Tag Archive: holidays

  1. Vanilla Pumpkin Pie

    Leave a Comment

    Here we are – the weather has changed, a crisp air hangs in the sky and Thanksgiving is tomorrow! It’s a holiday that swings open the arms of  home to invite in everyone that can fit at the table. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey with all the trimmings until we can’t possibly fit another bite… but then comes the pie.

    pastry, dough, pie, crust

    Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes – you simply must have it on Thanksgiving. No ifs, ands or buts about it!

    The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far in the meal. Never to be an afterthought, I have added a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie utterly deserving of centre stage. I think this Vanilla Pumpkin Pie is just the ticket to round out the most generous of holidays.

    VANILLA PUMPKIN PIE

    INGREDIENTS

    One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)

    425g solid pack pumpkin puree
    2 large eggs
    250ml double cream (or a combination of double cream and evaporated milk)
    180g caster sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 vanilla pod, seeds stripped for use
    1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    METHOD

    First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f.

    Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs and leave it to infuse while you make the pastry. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case, by the way! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like – it’s great in pancakes, cakes, cookies, even a cup of coffee.

    Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pastry for the pie crust.

    Roll out chilled short crust pastry and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Pop it in the freezer for 15mins to relax and chill. Or if you, like me, have zero room for anything in your freezer (not even ice), pop it in the fridge for 20mins. It should be completely firm when it comes out. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.

    After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a round of crumpled parchment paper big enough to hang over the edges once filled with baking beans. Push the paper into the corners well and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake the pastry at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no grey patches of raw pastry left behind. You want a nice crisp bottom to your pie. If the pastry has ballooned up, use the back of a metal dessert spoon to gently rub the pastry until it settles. If the pastry isn’t cooperating, you can also pierce the pastry with a fork in the center of the bottom, which will let the steam escape and allow you to do the spoon trick. Lower the temperature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.

    Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is  a sort of custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising, so leave about a half cm or a quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling moves only slightly when jiggled but isn’t liquid at all. Allow it to cool completely to room temperature. If serving the next day keep it in the fridge over night and take out a couple hours before serving for it to come up to room temperature. I often pop my pumpkin pie in the oven for 5-10 minutes just before serving to crisp the pastry again and take the chill off.

    Serve with a generous dollop of vanilla whipped cream.

    Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie.

  2. Hot Cross Buns

    Leave a Comment

    Easter is almost here and I carry on wishing that fabulously silly Easter hats a la Steel Magnolias might be deemed appropriate attire anywhere outside the deep south of the USA … but alas. I’ll just comfort myself with other things, like gargantuin chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, coloured eggs and everything Cadbury’s. I really do love this holiday because even for the non-religious it’s just pagan enough for everyone to enjoy.

    But to commemorate a bygone era in another way – there are Hot Cross Buns, which are another of those old fashioned baked goods that keep coming back year after year. They fill our grocery store shelves in all sorts of strange variations from the original, which are never quite as good as the real McCoy. I even saw a chocolate version this year and bought it. Mistake! It was a no-go, trust me. Sounded fantastic but really ended up being some kind of mildly bitter, all too dry bread. So I’m sticking to the classics – dried golden raisins, red currants and orange with warming spices.

    hot cross buns easter baking

    They are filled with spice and fruit and are delicious fresh with slabs of butter and drizzled honey.  I am not a huge fan of dried peel, so have omitted it in my recipe, replacing it with fresh orange zest. If you love peel, of course add it in, replacing some of the weight of the sultanas and currants.

    These hot cross buns are undoubtedly best on the first day, as with all breads, but toasted on the second and third with lashings of butter is also delicious. A few days on, make a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding! Yum. Now where is that bunny???

     

    HOT CROSS BUNS

    Makes 16-17 buns

    Ingredients

    30g fresh yeast

    80g caster sugar

    450g strong white flour (bread flour)

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    80g salted butter

    225-300g milk, warmed to blood temprature

    2 eggs, whisked

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

    2 teaspoons mixed spice

    50g dried currants

    75g golden raisins

    Zest of two oranges

    For the Egg Wash

    Mix together 1 egg yolk, 50g milk and 1 teaspoon caster sugar,and pass through a sieve.

    For the Flour Paste 

    Mix together 1oog flour and 1tsp sugar with enough water to make a paste the consistency of toothpaste.

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 220ºc/425°f.

    Mix the yeast together with a tablespoon of the sugar until it turns to liquid – quite a good science trick! It happens by osmosis. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl or stand mixing bowl and rub the butter in with your fingers until it resembles sand. Add in the spices and the rest of the sugar, make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast. Swirl a bit of the milk in the yeast pot and pour it in to get everything you can then pour in all but about 50mls of the milk. Don’t be tempted to add it all in at first, you might not need it and could end up with a sloppy dough. Mix everything together until combined, it should be quite a wet dough but not sloppy at all like batter – if there are any dry patches or bits of flour left in the bowl add in the milk in increments until you have a uniformly wet dough. Then leave it for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid fully.

    Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface or in a stand mixer for 5 minutes. The dough should look smooth and elastic and feel springy, which is a sign the gluten has developed nicely. Add in the fruits and the orange zest and knead together, then cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size. It should take about and hour to an hour and a half if its warm in your kitchen, longer if it’s cool.

    Hot Cross Bun Dough

    Knock back the dough and portion it out into 70g pieces. Shape into buns and place on a baking sheet.

    Hot Cross Buns Shaping Dough

    Lightly wash them with the egg wash and then pipe a cross on each using the flour paste.

     

    Hot Cross Buns Crosses

    Allow the buns to double in size, glaze them again carefully with the egg mixture on the dough only, avoiding the crosses, and then bake on the top shelf at 220ºc/425°f for 5 minutes. They should puff up beautifully. Turn down the heat to 200ºc/400°f and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Check regularly and if they start to go too brown too quickly, turn down the oven another 10º or so and continue baking. A little hint – if you have a conventional oven and your baking two sheets at once, like I did. Bake them for the first 5 minutes and then very carefully, without bumping them, switch their spots in the oven. Continue baking as normal.

    hot cross buns baking

    The buns are done when they are a dark golden colour and feel light for their size. Be careful not to get too much colour on them or they will be dry.

    Share among family and friends with lashings of butter and honey.