It’s Easter time and that means chocolate eggs and hot cross buns! Traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot cross buns are enriched bread made with spices and citrus zest/peel. They are marked on top with the symbol of the cross, made from either a flavourless flour water mix or a mix of powdered sugar and milk.
This weekend I undertook a hot cross extravaganza and made hot cross cookies, scones and my signature buns known as hot cross bunnies; obviously made in the shape of a (Easter) bunny.
Previously I have made hot cross brownies and plan to make hot cross pancakes and muffins for next year.
Many recipes for hot cross buns call for ‘mixed spice’. So what exactly is in this blend?
Hot Cross Bun spice mix:
2 teaspoons of true cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon clove
This quantity will be more than sufficient for one full batch of hot cross buns. Use the leftover spice blend to make cookies, scones, cake or whatever else you can think of to ‘hot crossify’.
*For best flavour, grind the spices fresh just before using in a recipe.
*For more pungency double the amounts of allspice, nutmeg and clove.
The ginger love is well underway! Scones, decorated cookies and ginger lemon curd to name but a few creations. (Although the ginger is not so pronounced in the curd. Note to self: next time use fresh ginger and infuse it into the curd while it cooks. Strain out afterwards.)
botanical name: Zingiber officinale
where it originated:
South East Asia
where does it grow now:
Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia
Anti-inflammatory, digestive, useful for nausea
Other spices of the holiday season are clove, nutmeg and cinnamon.
Clove pairs well with cranberry, orange and mulled cidre/wine. Nutmeg is the signature flavour in eggnog while cinnamon goes well in mulled drinks, hot chocolate and apple desserts.
All four (ginger, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon) make a great spice blend for a variety of seasonal treats eg mincemeat tarts, cakes and cookies. Make sure to use minute quantities of clove and nutmeg. Your pinches and dashes will come in handy here. These are potent spices and a little goes a long way. Be generous with the ginger and cinnamon. A 2:1 ratio is a general guideline when using both spices depending on which flavour you want to dominate.
In gingerbread, use at least twice as much ginger as cinnamon.
Stay tuned for individual posts on clove, nutmeg and cinnamon….
Today is the birthday of Wilbur Scoville. He would have been 151 years old, about the same measure as paprika.
Scoville was an American chemist who devised a test to measure the hotness of peppers, now called the Scoville scale and used to rate the level of spice in various capsicums. From sweet bell peppers to ghost peppers, habaneros and scotch bonnet to cayenne and piri piri, peppers are used to flavour and heat various dishes. Pepper tidbits:
The seeds add heat. To reduce the heat, remove and discard the seeds before adding the finely chopped pepper to cooking.
Use gloves when handling hot peppers. If you do use your hands, make sure to wash them thoroughly and avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, for at least 24 hours.
Capsaicin, the active ingredient in peppers, is used in pepper spray and bear spray, a more potent version to help ward off angry bears.
Capsaicin also has therapeutic use. It can be applied topically in an ointment/cream for pain relief and ingested for digestive support and antibacterial action.