Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Do you have a tradition of eating hot cross buns on Good Friday like we do in our family? Every Good Friday I can remember as a child included eating delicious hot cross buns my mother had made that day.

Smooth, round rolls of sweet bread dotted with raisins and crossed with a delicious glaze on top. They made the house smell good and I couldn't wait to eat them. We'd sing the "Hot Cross Buns" song and talk about what the cross represented on the buns that special day.

My mom is currently living in England, so she's getting the authentic treat right now and says the bakery windows are filled with these yummies.

I've made different recipes of gluten-free hot cross buns over the last couple of years and I think this year I finally came as close to recreating Mom's originals from the Joy of Cooking recipe as I will probably get. Last year I played around with different flours but didn't get anything with a decent texture. They were more like bread-type cookies.

This year I used the some of the same flours I use in my yeast bread recipe and had success. For these photos, I placed the dough in muffin tins to be sure they came out round. When I make these again on Friday, I'll attempt them on baking sheets in what will hopefully bake into nice round rolls (I'll try a tester first and use muffin tins again if they don't turn out). They don't look quite the same as my mom's, but the taste is definitely there. And it's definitely good!

Another thing I like about this recipe is I used just a saucepan and wooden spoon. No mixer required!

Projected time, start to finish including rise: About 2 1/2 hours
(Printable Recipe)

1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup organic pure cane sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup raisins
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest or 1/2 tsp. dried lemon zest
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. very warm water
1 large egg
2 cups Pamela's bread mix and flour blend (not the baking mix)
2/3 cup millet flour

Icing for cross:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. milk

In a large saucepan, heat milk until hot but not boiling.

Add butter, sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and lemon zest. Let cool to warm. (You want it just warm enough to not cook the egg.)

In a small bowl combine warm water and yeast, let sit for a few minutes. Stir into milk mixture.

Beat egg into milk mixture.

Sift flours together and pour a small amount into the milk mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon. Continue adding a little at a time, beating with the wooden spoon, until it's all mixed. Continue to beat with wooden spoon for about a minute or so, until everything is combined well and a nice dough has formed.

Place in a large greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Set in a warm place to rise, about an hour, until doubled.

Doubled ...

If using muffin tins, grease them first and then place 18 equal portions into the tins. If you want to try shaping the buns yourself, grease baking sheets and round 18 balls to place on the sheets.

Cover again and let rise in warm place until nearly doubled again, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. You'll want to use the top rack if you are using a gas oven. (I'm playing with it here. The original recipe called for 425 degrees and I started with 400. They were baking too fast so I lowered it to 375 and baked for less time. I'm giving you an estimate on the full time at 375 until I make them again.)

Bake approximately 15-20 minutes or until done.

Let cool completely and then make crosses on top with the icing.

To make the icing, in a small bowl combine the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Stir well to combine. If it's not thick enough to hold a line to form the cross, add a little more sugar at a time until it is.


For my photo of beauty, I'm sharing another flower photo. We have wildflowers blooming for spring - not as many as I'd like with the drought going on but enough to enjoy their beauty. I love the vibrant red and orange in the Indian paintbrushes. I hope you have a beautiful weekend, and Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Triple Chocolate Brownies

Brownies from scratch. Those three words have always made my mouth water instantly, like Pavlov's dog. Brownies from a box aren't bad, but from scratch have always had that extra something that you can't quite put your finger on but you know it's good.

I love that brownies are versatile, full of flavor combinations, possibilities and textures and fairly simple to whip together and bake. They are perfect for any time of the year and nearly any occasion. So I was happy to see that Mary Fran from FrannyCakes, our host for this month's Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, had chosen brownies as our challenge. (Thank you, Mary Fran!)

Logo designed by Anile Prakash

Be sure to stop by Mary Fran's host post of Gluten-Free Hazelnut (Nutella) Brownies (be still, my heart! Nutella!) and drool over her offering as well as all the other amazing recipes my fellow participants baked up for you this month.

I chose to go with chocolate brownies because I felt chocolate was the perfect way to celebrate my one-year anniversary with the rally. I got started the second month into it last year, and I haven't regretted a minute of it. It's been so fun to have my eyes opened to possibilities I never imagined in the kitchen, as well as get to know my fellow rally bloggers a little bit better.

If you aren't familiar with the rally yet, you can learn more at the original introduction post by Shauna at Gluten-Free Girl as well as my other rally recipes that link up to the hosts each month on my Gluten-Free Ratio Rally page. By baking and cooking with weight and using a ratio, you can free yourself to create endless possibilities in your kitchen.

For these brownies, I came up with a ratio of 2 parts sugar: 1part fat: 1 part egg: 1 part flour. I based this from a recipe I created when I was pregnant with my oldest and was home alone for a week in desperate need of some serious chocolate. For this challenge, I played around with the flours and types of sugar and chocolate, and these ratio brownies ended up being less chocolate-y than the original gluten ones from years ago. My husband doesn't care for chocolate as much as I do, so I settled on cocoa powder for the final recipe I'm sharing today rather than the melted baking chocolate the originals call for.

I wish I could say the final product is perfect, but for me to call them perfect they would have a bit more chewiness to them. (Edit: Psssst ... I finally achieved it! See the edit in directions for the chewy perfection! This also gives them an awesome crunchy top.) That being said, however, I think that's all they are missing. If I baked them a little longer, they may or may not come out a little chewier and I might try that next time (tonight, maybe?). They aren't really cake-like brownies but are very fudge-y. I wish they had a little more chew, but I'm still quite happy with the texture and the entire pan was eaten quickly by everyone in the family. They definitely meet all the requirements in my mind for a really good from-scratch brownie taste.

Projected prep time: 10 minutes; Projected bake time: 25-30 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

4 ounces (1 stick, 1/2 cup or 8 Tbsp.) butter (I used salted)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (forgot to weigh, will edit next time)
8 ounces pure cane sugar (I used refined sugar for this recipe)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 ounces eggs (2 large eggs)
2 ounces (56 grams) brown rice flour
1 ounce (28 grams) teff flour
1 ounce (28 grams) potato starch (you can use tapioca here instead but I liked the potato texture a little better)
1 tsp. ground chia seed (I use Salba brand)
2 ounces (56 grams or about 1/3 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 ounces (56 grams or about 1/3 cup) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional (forgot to weigh, will edit next time)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8 baking pan.

Sift flours together with ground chia.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat and cool to lukewarm.

Mix in sugar and stir until smooth. Mix in salt, cocoa and vanilla and stir until well-incorporated.

Mix in eggs until smooth.

Mix in flour blend until smooth.

Mix in chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and pecans.

Spread into greased pan. (Edit: If you want to achieve the chewy factor, let the batter sit in the pan for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably an hour, before baking. Then try to let them cool before cutting them - they will be great!)

Bake for approximately 25-30 (they'll be a little chewier at 30 minutes) minutes or until done. For best results, let cool before cutting. (But they are good hot and gooey!)


Please don't forget to stop by Mary Fran's post to see her delicious brownies, as well as all the other amazing brownies baked up by the participants this month! Just look at this list - how can you not be hungry for brownies right now? Thank you, again, Mary Fran!

Adina from Gluten Free Travelette made Chocolate Brownie Pie with Orange Zest
Angela from Angela's Kitchen made Gluten & Dairy Free Cream Egg Brownies
Brooke from B & the boy! made Triple Chocolate Brownies
Caitlin from {Gluten Free} Nom Nom Nom made Peppermint Brownie Bars
Caleigh from Gluten Free[k] made White chocolate and marshmallow brownies
Caneel from Mama Me Gluten Free made Triple chocolate brownies
Charissa Luke from Zest Bakery made Slutty gluten-free brownies
Claire from My Gluten Free Home PB&J Brownie Whoopee Pies
Claire from This Gluten-Free Life made St. Patty's Day Marshmallow Swirl Brownies
Erin from The Sensitive Epicure made Mexican Cocoa Brownies with an Almond & Pepitas Crust
gretchen from kumquat made salted caramel brownies
Heather from Discovering the Extraordinary made Nutmeg Blondies
Irvin from Eat the Love made Blueberry Citrus Marble Brownies
Jean from Gluten-Free Doctor Recipes made Blue Ribbon Brownies
Jenn Cuisine made Grain free brownies with no-bake ricotta cheesecake cream
Jonathan from The Canary Files made Vegan Marbled Banana Walnut Brownies
Karen from Cooking Gluten Free! made GF Chewy Crackled Top Brownies with Raspberry Puree
Mary Fran from FrannyCakes made Gluten-Free Hazelnut (Nutella) Brownies
Morri from Meals with Morri made Oaxacan Brownies & Mesquite Cacao Blondies
~Mrs. R from Honey From Flinty Rocks made Black Bean S'More Brownies
Pete and Kelli from No Gluten, No Problem made Caramel Mexican Chocolate Mesquite Brownies
Rachel from The Crispy Cook made Co-Co Nut-Nut Blondies
Shauna from Gluten-Free Girl made Gluten-Free Brownies
Tara from A Baking Life made Mint Chocolate Flourless Brownies
TR | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies Gluten Free Berry Fudge Brownies 

(And for my photo of beauty today, I'm sharing another bluebonnet photo from my neighbor's gorgeous crop. Can you find the ladybug? I love all the blue surrounding me this time of year - I hope you are finding the beauty surrounding you!)

Why I'm sharing this:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

365 Project - March!

Another month has gone by and April is here. My girls just have two months of school left until summer break!

I'm so glad I've been documenting some of the things I've found beautiful and/or interesting in my days through the camera. I have a feeling it will turn into a lifetime hobby that I can't live without.

Above you can see all the photos I've shared on my 365 Project page for March.

Below, I wasn't able to get too close but there were two (male and female) woodpeckers in a neighbor's tree during a brief walk the other day. They were making so much noise and seemed to be pleased with the results of their work.

Tomorrow, I'll be sharing this month's ratio rally challenge (brownies!) and plan to share a successful hot cross buns recipe with you on Thursday.

I hope you find beauty in your day today!

Why I'm sharing this:

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easy Eggplant Cacciatore

It's a great feeling when you come up with an experimental recipe AND it doesn't take too long. Many times the experimental recipes I'm happy with are delicious, but they take longer than I anticipated or have several steps to get them "just right." This is one of those recipes that is fairly quick and you can't get much simpler as far as how to prepare it. It was a winner in our home, and will be made time and time again.

I was thinking the other day of how easy my chicken cacciatore recipe is and how much I love that it lasts for more than one meal. I wanted to do something different, though, and make it even healthier. I can do without meat for most of meals and wanted something that was very filling and would last for leftovers. I switched out the chicken for eggplant in this recipe and wasn't disappointed. It uses only three ingredients!

In the photo above, I just spread a little spinach to the side of the cacciatore. To eat it, I served over a bed of fresh spinach. The spinach wilted a little from the heat and they taste great together.

Projected time, start to finish: Under 1 hour (note if you use brown rice, this will take a little longer unless you cook it in advance)
(Printable Recipe)

2 medium eggplant
Kosher salt
3 cups cooked rice
23 ounces marinara sauce of your choice (I used a jar of Prego marinara)

Start rice to cook, unless you cooked it ahead of time. (When it's finished, let it sit.)

Wash eggplant and chop off ends. No need to peel. Slice eggplant into 1/2-inch (approximately - you don't want them too thin) rounds and then cube the rounds by slicing vertically and then horizontally. You want good-sized chunks of eggplant.

Place eggplant in large bowl and generously sprinkle with kosher salt, tossing to combine. Let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out some of the moisture.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place eggplant in a colander and rinse off the salt, shake to remove excess water then pat eggplant with paper towels to remove more moisture.

Turn eggplant onto parchment paper in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Pour marinara sauce into large pan or skillet, then add eggplant and stir to coat. Heat on medium heat until bubbling, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Fluff rice while eggplant simmers.

Add rice to eggplant, stir to combine and simmer for five more minutes.

Serve with salad or over a bed of fresh spinach (heat will wilt spinach a little bit).


My photo of beauty today isn't the best quality, but it was the best I could get of this mockingbird. Because I wasn't trying to sleep, the chatter didn't bother me. It was running all around in the front yard making all sorts of racket and looking quite cute.

Why I'm sharing this:


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