Hot Cross Buns

I made a couple batches of these sweet rolls that are a cross between yeast-y dinner rolls and sweet breakfast buns. When I shared a picture with my mom, she asked what they were.  I didn’t grow up eating hot cross buns, but when I told my mom the name, she was transported to her childhood—not for the buns themselves, but because of a nursery rhyme.  “Hot Cross Buns! Hot Cross Buns! … If you have no daughters, give them to your sons” is now playing on repeat in my head.

But even more fun than the Hot Cross Buns! song is making these warm, barely sweet delightful rolls. I saw these popping up on Instagram last year around Easter, so I started do my research on them. They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent.  They aren’t super sweet, but they aren’t savory either. They’re a wonderful blend of barely sweet and barely savory. Plus, a paste of equal parts flour and water is piped on them after they’ve risen, but before they’re baked, to give them their iconic look featuring a cross.  After baking them, I brushed some honey butter on top to give them a nice glaze. 

hot cross buns rolled.jpg
hot cross buns risen.jpg
hot cross buns flour paste.jpg

This recipe cheats a little and uses both yeast and baking powder.  I did make a batch of these using just yeast, but yeast + baking powder works just fine too. In fact, I found the rolls with baking powder to have a slightly better texture.  I hope you feel inspired to make these for Easter. I think this will be a new tradition for me!

Hot Cross Buns

1 and ¼ cup (10 ounces) whole milk, at room temp.
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 package)
4 ½ cups (560 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
2 (10 grams) teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons (~5 grams) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (75 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (85 grams or 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk, at room temp. 
zest from one small orange
1 cup raisins
1 apple, peeled and finely diced

For the Paste

2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (85 ml)  water

For the Honey Butter Glaze

3 tablespoons (45 grams) salted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (60 grams) honey

1.    Line a 9 x 13” pan with parchment paper or a silplat. Add the room temperature milk to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk in the yeast to dissolve. Sift in the flour and baking powder.  Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, softened butter, 2 eggs + yolk, and zest from one orange.  Stir to combine.

2.    Using the dough hook, knead for 7 minutes on medium-low speed (level 3 for KitchenAid).  Add the raisins and diced apple and knead and additional two minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic and the raisins and apple are evenly dispersed.

3.    Lightly butter a large glass bowl. Scrape the dough into the bowl and cover with either a dish cloth or plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise for about an hour.  It will become puffy, but it’s ok if it doesn’t double in size.

4.    Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough into 12 parts.  Using floured hands, form each part into a ball.  Due to the raisins and apple, the ball won’t be completely smooth, but that’s ok. Add each ball to the lined baking sheet, spacing all 12 evenly apart. Cover the baking (plastic wrap ok) and allow to rise a second time until they’re touching and look bloated and puffy.  

5.    Preheat oven to 375F. Make the flour paste by whisking together equal parts flour and water. Whisk well so the batter is not lumpy.  Add the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain, small to medium tip. (The batter will be runny.)  Pipe a cross on each bun. Transfer the buns to the oven.

6.    Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden-brown. While baking, prepare the honey butter by stirring the melted butter with honey in a small bowl.  Once the buns are golden brown, remove them from the oven and brush the tops with the honey butter.

7.     Carefully lift up the parchment paper or silplat and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.  Allow to cool completely (or enjoy warm, if you’re like me and you can’t wait!)

Chocolate-Orange Tart

V Lomas Tart 3.jpg

Happy New Year everyone!  First of all, thank you so much for all of the support everyone has shown me--it has meant so much to me. Each comment, like and share was a little spark of light that I needed in that moment.  2017 was a roller coaster--full of sharp turns, exhilarating highs and unexpected drops that made my stomach flip for sure, but I'm so excited for everything that this new year has in store!  I know that in life--and baking--it doesn't matter what happens, I've gotta keep my head in the game to reach the desired outcome. So, I'm putting my new motto use: Lemons to Lemon Curd! Actually, in this case--orange and chocolate... well, you get the idea!

Chocolate Orange Rectangular Tart.jpg

I love this tart. I love how elegant and slender it is. And I especially love how easy it is to make.  This is a great recipe for experienced and beginner bakers alike. No matter if you're a novice or not, this tart has a sophisticated, nuanced flavor thanks to the orange zest and orange liqueur. And the silky chocolate filling is just divine and accented by flaky sea salt.  

chocolate tart with flaky sea salt.jpg

When I want to spend more time cozying up to the fireplace than to the oven, I take
a few shortcuts with my baking. The crust is a festive blend of crushed gingersnaps
and butter. Crushed oreos would also work just fine. Get fancy with the toppings. I added flaky sea salt--just a sprinkling on top. Raspberries are also a perfect match with anything chocolate or tart. A little dusting of cocoa powder will never steer you wrong, and this tart is no exception. Or, get real fancy and add some candied orange peel. Whatever you do, just have fun with it!  

Chocolate-Orange Tart Slices.jpg

Chocolate-Orange Tart
Serves 10

1 box gingersnaps (12 ounces)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (1/2 cup)

2 cups heavy whipping cream
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (I like Cointreau)
zest of one orange

To make crust: Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, pulse the cookies until
pulverized and completely fine and broken down. Add the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are wet and sand-like. Remove from the food processor and press the crumbs evenly into a 14 x 4-inch rectangular tart pan, ideally with a removable bottom. (You will have leftover crumbs.) Bake at 350F for 9 minutes. Set aside to cool on a wire rack. Reserve any leftover crumbs.

To make filling: Place ½ cup of the cream in a bowl with the 12 ounces of chocolate.
Microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and stir. Continue to microwave in 30 second
intervals until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room
temperature. Whip the remaining 1 and ½ cups heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
Add 1 tablespoon orange liqueur and the orange zest. Fold in the chocolate-cream
mixture until combined (if the chocolate is still hot it will melt the cream--make sure it's at least cooled to room temp). Spread mixture evenly in the tart pan (any leftovers can be
spooned into glasses and topped with the leftover crumbs). Refrigerate for at least
4 hours. Remove from the pan and top with sea salt, orange peel, cocoa powder, or

chocolate orange tart slice.jpg

What it was Like Filming a Television Show: Part I

 Filming in Lower Manhattan 

Filming in Lower Manhattan 

Numerous re-takes, outfit changes and outfit repeats, and of course, the ominpresent "eye" of the camera lens... Even a "friendly" competition show like the Great American Baking Show can become a pressure cooker due to the intense competition and unfamiliar curiosities of television production. 

The fallout (emotional and otherwise) from the show's cancellation delayed this post. But there was another delay. As much as I love sharing my life through this blog, sometimes perfectionism cripples me and I'm afraid to do something because I'm afraid I won't get it right. There are too many things I've baked that have gone un-shared, un-posted pictures and untold stories because of my own doubt, criticism and perfectionism. But no longer! If nothing else, what competing on the Great American Baking Show taught me was to trust myself and have confidence in my abilities. If something doesn't come out exactly how you want, it's OK!  Chances are it still tastes great, looks great, and is baked well. And even it isn't, that's OK too!       

gabs film 2.JPG

There is so much to say, so this will be a series of blog posts, including topics like how to get selected for a reality show and how to win a reality show!  But for now, I'll start with the very first shoot day. An entire day was reserved to film me in my natural habitat--the labyrinth of great buildings and greater chaos that is Manhattan.  At 6:45 am, the crew of a cameraman/director, sound expert, and production assistant showed up at the door of my Harlem brownstone. They managed to lug a lot of heavy lights, cameras and other equipment up my third floor walk up (Impressive!)  

I was told to have three outfit changes ready, as well as stuff that was already baked, and stuff to bake while they were there. Having a family member was also required, as interviews of the finalists' family members are shown during the finale (making it to the finale seemed like a long shot, but my closest family member is my Boston-dwelling sister who happened to be vacationing in Florida that week. She flew in just for the day.) 

 My dear sister being interviewed. She was so nervous but she powered through! <3

My dear sister being interviewed. She was so nervous but she powered through! <3

Before I knew it, a microphone was being nestled in my blouse and my acting career began. There is a great deal of acting that goes into filming most shows I presume.  Even amazing, candid moments with cleverly-timed punchlines have to be re-shot sometimes. Maybe the sound wasn't right or the camera angle was wrong. As a food photographer, I can attest that the perfect shot with bad light is an unusable shot. Plus, you must be aware of where the camera is and give them the best angles.  If you're doing something unique or technically-challenging, it's best to do it in the clearest part of your workspace, and when possible, open up your body towards the camera.

 Outfit Change #3!

Outfit Change #3!

GABS film 3.JPG

I found this aspect of filming so much fun!  During "shoot day" in NYC, there was no looming threat of elimination or fear of under-baking, over-proofing or running out of time during a challenge. This was just me in my apartment sharing macarons with friends, walking down Broadway in lower Manhattan, walking up the steps at my job, and boarding (and riding!) the subway.  It felt natural being in front of the camera--I appreciated direction, but found that just going with what felt right worked too.  A couple of the scenes were shown during the first episode. The rest, including my sister's interview, were to air during the remaining episodes (maybe they're gone forever. maybe not. who knows.)

 Beautiful Pinewood Studios. The "big white tent" was in the gardens.

Beautiful Pinewood Studios. The "big white tent" was in the gardens.

We put in a full day's work, but it didn't really feel like work.  I didn't see another camera until I arrived in England to film the first episode. We were on the show's set at Pinewood Studios--far from the familiar surroundings of home. We quickly learned that tv production required multiple takes of even seemingly mundane things, like walking into the tent each morning and putting on our aprons.  We quickly adapted  and did our best to turn on the charm during those little moments. No matter how nervous I felt about a challenge, I always took those moments in the beautiful gardens at Pinewood (Mary Poppins was filmed there!) to feel the sun and have a moment of gratitude for the experience. But once a challenge started, and the clock was ticking, all bets were off. It was go time.

 The days were busy and packed, but we still did some sitting around. With the other finalists Molly and Cindy. Though our outfits indicate this was shot during the semi-finals episode.

The days were busy and packed, but we still did some sitting around. With the other finalists Molly and Cindy. Though our outfits indicate this was shot during the semi-finals episode.

There was a learning curve for me to learn to embrace the ever-present cameras. Initially, when I screwed up, it was the scariest thing. It's one thing to mess something up at home. But to mess up with cameras inches away, on something to be broadcast on national television?! The pressure and anxiety is indescribable. It took me a while to settle into the idea that I was in fact on an elimination show. Someone went home each episode, and though it seemed like the most important thing in the world at the time, it was the nature of the game. Looking back, I have fond memories of the experience (which is more than I could say a month ago). Of course part of me is still holding on to hope that this awesome tv show we all made will actually get to be viewed in a meaningful way.  But for now, I'm happy to share these little snippets of my experience. More to come!