Friday, 15 April 2011

Cross Cultural Communication..... or miscommunication

As promised last post, I have some recipes to share.  I am going to start with the latest project and work backwards... just for fun.

Easter is fast approaching and one of the things I really miss living in France is hot cross buns.  The closest thing that we can get to them here is a panettone - yes, before you say it, I agree - not even close.

Try explaining hot cross buns to someone French.  The best translation of the name I could come up with at an instants notice was "petit pains de croix chaud" (small rolls of hot crosses).  Some things just do not translate.

The flavour however, well that is another kettle of fish... or dough.  So far those I have (force)fed the buns have marvelled at how light and tasty they are.  I may not have this cross cultural communication thing down pat, but I surely can cross the cultural divide with a soft, warm, spicy bun spread with local butter.  These are delicious hot with fresh butter, and if you have any leftover I imagine they would be fabulous toasted too.  I need to bake another batch to test this theory though as none left of the first batch.  Gannets, what can I say.

I read a few blogs each morning, dipping in and out of them as the mood takes me.  One that I am especially impressed with is an Australian blog 120dollarsfoodchallenge.  Sandra is a creative cook who is trying to make meals for the family on a tight budget.  There is a whole story about the creation of her blog, and a lot of controversy.  Personally, I think what she is doing is great and kudos to her for encouraging people on limited incomes to feed themselves and their families healthfully and without missing out on treats and flavour.

Anyway, whilst browsing her blog the other day I saw a recipe for hot cross buns.  My heart skipped a beat.  My mouth watered.  The little voice in my head went "Oh yuck, fiddly and complicated".  (Really need to trade the little voice in my head for on a new one someday).

After reading the recipe and thinking about it, I realised that it really was simple.  Rather than the complicated, fussy instructions normally found, Sandra has given a clear and easy to follow recipe with no tricks or extra steps.  Wonderful.

I have given you Sandra's blog link, and will give you the recipe that I wound up creating from it.  Take your pick between them, or adjust again for your tastes.  One great thing with Sandra's recipe is that she gives you instructions for making in a breadmaker.  Still waiting for mine to arrive from Australia with all our goods and chattels, so I made mine by hand.

Thanks to Pestoman and Pamela who gifted me two Historic New Orleans Collection mugs.  The perfect size for an afternoon tea time drink, and lovely to look at as well.

Hot Cross Buns - A Debbie Version

1/3 cup fine sugar (caster sugar if you have it)
2 teaspoons dried yeast (or 2 5g sachets)
1 and 1/2 cups warm milk
600g flour (plain not self raising)
1/2 teaspoon salt
good grind of cinnamon
big shake of 5 spice
good grind of nutmeg
60g unsalted butter melted
1 egg lightly beaten
as many sultanas as you want (no more than 1 cup though)

Mix sugar, milk and yeast in a bowl till well combined.  Set aside 10 minutes till yeast activates and the mix goes frothy

Put flour salt and spices in huge bowl.  Add wet mix, butter, egg and sultanas.  Mix till combined but do not over mix.  Leave in warm spot till doubled in size (can take 30-45 mins).

Once risen, turn onto floured board and knead gently until smooth and elastic.  This may take a few minutes.  Do not knead heavily or you will break up the fruit.

Divide dough into 16 pieces and fashion each piece into a ball.  Place balls in a greased and lined tin with small space between each one.  Leave 10-15mins till balls double in size.
Bake 20 mins at 220C, or till browned on top and lovely and big and fluffy.

Glaze with a teaspoon of homemade peach jam and splash of water heated till liquid.  Cool on rack

Eat immediately they cool enough to touch

  • The original recipe calls for a 30 X 30cm cake tin to bake these in.  I used a small roasting tray instead.  So long as it has high sides you can basically use whatever size tin you want.  Next time I will  put 2/3 of balls in one tin and the rest in another.  I felt they were too cramped and did not rise or bake as well as they could have.
  • We do not have plain and self raising flour here.  I used an organic flour (think it was type 65??)
  • Yeast comes as sachets of 5g or fresh here in France.  I used 2 sachets of dried which is slightly more than 2 teaspoons.
  • Caster sugar is not available here, so I used a fine grained sugar instead.  It is being melted into the milk and yeast mix so it is not a huge stress if you don't have caster sugar.
  • The original recipe called for precise measurements of cinnamon and mixed spice.  I love nutmeg and did not have mixed spice, so went with my own pantry spices.
  • Original recipe called for 1/3 cup of currants.  I put in the same amount of sultanas (currants not available here) and it looked paltry, so I added more till it looked right for me.

Normally these buns should have a flour paste cross and a clear glaze on top.  Personally I think the flour paste cross is a tasteless, nasty addition and the clear glaze the same.  Why ruin a delicious treat with things I do not like.  So I glazed with homemade jam instead and it looks pretty as well as tasting great.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Blossoming in Buxerolles

Long time no news.  Sorry.  The move has taken a lot of energy and time and I have had nothing left for other activities such as blogging and emailing.

We are all moved in now and awaiting the arrival of our possessions from Australia.  It will be so good to have our "treasures" around us.  I will never again take for granted photographs, books and the assorted memorabilia that makes a house a home.

The past month has flown by.  When we arrived it was still very wintery and cold.  Heavy frosts each morning and the trees were completely bare.  Within the month spring has gradually forged its way into being and we are seeing more sunshine each day (and more rainy days.... but that is another story) and an increase in temperature.

We are lucky enough to have three forsythia in the garden, which heralded the arrival of spring with a profusion of bright golden yellow blooms.  So bright that it almost hurt your eyes to look at them after the long grey and bleak days of winter.

I have discovered wild strawberries, violets and cyclamens throughout the garden.  In fact, our lawn is more of them than grass!  Oh well, at least they are pretty.  I have given the lawn a good feed, weeded and added grass seeds.  Hopefully by summer we will have a nice lawn to enjoy.  The scent of the violets has been amazing and the lawn has more purple flowers than green at present, so I am not too stressed.  Yet.

The native annuals have popped up everywhere in the edges of the garden and it is a very pretty sight.  I have been holding off on cutting the grass in certain patches so that they can flower and seed for next year.  It gives a sort of wild meadow effect, which is not tidy and groomed, but a haven for bees and other insects and attracts the birds.

Our neighbours have many fruit and nut trees which overhang our boundary.  We are going to enjoy almonds, hazelnuts and cherries courtesy of them.  The picture above is of the cherry tree in full bloom.  Really beautiful against a blue sky and with a lovely perfume too.  It overhangs our terrace area, so will be convenient for sitting around and plucking fresh cherries for dessert after a bbq.

The vegetables are planted in raised garden beds and are flourishing.  I have picked my first crop of rhubarb and made compote to eat with homemade yoghurt.  A herb bed will be going in this week, and tomatoes after the weekend.  There is still the occasional frost so cannot go crazy with the softer, less hardy plants yet.

We are really enjoying our new home and the area.  The neighbours are all welcoming and kind, and it has been a pleasure interacting with people in our day to day lives.  None of the stress and angst that you face in Paris.

More photos and posts will follow.  I am in the midst of brewing strawberry ratafia, limoncello, and other goodies.  A set of six art deco dining chairs is also in the process of renovation.  Lots to do.  Will try and keep you up to date with it all.