Posts Tagged With: winter recipe

Winter Recipes: Hot Cross Buns



As yet another severe winter storm whips its way through the eastern United States, bringing nearly a foot of snow and another round of dangerously low wind chills, I couldn’t help but daydream of sunny days, green trees, and warm spring breezes while shoveling the driveway, ankle-deep in crystalline cold. And, as my thoughts meandered towards spring, my appetite seemed to follow. Over the last several days, I’ve had an odd craving for hot cross buns, a classically springtime treat, marked by its symbolic association with the Easter season. But, even though Easter and warm weather are still so far away, I thought I’d still take the time to cross a few buns in hope of warmer days!

Not Crossed Buns

Not Crossed Buns

Composed of spiced dough speckled with fruit (typically raisins, currants, or sultanas), and topped with the eponymous cross, hot cross buns (or just “cross buns,” as they were known in their homeland of 15th century England) have captivated the hearts, minds, and spirits of the western world for at least 600 years. Although little evidence exists to support the claim, some food archaeologists believe the crossed bun actually dates to the religious rituals of the Saxons in 9th century England, where they were used to honor the goddess Eostre, an alleged deity whose impact on western culture is still hotly contested. Whatever their origin, the hot cross bun serves as a delicious staple to warm our way through the rest of this wintry weather, and keep our minds fixed on spring!

Now, as this recipe is of British origin, there are a few features to this process that are (unfortunately) foreign to the average American baker. First, because much of the world uses scales in the kitchen, many of the measurements for this recipe are by weight, not volume (though I’ll convert these measures as accurately as possible). Second, this recipe calls for “mixed spice,” a blend of warm spices not unlike pumpkin pie spice. To make a small batch of mixed spice for yourself, simply combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove

With our British to American conversions out of the way, lets dig into some hot cross buns!

Hot Cross Buns Recipe

Cool Crossed Buns

Cold Crossed Buns

Makes 12 Buns

Ingredients for Buns

  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk (100 F / 37 C)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 600 grams (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon mixed spice
  • 50 grams (about 1/4 cup) melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup raisins (or dried fruit of choice)
  • [Optional] 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Ingredients for Crosses

  • 6 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup water

Ingredients for Glaze

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water


  1. Combine the yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and warm milk in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast proofs and becomes foamy.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, mixed spice, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture, melted butter, egg, raisins, and chocolate chips. Stir until the mixture becomes a rough dough.
  3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, springy, and only lightly sticky.
  4. Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm location to rise for 1 hour.
  5. When the dough has risen, place the dough back onto a floured surface and roll into a log. Divide the log into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place into a greased, floured 8 x 8 cake tin, or a 9 x 5 loaf pan. Cover your pan(s) with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 390 F / 200 C.
  7. To make the crosses, combine the flour and water in a small bowl, then place in a ziploc or piping bag. Cut off the corner of your bag and pipe lines across your buns to make the crosses.
  8. Bake the buns for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the tops are well browned. When the buns are between 5 – 10 minutes from being finished, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan to begin making the glaze. Heat the sugar water over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside.
  9. When your hot cross buns have finished baking, remove from the oven and brush each bun with the glaze. Let the buns cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Enjoy a spiced, crossed morsel of English history with your own batch of hot cross buns. To truly maximize their flavor, heat the buns in the microwave for about 40 seconds and top with butter for a classic crossed bun experience!

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As always, thanks for stopping by! May your weather be more pleasant than ours!

Stay warm and keep digging!

Categories: Baking, Dessert, History, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter Recipes: Cream Cheese Gingerbread Tarts

And who can forget the traditional, gingerbread stegosaurus?

And who can forget the traditional, gingerbread stegosaurus?

Ginger ale, ginger snaps, gingerbread people, gingerbread houses. Around the winter holiday season, it’s difficult to make it to January without sampling at least one of these tempting, gingery treats. And with ginger quickly becoming one of my favorite warming spices (you can check out the history of the ginger rhizome here), I’m just as inextricably drawn towards these spicy confections as the average baker. However, this year I wanted to try a ginger recipe that breaks away from the traditional. You see, I’ve always taken slight issue with the gingerbread cookie’s tendency to, well, snap. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older (and the cost of dental work is a terrifying new reality), or it’s because I’m tired of losing parts of my gingerbread men to cups of ginger peach tea, but I decided to adapt my classic gingerbread  recipe to a form that is less suited for candy architecture, but much safer to sink your teeth into!

Now, if you’re looking for a classic recipe for gingerbread men, women, or siding, the recipe below is, in fact, perfect for that purpose as well. Simply roll the dough, cut into shapes, and bake as directed to enjoy the classic crunch of gingerbread cookies!

Cream Cheese Gingerbread Tarts

Yields approximately 3 dozen tarts

Soft, spicy, and sweet: classic gingerbread without the crunch!

Soft, spicy, and sweet: classic gingerbread without the crunch!

Ingredients for Gingerbread

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups all-purpose (or white whole wheat) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger (or 1 teaspoon dried ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the molasses and egg yolk.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, and blend until smooth. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for one hour.
  4. While your dough is cooling, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla until they reach a smooth consistency. Place mixture in a piping bag and refrigerate until needed.
  5. When your dough has chilled, roll  1 Tablespoon sized balls of dough, and place in a mini-muffin tin that has been prepared with muffin liners.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C
  7. Using the back of a teaspoon or your thumb (I found that a floured, wooden muddler works perfectly), press each ball of dough to form a well.
  8. Fill each tart with the cream cheese filling, and bake for 10 minutes, or until an inserted cake tester comes out fairly clean.
  9. Let cool completely in the tins, and then enjoy a few tiny gingerbread tarts!

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Keep Digging!

Categories: Baking, Odds and Ends, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Recipes: Cloved Orange Popovers

Not a hint of green can be found in these woods.

Not a hint of green can be found in these woods.

Over the past few days, central Pennsylvania has undergone a series of highly erratic meteorological mood swings. In only a week we’ve experienced wet, autumnal rains, luxurious, spring-like highs in the sixties; and now, the thermometer is threatening to drop into the single digits. And with the cold weather, there has arrived a flurry of snow, whispering away any thought of spring life or autumnal color. With what appears to be a long winter ahead of us, the thought of weathering several months without seeing much of the sun seems almost too much to bear. However, there does exist a multicultural remedy for winter’s depressing power: oranges!

Cloved oranges: perfect for infusing winter with the aroma and color of summer

With a fiery orange peel bursting with volatile oils, it’s not a stretch to link the Asian orange fruit with our presently absent sun. Perhaps this connection provides some explanation for the tradition of gifting oranges and tangerines to loved ones around the Christmas and Chinese New Year season. In 17th-18th century England, a twist was added to this classic gift. In order to maximize the fragrance and purportedly healing properties of the orange, gift-givers in this time began decoratively studding their gifted fruits with cloves, a tradition that still exists today.

Now, because I have a habit of zesting nearly every orange that enters the kitchen, I haven’t been able to make my own cloved orange this year (a great guide on making one for your home can be found here: Easy-to-Make Pomander); but, I thought I could translate the flavors of this classic gift into a holiday treat that’s equally perfect for sharing with the ones you love! Because cloved oranges seem to originate in England, I thought a fitting pastry pairing would be the popover: an American take on the classic Yorkshire pudding.

Cloved Orange Popovers

Cloved Orange Popovers: Perfect with a spot of jam or honey!

Cloved Orange Popovers: Perfect with a spot of jam or honey!

Yields 12 popovers


  • 3 room-temperature eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (non-dairy milk worked very well)
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter + 1 Tablespoon melted butter for coating the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove


  1. Preheat your oven to 450 F / 230 C
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and orange zest together until combined.
  3. Mix the milk and 3 Tablespoons butter into the egg mixture, stirring well.
  4. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and clove.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth.
  6. Brush the cups of a muffin tin with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter, and place in the oven for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove tin from the oven and fill each cup halfway with your popover batter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops have risen and are golden brown.
  8. Enjoy immediately! These popovers have a wonderfully crunchy exterior (and creamy interior) that will fade as they cool.

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As always, thanks for stopping by for the excavation! I hope to see you back on Saturday where we’ll be digging up a modern twist on the classic Christmas cookie!

Stay warm and keep digging!


Categories: Baking, Breakfast, History, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter Recipes: Braided Spinach and Ricotta Bread

The Traditional, Twisting Challah

The Traditional, Twisting Challah

When this tumultuous week first began, I had high hopes of baking a traditional challah bread in recognition of this being the week of Chanukah. However, upon an initially innocuous run to the store for some last minute baking supplies, I had a rather unfortunate (but thankfully painless) run in with a hit-and-run driver. So, with my trip to the store rather forcefully postponed, I’ve finally been able to get back into the kitchen! Now, with the holiday week ending tomorrow, I made a last minute decision to try a wonderfully braided bread recipe that’s inspired by challah, but, after reading up on this ancient loaf, most certainly can not claim to be challah bread. However, keep an eye out for my (most likely woeful) attempt at weaving challah bread in the Spring, nearer to the time of Purim, a celebration that’s main focus is freedom and feasting: two things that are truly near to my heart!

Without further ado, let’s dive back into breakfast with a loaf of braided spinach and ricotta bread!

Braided Spinach and Ricotta Bread Recipe


Challah-inspired, braided bread that's bursting with seasonal flavor!

Challah-inspired, braided bread that’s bursting with seasonal flavor!

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 10 ounces of cooked, drained spinach
  • 3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Dough:

  • 2 eggs (save one for an egg wash)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup warm water (between 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (or white whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (about half of one packet)
  • Sesame seeds to garnish


  1. In an empty frying pan/skillet, toast the 1/4 cup of pine nuts over medium high heat. Toss or stir the nuts every 30 seconds for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the nuts start turning brown and smell toasted. Place toasted pine nuts in a bowl to completely remove them from the heat.
  2. Drain your spinach as much as possible and place in a medium bowl. Add the oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and flour to the spinach. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover your bowl and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg, sugar, oil, salt, and warm water.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours and the yeast. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix to form a rough dough.
  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until springy, or about five minutes.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and roll to coat. Cover with a clean towel, place in a warm place, and let rise for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Transfer your risen dough to the baking sheet, and stretch it diagonally into an oval that reaches both corners of the sheet and is around 6-8 inches wide (see pictures below).
  9. Place your filling in the center of the dough, and shape it into a column that is no more than 2 inches wide and leaves about 1 inch of room at the top and bottom.
  10. Starting at the top, cut uniform strips into the sides of the dough on the diagonal (about 1 inch wide). Fold the top of the dough over the filling.
  11. To braid your bread: fold one strip over the filling, and then overlap with a strip on the other side; repeat until you reach the end of your bread. Before overlapping the final strips, fold the bottom flap of the bread up over the filling, and then cover with the remaining strips.
  12. Beat your remaining egg in a small bowl, and brush the top of the bread with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  13. Enjoy a warm slice of beautiful, braided bread, bursting with flavors of the season!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s (delayed) breakfast recipe! Be sure to stop in this Saturday for a bubbly remedy for all that ails ye!

Keep digging!


Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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