Hot Cross Buns

 
Where did Hot Cross Buns come from anyway? Apparently a 12th century monk got creative one Good Friday and added a cross to the buns he was baking. It kind of caught on and Hot Cross Buns became a tradition all over the world. I hope the monk got a promotion, although I’m guessing that by now he’s in Heaven and that’s quite a bit better than a promotion. Anyway, kudos to the monk and I’m glad he created these delicious Hot Cross Buns.

You can use currants, raisins or even dried cranberries for the added fruit, although the currants are superior because they’re small and are just tangy enough for the barely sweet buns. These little yeast buns came out so soft and fluffy and delicious. I had the piping for the crosses a little too thin and ended up glazing the entire tops of the rolls, but I think that may have made them even better!

This was the very first time I’d ever eaten Hot Cross Buns and I really enjoyed them. I warmed one up with a little pat of butter and it was just wonderful. I can’t wait till breakfast to have another one with morning coffee! Since this recipe makes 12 buns, I’ll freeze some of them. I think they’ll be just as good thawed and warmed up. I highly recommend making these for your Easter morning breakfast or brunch.

5 from 1 vote
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Hot Cross Buns

****Original Recipe from NatashasKitchen.com.  Soft and fluffy buns - great for breakfast.

Servings: 12
Ingredients
  • 1/2 C currants
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 3/4 C warm milk (about 110°) divided
  • 1/2 C plus 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter melted and cooled
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 envelope Active or Rapid Rise Yeast
  • 2 large eggs well beaten
  • 3 1/2 to 4 C unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg well beaten with 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 C powdered sugar mixed with 2 1/2 tsp milk or cream
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine currants with 1 cup of hot water.  Let sit 10 minutes, then drain well, pat dry, and set aside.

  2. In a large measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup warm milk with 1/2 tsp sugar and gently stir in the packet of yeast.  Let sit at room temperature until bubbly and almost doubled in volume (10-15 minutes).

  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup warm milk with 1/2 cup of sugar, the cooled, melted butter and 1/2 tsp salt.  Add the 2 beaten eggs and proofed yeast mixture and mix.  Stir in the ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

  4. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and add flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough forms (after 3 1/2 cups, start adding 1/4 cup more at a time until the dough is a soft ball).  Knead 8-12 minutes with the mixer until smooth and elastic.  Dough will stick a little to the bowl, but not to your hands.

  5. Add the drained and patted-dry currants and transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, turning it to bring the buttered side up.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free room 1 1/2 hours until doubled in volume.

  6. Turned out dough onto a lightly floured counter and cut in half.  Continue cutting dough until you have 12 equally-sized pieces.  Roll the pieces into smooth balls and put into a very buttered 9x13" baking pan or dish.  Cover and let sit in a warm area for 30-45 minutes, until slightly puffed up.

  7. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°.  Generously brush the tops of the risen buns with egg wash and bake for 15-17 minutes until tops are golden brown (or 190° when tested).  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a rack.

  8. After buns are completely cooled, stir together the powdered sugar and 2 1/2 tsp. milk until thick enough to pipe (not too thin).  Put into a ziplock bag and cut a tip off one of the corners.  Pipe a cross shape over each of the buns (or make more glaze and cover the entire tops of the buns).  Good served warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Notes
Tips and Stuff: I ended up using about 3 3/4 cups of flour to get the ball to form in the mixer. If kneading by hand, knead for 8-12 minutes until you get a translucent window pane when stretching a small piece. When adding the currants, make sure they're patted dry so it won't make the dough sticky. To add the currants, add a couple of tablespoons at a time and fold in so that they're dispersed evenly through the dough. Make sure the 9x13" pan is buttered very generously so the buns won't stick. If they do stick a little, just gently ply them up with a flexible spatula.

Three Cheese and Sausage Lasagna

 
Everyone has their favorite lasagna recipe – I’m partial to the one my sister gave me over thirty years ago (Virginia’s from the side of the box – really good!). This lasagna by Paula Deen got my attention because one of the cheeses used is cream cheese. It’s added to the sauce and creates a creamy, creamy sauce. I would use it on any pasta any day of the week!

Lasagna, when done well, can be one of the best Italian dishes around. If not done well, it can be pretty icky. This one, though, turned out great. It starts by layering the noodles, sauce, and cheeses and repeating:

Then it’s covered with aluminum foil and baked, then uncovered so it will turn a beautiful golden brown on the top. It didn’t make tall layers, but it had a good amount of sauce to cheese to noodles. Next time I might add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the sauce to make the layers a little more saucy. I cheated and put a little more mozzarella on top than called for because we enjoy cheesy pasta, but the called-for amounts would be about perfect for most.

We enjoyed this lasagna and I will definitely make it again and again. It makes a ton (13×9″ dish), so you can share it or take it to a covered dish dinner. I’m not sharing this one this time, though. I’m gonna keep it nearby and we’ll be eating it for lunch and dinner for the next three days!
 

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Three Cheese and Sausage Lasagna

****Very good lasagna.  Creamy sauce and lots of cheese!  Adapted from Paula Deen's "My Favorite Lasagna."

Servings: 12
Ingredients
  • 9 lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 3 Italian Sausages
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 32 oz. spaghetti sauce
  • 5 oz. cream cheese cut into small pieces
  • 16 oz. Mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 1 1/2 C. Parmesan cheese grated
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 13x9" glass dish with cooking spray. 

  2. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.

  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up, until browned.  Sprinkle with the salt and black pepper.  Add the spaghetti sauce and cream cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce (will take awhile to blend).

  4. Spoon 3/4 cup of the meat sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Top with a single layer of noodles, 1 cup of the sauce, one-third of the mozzarella and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan.  Repeat the layers two more times until all of the ingredients have been used, ending with remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.

  5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until golden on top and bubbling (15-20 minutes).

Recipe Notes
Tips and Stuff: I used sweet Italian sausage, but you can use spicy if you want more of a kick. You can also use a pound of ground beef if that's what you have on hand. There should be a little grease after browning the meat, but if it's excessive be sure and drain it so the lasagna won't be greasy after baking.

Orange Cinnamon Bread from Heaven

 
I took a little liberty with the title of this post, but man, oh, man this Orange Cinnamon Bread really is heavenly!

I’m lucky to have a knack at making yeast breads – they always turn out unless my yeast is way out of date.  I end up with flour from head to toe, but homemade bread – especially this one – is really worth the time.   Your family will love that orangey-cinnamony yeast bread aroma coming from the oven.

This bread is light and airy with a swirl of cinnamon-sugar through it along with bits of orange zest sprinkled here and there.  While taking photos, I had to (had to) eat the end piece so no one would have to eat that.  It’s not nice to give people the end piece of bread.  Then I needed to test the texture of a regular piece, so I warmed it up for a few seconds with butter slathered on it.  Oh, my, my, my, as Mr. Kenda would say.  It’s fantastic!

Do take the time and make this bread.  It makes two loaves, so you can give the second one to someone you love.  They’ll definitely appreciate it.  Now, what did I do with that bread knife?


Orange Cinnamon Bread
**** Outstanding homemade bread.  Original recipe from Taste of Home’s Complete Guide to Baking.   Best when sliced, dotted with butter and toasted under a toaster oven or broiler for 2-3 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.

2 pkgs. (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast
1/4 C. warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1 C milk
3/4 C. orange juice
1 C. sugar, divided
1 tbsp. grated orange peel.
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg
6 1/2 to 7 C. all-purpose flour
Additional water
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Glaze:
1 C. confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. orange juice
1/8 tsp. vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a saucepan, heat milk and orange juice until warm (110 degrees); add to yeast mixture. Stir in 1/2 C. sugar, orange peel, salt, egg and 3 C. flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (I used a total of 6 1/2 cups.)

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 6-8 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly flour surface; divide in half. With a rolling pin, roll each portion into a 15″x 7″ rectangle. Brush lightly with water. Combine cinnamon and remaining half-cup of sugar and sprinkle over the dough up to 1″ from edges.

Tightly roll up jelly-roll style, starting at the short end and pinch bottom and side seams to seal. Place bottom seam down in two greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool (run butter knife around edges if slightly stuck). Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over completely cooled bread.

Tips and Stuff
I used my Kitchen Aide to mix the ingredients together, changed to the dough hook on low for 3-4 minutes, then turned out the dough on the floured counter and kneaded for 3-4 more minutes until smooth and elastic (hold up a little piece and stretch – should be see-through).
My bread was perfectly browned and done in 30 minutes. Ovens may vary – just keep a watch. You don’t want the top too brown.
Store the bread loosely in a sack, bread box, or I used a plastic grocery bag tied loosely at the end (with aluminum foil wrapped on the cut end to keep it from drying out).

Light Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

 
I recently finished a Cooking for Two series and found a few more recipes for two to try later on. This light Linguine with Red Clam Sauce caught my eye because a good clam sauce is hard to come by and it’s one of my favorite pasta sauces. This one is a thick, light and simple sauce full of minced clams and has a little kick (you can leave out the pepper flakes if you’re not into spicy).

I prefer a more saucy than chunky sauce, so I added a little more liquid than the recipe called for (see Tips and Stuff below recipe). It was easy to throw together for a weekday lunch and I liked not having a bunch of leftovers. I’m not sure clams would refrigerate and heat back up that well anyway. If you’re brave and want to use fresh clams in their shell, be my guest. I’m not that adventurous.

This will be a go-to pasta sauce, even without the clams, for a dinner on a night we’re both tired and wanting something tasty. You can double this easily to serve 4.

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Light Linguine with Red Clam Sauce

***1/2 good and spicy red clam sauce over linguine; quick to make. 

Servings: 2
Ingredients
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1/8 C chopped onion, (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 7 oz no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 oz Italian tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil or 1 tsp. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp oregano
  • pinch of dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 can minced clams, 6 oz., drained
  • 4 oz linguine
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat, while preparing sauce. Keep out 1/4 of pasta water.
  2. For sauce: coat a medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, white wine, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 8 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup pasta water and simmer for 2 more minutes. Add clams and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Divide pasta between 2 bowls and top with clam mixture. Sprinkle with grated parmesan.
Recipe Notes
Tips and Stuff: I wanted my sauce a little thinner so added even more pasta water - about another 1/4 cup. If you don't have white wine, just add a little water instead. I'm not sure it added that much to the flavor.

Calories:  400; Fiber 2.6g; Fat 4.2g; Carbs 58.5g; Protein 28.7 g.; Cholesterol 49 mg.

Ligita’s Quick Apple Cake

 
I don’t know who Ligita is, but I want to thank her from the bottom of my hungry little heart for this Quick Apple Cake recipe. When I read through it, I was a little puzzled because it’s made in a pie plate and the apple mixture is topped with a thick cake crust. So it’s a cake, baked in a pie plate that ends up rather like a cobbler!

The apples are thinly sliced and tossed in a lemon, sugar, cinnamon mixture, then topped with a lightly sweet cake batter. It ends up with a luscious apple filling and a tender cake layer, along with a slightly crunchy top. We had it warm with a scoop of Blue Bell Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and it was oh, so tasty.

This cake (pie, cobbler) has a familiar warm apple cake flavor with a different twist. The browned butter really adds a different dimension to the cake layer, so make sure and don’t skip that step. It was easy to throw together and, besides having to wait impatiently for it to cool, it was a quick dessert. Delicious.


Ligita’s Quick Apple Cake
****Slightly adapted from Richard Sax – Classic Home Desserts

3 C. tart apples, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 C. plus 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3/4 C. butter, cut into pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C. sifted all-purposed flour
Vanilla Ice Cream (optional, but highly recommended!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie plate.

Toss the sliced apples in a bowl with the cinnamon, lemon juice and 2 tbsp. of the sugar. Spread the apples evenly in the pie plate.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until the foam is lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove immediately from the stove top and pour into a bowl, leaving any sediment and as much foam as possible in the pan.*

Stir the 3/4 cup of sugar into the butter. Slowly stream the egg into the bowl while stirring. Gently stir in the flour until blended. Spoon the batter evenly over the apples and spread into a layer. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tbsp. sugar.

Bake until lightly golden and crusty, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve from the pan warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream.

Tips and Stuff
I used Fuji apples. Granny Smith would be another good apple – make sure it’s a firm cooking apple. (Takes 3 medium or 2 large)
*When pouring the browned butter into the bowl, pour through a sieve or use a pan lid to get just the liquid out. Some of the foam will come with it – that’s OK, but make sure the sediment from the browning remains in the pan so it won’t be bitter.
Cool at least 30 minutes to let the apple mixture firm up.