chocolate hot cross muffy buns

chocolate hot cross muffy buns
These little darlings combine three of my favourite things: holidays, baking and ridiculous portmanteaus.

Somehow it doesn’t really feel like Easter until I’ve had hot cross buns. That particular blend of cinnamon and mixed spice wafting through the house and the snug pleasure of knowing you get to crawl out of a warm bed and dive into a buttery hot cross bun with a cup of steaming coffee… oh, friends. I wish this for you.

I’ve written before about my long-standing prejudice against raisins, so for me, it has to be chocolate and spice. I did use dark chocolate in this batch, but I used milk chocolate in another batch that never made it in front of the camera, and I have to say that even though I’m an eternal dark chocolate fan, the milk works better in this recipe and gives them some balance.

Chocolate hot cross buns
It’s not Easter until you’ve had a chocolate hot cross muffy bun.

Sensible folk could quite rightly wonder why these buns ended up in a muffin tin, and ok, I admit it wasn’t something I actually planned. But I’ve been reading a bit about getting the right rise out of breads, and one of the points made on a few baking blogs is that a wide container that doesn’t support the sides will result in a flatter (though no less lovely) loaf. I wanted high-rise, and it seemed like my baking tray was going to be too large, so the muffin tray stepped in to save the day.

Afterwards, my sister named them muffy buns and we laughed ourselves silly. And really, I can’t think of a better way to welcome Easter in the door.

Happy Easter, everyone!

chocolate chip hot cross buns
Still warm from the oven.

Chocolate hot cross buns (makes 12, adapted from BBC Good Food)
For the buns:
400g plain flour
1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
65g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp mixed spice
1½ tsp cinnamon
250ml warm milk
50g melted butter
1 medium egg
100g chocolate chips (see note above)

For the crosses:
50g flour
1 tsp sugar
4-5 tbsp water

For the glaze:
1 tbsp apricot jam

Put the flour, spices and sugar into a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other.

Pour the milk, egg and butter into the centre of the well and begin mixing. It will form a strongly sticky dough. Keep kneading the dough for ten minutes.

Add the chocolate chips and knead them in until worked through.

Cut the dough into twelve equal portions. Lightly score the tops in a cross shape and place into an oiled container. Cover with cling film.

Leave to rise until doubled in size. In my cool kitchen this took about 2 hours.

Make the paste for the crosses. Spoon into a piping bag (I used a plastic ziplock) and pipe over the buns into the cross shape.

Transfer to a well-greased muffin tray and bake at 200C for 20 minutes.

When they come out of the oven, mix the apricot jam with a tiny bit of hot water, then brush over the top of the buns.

hazelnut chocolate chip cookie pizza

There's just more to love about a cookie pizza.
There’s just more to love about a cookie pizza.

Cronuts. Duffins. Dagels. Bruffins. I’m not sure what it is about hybrid bakery products that I find so amusing, but whenever I see them – the cheeky yet artful blending of the best of two beloved classics and some reckless portmanteau assigned – I giggle like a schoolgirl. Sure, they’re classics for a reason… but weren’t rules made to be broken?

With that in mind, let me introduce you to the pizzcuit.

chocolate chip pizza cookie
The latest bakery hybrid.

 

The pizzcuit is a rather delightful combination of glorious crumbly cookie and the harmonious shape of a pizza. Baked in a large circle and cut into slices, the pizzcuit is a family cookie. And by that I mean it’s sweet and nutty and special and made for sharing.

There’s a cup of oats in this cookie, which makes the edges chewy and a little crisp, and the centre stays fudgy and moreish. I haven’t strayed too far from the original recipe except to choose hazelnuts over walnuts and a different type of dark sugar – and I’ll admit it took me two goes to get this right!

So here’s what I learned:

  • Be careful about how you chop your chocolate. Too fine and you don’t get those satisfying chocolate chunks; too large and the cookie won’t hold together properly. 1cm chunks is as large as you should go.
  • Use a pizza tray or the bottom of a cake mould. It’s possible to shape a perfect circle with your hands, but it won’t stay perfect for long when it goes in the oven. This cookie spreads at least a good 2cm in every direction.
  • It’s super hard to resist eating a warm cookie, so you should definitely split the dough into 2 batches and make smaller pizzas so you can dive in right away and still have something to show the guests the next day. Or you can make one large pizza cookie and feel smug about your self-control, don’t mind me.
Anyone for a slice?
Anyone for a slice?

Hazelnut chocolate chip cookie pizza
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
6 tbsps butter
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup oats
¾ cup dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup hazelnuts

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together in a large bowl.

In a saucepan, melt the butter on low. Remove from heat and stir in the sugars.

When slightly cool, whisk in the egg and vanilla.

Pour into the flour mixture and combine with a wooden spoon.

Stir in the oats, dark chocolate and nuts

Spoon the batter onto a pizza tray lined with baking paper, then shape into a neat circle. Bake for 20 minutes at 190C, allow to cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then slide onto wire rack to cool for another 10 minutes.

Cut into slices and serve with glasses of (almond) milk.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
Little treasures.

Cookies are one of life’s bite-sized little pleasures. I’m not even sure it matters, sometimes, what kind of cookie it is or even if it’s very good or elaborate or artisanal or experimental. On long days filled with an endless list of chores, on cranky days with befuddling annoyances, on rainy days with grey skies, what’s important is taking a minute to sit down with a cookie and a cup of tea and acknowledging that you deserve this.

You really do.

When was the last time you had a chocolate chip cookie?
When was the last time you had a chocolate chip cookie?

I’m all for weird and wonderful flavours and bold, daring culinary contortions, but sometimes I crave a very simple treat: a chocolate chip cookie. Not one laden with three kinds of chocolate and cocoa powder everywhere, either, like you’re biting into an entire Cadbury’s factory. Standard, plain chocolate chip. It’s the simple things that are often the best.

Ready to bake
Ready to bake

Of course, I couldn’t go very long without trying to find a gluten-free solution for my coeliac buddies, and happily I didn’t have to search very far: Sprouted Kitchen has crafted a wonderfully easy recipe that uses very few ingredients and makes delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies (the Minimalist Baker captures it beautifully here).

I’m not going to say that these cookies could possibly be better than regular cookies. But we both know that I’ll be thinking it, quietly, over here in the corner of my little kitchen.

Enjoy! xx

gluten free chocolate chip cookies
Everyone deserves these.

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
1¼ cups almond meal
½ cup desiccated coconut
¼ cup dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup muscovado sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract

Mix together the almond meal, coconut, chocolate, baking powder, salt and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until fluffy and doubled in volume, then whisk in the coconut oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the dough from the fridge and shape into 7cm discs. They don’t flatten very much during cooking, so how they go into the oven is pretty much how they’ll stay. They do relax slightly, though, so make sure you leave a little room between the discs.

Bake for 7-10 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove and allow to cool on the tray.

chocolate chip hot cross buns

A delightful little Easter treat.
A delightful little Easter treat.

It’s the end of the Lenten season, which always means hot cross buns.

When I was little, I liked the delicately spiced buns, but hated the sickly sweet hit of the raisins and currants. It would take me ages to eat one because I would have to pull it apart, picking out the fruit and eating the bread. Occasionally I would get impatient and try to eat too much at once, accidentally biting into a fat, disturbingly squishy saccharine pod or a slightly bitter piece of peel. I would have given up on them altogether, but there’s something very festive and special about the scent of a warm hot cross bun wafting through the house.

Chocolate chip hot cross buns: all fun, no fruity fuss.
Chocolate chip hot cross buns: all fun, no fruity fuss.

It was a glorious day when Baker’s Delight introduced chocolate chip hot cross buns. To me, it’s the ideal substitute since the cinnamon and chocolate go together perfectly and there’s no unexpected fruit bombs going off where they shouldn’t be.

I’m completely new to making bread, which always makes for a few nerves. I tried my best to tinker with recipes, playing with wholemeal ratios, types of sugar and quantities of butter in an effort to make them healthier, but eventually I found that it’s best not to mess too much with hot cross buns – you just won’t get the same experience. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable enough with baking to perfect a recipe for wholemeal low-sugar butter-free hot cross buns, but for now I’m going to sit back and enjoy a sweet treat.

Happy Easter!

For who can resist a hot cross bun, still warm from the oven?
For who can resist a hot cross bun, still warm from the oven?

Chocolate chip hot cross buns (makes 12)
For the buns:
1 tablespoon dried yeast
2 tablespoons of honey
100ml warm water
100ml warm milk
450g plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg
50g melted butter
200g dark chocolate chips
For the crosses:
50g flour
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablepoons water

Dissolve the honey in 100ml hot water and 50ml milk. Make sure the liquid is comfortably hot and add the yeast, covering it with a clean tea towel. Leave for 5 minutes until it forms a good froth on the surface.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, salt, spices and chocolate chips together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

When the yeast mix is ready, pour it into the well with the egg, melted butter and 50ml of warm milk. Mix gradually until it forms a rough dough, then turn it out onto a clean surface.

The rough dough
The rough dough

Knead for about 7 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

Watching dough come together is kind of magical.
Watching dough come together is kind of amazing.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth, leaving it in a warm spot in the kitchen. Leave until it doubles in size (takes about an hour).

Take the dough and knead it back to its original size, then cut it into 12 balls. Score the tops in the shape of a cross and place into a deep baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cover and leave for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crosses by mixing the flour with the water and vanilla. Roll into strips and attach to the top of the balls by wetting them slightly.

Bake at 190 degrees for 20 minutes.

Just before you pull them out of the oven, you can make the glaze by gently heating the sugar and water until it forms a syrup. Brush the buns with the glaze while they’re still warm.

banana and avocado muffins

A new way to use avocados, those versatile darlings.
A new way to use avocados, those versatile darlings.

This one requires a small leap of faith.

Not in the way of ‘here, eat these crickets, they’re really tasty and an excellent source of protein’ or anything, but enough that I ask for your trust as we explore the world of using avocados in baking.

What?! Why would you do that to a delicious avocado? Has the London smog gotten to your brain?

I know, right. And yet there is a point to the madness; avocados are a great substitute for butter. Whereas butter is over 50% saturated fat, avocados contain just 2.1g per 100g. Avocados are high in fibre, a good source of potassium and folic acid, and have no cholesterol.

Go on, get yourself an avocado. I’ll wait.

banana and avocado muffins... with hazelnuts and dark chocolate chips.
Banana and avocado muffins… with hazelnuts and dark chocolate chips.

Even knowing all this, using them in baking can be a bit of a stretch. What if my cake goes a lurid green? What if it tastes strange and salad-like? Should I dump the lot in cornbread with some jalapeños and just have an all-in-one Mexican meal?

Please don’t worry. These muffins are light and moreish; the avocado makes them moist without being greasy. I promise you can’t taste the avocado, and the wholemeal flour means that they also keep you full for a good long time. These muffins are smug, ‘I’m being good but also rather decadent’, win-win muffins.

I have it on my bestie’s authority that avocados are also fantastic in a smoothie – but that is another post for another time.

Light, moist and moreish. You'll just have to trust me on this one.
Light, moist and moreish. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Banana and avocado muffins
2 small ripe avocados
2 overripe bananas
1 cup sugar (I used about half a cup of golden caster sugar and then two tablespoons of honey)
2 eggs
1 tsp vinegar
6 tablespoons milk
1 cup white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Nuts and chocolate chips (optional, but who are we kidding)

In a bowl, mash the avocados really, really well. If you leave any lumps you’ll see it in the final product, so be diligent with that fork.

Add the sugar and whisk thoroughly with the avocado.

Add the eggs, milk, baking soda and vinegar and whisk away. The vinegar is there to activate the baking soda and you won’t taste it in the final product. If you don’t have baking soda, just use two teaspoons of baking powder in the next step.

Place the flours and baking powder in a sieve and sift into the bowl, mixing very gently. You don’t want to overmix, so stir until combined.

If you want to have nuts or chocolate in your muffins, now is the time to add them.

Drop the muffin mix into a greased muffin tray (or make pretty tulip cases by pressing greaseproof paper into the tray) and bake at 180 degrees for 35 minutes.