underneath a ‘net’ made from rice flour.

Bekarki: Razor shell with veal shank. I never would have thought that razor clams could go so well with veal – but you know what, it did. It was served with a cauliflower mushroom which had a similar texture to chinese fungus. Overall, this dish was a great contrast of textures and flavours.

Aranori: Pasta carpaccio, piquillo and iberico, with parmesan shavings, truffles, and mushrooms. Whilst this might sound rather boring, it was actually one of my favourite dishes of the meal. The pasta was infused with the flavours of piquillo peppers and Iberico ham. I would happily buy this pasta and eat it plain, as it was so delicious.

Bekarki: Sauteed fresh foie gras with ‘salt’ flakes and grain ‘pepper’. The people of San Sebastian are huge fans of foie, and it appears in the menus of most restaurants, and of course Akelare was not to be an exception. The waiter poured over ‘salt’ and ‘pepper’ onto this dish, whilst saying “don’t worry, it will taste good”… it turns out that the ‘salt’ was actually flakes of sugar, whilst the ‘pepper’ was black rice grains. Absolute genius.

Aranori: Cod tripe. This was a piece of perfectly cooked bacalao, with a crispy and smoky skin. It was served with ‘tripe’ made from cod and veal, and finished off with a white tomato juice.

Bekarki: ‘Fried egg’ with green peas, and little farm vegetables. The fried egg was actually a poached egg, which was then tempura fried. I was amazed at the skill involved in cooking this, as the yolk was still perfectly runny. There was also a tempura-ed spring onion, and a mix of peas and broad beans. This was a nice refreshing dish, which was very welcome after the richness of the foie gras.

Aranori: Whole grain red mullet with sauce ‘fusili’. As with all the seafood dishes we ate, the red mullet was cooked perfectly. It was served with ‘fusili’ which were filled with a variety of flavours – parsley, soy, and garlic. This dish was called ‘whole grain’ red mullet because all parts of the fish was used: the head, bones and liver were used to form the red paste you see on either end of the plate. It tasted a bit like a very flavoursome and fishy tomato puree!

Bekarki: Turbot with its ‘kokotxa’.  This dish was made from various parts of the turbot, and it was served in 3 preparations: the fillet, a crispy “chip” made from turbot skin, and the ‘kokotxa’ (“cheek”) – turbot don’t actually have a ‘kokotxa’, so this was made from something else.. I just can’t remember what it was!

Aranori: Charcoal grilled lamb with the wine lees. A piece of charcoal grilled lamb loin, served with red wine sediments (the powdery red bits), a plum sauce (maple coloured), and a red wine reduction (dark red coloured). There was also a green tea and red fruit sugar “netting” that was served with this – I didn’t feel that this added all that much to the dish, and don’t think I would have missed it if it wasn’t there. Everything else was excellent though.

Bekarki: Roasted suckling pig, with tomato “bolao” and Iberian emulsion. The pieces of sucking pig (belly and loin) was first cooked in an Iberian ham broth, then finished in the oven. Whilst the pork tasted fantastic, it did lack a perfectly crispy crackling (it was slightly chewy in some parts) which was a shame. The tomato “bolao” was a sugary tomato “ball” which had a crumbly texture. This actually worked well with the rest of the dish, rather surprisngly!

Aranori: “Xaxu” and coconut iced mousse. The “xaxu” is a specialty of the Gorrotxategi patisserie in Tolosa, and is a creamy almond tart with a runny ‘egg yolk’ filling which was recreated specially with their permission. It was flanked by two blocked of coconut iced mousse, which was essentially a foamed coconut ice cream – I kid you not when I say it tasted like air. So. Damn. Good.

Berkarki: Milk and grape, cheese and wine in parallel evolution. This was one of the most innovative cheese courses I have ever seen, where we were instructed to start eating from one end of the plate where the cheese was lighter in flavour – the flavour and intensity of the cheese then increased as you progress throughout the plate, thus the “evolution”.

From the bottom of the plate:
– Grapevine, curded sheeps milk & walnut (this was very light, and went well with the powdered walnuts)
– Powdered fresh cream with chives & grapes (this was one of my favourites, as I felt the powdered cream just had the right hint of “dairy” to it, and paired well with the sweet grapes.
– Quark cheese with nutmeg and pink pepper aroma, must of tapoica & tomato
– Idiabazal semi-matured cheese with quince jelly & wine dust (this was my other favourite of the lot, as the nutty Idiabazal complemented the sweet quince jelly very well)
– Torta of Casar’s grape with soaked raisins in Pedro Ximenez
– Brandy sirpo with Gorgonzola cheese ice cream (I normally am not a fan of blue cheese, but this ice cream wasn’t as overbearing as the cheese itself, so I did actually enjoy it. Couldn’t eat too much of it though!)

Aranori: A different apple tart. This was a similar to a millefeuille – where two sheets of puff pastry were sandwiched with some apple cream. This was then covered with some specially made edible apple paper. I LOVED the edible paper, and wished that I could steal some from the kitchen and bring it home with me. I mean, that could be like my perfect “so-called healthy” snack!

Berkarki: Citrus shell and chocolate shaving. This was a sugar seashell filled with citrus cream, chocolate “cotton candy”, cocoa ice cream, and the crispiest chocolate curls I’ve ever tasted. Although flavoursome, it was surprisingly very light for a chocolate dessert, and didn’t fill me with a “jilak” (overwhelming) sensation you get sometimes when you eat a chocolate dessert. The sugar seashell was a little too sweet for me though.

We finished off our meal with some tea, and “bon bons”. The bon bons was served in a bowl covered with an edible paper, which the waitress slashed with great style before opening it up to reveal the goodies within (truffles with a liquid cherry/chocolate mousse centres, berry marshmallows and passionfruit pate de fruit). Oh and of course, the paper was edible – you can’t see much of it in the photo because errr… I ate most of it before I remembered to take a photo.

So yes, that was our meal at Akelare, and I enjoyed every single moment of it. The service was absolutely impeccable, and the food was both beautiful to look at whilst being delicious. In fact, I actually ate MORE than R, because he was too full by the time we finished our mains (i.e. I ate most of the FOUR desserts) – so yes, I do have a humongous appetite, thankyouverymuch.

Akelare also does an a la carte menu, and we fully intend on revisiting this fantastic restaurant to try this out if we’re ever in San Sebastian again – that’s how much we loved this place. Definitely a perfect place for a special meal, and definitely more affordable than Michelin starred food in London.

Akelare
Paseo Padre Orcolaga 56,
20008 San Sebastian
(+34) 943 31 12 09
akelarre.net

San Sebastian – pintxos galore!

I have to admit, I’d never really thought of San Sebastian as a holiday destination.. As I’d not really been aware of its existence. I know, it’s shocking. But no matter, because I now know that it exists – and more importantly, I know what an absolutely great holiday venue it is.

San Sebastian is famous for their take on tapas, which they call pintxos (pronounced pin-chos). Pintxos are essentially small plates of food that are eaten at bars, usually accompanied by a drink or two. In a way, it is the ultimate bar food: small, delicious. Some bars have a selection of pintxos laid out on the counters, which you pick and choose from, some do a “cooked to order” menu, and some do a mixture of both.

Ordering pintxos is an art in itself. Most pintxo bars are completely rammed with customers, and one must be brave and make your way into the sea of people to shout your order to the people behind the counter. Most bars have the menu written on a chalkboard behind the counter, usually in Spanish. The servers usually don’t speak very much English, and you should have seen me fumbling and trying to order food with my almost nonexistent grasp of Spanish…

But you know what, you don’t need to know very much Spanish to feast on pintxos. You just need to know some key words… (I might have mistranslated some of these words, so please correct me if I’ve made a mistake as I’m not known for my language abilities!)

Gambas = prawn
Vieira = scallop
Txipiron (“chi-pi-ron”)= squid
Bacalao = salted cod
Txangurro (“chang-gu-ro”) = crab
Antxoas (“an-chos”) = anchovy
Cochinillo = suckling pig
Costilla = ribs (I think)
Carrilera = beef/veal cheek
Jamon = ham
Pulpo = octopus
Foie = foie gras
Queso = cheese
Hongos = mushroom
Morcilla = black pudding
Txakoli (“cha-ko-li’) = sparkling white wine, the signature wine of the Basque country

We visited a number of pintxo bars, and literally bar hopped for much of our time there. On one of the days we actually had a three hour lunch! Then attempted to climb Mount Urgull – which is not a good idea after a heavy lunch, let me tell you.

LA CUCHARA DE SAN TELMO
One of the my favourite bars. This teeny little pintxo bar was always filled with tourists (mainly British ones, interestingly), but this was definitely not one of tourist trap places you worry about going to when on holiday… because the food was absolutely delicious. All the pintxos here were made to order, and were all excellent. In fact, the food was so excellent that we ate here three times, and tried at least two thirds of their menu!

Bacalao faroe contitado con patata y breza – Salted cod with potatoes and a herb sauce. Crisp skin, tender cod flesh that flaked away with the touch of a fork, finished off with some smashed potatoes. Incredibly good, and I can happily declare a newfound love for bacalao. Despite it’s name, it’s not actually very salty at all – so don’t get too worried!

Carrillera de ternera al vino tinto – Beef cheeks braised in red wine. I don’t think I’ve actually eaten beef cheeks prior to this, but you can sign me right up to the beef cheek fan club. It’s a great cut of meat which becomes incredibly tender when cooked this way.

Cotxinillo (cochinillo) letxal asado x 6hs – slow roasted suckling pig (I assume for 6 hours). The crackling was much better than I ever expected in a small humble pintxos bar – it was amazingly crispy, and I was very impressed. I did think they’d gone slightly overboard with the sprinkling of sea salt flakes though, as it was a little on the salty side.

Foie cuchara con compota de manzana – Foie gras with an apple compote. I tell you something, the people in San Sebastian really like their foie. It was featured on the menu of most of the places we went to! I suspect it’s because they are very close to France.. I just wonder how often the locals eat foie, as it’s not really the healthiest thing in the world! This was good, but just a little too rich for me. You’d love this if you’re a foie lover though.

Manitas de ministro con tximi txurri – Pork trotter with chimi churri sauce. I can’t believe they eat trotters in Spain, I thought it was a Chinese thing!

Pulpo roca con hojas de berza asada – Octopus with a side of cabbage (or at least what tasted and looked like cabbage). This had a great sauce, which had a hint of citrus.

Queso de cabra relleno de verduras asadas – goats cheese wrapped in ham. This was ridiculously good, and even R who normally finds goats cheese too overwhelming loved this.

Risotto (forgot to take down the actual name of this dish) – this was made with orzo, which is a rice shaped pasta sometimes called risoni. This totally blew me away, and I have since recreated a risotto dish made with orzo in my own kitchen. I preferred the texture of the orzo to the more ‘claggy’ texture of arborio rice – the orzo just makes the risotto taste lighter, if that makes sense.

Viera – pan seared scallop. Now, La Cuchara normally has a ham/bacon wrapped scallop dish on their menu. Unfortunately, we never got to taste it as we didn’t know what scallops were called in Spanish on our first visit, and it wasn’t on the menu the next two times. However, the server at the counter recognised me and and must have sensed my desperation to try this (haha)… He took one look at me and went like “Oh, viera!”. In any case, he offered me an alternative of a grilled scallop, but with no ham. Which I obviously said yes to – and I’m so glad I did, because check out the SIZE of that monster scallop. It was absolutely scrumptious, and perfectly seared.

This is the madness you’ll be face with in La Cuchara during dinner service… absolutely bonkers, but so worth it. Despite it being extremely crowded, it is very civilised and you actually have friendly chats to the people around you whilst waiting for your order to be taken. This system would never work in Malaysia, as everyone would just push forwards and be kiasu ‘afraid to lose’ (reminiscent of the horrendousness of the Malaysia Night at Tralfagar Square).

Much less madness at 12pm on a Sunday afternoon… you can actually see the counter. 😛

La Cuchara de San Telmo
Calle 31 de Agosto, 28
http://www.lacucharadesantelmo.com/
Closed Mondays

CASA GANDARIAS
This place was part pintxo bar, part restaurant. I only took notice of the bar though, and we visited twice, primarily for one pintxo which I absolutely fell in love with…

… this one: bacalao and pimento pepper served on a slice of crusty white baguette. This was SO GOOD! I suspect the reason why I enjoyed it so was because the entire pintxo was deep fried – how would it be possible to not like this? This is one of the pintxos that are displayed on the counter, and they even ‘heat it up’ for you when you order it. Be warned that ‘heating it up’ means popping it in the deep fryer again though. 😉

Solo Mio – seared beef fillet with a slice of pepper. This was good stuff, the beef is a bit on the rare side though, so best to steer clear if you’re queasy this. This was made to order.

Brochetta gambas – grilled prawn bruschetta. Good, but just not as good as the brochetta gambas from Bar Goiz Argi…

Txangurro – crab and pepper mix, served atop some bread. Very flavoursome, and bursting with crab. A little oily, but when who cares when you’re on holiday? Hehe.

Hongos – mushrooms. This was a fairly popular pintxo, and was something which was being served in a number of bars. Casa Gandarias adds their own twist to it by adding some ham, because who can say no to ham?

Bar Casa Gandarias
Calle 31 de Agosto, 23
http://www.restaurantegandarias.com/

A FUEGO NEGRO
This bar prides themselves on their modern and creative take on pintxos, and offered some very interesting dishes which I enjoyed.

Makobe with txips – Mini kobe beef burger with banana chips. Best bar snack ever! It was just the right size for it to be chomped down in two easy bites.

Oreja skabetxada con mole hezado – pickled pork ear with frozen mole. I don’t know about you, but I’d never eaten pig ears before and was quite curious as to what this would taste like. The best way I can think of describing this would be to call it a more cartilagenous (is that a word?) version of pork belly. I enjoyed this.

Txitxarro-gerezia-menta-ardia – mackerel, sheeps cheese, mint and cherry. Basically a mackerel tartare with cubes of sheeps cheese, served atop a cherry meringue base. Refreshingly different.

Txangurro-aguakatea-regaliza – crab, avocado and liquorice. A very modern take on the traditional Basque txangurro (brown crab) tart. And SO good! I absolutely adored the liquorice ice cream, and I’m normally not a liquorice fan. Great combination of tastes, textures and temperatures.

Paloma, tiro, PUM! – Wild dove breast with beetroot sauce (or beetroot blood in this case). This was such a fun dish, where it was plated to look like blood was splattering from the dove that had just been shot. They even had a little edible sign with the word PUM on it, which I thought was really cute. The dove was perfectly cooked as well.

Y un huevo – con hongo y jamon – egg with mushrooms and ham. This was no ordinary eggs and ham, and the liquid yolk like liquid had hints of mushroom in it. The paprika like powder on the top was actually ham bits, I only wish there was more of this.

Bakailu (bacalao) enkarbonao con pepitas de pimiento – “coaled” cod with pepper pips. Yes, yes. More bacalao. What can I say, I am obsessed.

A Fuego Negro
Calle 31 de Agosto, 31
http://www.afuegonegro.com/
Closed Mondays

BORDA BERRI
This place was similar to La Cuchara, and had some very good dishes.

Arroz bomba de txipiron – Paella rice with squid. Flavoursome, with just the right amount of bite in the rice grains.

Carrillera de ternera al vino tinto – Beef cheeks braised in red wine. This was very similar to the one at La Cuchara, and it was hard to pick a favourite between the two. The meat was more tender at Borda Berri, but the sauce was more flavoursome at La Cuchara. A tie then perhaps?

Risotto de hongos – risotto with mushrooms. One of my top 3 pintxos of the trip. The meatiness of the mushrooms was extremely evident in every mouthful, and it was so good that we went back to have another plate as a post-dinner ‘snack’. Like the risotto in La Cuchara, this was made with orzo. Such a revelation!

Queso de kabra tostado – grilled goats cheese. Goats cheese tastes so much better when cooked this way, I don’t know why we don’t do this more often here in England.

Viera asada con pure coliflor – Scallops with cauliflower puree. Nothing like fresh and well cooked scallops to make for a wonderful dish.

Kallos de bacalao – cod guts/tripe. I found this a little too slimy for my liking, but R liked this.

Borda Berri
Fermin Calbeton 12
Closed Mondays

BAR GOIZ ARGI

Brocheta de gambas – prawn bruschetta. This is what Bar Goiz Argi is famous for, and I can see why. Perfectly grilled prawns topped with the best salsa I have tasted in a long time. Excellent.

Chipiron a la plancha – grilled squid. This couldn’t have been more simple – grilled squid topped with olive oil and chopped parsley. Yet it was so delicious, and a perfect example of how you don’t have to do very much to good ingredients.

Hongos – this was one of the things I picked from the counter. By this time I’d already copped on to the fact that I was a huge fan of their mushrooms, so this was a no brainer really. 😉

Ma Juli – salmon and anchovies on bread. Good, but nothing mindblowing. I’d rather have another brocheta gambas over this I would think.

Bar Goiz Argi
Calle Fermin Calbeton 4
Closed Mondays

BAR TXEPETXA
This place is famous for their anchovies, and they offer a selection of 14 different variations of anchovy pintxos.

We tried four types – from front to back: foie y compota, papaya, jadinera (salsa) and huevas de erizo mar (urchin roe). My favourite was the papaya version, it was refreshingly different and not something I’d ever thought would work together.

Bar Txepetxa
Calle de Pescadería 5
Closed Mondays

MUNTO

Txipiron relleno y jamon iberico – squid stuffed with ham. The stuffing was nice and creamy, but I must say I didn’t taste too much ham in the filling though.

Txipiron a la plancha – grilled squid with caramelised onions. This was good, and the caramelised onions added a nice sweet touch to the squid.

Tarteleta txangurro – brown crab tart. The creamy crab filling was delicious, but the pastry could have been a little bit more crumbly and buttery. I like my pastries to ooze calories. 😛

Munto also served this massive plate of fried stuff, which I think was cheese. I saw a group of people next to us eating it, and was extremely intrigued by it. Shame I was already bursting with food, so didn’t get a chance to try it! Next time, perhaps…

Munto
Calle de Fermin Calbeton 17
Closed Mondays

LA CEPA

Platter of jamon jabugo – I almost squealed in delight when this was brought to the counter, as it was meat galore! Pricey, but oh so worth it.

Tortilla bacalao – cod omelette. I had seconds of this, as it was so good. They were very generous with the bacalao in this, and there was an abundance of cod flakes in the tortilla. I can only imagine how good it would have been if it was piping hot. Mmmm.

Hongos a la plancha – grilled mushrooms, served with an egg yolk. Now, this plate of mushroom goodness did not come cheap (it cost about 18 euros, much more than all the other pintxos in San Sebastian), but it was mindblowingly good. You know the meatiness of Portebello mushrooms? Well these ones were twice as meaty as Portebellos. Absolute heaven. I don’t think it even needed the egg yolk, as it was already amazing on its own. If I could I would not eat any other type of mushrooms, ever.

Ham sandwiches. We actually packed a few of this away on our last day in San Sebastian, as we (correctly) suspected we would have difficulty finding dinner in the airport at 9pm.

La Cepa
Calle 31 de Agosto, 7
http://www.barlacepa.com/

HIDALGO 56 – Gros
The only bar in the Gros district that we managed to get to… there was too much food, and too little time!

Antxoas… a humada – smoked anchovies. I was very impressed with the presentation of this, with smoke and all. The lady was obviously proud of this dish, and even pre-warned me when she was about to lift the cover, so I could take a photo. The anchovies themselves were plump, juicy and perfectly cooked.

Volcan de morcilla, yema, pasas, y manzana – black pudding with egg yolk, raisins and apple. Now I never tend to order black pudding as I’m not a huge fan of it’s texture, but had to try this because it sounded intriguing. Am very glad I did, because it was really, really good. The raisins and apples added balance to the salty black pudding, and the egg yolk brought everything together.

Lasana de hongos crema de foie gras – mushroom risotto with cream of foie gras. This was only so-so, and I couldn’t taste much foie gras, I suspect the balsamic glaze completely killed any hint of foie gras there might have been in the dish.

Hidalgo 56

Paseo colon 15
Gros

Also worth a mention is BAR ZERUKO – I was really looking forward to eating here, but they were CLOSED! They were on a month long break, and we were there right in the middle of their holiday. All the more reason for me to go back….

* A special word of thanks to Rachel of The Pleasure Monger, Guan of The Boy Who Ate The World, Ann & Jeff of Pig Pig’s Corner and the site Todopintxos for all the pintxo recommendations.

Coffee & matcha “Mexican” Rotiboy buns

One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is how it opens my eyes to a whole range of foods I would never have known about otherwise. It not only introduces me to ingredients that were previously foreign to me, but also introduces me to new places to eat in. I’m not sure if I’d have discovered some of my favourite places to eat (Byrons, Pearl Liang, Koya) if not for the blogosphere. Which is why I’ve been hesitant to blog about these buns.

If you’re Malaysian, chances are that you’ll know what these are. For anyone else, you’re probably thinking what on earth “Mexican buns” are. Well, I must admit that I have no idea why these are called Mexican buns – I don’t know much about Mexican food, but I’m pretty sure these buns don’t originate from Mexico. But when the buns taste as good as they do, frankly, I don’t really mind what they’re called. They’re basically a soft and fluffy bun, with a crunchy coffee crust and a melting buttery filling. Utter perfection, especially when eaten warm.

I still remember when these Mexican buns first burst onto the bakery scene back home, and how much I used to love eating them. The most “famous” buns were sold by a company called Rotiboy (where “roti” = bread, “boy” =  boy), which is why these buns are also known as “Rotiboy”. This company seems to have been founded in my hometown of Bukit Mertajam, Penang. I must say I never knew this, as I didn’t know of any Rotiboy outlets in BM or Penang at the start of the Mexican bun craze. We even used to buy a whole lot of buns from KL (that’s Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia) when we were there, and would freeze them for err… times of need. And now I find out they were founded in BM?! Ah well, nevermind.

But I was talking about how I had been hesitant to blog about these. Why? Well, I learnt how to make these in a baking class. As such, I didn’t feel that it was polite to share the recipe for the buns on the blog. And so these photos sat languishing in my backlog pile, whilst I tried to decide if I wanted to blog about them sans recipe. In the end, I emailed the lady who teaches the classes, who said that I could share the recipe for these buns via email (but not on the blog as her other students might get upset!). Which I felt was a fair request.

As always, I made some minor changes to the recipe. Instead of making only the “traditional” bun with a coffee crust and buttery filling, I made some with a matcha/green tea crust and a black sesame filling. The matcha version turned out well, but I must say that my loyalty still lies with the original coffee/butter combination.

These buns are made with a “sponge and dough” method, which consists of two stages. The first stage is the making of the “sponge” which is left in the fridge to slowly ferment/rise overnight. The second stage is when the “sponge” is added to all the other ingredients = forming the “dough”. Having made bread and buns with both the normal straight dough method (which is the conventional method you see in many recipes) and the “sponge and dough” method, I find that the latter produces softer and fluffier bread. An added plus is how the bread stays softer for longer.

These buns also freeze well, and it’s always nice to have a stash in your freezer for a quick fix when a craving hits! All you need to do is to heat it up in a hot oven (I usually use 180°C) for about 10 minutes until it’s heated through. Yummy buns that are freezable. See what I mean by perfection?

If you’re interested in giving these Mexican buns/Rotiboys a try, drop me an email and I’ll send the recipe to you.

You can also head towards Bee’s site Rasa Malaysia for an alternative recipe for these Mexican (Rotiboy) buns.

Fruit picking and a raspberry lemon frangipane tart

I love summer. The days last longer, it’s less gloomy (and therefore I’m less lazy), I get to wear floaty summery dresses… and best of all – the abundance of berries. Growing up in Malaysia meant that I rarely ate anything other than strawberries (strawberries are actually grown in Cameron Highlands, which is a holiday spot famous for their tea, strawberries, vegetables and flowers).

So, can you imagine my excitement when I came here and found that there were other berries in existence? Blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries… Ahhhh. 🙂

Now, I’d heard a lot about pick your own farms in the last few years. Somehow though, I’d never paid one a visit. I can’t really say why, because now that I’ve been I’m kicking myself for missing out on the experience in previous years! I visited Garsons Farm in Esher, Surrey which is apparently one of the largest pick your own farms in England. And when I got there, I could see why. It was massive. MASSIVE.

In fact, it was so big that I had trouble deciding where I should head for first. In the corner of my eye I spied some raspberry bushes, and the lovely red dots between all the green drew me right over. I admit that I morphed into a 5 year old child, and was in a state of utter excitement. Might have done some silly jumps in the air, but let us not dwell on that. The original plan was only to pick half a box of raspberries, but unsurprisingly I got carried away, and we ended up with a whole boxful. One can never have too many raspberries though, so all was good.

The “before” and “after” of raspberry picking. (Those white ‘stalks’ are why raspberries have that cone shaped ‘hole’ down their middles!)

Gooseberries. Time for an admission: I’d never eaten a fresh gooseberry prior to this. I’d only ever eaten dried gooseberries in cereal, and I did not like it. At all. Which is why on the rare occasion that I saw gooseberries being sold in Waitrose or Marks and Spencer, I would overlook them and reach for something else instead. But you know what? Fresh gooseberries are amazing. The skin is slightly sour, but beneath that sour outer layer is beautifully sweet flesh. I am now officially a gooseberry convert, and I only wish they were available for more months of the year!

Redcurrants. I’m a huge fan of redcurrants and blackcurrants – their dainty size has always been an attraction factor, and I couldn’t resist picking some. Just because I could, you know.

And then there were the strawberries. Being an ignorant person with absolutely no knowledge of plants, I was very surprised to find that the strawberry plants were so low. Somehow I’d always imagined them to be bigger and taller. The height of the plants did mean that there was a lot of squatting and rummaging through leaves (and bits of soil at times) to get to the strawberries – but it was all worth it. Not only did we end up with a huge mound of strawberries (again, I got slightly carried away), but it was also a very good form of exercise. My thigh muscles actually hurt the next day, much to my amusement.

Blackberries. These were planted in a beautiful way – not only in bushes, but also in vines (see the first photo of this post). This was by far, my favourite plant/bush. Simply because it was pretty, mind you. The blackberries are not as easy to pick as raspberries, as they are more stubbornly connected to their stalks. You have to apply the right amount of pressure to gently remove it of its stalk: too little pressure and it refuses to come off, too much pressure and you squish it. Not that it stopped me from picking a boxful of them though…

And it wasn’t just about the fruits/berries. There was also a wide range of vegetables to pick. There was spinach, which I must say looked different from the ones I normally buy. The leaves were much bigger – a different variety of spinach perhaps?

Beetroot. The beetroot patch was unfortunately quite barren as almost everything had been pulled out of the ground, but we still managed to get a good bunch to take home. Word of caution: your hands will get dirty! (And there were no taps around. We washed our hands with the water I’d brought along.)

This was the first time I pulled carrots out of the ground. And my, did it feel good. I kept on picturing Rabbit (from Winnie the Pooh) when I was doing this, for some strange reason. I’m silly that way.

Marrows. I didn’t get any as the berries were more enticing, and I had to be realistic R had to stop me from picking everything I saw.

A cauliflower, nesting beautifully within all those leaves.

Garden peas! And yes I did pick some, and used them for dinner the next day.

So yes. Pick your own farms are great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and all the other people who were visiting that same day looked like they were having a blast too. It’s a great activity for families, there were many children there getting all excited about picking their own strawberries etc! (Which I can totally relate to, of course.) The pick your own season is from June to September/October, so there’s still time to go this year. I’m already planning to revisit Garson’s before this season ends, and am hoping to get my hands on some apples, plums and squash!

But you might ask, what does one do with so much fruit? Well, you can eat them fresh. Or… you go on a baking frenzy. 😉

As I had returned from Garsons with what seemed like a million boxes of fruit, I started to trawl through my bookmarks folder to see what I could make with them. I decided on this raspberry lemon frangipane slice, which I saw on Julia’s blog (Mélanger :: to mix) a while back. I love Julia’s blog, and always look forward to reading her posts. If you don’t already know about her blog, do check it out.

This particular recipe called out to me the moment I laid eyes on it, as she used a sweet bread dough for the base of the slice (as opposed to the normal tart dough or biscuit base). She said that it made the slice very light, and I had been waiting for a chance to try out her recipe.

And my oh my did I enjoy these. The bread dough base added a very nice touch to the tart (I’m calling it a tart as I baked them in individual tart trays as opposed to a huge tray), and I enjoyed how it wasn’t overly sweet. The flavours of almond, raspberry and lemon also complemented each other beautifully. All it really needed was a nice sprinkling of icing sugar, and it was ready to be devoured. Thinking back, I should have served it with some ice cream on the side….

Basic sweet dough recipe
Based on this recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

Please note that although this recipe seems complicated, it isn’t. It just involves a lot of waiting time. If you don’t have the time to do it all in one day, do what I did and put the dough mixture into the fridge in between step 7 and 8. This allows the dough to slowly rise in the fridge, and you can take it out the next day and continue from step 9.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water (45°C)
  • 3.5g dried yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups of plain, all purpose flour
  • 115g butter, melted

1. Warm the milk in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge. (I used the microwave because I didn’t want to wash an extra saucepan). Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 45°C.
2. In the meantime, add the sugar to the warm water (in a large bowl/bowl of your stand mixer), and dissolve the yeast in this sugared water mixture. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the milk, salt, beaten eggs, and 1 cup of the flour. Beat the mixture until smooth. (I used the dough hook attachment of my mixer, at low speed)
4. Add 2 more cups of flour and continue to mix until the dough is glossy.
5. Add the melted butter and mix until just incorporated into the dough mixture.
6. Add a further 1 ½ cups of flour and continue to mix well.  Stir in the remaining ½ cup of flour bit by bit until the dough is stiff – you may not need to add it all.
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
8. Once the dough is rested, knead the dough lightly until it is smooth and glossy. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, lightly spraying the top of the dough with oil to prevent drying. Allow to double in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.
9. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and let rise again until almost doubled, about 1 hour. (I only left it to rise for about half an hour)
10. Turn out onto a floured surface.  You should have roughly have between 1.2kg of dough in total. The quantity of dough should be sufficient for three small loaves.
11. Once you have shaped your final dough, let rise for 20-30 minutes.
12. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C.  Brush lightly with egg and then bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on size. The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Note: I did not bake them as loaves. I used half of the dough for the tart, and the rest I saved for some bun making. 😉

Raspberry & lemon frangipane tart
Based on this recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

  • 1/2 batch of sweet bread dough (see above)
  • 90g almond meal
  • 90g butter, softened
  • 60g sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 egg

1. After the third rise, roll out the sweet bread dough to fit a lightly greased baking sheet. Allow-to proof for 20 minutes. *
2. Meanwhile, make the frangipane. Mix the butter, sugar and almond meal in a large bowl.
3. Add the lemon zest and the egg. Mix well until combined.
4. Spread the frangipane across the proofed dough. Sprinkle across raspberries (or berries of your choice).
5. Bake in a 180°C oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.

* I made these into tarts rather than slices, as you have probably gathered from the photos.

A very belated Easter post

I love Easter for many reasons. Not only does it give me an excuse to overdose on hot cross buns and easter eggs, but it also tells me that spring (and the sun) is just around the corner. I had great plans for this Easter weekend, which included making mini chocolate easter eggs, jellies in eggshells (which my aunt used to make and I found so cool) and hot cross buns. Alas, my plans were not to be as I was rather unfortunately working over Easter – which I was highly upset about, naturally!

I did, however, manage to find some time to bake some hot cross buns. A few years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of baking hot cross buns, especially when there are such amazing ones available at Marks & Spencer (especially the luxury ones, oh my) and Waitrose. Of course, this was when I thought baking bread was too difficult and required too much work. But as I become more obsessed with food *cough* I do feel the need to recreate the food I like in my own kitchen.

I used this recipe from Wild Yeast for these hot cross buns. What I liked about this recipe was that it uses a mix of plain and wholemeal/wholewheat flour, which adds that “healthier” edge to the buns. Do be forewarned though – I commonly throw in one healthy ingredient into my meals and declare it good for myself, even when it’s so blatantly not the case. Another thing I found interesting was how it used a sponge dough method – I previously made some buns (Rotiboy buns for you Malaysians out there who know what these are) with this method, and they turned out to be the softest, fluffiest buns I had ever made.

And these buns didn’t disappoint. They were best eaten warm, fresh out of the oven, and were really soft and light. I cut down on the amount on sugar used, and also only used raisins (as I didn’t have anything else to hand) so these were not as sweet as the hot cross buns you normally get in stores. I did feel that my hot cross buns lacked some dried fruit though – the next time I make them, I will use a mixture of sultanas, raisins and currants. And I will use a LOT of it! (p.s. I don’t use orange peel as I’m not a huge fan of orange in bread)

I must admit to having a mini-disaster when trying to pipe the crosses onto the buns. I didn’t have a suitable tip for piping them, which I rather helpfully discovered only after I was left with ridiculously thick crosses onto the buns. This was unacceptable to the OCD in me, so I scraped that off and started pacing the kitchen (whilst eating some chocolate to stimulate my brain) for an alternative way to pipe these crosses. I considered using a spoon to drizzle it on, but that would result in uneven crosses. And finally I had another idea – to use my squeeze ketchup bottle. And it worked perfectly (thankfully!). Anyway, the moral of the story is: always ensure you have everything you need before trying to cook or bake anything.

And because there were quite a few leftover hot cross buns, R suggested that I try making a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding. I believe it was something he saw Jamie Oliver make on the food channel (the food channel is the source of a lot of inspiration I must admit). As always, we decided on this on a whim, which also meant we didn’t have a lot of ingredients to hand. So, I guiltily admit to using a “sort of” custard for the base of this pudding – made from milk, vanilla bean paste and… custard powder. I know, I know. Terrible. Rest assured that it tastes nothing like the real thing, but it still made for a pretty good pudding. I think it would have tasted amazingly good if I had used proper custard though…

Let me also mention to these amazing hot cross buns that popped up on the blogosphere this Easter. How good do those look? Man.

Hot cross buns
Slightly tweaked from this recipe from Wild Yeast

For the sponge dough:

  • 40g bread flour
  • 190g warm milk
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 8g instant yeast

For the final dough:

  • 170g bread flour
  • 170g wholemeal bread flour
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 55g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3g salt
  • 1 tbsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 120g raisins

For the piping paste:

  • 80g plain flour
  • 10g oil
  • 45g water

For the glaze:

  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar

1. For the sponge, combine milk and yeast in a medium bowl. Whisk in flour and sugar. The mixture will be very liquid. Cover and let rest until it is about 3 times its original volume, 30–40 minutes. (I left it for a good 2 hours as I decided to err… nap.)
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle, mix final dough flour, whole wheat flour, and softened butter until the butter is evenly distributed through the flour.
3. Add egg, sugar, spices, and salt. Continue to mix until combined. The mixture will be quite dry at this point.
4. Replace the mixer paddle with the dough hook. Add the sponge and start mixing in low speed. Add water as needed to make a very soft dough and mix until well combined, about 3 minutes. It is almost more like a cookie dough at this point, and will not come together yet.
5. Mix in medium speed, occasionally scraping the dough down the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix until the dough starts to leave the sides and come together around the dough hook. This may take about 8 minutes, but will varies depending on the mixer.
6. Add the currants and orange and lemon peels. Mix in low speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
7. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, covered container. Ferment in a warm place for 1 hour.
8. Turn the dough onto an unfloured counter and divide it into 12 pieces (about 70g each).
9. Lightly punch each piece of dough and tuck the edges under to form a loose ball. To tighten the ball, place it on the counter with your cupped hand loosely around it, and move your hand in a tight circle several times.
10. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press them lightly with your palm to flatten them a bit.
12. Cover and proof in a warm place for about an hour.
13. While the buns proof, make the glaze. Combine the sugar, hot water and honey. Mix well.
14. Now make the piping paste. Sift the flour and combine it with the vegetable oil. Slowly add water, stirring well after each addition, until the mixture reaches the consistency of very thick glue. Don’t make it so thin that it runs, but if it is too thick it will be difficult to pipe.
15. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
16. When the buns are finished proofing, pipe the crosses onto them using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch round tip. (Or in my case, by using a squeeze ketchup bottle)
17. Bake the buns until the tops of the buns brown (this took about 10 minutes in my oven). To check that the buns are cooked, tap the bottom of the buns – they should sound hollow.
18. Brush a light coating of glaze on the hot buns, and serve.

As I mentioned earlier, I did not use a proper recipe for the hot cross bun bread and butter pudding. I made some (instant) custard, added some vanilla bean paste, soaked the (buttered) buns in this mixture, and baked for about 20 mins at 180°C. For a better, more coherent recipe, do check out this recipe from Jamie Oliver, which I will be using in the future.