Hot Cross Buns

(#25 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

The quarantine has been extended. Instead of looking forward to its end in a week, I am (still) trying to get used to the fact that I (we) have to bear the cabin fever until the end of the month! I am now seriously concerned that my flour and eggs won’t last that long…

But, today is Good Friday and I wanted to bake something. Initially I was thinking of baking some sort of Easter bread but (1) I couldn’t wait that long, and (2) the Easter bread recipe I had uses about half a dozen eggs… so, NO.

No, no, no.

Off to find something in my cookbook library, only to realize that it would take FOREVER for me to find a recipe apt for Good Friday… when the kid suggests to just “GOOGLE” it (and I actually cringe at her use of the word “Google” as a verb!) so I did. And of course, in a matter of seconds, millions of suggestions appeared.

(Just a short note here… for some reason, I belong to the old-ways age group who look in books first for information instead of the internet… so in case anyone was wondering why I did the more complicated thing i.e. check my books first instead of typing a few words, well, it’s I guess I’m just more comfortable with books…)

Anyway, the search results were (almost) all for Hot Cross Buns… which is rather alien in our part of the world. But it looked like something hubby would really like so I picked the recipe from one of my favorite internet sources – King Arthur Flour.

I could not be 100% faithful to the recipe, though, since I had to make do with what I had on hand… first change I always make is to halve the recipe… simply because the possibility that we won’t finish a whole batch is very real!

First things first, I did not soak my mixed dried fruits in apple juice or rum.

I did not have 1 large egg nor did I want to use half a yolk, so I used 2 medium eggs.

As for the procedure, I dump everything in the bowl of my stand mixer (because I am lazy) and let the mixer do all the kneading!

2-1/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/8 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking powder

2/3 cup milk, room temperature
2 medium eggs
3 tablespoons butter, softened

80g mixed dried fruit, chopped into small bits

The first rise took about an hour.  I divided the dough into 16 (small) balls (about 45 grams each) and arranged them in greased 8-inch square pan.  The second rise took about 40 minutes, after which I placed the pan (covered with plastic wrap) in the fridge overnight.

And, because I am lazy, I did not want to take the extra step of making a flour paste or icing to mark the buns with crosses, so I just cut/sliced cross marks on the buns before shoving the tray into the oven.

The rolls baked the next morning, at 375*F, for about 25 minutes.  (I placed the buns almost straight out of the fridge – it only sat on the counter for the 10-15 minutes it took for the oven to preheat.)

After the rolls came out of the oven, I brushed the tops with apricot glaze (apricot jam plus a little water on low heat).

Dayap Blueberry Coffeecake

(#19 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

I only knew it as dayap… a citrus fruit that looked like calamansi but bigger.  It was more common when I was young; these days it is a rare find in the wet markets much less the supermarkets.  Once in a while I would see some at the weekend market but…

So when I saw dayap plants at the plant nursery a good 5-6 years back, I bought 3 at once… never mind the price that was more costly than I care to admit…

In any case, when my dayap plants (now just 2, the third one having been murdered by our doggies) bear fruit, I zest them and freeze them.  

Anyway… this cake…

I basically followed Ina Garten’s recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake, but, of course, changed a couple of things because well, I used my dayap (limes in English) and I did not have blueberries per se… I had blueberry jam

First, make the steusel topping –

Mix together: 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon apple pie spice, 1-1/3 cups flour, and 1/2 cup (113grams) melted butter.  I placed the bowl in the fridge while I went about making the cake batter.

Line a 9-inch round pan with baking paper and preheat the oven to 350*F.

Then, rub 1/2 teaspoon grated dayap (lime) zest in 3/4 cup sugar; let stand about 5 minutes.

Stir together 1 1/4 cups AP flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt.  Set aside.

Beat 85 grams of butter with the sugar until light and creamy.  Add 2 large eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Stir in half of the flour mixture.  Add 1/2 cup sour cream.  Stir in half of the remaining flour mixture then add 3 tablespoons of dayap juice.  Stir in the remaining four mixture.

Spoon the batter in the prepared pan.  Spoon dollops of blueberry jam on the batter (I used a little over 1/2 cup) then sprinkle the streusel on the top.

Bake about 50 minutes.

Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea!


Orange Cream Cheese Loaf

(#16 in the limited series: cooking/baking in the time of the coronavirus quarantine)

When the imposed community quarantine began, Lola bought some oranges.  We usually get ponkan (mandarin oranges?) because we find them sweeter but for some reason the oranges Lola got were bigger, juicier and more appropriate for juicing… so we did not prefer to eat them…

Anyway, one of the oranges looked like it was starting to go bad so I had to think of what to do with it before it unusable…

180g sugar
zest of 1 large orange

Combine sugar and orange zest; let stand.

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir dry ingredients together; set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare a medium loaf pan (8×4-in) by lining with greaseproof paper.  Preheat oven to 350*F.

75g butter, softened
75g cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extrace, optional

Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the extracts.

Stir in half of the flour mixture.  Add the juice of the orange (about 3 to 4 tablespoons), then the remaining flour.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 to 70 minutes.  Rotate pan midway.  Cover with foil to prevent the top from over-browning.


Prune Loaf

(#10 in the limited series: “cooking/baking in the time of the corona virus quarantine”)

A-te J found a container of prunes sitting in a hidden corner of the kitchen.  So, I’m trying another variant of my loaf base recipe…

First thing to do is boil about 1 cup of prunes in enough water to cover them, for about 6 to 8 minutes. Then mash them, and leave to cool completely.

Stir together –

1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Add –

1 egg
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup yogurt
mashed prunes

Mix well.

Bake in 2 6×3-in loaf pans or 1 8×4-in loaf pan, in a preheated 250*F oven, for about 30 minutes for the smaller loaf pans, or 40 minutes for the medium loaf pan.



Lemon Crumble Loaf Cake

I first saw Anna Olsen on cable TV and I liked her show. I liked her so much that I bought her cookbooks. They were rather costly but I felt it was worth it.

So when I saw her “Set for the Holidays” book last year, I wanted it. But the hefty price tag deterred me! And while the ebook version is more affordable, I wanted the book!

I kept going back to the bookstore, just to look at it and wish. Then, last August, the bookstore held its annual sale and there was a 20% discount on all foreign cookbooks! I was not prepared and did not have enough cash so I went back the next day… only to be disappointed! There were about 5 copies of the book the day before… the next day there was not a single copy!


I was preparing myself to settle for the ebook copy but somehow could not bring myself to click the mouse button… then last week hubby told me there was an all-out sale at another bookstore and asked me to go with him.

Am I glad I did! I found 2 copies of the book! At almost half price off! Wow! I did not hesitate and took a copy! Best part? Hubby paid for it (and a couple of other cookbooks as well)!

That book is on my bedside table, with numerous sticky notes stuck to various pages with recipes that I want to try. The first one is this loaf cake! Perfect timing too since I had fresh lemons from our trip up north.

The recipe, with slight modifications –

For the crumble – rub 1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest in 1/3 cup of sugar. Add 3/4 cup flour, pinch of salt and 1/4 cup melted butter. Stir until the mixture is crumbly. I placed the bowl in the fridge while I mixed the cake batter.

For the cake (my methodology is different since I am a tad lazy) – rub 1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest in 3/4 cup sugar. Add 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; mix to combine.

Combine the wet ingredients together – 1/2 cup melted butter, 2/3 cup sour cream, 2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and the juice from 4 small-ish lemons (since I did not know what to do with lemon juice from the lemons that I grated).

Combine the wet and dry ingredients together and mix just until combined.Since I did not have a 9×5 loaf pan, I used our local fruitcake loaf pan (2 of them!) that was ever so slightly smaller than an 8×4 loaf pan (buttered, lined with greaseproof baking paper and buttered again).

Divide the batter and spoon into the 2 loaf pans. Scatter the crumble on top. Bake in a preheated 325*F oven for about 45 minutes. I had to cover my loaf cakes with foil to avoid the top from getting too brown.

Wow!  This cake is fantastic!!!

Frankly I am not a big fan of lemon but this cake I absolutely loved!!!

Apple Crisp

Over the Christmas holidays, while we were having Christmas lunch with my mom, we talked about (what else?) Christmas baking! It cropped up because I gave my godmother (who joined our Christmas lunch) fruitcake – my mom’s recipe (slightly adapted for my personal taste, of course) so then naturally my mom asked if I had successfully made her apple pie (she wanted to taste it again but did not want to make it).

I had to admit that while I was successful with her apple filling and the pie topping, I kept getting the bottom crust wrong. She then told me that the bottom crust was not important, so I could use whatever bottom crust recipe I wanted (or was comfortable with) because her secret was, first and foremost, the filling, followed by the topping. The crust, she said, was some recipe she picked up somewhere and was really nothing special.


But. But.

I am still chicken to make it. I did have moderate success a while back doing just what she suggested – generic crust for the bottom. But they were mini pies (baked in cupcake tins) and when I tried to make them in a proper pie pan… alas, same deal as before – nice filling and nice topping but blah bottom crust!

So, even if we have apples in abundance for the Christmas season, I am, yet again, still chicken to try mommy’s apple pie!

Instead I made her filling and topped it with my own oat-crisp mixture! And to make it extra special, I served it with vanilla ice cream (store bought) and homemade Brandy Caramel Sauce…

Personally I am happy with this Apple Crisp and would be just as happy to skip the apple pie altogether if only it were not an heirloom recipe as my mom claims it to be. (So as you can guess by now, my only interest in successfully making the apple pie is for my mom – for her to taste it once again, as well as to keep it alive for the next generation!)

Orange Pound Cake

I have made orange cake before (it has become a real favorite!!!). But this particular one is Ina Garten’s recipe… and I used blood oranges.

The recipe is by the Barefoot Contessa but I did not follow directions completely… because I am a lazy baker… also I did not need 2 loaves of pound cake so I halved the recipe.

As I always do when using zest in a recipe – even if I am lazy – I rub the zest in the sugar…

zest from 2 large blood oranges
scant 1 cup sugar

Then I mix all the dry ingredients together –

1-1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Then place all the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients –

1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
juice from 1 orange (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon homemade orange extract

And mix until just about combined.

The batter is scooped into a loaf pan (8×4-in) that was buttered, papered, then buttered again.

The cake is baked in a preheated 425F oven for about 40 minutes (rotate pan midway).

Meanwhile, make the “syrup”. This is where I altered drastically. The reason? Well, my orange marmalade jar was almost empty but there was a little less than a tablespoon left… and I had about a tablespoon of brandy left in the bottle… so I mixed them with the remaining 1/4 cup of orange juice from the second blood orange and heated the mixture!

When the cake came out of the oven, I brushed the cake with the marmalade-juice-brandy mix!

Happy New Year!

It’s 2020!

For our media noche (new year’s eve feast), I decided to be lazy and do take-out. As much as I love to cook and bake, and will at every opportunity I can find, it made sense to take it easy and just enjoy the turnover from 2019 to 2020.

We usually clean up/out at the year’s end and hubby is in the midst of a massive reorganization… he even rearranged his side of the dressing room!

Me? I have loads to clean up but I am doing it bit by bit. Honestly I am too afraid to do it at one go – I am afraid that I would never finish! Hahaha

Anyway, i might have gotten take out but I made sure to make dessert!

In line with feeling “chicken” I have postponed, yet again, trying to make my mom’s apple pie. This year should have been the perfect time to try again since we received many apples this year but as I said, I did not feel confident to make the attempt.

As I’ve often said, my mom is known for 3 things at Christmas time… lasagna, fruitcake and apple pie… I have been successful 2/3 which is to say that I got her lasagna and fruitcake down pat but the apple pie? 2/3 still – that is to say that I’ve got the filling and top crust perfectly but I still flunked the bottom crust part. Sigh.

So what to do with all those apples? If there’s one thing I am good at with apples, it is apple crisp! This time though using mommy’s recipe for the filling (of course)!

For this year’s apple crisp, we spruced up by having it with vanilla ice cream and homemade light brandy caramel sauce!

As for the rest of the apples… maybe upside down apple cake… maybe…

Orange-Apricot Loaf

I never thought that an orange flavored loaf (or cake) was delicious and because of that, I stayed away for orange cakes. But at some point, a friend (from the culinary world) urged me (rather strenuously I might add) to give it a try, promising me that it would “definitely change my mind”.

Well guess what? My mind was blown at my first orange cake!

Since then I have made many orange cakes!

Here’s another one… with apricots! I found the recipe online – from Sunset

I didn’t have sour cream on hand though, instead I used 1/4 cup EACH orange juice and orange marmalade. As always, I brush the top (after baking) with a glaze made from apricot preserves, brandy, and water. I baked the recipe in 2 disposable aluminum loaf pans for about an hour.

We ate a loaf after dinner and sent the other one to my mother.

It was spectacularly delicious!

My Mom’s Fruitcake

I’ve always said that my mom is famous for 3 things during Christmas – one of which is her fruitcake. I’ve scoured her recipe files and found 3 recipes.

I tried the recipes.  None of the 3 seemed to be “IT”.  When I asked my mom about it, she just said it had to be one of the 3… but I was quite certain that it was not.

Well, remember I found her black books?  There was a fruitcake recipe in one of the books, and it was for a big batch of fruitcake – 1 recipe made about 6 to 8 loaves!  I scaled it down a bit and baked it – AND I HIT THE JACKPOT!  It was THE recipe!

Even hubby was satisfied and convinced!

Incidentally, it was this fruitcake that topped his tower of treats for his birthday!

When her recipe was broken down, it seemed similar to one of the recipes that I figured out last year – there were only slight differences! But I think what really set her fruitcake apart was her baking (?) method. Her recipe specifically specified to steam the fruitcake, which resulted in a very moist cake!

Lemon-Strawberry Roll

Friend C gave us these big, fat, juicy strawberries last week.  We wanted to eat them as is but I gave specific instructions to leave some because I wanted to make this cake!

Truth be told though, I bought some more strawberries because I wanted strawberry curd for the filling and real strawberry buttercream for the frosting!

For the cake, I used a different recipe.  I found this book in a second-hand bookstore –

with the recipe for Lemon Jelly Roll on page 234.

While I already have a lemon sponge cake recipe (which I believe to be the best), I am always ready and willing to try other recipes!

Anyway, I got the recipe for the cake from the book.  My adapted version –

Prepare the jelly roll pan first of all! I usually just line line with greaseproof paper.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Sift together then set aside –

1-1/4 cups AP flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine and beat (on low-medium speed), for 2 minutes*, –

3 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1 lemon, plus soya oil to make a total of 1/2 cup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a separate bowl, beat 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until frothy. Add 1/2 cup sugar by tablespoonfuls and beat until stiff peaks (but not dry).

Fold half of the whites into the yolk mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture to the yolk batter (I used an 1/8 cup per addition), folding gently after each addition. Fold the remaining egg whites into the yolk batter.

Place the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a tea towel** slightly larger than the size of the pan. (The recipe specifies that it be dusted with powdered sugar but I don’t do it.) Immediately after baking (make sure that the cake is really done but not overdone), invert the cake on the cloth and remove the paper. Gently roll the cake on the shorter end. Leave the cake until it cools.

Fill the cake with strawberry curd and re-roll. Frost with strawberry buttercream and garnish with strawberries and strawberry syrup.

Notes –
* the original recipe specified that the lemon and orange juices be heated but I did not follow that instruction.
** I used the material from a flour sack, sewing 2 layers together to make a sheet that was 1 inch larger than my pan on all sides. So far none of my cakes have gotten stuck. I was told that the material is muslin but honestly I don’t know!

For the rest I wanted STRAWBERRYYYYYYYYY!!!!!  Strawberry curd for the filling, strawberry buttercream for the frosting… I wanted more strawberry so I decided the cake would have strawberries for garnish.  And to make things even more strawberry, I thought of making a strawberry syrup or glaze, ALL from REAL STRAWBERRIES!!!

All in all, I used about 1 kilogram of strawberries!!!!

For the filling, I got the recipe for strawberry curd from bakedbyrachel – that was 450 grams of strawberries right there…

For the buttercream and syrup, I followed the advise of a friend – Macerate about 350 grams of strawberries with some brown sugar for a couple of hours.  Lightly mash the strawberries to draw out more of its juice.  Drain well. Heat the strawberry juice liquid until reduced.  Add sugar as desired to obtain the sweetness level that you like.  This is the strawberry syrup (it’s actually loose and not thick at all).  For the rest of the mashed strawberries, place in a heavy pot and add the juice of 1 lemon.  Heat over low heat and blend using a hand blender.  Heat gently and cook until thick.  Cool completely.  Chill.

I like my buttercream to be looser and less sweet so I generally use (considerably) less powdered sugar.  But basically, it’s softened butter, powdered sugar, and the cooled strawberry puree!  That’s it!

Having said and done all that, it does not have to be THAT complicated – instead of using homemade strawberry curd for the filling, use your favorite strawberry jam.  For the frosting, there are many ready-to-use frosting available off the shelf; same with the strawberry syrup!  The cake will still be good!  Promise!

Anyway, we served a slice of the cake to the kid’s piano teacher.  And he raved about it!!!!

Pineapple Tarts for CNY

Yes, yes, I know.  I need to practice more to make the tart shells even and nice…

But I am happy to say that after several attempts, I finally found a tart shell/crust recipe that hubby (and the kid) likes!  The only problem?  It is a fragile one, and does not keep well!

More than that, I found a recipe for the pineapple filling that used weight!  Most of the recipes I found specified the number of pineapples to use and my problem with that is the varying sizes of pineapples!!!!

The recipe is from Bake for Happy Kids.  I scaled down the recipe because I was intending to make only a dozen or two at most.  Also, I grated the pineapple instead of using the food processor (the filling was very chunky, but as it turns out, hubby preferred it!).

Happy Chinese New Year (of the Earth Piggy)!