Hot Cross (Buns) will make you jump! jump!

Orange Spiced Hot Cross Buns

Orange Spiced Hot Cross Buns

I used to think hot cross buns were super gross. 

Maybe it was the raisins or that weird floury cross atop those strangely sweet burger-ish buns, or perhaps it can all be boiled down to the fact that my mom loves them and would force them upon me and my brother every Easter.  Whatever it was, I am happy to say that, with the help of these little babies, I am a true convert!

I've ditched classic raisins in favour of their golden cousins, funny little currants, chopped dried apricots, and slightly sour dried crans and scrapped the floury-paste cross altogether.

Yes, the ingredient list may look long but these little lovelies are a cinch to throw together!  If you're more of a traditionalist, feel free to scrap my melange of dried fruit in favour of classic raisins but definitely don't skimp on the spices and orange zest!  They take these sweet little guys to the next level!

Simple Classic Hot Cross Buns

Makes 16 buns

¼ cup apple juice
¼ cup finely diced dried apricots*
¼ cup chopped dried cranberries*
¼ cup dried currants*
¼ cup golden raisins*
1 ¼ cup whole milk, warmed
2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
4–4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold milk

For the icing
1 cup + 3 tablespoons icing sugar
1 ½ tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir together the apple juice and dried fruit.  Pop the bowl into the microwave and heat for about 30 seconds or until warm.  Set the fruit aside to cool to room temperature.

In a glass measuring cup, stir together the warmed milk and instant yeast and allow it to sit aside and get a little foamy.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 4 cups of flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture.  Add in the orange zest, eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and vanilla and strain the cooled juice from the dried fruit on in as well.  Set the fruit aside to incorporate later.

If using a stand mixer, knead the mixture using the hook attachment until the dough is soft and elastic, about 5–7 minutes, adding the remaining ½ cup of flour if needed.  If using a bowl, stir until a shaggy dough forms then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is soft and elastic, about 7–9 minutes, adding more flour as needed.

When the dough has reached a lovely consistency, knead in the fruit and form the dough into a ball.  Pop the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic and a clean kitchen towel, and allow it to rise for 1 hour in a warm place or until doubled in bulk.

Punch the dough down and divide it into 15 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into a tight-skinned ball and arrange them in three rows of five on your prepared baking sheet (note: the buns should be placed about 1-inch apart).  Lightly drape the buns with plastic and a kitchen towel again and allow them to rise for another hour or until they have puffed up and are just touching.  While the buns are rising, preheat your oven to 375F.

Uncover the buns and lightly brush each with cold milk.  This will help make your buns become a lovely golden brown.  Pop the buns in the oven for 18–22 minutes or until golden brown and lovely.  Remove them from the oven and transfer the buns to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, whip up the icing by mixing together the icing sugar, milk, and vanilla.  Transfer this into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip or a zip top bag with the corner cut out and pipe a cross on top of each cooled bun.

*Feel free to use whatever mixture of dried fruit you’d like!  Just make sure it adds up to 1 cup of fruit.

Challah at me! ... do people still say that?


Challah: what isn't it good for?

Stuffing? Yes please!
French toast?  Oooohhhh baby
Slathered with butter and jam for breakfast?  OK!
Oozy grilled cheese?  Yuh-huh!
Fresh out of the oven?  Duh!

Sure, you could pick up a loaf at the store but making this beautifully braided bread at home is so easy!

The perfect eggy bread for your Easter feast or really any occasion that could use a slightly sweet, super simple, perfectly plaited loaf!  

Classic Challah

Makes 2 loaves

2 ½ cups very warm water
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
½ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
7–8 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds

In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the warm water, yeast, and sugar and allow the yeast to bloom and bubble up for around 10 minutes.

When the yeast is all lovely and foamy, beat in the honey, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Holding the hook attachment for your stand mixer in your hand, beat in one cup of flour at a time until it gets too difficult to mix by hand.  Add in the salt.  Attach the hook to the mixer and knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed.

Cover the bowl with a small piece of plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1–1 ½ hours or until doubled in bulk.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough in half and give each a few kneads.  Set the balls of dough aside for about 5 minutes to relax the gluten then divide each ball into three equal pieces.  Roll each into a long snake about 1 ½ inches in diameter.  Pinch the ends of three snakes together and braid them into one loaf.  Do the same to the other three pieces of dough and lightly grease two baking sheets.  Place the braided loaves onto the baking sheets and lightly cover each with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and allow them to rise again in a warm spot for about one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375F and beat the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle each with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds.  Pop the loaves into the oven for 20–30 minutes or until a deep golden brown then loosely tent the loaves with aluminum foil.  Continue baking the loaves for 10–15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread registers 190F.

Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Store the loaves well wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

No Knead, No Problem! My go-to bread for lazy days

No-Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

This bread is literally the easiest bread out there.  No snazzy yeast, no finicky sourdough starter, just some baking soda, baking powder, and buttermilk to get this dense and delicious loaf ready for your plate!

Easy No-Knead Bread

Makes 1 loaf

2 cups all-purpose flour
2–2 ½ cups spelt or whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾–2 ¼ cups buttermilk, plus a little for brushing
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons runny honey
¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat your oven to 425F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat or spelt flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in 1 ¾ cups of the buttermilk followed by the melted butter and honey.  Using a wooden spoon, stir until all of the liquid has been evenly mixed in.  If needed, feel free to add some of the remaining buttermilk to make the dough come together.

Once the dough is too stiff to stir with the spoon, lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it.  Gently knead the dough to form it into a rough loaf but be careful not to overwork it.

Transfer the dough to the parchment lined baking sheet and, using a large knife, score an ‘X’ across the top making sure to cut about halfway down.  Use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of buttermilk all over the top of the loaf and scatter the top with pumpkin seeds.

Bake the bread in your preheated oven for 25 minutes then reduce the heat on your oven to 350F and continue to bake for an additional 20–25 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when you rap on the top with your knuckles.

Transfer your loaf to a wire rack and allow it to cool.

Starch on starch on starch: Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

We Bergs are firmly a starch family.  

No dinner is complete without potatoes, rice, noodles, or some sort of doughy delicious bread.  I mean, sure, it's February and I'm trying really hard to dig into healthy veg filled plates to counteract the winter slumps but, come ON!

Starch is the best!

It's on days like this, days that I am sliding down the slippery slope of fading New Year's resolutions, that I like to overindulge in the stuff and really double down so I give you Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia.

I mean, Potatoes + Bread = Unbridled Joy in my books and the multipliers of cheese and thyme are kind of a no brainer.

Potato Thyme and Cheddar Focaccia

Makes 1 - 9x13" loaf

¾ cup + 2 tbsp warm water
1 slightly rounded teaspoon quick rise yeast
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup finely grated white cheddar cheese
1 small Yukon Gold potato, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon picked fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, for top of loaf

In a glass measuring cup, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and set aside in a warm place for approximately 15 minutes to activate the yeast.  

In a large bowl, stir together the flour and kosher salt and make a well in the middle.  Once the yeast mixture is nice and foamy, pour it into the well along with a ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and begin mixing the dough with a wooden spoon to combine.

Once combined, dump the shaggy dough mixture onto a well floured work surface and begin kneading for approximately 6 – 8 minutes.

Shape the dough into a tight skinned ball and place into a well oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

While rising, coat a 9x13 baking pan in remaining 3 tablespoons of the remaining of extra virgin olive oil and set out your grated cheese.  In a small bowl, toss together the thinly sliced potato and thyme with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.

Once risen, press the dough into the pan, making sure to poke your fingers all the way through to the bottom of the pan while you stretch the dough.  Cover the formed focaccia with your clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 425F and scatter the cheese evenly over the dough.  Arrange the potatoes overtop and sprinkle with pepper and coarse sea salt.  Bake the focaccia in your preheated oven for 18–25 minutes or until golden and the potatoes are soft and beginning to brown.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and let cool slightly before digging in.