Category Archives: bread

Recipe: Vegan Choc-Cross Buns with Tahini and Apricots

I take Easter, and particularly Good Friday, very seriously.  It’s not just because of the sheer number of professional commitments I have around Easter (and Good Friday is pretty much the peak of these, as I tend to have a late service on Thursday evening, then help lead the Way of the Cross procession through the city all morning on the Friday, before settling in for an afternoon service somewhere – Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are relaxing by comparison!), or even just about the religious aspect, though this is important to me, too. 

In fact, these days I have a personal Good Friday ritual that involves fish and chips and a re-watching of the really good 1971 Jesus Christ Superstar film – because I spend so much of Easter feverishly keeping track of how many more rounds of chant I need to do, or where in the pew sheet I am, or how to make that hymn scan in Italian, or concentrating feverishly on using my voice efficiently so that it actually lasts through four days of epic singing, that there really isn’t much room for personal religious observance.  I’m too busy concentrating on doing my job right!  And that’s totally fine, but I then need something that will let me stop and contemplate the season, and it turns out that JCSS is great for that.  Especially this year, when I’ve spent so much time living in Passion land, between St Matthew, and the readings this week, and listening to the St John Passion sent to me by my pen-friend’s mother.

I just got totally distracted from what I was going to say, which is that for me, Good Friday is also sort of a birthday.  I was born on Good Friday in 1976, so I tend to view the entire Easter Weekend as fair game for birthday gatherings, if there is no time on the day itself.  And the first thing my mother ate after I was born was a hot cross bun, so I am undoubtedly pre-disposed by the conditions of my birth to take hot cross buns seriously, too!


Anyway, after doing the Hot Cross Bun class at Gewürzhaus, I was consumed with the need to make hot cross buns, repeatedly.  And when I saw the recipe for the choc-chip kind (which I actually view as Not Proper Hot Cross Buns, but never mind that), I was immediately seized by the conviction that these needed to be veganised.  Of course, I then got totally overwhelmed by singing commitments, but yesterday’s afternoon service, in addition to being long, was also fairly inaudible from the organ loft, and so I found my brain turning to recipe design.  As one does.  In particular, I could not help thinking that chocolate tahini would make an amazing substitute for all the butter and eggs that one normally finds in hot cross buns.  Oh yes, indeed.  And since there is at least one vegan in the choir I’m singing with tonight, this is clearly exactly the right time to unleash vegan chocolate hot cross buns on the world!  

Happy Easter to you, if you celebrate it.  As for me, I’ll be singing…

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Recipe: Orange, Raisin and Spice Scones for a Christmas in the Sun

We had our work Christmas party today.  Well, one of them.  When you work with two highly sociable Divisions, you don’t just get one work Christmas party – I believe that my official count this year is a modest six, down from a high point of ten a couple of years back.  (There will be a seventh party, but it isn’t a Christmas one, so that doesn’t count.)  There are Division parties, Kris Kringle for the whole floor, the Institute party, the Admin party, and the party for my little choir.  No technician party this year (they had that one during the Conference of Doom), and I don’t generally go to the Union barbecue or the individual lab get-togethers, because enough is really enough, but they exist, oh yes they do.

(Oh, and let’s not forget the work Christmas Choir or Food for Families, which aren’t parties, but do keep me usefully occupied in December…)

Anyway.  Today’s party was for the more sociable and hyperactive of my two Divisions, which means we always have to have an Activity, preferably of the Outdoors variety (the lab heads insist… and it’s more fun than lunch at the pub).  This year’s party was a bit of an excursion – we took the ferry to Williamstown, and then walked around the coast to Williamstown Beach where we had afternoon tea and beach cricket (a cultural experience that not all our overseas scientists were willing to try).  It was actually a really fun day out – like a miniature summer holiday – and the weather was very kind to us.  And it turns out that the French – or at least, our French – make surprisingly good cricketers, at least if one is playing by beach-cricket rules, though the Germans were resolute in their refusal to play such a non-soccer-like game.  It also turns out that it’s impossible to convince a USA-born Professor that one does not twirl the bat around while waiting for the bowler to run up.  And the less said about his (terrifying) bowling style, the better.  Baseball has much to answer for.

Anyway. Our best Christmas parties always seem to come with scones, so when we aren’t going somewhere that will make scones for us, I feel compelled to make them myself.  This is dangerous, because once I start making scones, I find it difficult to stop, and the next thing I know we have ninety scones, which is silly when I know perfectly well that everyone else is bringing food too.  Also, making ninety scones in only one flavour is *boring*, so I’ll always start off making plain ones, and cheese ones, and then the next thing you know I’ll be sticking lavender or pink lemonade in them, and who knows where it will end?

I got a bit carried away.

I got a bit carried away.

The pick of today’s litter turned out to be the ones I flavoured with blood orange, raisins, spekulaas spice mix and cinnamon.  They were really good, with a surprisingly wholemeal-like texture and colour – I think this came from the blood orange juice, interestingly.  I sprinkled them with Viennese Christmas Sugar from Gewürzhaus just before I baked them, which gave them a lovely crunchy top.

These scones don’t really need anything on them, as they are pleasantly sweet when eaten plain, but butter would never hurt.  And if you have any of The Butter Factory‘s honey and walnut butter, that would be even better.

I am almost positive that these scones constitute a healthy breakfast for Christmas morning.

But I might be lying.

Your Shopping List

3 cups self-raising flour
60 g unsalted butter
zest and juice of 1 blood orange
2 Australian tablespoons of caster sugar
1 tsp spekulaas spice or mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
3/4 cup milk (you should have 1-1 1/4 cups of liquid, so squeeze your orange and then top up accordingly.  The mixture may curdle which is fine, because you’ve basically now made the equivalent of buttermilk)
2/3 cup raisins
Viennese Christmas sugar or raw sugar, for sprinkling

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Recipe: Banana Buns (da DA, da-da-da!)

It’s not actually possible to say the phrase ‘banana buns’ without developing an attack of the Muppets, really.  Seriously, try it.  You’ll be humming the Muppet theme before you know it.

Anyway.  This recipe, like so many banana recipes, came out of the discovery of a couple of very daggy-looking bananas on my fruit stand.  But I wasn’t really in the mood for making banana bread this week – I feel like I’ve been doing cakes all week, when what I really want to play with right now is yeast and sticky buns.  And then I was considering my failure to come up with a good vegan variant on my sticky cinnamon scroll recipe a couple of weeks back, which is when I started wondering if you could enrich bread dough with bananas instead of eggs.

It turns out you can.  These are quite wholesome buns, sweet (though not excessively so) from the fruit,  faintly banana flavoured, but with a reasonable amount of heft from the rolled oats (which melt into the dough, incidentally, but are still very present in terms of texture).  They have what I think of as a ‘squidgy’ texture – not fluffy, not dense and heavy, but soft and a bit chewy.  The kind of bread that has a bit of substance to it, without being hard work to eat.

Exactly right for breakfast.


Your Shopping List

1 1/4 cups sultanas that are taking a walk on the dry side
1/2 cup sherry, marsala, rum, or anything along those lines
275 milk or almond milk or a mixture of both if that is what you happen to have on hand
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
7 g yeast
2 daggy bananas
550 g flour
1 tbsp maple sugar or brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
75 g rolled oats
50 g butter, ghee, or canola oil
sunflower or canola oil for your hands (you will need this)
maple syrup to glaze

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Recipe: Sticky Apricot Cardamom Scrolls

After I made those cinnamon scrolls last week and bragged about them to the internet, I had a few requests for the recipe.  Well, I can’t give you the recipe, because for once in my life, I was actually following a recipe properly, and that recipe came from The Great Australian Bake Off Cookbook.  Incidentally, I hope some of you saw the bake off when it was on, because it was enormously fun – like someone took all the interesting parts of Masterchef, condensed them into one hour a week, got rid of the endless repetition and commentary, and added amusing musical stings and a very cute, playschool-like pastel coloured kitchen for everyone to work in, in the gardens of Werribee Mansion.  Oh, and it was all baking, no annoying savoury dishes with everyone nattering on about protein, where protein must always and only mean meat.

Anyway, much to my surprise, this cookbook turns out to actually have all the recipes from the show that *I* wanted to try, which is very clever of them.  Clearly whoever put this together shares my tastes to a remarkable degree.  I want to bake everything in the book. 

Hello, digression!  Getting back to the point, rather than share a recipe that wasn’t mine, I decided yesterday to modify the recipe to something I could share with you.  So instead of coffee scrolls, we have these sticky apricot and cardamom buns which are absolutely gorgeous, if I say so myself.  They do have quite a strong cardamom flavour, so if you like your spices subtle, you might want to halve the quantity. 

The dough, incidentally, is absolutely beautiful to work with – so soft and tender to the touch, just delicious.  And I love the method, which is spread out over a lazy few hours… or a frenetic few hours as you run into the study between kneads in order to write endless political posts (only six left now, hooray!) and food blog wrap-ups.  It’s strangely relaxing to make.

And the results are glorious.

buns close

Your Shopping List

275 ml milk (low fat milk or a non-dairy milk are both fine here)
7 g dry yeast
1 egg
450 g bread flour
25 g caster sugar + 1/4 cup for the syrup
1 tsp salt
50 g unsalted butter, plus another 50 g for the filling
1 1/4 cups chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cardamom
50 ml blood orange juice – from about half an orange
2 cups icing sugar

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Recipe: Spiced Rye Bread

This is based on a recipe for Heidelberg rye bread from Bread: The Universal Loaf, by Tamara Milstein.  I was going to make the actual recipe, but first I found myself mostly out of molasses, so I had to use honey, and then I found myself out of caraway seeds, but I did have a jar of St Nicholas Spekulaas Spice from Gewürzhaus, and I realised that this could be a rather wonderful thing combined with rye, just a little treacle, honey and brown sugar.

And it is.  The bread is dark in flavour with a lovely aroma of spices, and the perfect foil for – you guessed it! – honey!  Though jam is also excellent.  I should have come up with this years ago.


Your shopping list

1 cup water (you may need a little more to get the dough right at the end)
1 tbsp (20 ml) treacle
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 pinch salt
2 tsp yeast
1 cup rye flour
1 1/3 cups bread flour
3-4 tsp Spekulaas spice, or any good mixed spice

Now what will you do with it?

Bring the water to the boil, and add the treacle, honey, sugar, butter and salt. Pour into a large bowl and let cool to warm room temperature.

Why did I take a photo of this?  Even I don't know...

Why did I take a photo of this? Even I don’t know…

Add the yeast, rye flour and bread flour, along with the spices, and use a spoon or your hands to mix to a dough.  You are aiming for a dough that isn’t sticky, but isn’t too tough, either – I found I had to add a little more water as I kneaded to get to the right consistency.  Basically, kneading shouldn’t be incredibly hard work – if it is, you need more water.  But if it looks like a mud pie, add more flour (incidentally, add water 1 tsp at a time – you have no idea how fast dough can take up water and go from absurdly dry to ridiculously sticky.  Be wary!).

Knead your dough for about 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and homogenous.  It won’t go quite as silky as a dough made from pure bread flour, but it will definitely have a more elastic, smooth texture than when you started.

This is seriously the prettiest photo of bread dough I've ever seen.  Then again, how many photos of bread dough have I seen?  Actually, more than you might think, but still...

This is seriously the prettiest photo of bread dough I’ve ever seen. Then again, how many photos of bread dough have I seen? Actually, more than you might think, but still…

Put your lovely bowl of dough into a clean, oiled bowl, and bat it around a few times to coat it in oil.  Cover the bowl with glad-wrap or a clean tea towel.


Let rise in a warm, humid place for an hour or more, until it’s doubled in size.  This dough can take forever to rise, so if you are doing this late on a work night like me, and if you are fortunate enough to have an oven with a keep warm function, I recommend turning this to 40°C and putting the bowl in there, with a bowl of water next to it to keep the oven from drying it out.


Line a small loaf tin (about 7 cm by 16 cm in the base), or a flat baking tray, if you want a free-form loaf, with baking paper.  Punch down the dough, and form it into a loaf shape or an oval.  Slash it a few times because we all love slash.  Also, it looks pretty.


Place the dough in its tin or on its tray, and let rise for another half hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.


When the bread is risen again, bake at 200°C for 30 minutes or until it is well risen, golden brown, and sounds hollow when you topple it out of the tin and tap it underneath.


Eat for breakfast.


This bread is, of course, egg- and nut-free and vegetarian.  It’s dairy free (and vegan) if you replace the butter with margarine or canola oil, both of which work just fine.  It’s not low-fructose or gluten-free, but I think you knew that already.  It’s glycemic index isn’t brilliant but isn’t terrible, either.  You could always substitute in some oats for some of the rye and bread flour, to bring the GI down a bit.

In terms of flavour, you could do all sorts of things with this.  It’s tempting to take out the spices and add a handful of dried cranberries.  I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that dark rye with cranberries would be amazing.  Caraway seeds are another obvious substitute, and you could probably make a lovely seedy bread with caraway, fennel, and perhaps cumin seeds through it, along with some stealth hemp seeds or chia seeds for bonus health tricks.  I’d then sprinkle sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds on top, just to show off.  Yum.  And very good for you!



Two years ago: Recipe: Chocolate for Breakfast
                                  Farmers’ Market

Recipe: Orange and Cranberry Marmalade Bread

risen2This bread is a cross between several different recipes, necessitated by the fact that my pantry does not currently contain polenta and that it does contain both marmalade and orange powder, not to mention cranberries.  Also, I like putting oats in my bread so that I can pretend it is healthy, so it got oats.  And rye, because I have this rye flour…

It’s not quite as orangey as I’d hoped, and it’s very, very sticky, and a little structurally unsound for toasting but it’s also entirely delicious and marginally healthy (it has oats!  And cranberries!  It must be good for you!).  And you don’t even need to put marmalade on it for breakfast!

Your shopping list

1 cup of lukewarm water (it should feel just barely warm to your finger)
1 tsp dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp salt (I actually use less, but you do need to use some, as it keeps the yeast in check)
50 g rolled oats (about half a cup)
300 g bread flour (about 2 cups)
50 g rye flour (about 1/3 cup)
2 tsp dried whole orange powder
65 g cup dried cranberries (about half a cup)
1/4 cup orange jam or marmalade

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Recipe: Golden Snake Bread for Chinese New Year

bakedIt’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Apparently, the first week of work was rather more overwhelming than I expected, because while I felt totally fine at work, I was remarkably disinclined to cook when I got home each night this week.  This is particularly sad, because I’m yet to even make something for my own Vegetarian Lunchbox Challenge (fortunately, lots of other people have, so the page is  very much worth a visit).

Anyway, I’ve been invited to a Vegan pot-luck for Chinese New Year this evening by Steph (Edited to add: and it was awesome!), which requires suitable baking.  My initial plan was to make crysanthemum biscuits with red bean paste, but I was unable to find red bean paste, so I tried to make my own, and that turned out to be a big mistake, so I finally decided that instead of doing something that might be authentically Chinese (difficult, since I never cook Chinese food at all), I might as well go with the red and gold and Year of the Snake as my themes.  And how better to achieve gold than with the gorgeousness that is saffron?

I actually have several recipes for saffron bread.  Mostly, they are full of eggs and butter and milk, because this is the sort of bread people make for festivals, and nothing says ‘festive’ like enriched bread dough.  But eggs and butter and milk are not notably vegan, which is OK, because I also have a book of vegan and gluten-free breads with a saffron bread recipe in it.  The trouble with *that* is that it calls for a variety of gluten-free flours that I have not yet been able to find (largely because I was so tired after my first week back at work that I slept until midday and thus missed the various little shops that are only open on Saturday mornings).

So I decided to cross the recipes.  This bread is enriched with almond milk and olive oil, with chia seeds standing in for the eggs in some weird way that I do not fully comprehend but am willing to take on faith for now.  I’ve replaced the currants that are traditional to Saint Lucia buns with cranberries, which are much more red, and instead of the classic braided loaf, this bread is shaped into a rather fat serpent shape.

It tastes like honey, and has a texture like a moister, softer version of pannetone – very soft and tearable and delightful.  I thought at first it would need butter or honey, but it really doesn’t – it’s perfect just as it is, gorgeous and golden and vegan and full of happiness.  What more could you ask of bread?

Your Shopping List

1 1/3 cups almond milk
1 tsp saffron
2 tbsp chia seeds (white is better, aesthetically speaking, for this bread)
2 tsp dry yeast
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups of bread flour
3/4 cup cranberries, preferably unsweetened, or barberries
A couple of tablespoons of almond milk and a couple of raw sugar, optional

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Recipe: Pizza Serafina (Sultana pizza)

Sultana pizza

I work in a Medical Research Institute, and the nature of research is that people travel a lot for their careers.  My current Divisions include scientists and students from France, Germany, Switzerland, Algeria, China, New Zealand, Sweden, The Netherlands, The Cook Islands, Afghanistan, Japan, Brazil, England, the USA, Serbia, Spain, Iran, India, Scotland… oh yes, and a few Australians. (I’m sure I’ve missed a country or five in there, actually).  And of course, at least half of the Australians  – myself included – in the lab have parents who were born overseas.

So tomorrow we are celebrating Australia Day a day early by having a lunch for our two Divisions, with everyone bringing a dish from home.  Wherever home is for the person in question.  (I wish I could say this was my idea, because I think it is absolutely wonderful, but one of the RAs came up with it, and more power to her.)

As it happens, I’m one of the few people in the lab who is of Italian extraction, and since food from home often means food of one’s childhood, I’ve decided to have another go at making my Nonna’s pizza recipe.  So far tonight, it’s been a case study in why you should add the water gradually, but we’ll let that pass for now. 

Nonna, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, had two traditional pizzas she made  for us when we visited – one topped simply with oregano (green pizza), and another topped with tomato passata (red pizza), and maybe the odd olive or anchovy or pepper.  (It’s the cuisine of poverty – you don’t have many ingredients, but you make the best of the ones you do have.)  But she was also very fond of spoiling her sweet-toothed grand-daughter, so when I was quite little, she invented a sultana pizza which she would make at the same time.  I’ve never really grown out of it.  I’ve also never made it successfully, largely because until recently, the only recipe I had for Nonna’s pizza was extremely vague – Nonna knew all the quantities by feel and cooks pizza ‘until it is done’, which is not very helpful to the novice cook!  The recipe I have now (via my aunts) has actual quantities for everything except the water, and, as I will explain later, I’ve learned this evening just why the water measurement is as vague as it is – so I’m hoping I’ll get it to work (I’m writing this while I wait for it to rise the second time).  I’m also going to make oregano pizza, of course, but what I’m truly hoping to feed my colleagues tomorrow is my Nonna’s sultana pizza – pizza Serafina!

Your Shopping List

2 small potatoes (about 165g)
1 kg bread flour
1 tbsp salt
35 g fresh yeast (the kind that is a beige, spongey block, not the powdered kind)
100 ml olive oil, plus more for your hands.  Oh yes, definitely more for your hands.
‘Enough water to make a sticky dough’.  This is somewhere between 450 and 550 ml.  Which is to say, it was 550 ml a couple of weeks ago, but tonight that turned out to be way too much and my dough is impossibly sticky and I couldn’t knead it properly at all.
2 tbsp oregano, or 175 g sultanas and 2 tbsps raw sugar, or about 500 ml passata, or pick two of these options and use half of the quantity.

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Planning and Pizza

I was hoping to write more here while I was on holidays, but the combination of my usual December activities, plus confectionery, plus the funeral, all followed up with several days of drainingly hot weather have left me more exhausted than I could have imagined.  The notion that I might, at some point, not be tired doesn’t even seem possible.

Still, tomorrow is a Shakespeare evening, and having been completely uninspired all week, I’ve decided to simply celebrate the last of Shakespeare’s Italian plays (we still have Coriolanus, of course, but that is Roman, which is a whole different cuisine) by doing a proper Italian-style feast in the manner of my Nonna or my aunts.

Be afraid.  Be very, very afraid.

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Review: Wild Sourdough: The Natural Way to Bake, by Yoke Mardewi

As I type this, my sourdough starter has been living with me for eight days, and it is not dead yet!  On the contrary, it’s sitting on a bench in the kitchen, looking hopeful, because tomorrow is baking day.  I fed it just a few minutes ago, and it really likes that – as soon as the water hits it, you start getting big yeasty bubbles, which subside a bit once you mix all the flour in, but come back with enthusiasm over the next eight hours or so.  This will be its third outing, and its fate on this occasion is a fruit bread – so far, it has featured in an orange, fennel and currant bread, a rye and spelt casalinga, and a sourdough chocolate cake.

It’s a great starter, full of flavour and vigour, and it makes tasty, well-textured bread.  I would recommend Mardewi’s starter to anyone in Australia who is thinking of adopting a sourdough culture – not only is it good in its own right, but she takes great care to ensure that it arrives in good condition, and with a couple of backups in case anything goes wrong.  In short, it’s an excellent product.

Her book, however, leaves me feeling a bit more ambivalent.

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