eat in my kitchen

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Tag: spices

23 Recipes for Cozy Christmas Baking

Maltese Christmas Cookies

I’m sitting at our dining table, listening to Jingle Bells, wrapping Christmas presents, and waiting for the snow to fall. It’s the last weekend before Christmas, the last chance to fill the kitchen with the tempting smell of cinnamon, cloves, and citrus fruits, cardamom, chocolate, and candied nuts, so what am I going to bake? I picked 23 recipes from the last four years of cozy Christmas feasting on Eat In My Kitchen and I love each one of them. Just a look at the pictures and my taste buds get excited. I can remember the woody notes of my Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies, the citrusy-buttery sweetness of my Mediterranean family’s Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies, the elegance of my mother’s classic, her Linzer Cookies, and of course, my annual highlight, the best Vanilla Kipferl in the world. You can find a variation of this famous German cookie in my Eat In My Kitchen book, wonderfully fragrant Cardamom Kipferl. So, happy baking, treat yourself to a cozy weekend with the ones you love and indulge in the pleasures of Christmas baking!

Click on the titles for the recipes:

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

Chocolate, Orange and Cardamom Stollen

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Ginger Chili Double Chocolate Cookies

Christmas Chocolate Panettone

Chocolate Panettone

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Espresso Meringue Cookies with Spiced Chocolate Ganache

Maltese Lemon Christmas Cookies

Maltese Lemon Cookies

German Elisenlebkuchen

Lebkuchen

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Ginger Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Oat Crunch

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Persimmon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Cookies

Chocolate Spice Cookies

Claire Ptak’s Pecan Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Mulled Wine Pretzel Cookies

Linzer Cookies

Sandwich Cookies

German Chocolate Baumkuchen

Chocolate Baumkuchen

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Gianduja Chocolate Cookies

Maltese Essijiet Vermouth Cookies

Essijiet Cookies

Strawberry Pistachio Cookies with Oats and White Chocolate

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

Espresso Chocolate Biscotti

 

Dark Chocolate and Apricot Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Cookies

Vanilla Kipferl

Vanilla Kipferl

Red Currant and Oat Cookies

Redcurrant and Oat Cookies

Buttery Blue Cheese Crackers

Buttery Blue Cheese Cookies

 

Rosemary and Lemon Heidesand Cookies

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Post sponsored by Volkswagen.

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

I used to have a huge spice box in my kitchen that didn’t look very pretty and also wasn’t particularly practical. For whatever reason, I decided in my early kitchen years to store all my spice filled glass jars and tiny metal tins in this box and that’s where I kept them for two decades. This beaten and buckled box still exists, I just use it for potatoes at the moment (even a box has to stay flexible in life). I used to arrange my spices in two layers of jars, so when I needed juniper berries from the bottom, I would always have to empty the whole thing. Rather impractical.

Around two years ago, I renovated my kitchen, I changed the sink and cupboards on one side of the room. When everything was set up, I had a skype call with my Maltese mama Jenny to proudly present my work to her. Not that she’s particularly experienced in kitchen renovation, it’s rather the opposite, she still works in her gorgeous sea-blue kitchen gem from the 60s. I don’t remember why, but we started discussing the spice-situation in my kitchen. There’s a slim cupboard with two sliding drawers next to my sink, so when we had our video chat, we both looked at this drawer and decided that it should become my spice cupboard. I arranged everything that same day and since then I’m more than happy to have such a luxurious overview of my spice collection.

The spices I use the most, right at the front when you open the door, are Maltese fennel and coriander seeds, the whole range of peppercorns in black, green, white, and pink, cinnamon, and cardamom. Jars of cumin, cloves, aniseed, allspice, juniper berries, and mustard seeds are right behind. Then there’s the hot section, with cayenne and urfa chilli, plus sumac and a few spice mixtures. I love this cupboard, it’s a bit chaotic, and it’s still a colourful collection of various jars and containers, but it smells beautiful.

Although I generally prefer a certain order in my kitchen, there are zones and tools in this room that seem to follow their own rules. Cookie cutters, for example, tend to end up in places where I don’t even know how they got there. I bought a large metal ring at one point to get my growing collection under control. Every year I buy a couple new ones to add to the classics, to stars, angels, and Santa. I tend to have annual favourites. Squirrel, sausage dog, and deer were popular for a long time, which might speak for my love of cute animals. My collection of three beetles is relatively new, maybe I need a car? Who knows. But apart from giving my cookies a cute look, a cutter should be practical. For example, I barely use the deer anymore because the cookies tend to lose their antlers in the oven, so it looks rather sad. My beetles however are very cooperative, roundish, no narrow parts, and they are even big enough to get a proper royal icing decoration.

I must admit that decorating sweets is not one of my best talents. But I thought it would be nice to bake some cookies at this time of year that you can decorate – especially if there are kids around the baking table. And if you’re as lazy as I am and you have a soft spot for citrus, I have a great alternative for you. Decorate half the batch of these delicious chocolate spice cookies with royal icing (I recommend you trust the pros and buy the mixture from a baking shop) and make your children happy. For the other half, caramelize lemon peel until sweet and crunchy, sprinkle this sticky golden mixture over the remaining cookies and make yourself happy. These are the adult cookies. They aren’t as pretty as the cute hand decorated ones, but the combination of dark chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, aniseed, and candied lemon peel makes up for it. They taste so unbelievably good that you won’t even mind the looks.

For more delicious recipes and kitchen inspiration, visit Volkswagen’s Pinterest community board Food Bloggers for Volkswagen.

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Makes about 50 cookies

For the cookies

plain flour 260g / 2 cups
unsweetened cocoa powder 50g / 1/2 cup
baking powder 1/4 teaspoon
freshly grated lemon zest 1 tablespoon (from 1 large lemon)
ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
cloves, ground in a mortar, 10 (about 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves)
coriander seeds, ground in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
aniseed, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
allspice berries, ground in a mortar, 4
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
butter, at room temperature, 130g / 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon
icing sugar 120g / 1 1/4 cups
organic egg 1

For the decoration
(if decorating half the cookies with royal icing and the other half with candied lemon peel)

royal icing mixture, whisked with a little water, about 60g / 2 ounces
granulated sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
water 2 tablespoons
very thin strips of fresh lemon peel, 1 small handful

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, aniseed, allspice, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and icing sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and mix for about 1 minute or until well combined. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook, add the flour-spice mixture to the bowl with the butter, and mix until well combined. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In batches, roll the dough out thinly (about 3mm / 1/8″ thick) between cling film and cut out cookies in whatever shape you like. Keep the remaining dough in the fridge while cutting the cookies. Arrange the cookies on the lined baking sheets and bake, one baking sheet at a time, for about 6 minutes or until golden. Let them cool for a few minutes before you transfer them to a cooling rack.

For the royal icing, whisk the royal icing mixture with a little water (following the instructions on the package) and, using a piping bag with the smallest attachment you can find, decorate half the cookies.

For the candied peel, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to the boil. When it starts to caramelize add the lemon peel. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the peel is golden and soft—mind that it doesn’t burn. While the caramel is still liquid (you can leave the saucepan on lowest heat), quickly sprinkle the remaining cookies with the candied lemon peel.

Happy baking!

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

 

Chocolate Spice Christmas Cookies with Candied Lemon Peel

Elisenlebkuchen – Juicy Spice Cookies with Bittersweet Chocolate

Lebkuchen

Elisenlebkuchen are essential German Christmas treats! A bite of these juicy spice and chocolate cookies, a sip of my mulled wine and some John Fahey tunes in the background and I’m right in the mood for the 1st Advent!

These dark sweets are a special kind of Lebkuchen, made without any flour or butter but lots of ground hazelnuts, almonds, spices and citrus fruits. They are often compared to gingerbread (which I find difficult as there’s no ginger involved in the recipe), with a similar aromatic juiciness which is no surprise as they combine all the wonderful flavours associated with festive baking, like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, all spice and citrus. A simple Lebkuchen officially becomes the queen of all  Lebkuchen, the fine Elisenlebkuchen, when the dough contains more than 25% of nuts and less than 10% flour. It’s kind of a royal upgrade to keep the quality and protect its tradition. Originally from Nuremberg (Nürnberg in German), the city gained fame all over the world for this sweet delicacy. I remember emptying one package of them after the other as a child at Christmas, preferably the ones covered in bittersweet chocolate. The Nuremberg Lebkuchen are either ‘naked’ or glazed with sugar or chocolate, which were the most popular ones in my family so I had to eat them quick.

After years of stuffing my belly with them under the Christmas tree, the time has come to start the Lebkuchen production at my home. Elisenlebkuchen are often quite big but I wanted a smaller size, just a small bite to enjoy them more often. The preparation is surprisingly easy. The dough can be used as soon as it’s mixed although some bakers recommend keeping it in the fridge overnight. It’s a bit sticky but manageable. You just have to drop a dollop of it on a thin edible wafer paper for cookies (also known as oblate) and put them in the oven until they are golden but still soft inside. The result is almost spongy and so fragrant that it wasn’t easy for me to watch them cool before I could brush them with bittersweet chocolate. When you have a treat like this in front of you, the last thing you want to do is wait!

In the past, certain bakeries were specialised in the production of Lebkuchen all over the country to create their own christmassy signature sweet for their region. The textures and shapes vary, some are cut into squares like in Aachen in the west of Germany, or baked in the shape of hearts like in Bavaria. Elisenlebkuchen are still my favourite, with chocolate of course and preferably in large amounts!

Have a jolly 1st Advent!

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 Elisenlebkuchen

For 40 cookies you need

organic eggs (at room temperature) 3
sugar 210g / 7.5 ounces
hazelnuts, roughly chopped, 40g / 1.5 ounces
ground hazelnuts 200g / 7 ounces
ground almonds 80g / 3 ounces
candied lemon peel 50g / 2 ounces
candied orange peel 50g / 2 ounces
lemon zest 2 teaspoons
orange zest 2 teaspoons
ground cinnamon 1 1/2 teaspoons
ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon
ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon
ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon
ground allspice 1/4 teaspoon
ground mace 1/4 teaspoon
a pinch of salt
edible round wafer papers for cookies (50mm / 1/4″ diameter), 40
(if you use a bigger size, add a little more dough on each of them and bake the cookies a bit longer)
bittersweet chocolate 300g / 10.5 ounces, for the topping
butter 1 1/2 tablespoons, for the topping
almonds 40, for the topping

Set the oven to 180°C / 355°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a sauce pan, melt the chocolate and butter for the topping.

Mix the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer for about 7 minutes until light and creamy, there shouldn’t be any sugar crystals left.

Combine the ground nuts, almonds, candied peel, zest, spices and salt and gently stir into the egg sugar mixture with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in the chopped nuts and put a heaped teaspoon of the dough on each round wafer paper. Put the cookies on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 13 minutes or until golden, they should stay soft inside.

Let them cool on a rack before you brush them with the melted chocolate and garnish each of them with an almond.

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

Lebkuchen

 

lebkuchen20

Caramelised Elderflower Rosemary Chicken with spicy Potato Wedges

Elderflower Rosemary Chicken + Potato Wedges

My Elderflower Syrup gets put to good use once again! I marinated chicken breast for a couple hours in elderflower syrup together with some fresh rosemary and was rewarded with the most aromatic, tender meat. Flowery and woody flavours wrapped the chicken, the sticky marinade caramelised the soft surface, it was absolutely delicious! I seared it first and then baked it for 8 minutes, this way it keeps its juiciness. My old method of frying the chicken until it’s done left it a lot drier.

I don’t cook chicken that often but when it finds its way to my kitchen I like to play around with strong flavours. You could replace the elderflower syrup with maple syrup or any other flowery taste, honey works of course but it’s nice to try something different. I used the rosemary as it’s great in combination with elderflower and poultry, it turned smokey which added a bit of a flame grilled touch.

This meal had a rustic feeling to it, so crisp potato wedges felt like the right company. Flavoured with maple syrup, they also got a spicy coating. Don’t worry about the long list of spices, just use what you find in your spice box and what makes sense for your taste buds, this is what I mixed together: cumin, star anise, harissa, cloves, cayenne pepper, fennel seed, sweet paprika and black pepper.

Elderflower Rosemary Chicken + Potato Wedges

 

Elderflower Rosemary Chicken + Potato Wedges

Caramelised Elderflower Rosemary Chicken with spicy Potato Wedges

If possible marinate the meat for at least 30 minutes, a few hours would be even better.

For 2 people you need

chicken breast 2 (around 400g / 14 ounces)
elderflower syrup 50ml /1.5 ounces
rosemary, chopped, 1 tablespoon + 2 little sprigs
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

For the potato wedges
potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges, 500g / 1 pound
maple syrup 1 tablespoon
olive oil 2 tablespoons
cloves, ground in a mortar, 6
harissa powder 1/2 teaspoon
cumin 1/4 teaspoon
star anise, ground in a mortar, 1 piece
Hungarian (sweet) paprika 1/2 teaspoon
cayenne pepper, a bit more than a pinch
fennel seeds, ground in a mortar, 1/4 teaspoon
black peppercorns, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon

In a bowl, cover the chicken breast with the elderflower syrup and rosemary and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Cook the potato wedges in lots of salted water  for 8 minutes, rinse with cold water and lay on a cooling rack to dry (for at least 10 minutes to a day).

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I use the Rotithem setting).

For the wedges, whisk the maple syrup, olive oil and spices. Spread the potatoes in a baking dish and cover with the spicy syrup. Roast in the oven for a few minutes until golden brown and crisp. You can turn on the grill for the last minute.

While the potatoes are in the oven, heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy pan and sear the chicken breasts (covered in marinate and rosemary) for a few minutes on both sides till golden brown and caramelised. Season with salt and pepper. Put the meat in a baking dish when the potatoes are done and roast in the oven for 8 minutes. Turn on the grill for the last minute. Check with a skewer, only clear juices should come out.

Elderflower Rosemary Chicken + Potato Wedges

Sweet and spicy Rhubarb Chutney

Rhubarb Chutney

My love for chutney developed quite late, almost nine years ago while I lived in England for a couple months. One night I found out about the glorious combination of Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese and chutney. I knew about a similar duo, ripe cheese and fig mustard, a great alternative to a sweet dessert, heavenly when the cheese’s milkiness unites with the spicy and fruity flavours in your mouth! When my dear friend Audrey, a lady who likes good cheese as much as I do, offered me this North Yorkshire delicacy I was taken after the first bite. My  favourite was a young cheese, mildly flavoured with cranberries, a bit crumbly and just perfect together with sweet onion chutney. Sometimes, after we had been out, we used to chat in Audrey’s kitchen, get out some jars of pickles, chutneys and a truckle of Wensleydale and we quite often ate more than just a midnight snack!

Not too long after this culinary discovery I started to make my own chutneys. I experimented for a while and came up with a recipe which I now use for all kinds of chutneys, plums, apples, onions or rhubarb. Depending on the fruit’s taste I adjust the spices a little bit but the basic recipe remains untouched. Most of the time I mix in red onions and red hot chili peppers for the spiciness, a couple apples to thicken the texture and lots of spices, turmeric, cloves, star anise, fennel seeds, black pepper, garlic and ginger. Rhubarb is at its seasonal peak at the moment, the best time to turn it into a sweet and spicy chutney!

Cheese and chutney isn’t the only way to enjoy chutney, you can also use it to flavour aromatic gravies, eat it with slices of warm or cold roast meat or spread it on sandwiches.

Rhubarb Chutney

 Rhubarb Chutney

For 3 medium sized jars you need

rhubarb, sliced 550g / 19 ounces
apple, peeled and roughly chopped, 125g / 4.5 ounces
red onion, medium sized, roughly chopped, 1
cider vinegar 220ml / 7.5 ounces
sugar 150g /5.5 ounces
fresh hot chili pepper, without seeds, finely chopped, 1/2
garlic, chopped, 1 clove
fresh ginger, grated or chopped, 1 heaped teaspoon
For the spice mixture (makes 2 teaspoons, you might only need 1 1/2)
turmeric, ground, 1/8 teaspoon
cinnamon, ground, 1/2 teaspoon
cloves, ground in the mortar, 12
star anise, ground in a mortar, 2 single pieces
fennel seeds, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
small dried chili, ground in a mortar, 2
spirit to sterilise the rims of the jars

Sterilise the jars in boiling water for 5 minutes.

In a large pot, bring all the ingredients together with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mixture to the boil. Cook for about an hour on medium temperature until the chutney thickens. You can add more of the spice mixture if you like before you fill the chutney into the jars.

Dip the rim of your jars in spirit and wash out the lids with the alcohol as well. Fill your jars with the chutney and close well immediately.

You can eat the chutney right away but I prefer to let it sit for 3 weeks. You should keep an open jar in the fridge (mine stays fresh for months) and the closed jars in your pantry.

Rhubarb Chutney

 

Rhubarb Chutney

Preserved Artichoke Hearts with Spices and Thyme

Marinated Artichokes

I’ve been wanting to marinate artichokes for so long, ever since I had my own kitchen in fact, which is quite a while ago. I took my time and over the years I discovered the advantages of a pantry packed with jars of homemade jams, chutneys, preserved lemons and fruits but now I want to see some artichoke hearts cooked in wine and vinegar, with lots of spices on my shelves as well. I love to fill this space with all the jars that make my favourite food so handy and always available, I don’t have to worry about industrial preservatives which are banned in my kitchen.

The process of preserving has a wonderful side effect, it’s so relaxing! I understand why my grandmother used to have a room in her cellar packed to the ceiling with preserving jars and bottles, cherries, pears  and plums, German apple purée, gherkin, jams, so much that even my big family didn’t manage to eat everything that she produced. I imagine that she enjoyed preserving food as much as I do now, standing peacefully in her kitchen, keeping an eye on the bubbling and steaming food in the pots. When I’m done with cooking and have filled my culinary products into the jars and line them up on a table, I feel so satisfied and rewarded for the work I’ve done, it’s truly therapeutical!

Artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil are great on bread sprinkled with parsley, on crostini or pizza, mixed with pasta or in a risotto. You could also fry them together with your omelet, mix them into a Mediterranean salad or enjoy them pure on an summery antipasti platter.

Marinated Artichokes

 Preserved Artichokes Hearts

For 6 artichoke hearts preserved in an 800ml jar you need

baby artichokes 6
water 900ml
white wine 350ml
white wine vinegar 150ml
garlic, quartered, 2 cloves
bay leaves 2
black peppercorns 8
juniper berries 5
thyme 8 small sprigs
salt 1 teaspoon
lemon 1/2, to prevent the artichokes from turning brown
olive oil to fill the preserving jar
spirit to sterilise the rim of the jar

Peel the artichoke stems, if it isn’t soft but woody you have to cut it off. Pluck the hard outer leaves and cut the artichoke’s tip off (1/3 – 1/2 of the artichoke), just the soft parts of the leaves should be left. Loosen the hairy choke with a knife and scoop it out with a spoon. Keep the prepared artichoke heart in a bowl of cold water and the juice of half a lemon to avoid it discolouring while you’re finishing the rest.

In a large pot, bring all the ingredients to a boil, add the artichoke hearts and cook for 10 minutes.

Sterilise the preserving jar in boiling water for 5 minutes. Take it out, let it dry for a few minutes and dip the rim of your jar in the spirit and wash out the lid with the alcohol as well.

Drain the artichokes and put them in the sterilised jar, fill with olive oil till covered and add some of the spices and thyme sprigs. The jar should be filled with oil to the top! Close the jar, keep in your pantry or enjoy immediately.

Marinated Artichokes

 

Marinated Artichokes

Spiced Hot Cross Buns with Orange Zest

hotcrossbuns1

My first Hot Cross Bun baking experience lies way back in the past and it wasn’t very successful – one morning I managed to destroy two doughs in a row. The water I used was a bit too warm and knocked out the yeast. I was so desperate that I even baked the buns from the second batch of dough but it was hopeless. I could have used the buns as cannon balls, they were as hard as a rock and impossible to eat. I needed a few years to recover from this experience but now I’m totally at peace with them again.

Hot Cross Buns are traditional Easter buns but to me they are a great treat for a big weekend breakfast or brunch all year round. They are made with lots of aromatic spices such as cinnamon, coriander, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and I also add lots of orange zest and raisins. Spices ground in a mortar unfold their entire range of aromas, I find them stronger and without the artificial touch which industrial mixtures tend to have. These buns are complex in their taste and the texture is nice and fluffy. I love to tear them with my fingers when they are freshly out of the oven and spread some butter on them, or my homemade plum jam with lots of cinnamon. I even ate one bun with liver paté, both sweet and aromatic, they make a perfect match.

Traditionally, Hot Cross Buns were eaten during Lent, always marked with a cross standing for the Crucifixion. Besides the religious connections there are further meanings passed on, sharing a bun with someone else is supposed to ensure friendships and each bite should bring good health.

Hot Cross Buns

 

Hot Cross Buns

 Hot Cross Buns

For 10 buns you need

For the dough

plain flour 500g / 1 pound
dry yeast, 1 package for 500g / 1 pound of flour
sugar 60g / 2 ounces
salt 1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 2 1/2 teaspoons
2 1/2 heaped teaspoons of ground mixed spice or a spice mixture made of:
coriander, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
allspice, ground in a mortar, 7
cloves, ground in a mortar, 5
nutmeg, grated, 1/4 teaspoon
fresh ginger, grated, 1 teaspoon
zest of 1 orange
butter, melted, 60g / 2 ounces
milk, lukewarm, 190ml
organic egg 1
raisins, soaked in warm water for 4 minutes, 100g / 3.5 ounces

For the cross paste

plain flour 4 tablespoons
milk 3-4 tablespoons
vegetable oil 2 teaspoons

For the glaze

milk 5 tablespoons
icing sugar 5 tablespoons

For the dough, combine the dry ingredients (including spices and orange zest). Mix the hot melted butter with the cold milk and the egg, this way the liquid mixture will have the right lukewarm temperature (check with a finger). Mix the dry and the liquid mixture with your dough hooks for 5 minutes until well combined. Continue kneading with your hands for a few minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Mix the raisins into the dough and put it back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a 35°C / 95°F warm oven for 70 minutes. This works really well but make sure that your oven is set to top/ bottom heat and not to fan.

Take the dough out, punch it down and knead for 1 minute. Divide into 10 pieces and roll into balls. Put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and let them rise for 30 minutes, covered with a tea towel, in a warm place.

Set your oven to 200°C / 390°F.

For the cross paste, mix the flour, milk and oil with a spoon. For the glaze, cook the icing sugar together with the milk in a sauce pan for 5 minutes on medium heat until bubbly and syrupy.

Cut a cross into the surface of each bun, wet your fingers and form slim rolls with the cross paste mixture. Lay the rolls into the crossed slits on top of each bun, wet your fingers in between. Bake the buns for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Glaze with the sweet syrup immediately. If the glaze is too thick, add a little water before you brush the tops of the buns.

Hot Cross Buns

 

Hot Cross Buns

Salmon with a Green Pepper, Coriander and Fennel Crust

Salmon with Spice Crust

Last week’s visit to Reims and the delicious seafood I enjoyed during my short stay in France inspired me to cook fish again. I went to the market and spotted a nice fillet of salmon and my decision was made! It looked firm, nice in colour and it smelled fresh like the sea. I like salmon in combination with aromatic flavours, in January I wrote about my salmon with wintery spices baked in the oven, with bay leaf, juniper and cloves. I just restocked the jars of my spice box, my fennel and coriander empty within weeks, I’m often surprised how quickly! When I go to the market to buy spices I always take an extra few minutes to look around at what’s on offer. All the little bags and boxes filled with precious powders, berries, herbs from far away countries, so many different smells and colours, it’s a sensual journey to another world! I always buy more than there is on my list, this time a package of green peppercorns came home with me unexpectedly. Green pepper berries are picked before they are ripe, they have a strong spiciness like black pepper but very aromatic, a bit flowery.

My pick was a good choice as I wanted to pack a thick crust of coarse spices on my salmon again, this time it’s green pepper, coriander and fennel. Not a hint of spices, more of an attack, but the fish can handle that. Even more so, it was delicious. First, I thought I went a bit overboard with the spicy pepper but after the first bite I was happy I did. To prevent the crust from falling off I glazed the fish with an egg on the fleshy side, it didn’t effect the taste but kept the spices where they should be.

For 2 I had a 300g / 10.5 ounces fillet of salmon, brushed with 1 mixed egg (just on the fleshy side) and covered with a mixture of  green peppercorns, fennel seeds and coriander (1 tablespoon of each), crushed coarsely in a mortar, and some salt. I fried the fish in a large pan in olive oil, 5 minutes on each side on medium heat, the skin side first before I flipped it around and added some more oil, carefully so that the crust wouldn’t fall off. We just had  some slices of baguette and a salad on the side, my favourites with fish, apart from a glass of white wine.

Salmon with Spice Crust

 

Salmon with Spice Crust