Friday, February 22, 2013

Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

Easter always reminds me of Hot Cross Buns because my Mom always made them at that time. We usually were required to give up sweets for lent, so we got to have hot, fresh Hot Cross Buns for Easter morning, followed by church, and then followed by an Imperial Banana Split at Friendly's Ice Cream (NE US) as rewards.

 I've tried some store-bought buns every once in a while since but they were horrible. I mean close to inedible in my opinion. So I was thinking about making some but I wanted to make sure they were close to what I enjoyed so much as a child. And all of a sudden, it hit me, the ones I had as a kid had Cardamom in them.

Cardamom is one of the world's most ancient spices and grows wild in India. It is expensive, second only to Saffron. Therefore when I went to look for Cardamom, I found a small bottle of it was $17.00!!! Nope, I'm not paying that much for a spice. (I read where Cardamom also helps cure flatulence, so if that's an issue for you, there ya go, lol)

So I went to another market that sells spices in bulk, and sure enough, they had ground Cardamom at bargain basement prices. It wasn't the elite black Cardamom, but neither was the bottle at the first store. Now having made and tasted it, it was excellent. So I suggest you go that route. (Cost me like $1.69 for about an ounce of spice, and you only use one teaspoon in this recipe, a little Cardamom goes a long way)

Now, you can make this recipe without Cardamom, just substitute cinnamon, but I think once you try Cardamom, you'll be hooked. It's a unique taste, smell, and is very pungent. And obviously, memorable, since I haven't had it in umm, ^* years and remember it still.

I went to my reliable standby for recipes, King Arthur Flour, and adapted one to yield the recipe below.

Also, if you don't have Lyle's syrup, either omit it, or use corn syrup.

Ingredients and Method:

1/4 cup water or apple juice
1 cup raisins or dried currants (I prefer currants)
1 1/4 cups milk, heated in microwave slightly
3 large eggs, 1 separated
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 packages quick rising yeast
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour

Brush mixture prior to baking:

1 large egg white, reserved from above
1 tablespoon milk

1/3 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup (for brushing after baking)


1 cup or so confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick icing (add a bit more sugar if it's not thick enough)

Mix the water or apple juice with the currants or raisins and microwave on high about 30 seconds. Let steep for 10 minutes.

Add eggs to mixing bowl, add sugar and mix well. Melt butter in milk by microwaving in 30 second intervals. Don't overheat. If milk is too hot to the touch, let it cool slightly before adding to bowl. Add yeast. (Excess heat will kill the yeast) Add milk butter mixture to eggs and sugar and mix.

Add spices and baking powder and mix well. Add fruit and water/juice.

Add 4 cups flour and salt and beat with dough hook until ball forms away from the sides of the pan. Add flour in additional 1/2 cup increments as necessary.

Scrape dough out onto floured board, sprinkle with flour and knead for 3 minutes.

Grease a bowl, add dough, turn dough over cover and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled.

Remove from bowl to floured board and punch down. Knead just once or twice and shape into circle or rectangle about 2 inches thick. Cut into squares about 2 x 2 inches (3 ounces) and with floured hands tuck corners under and shape into a ball.

Add rounded buns to 9 x 13 greased pan. Place close to each other but not touching. Cover and let rise in a warm place for another hour.
Beat water and egg white together and brush tops of buns. Bake at 350 for 20 -25 minutes until browned. Microwave golden syrup (20 seconds) and brush onto top of buns and let cool completely.
Make thick frosting and pipe onto buns marking a cross across the top of each one. (baggies make a great piping tool. Just snip off on bottom corner)


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Saffron Risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Do you know what Risotto is?  I didn't for the longest time, but it essentially is an Italian rice called Arborio that is cooked in such a manner as to yield a very creamy delicious rice. The creaminess is also due to this rice not being milled as much as regular rice so it has a high starch content.

Although I've made Risotto before, for some reason I've not posted a recipe. So I decided to rectify that.

I was trying to figure out what might be good in a risotto. I know often mushrooms and other vegetables are added to cooked risotto but I wanted something different. I had some leftover saffron from Trader Joe's and a partial brick of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and I quickly looked online to see if there was such a combination, and it seemed there was. So I dove in and created this.

I really, really, liked this risotto. Delicious texture, the earthy tones of the saffron, and the nuttiness of the cheese made for a splendid dish. (Also I had homemade Chicken Stock, but store bought will work as well)

I was just as good the next day when reheated.  Give it a try!  You'll not be disappointed.

Ingredients and Method:

32 oz. Chicken Stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon butter
generous pinch of saffron
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

One key to make risotto is to have the chicken stock warmed, so as it is added in increments to the cooking rice it doesn't "shock" it by being too cold.

Heat the chicken stock in a pan, and keep warm to the side.

Add olive oil another sauce pan over medium heat. Add the risotto, and saffron and stir until all the rice is shiny.(About one minute) Add a bit of salt, and the cup of white wine, stir, and turn down to simmer. Stir occasionally until the wine is absorbed and then add a cup of the chicken broth. Continue to simmer and stir occasionally until liquid is absorbed and then add another cup of chicken stock. Repeat until all stock is used up. Continue summering until rice is done and creamy about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and half the grated cheese and stir until incorporated.

Spoon into serving dishes, sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve immediately.