The seed for this post was sown in my mind when I happened to come across these edible Easter egg phyllo nests by none other than, of course, the brilliant Martha Stewart. I loved them instantly and knew I had to try to make them this Easter.
The recipe called for a ready shredded phyllo pastry called Kataifi, something I looked for locally but couldn't find. I realized it wouldn't be readily available to many others either, so I thought vermicelli nests might make a great alternative - and they did. They already usually come packaged as nests and are widely available. So I bought a pack, took them home and started playing with my food - as usual! The results were great - brushed with honey and melted butter, they are like deep fried noodles (one of my favourite things!), but sweet & crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside where the vermicelli strands bunch up together.
Something else I'd never baked before were Hot Cross Buns. Eaten many, yes. Attempted to make at home, never. So I just happened to see this Bill Granger recipe published in the Independent the other day and thought it was perfect - by now I trust Bill Granger so much, I knew this recipe would be easy and it would work. I substituted and left out a few ingredients, ensuring I just used dried cherries instead of a mixture of dried fruit, as I wanted these to be all about the cherries. And they turned out perfect.
I also thought I'd dip my toe into some dark and moodier photography. I never really warmed to the dark side of food photography as I didn't really get it, but now, after experimenting with these images over the last week, my appetite has been whetted - it was so much fun shooting this post and I'm ready for more...
What do you think? Are you a fan of the dark side of food photography?
Happy holidays and happy baking everyone! x
Cherry Hot Cross Buns
450g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
60g caster sugar
150g dried cherries
7g instant yeast
60g cold butter, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
For the glaze
100ml golden syrup
For the crosses
100g ready rolled marzipan, cut into thin strips*
Mix the flour, salt, spices, sugar and cherries in a bowl.
In a separte bowl, mix the yest with 2 tablespoons of the milk and set aside.
Pour the rest of the milk into a saucepan and heat, making sure it doesn't boil.
Add the butter to the hot milk in the saucepan and gently mix until the butter has melted.
Add the eggs to the hot milk mixture and whisk.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast and the warm milk & egg mixture. Stir until combined.
Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Place this into a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and form round buns with your hands. Place onto a lightly oiled baking tray, ensuring you leave enough space between each bun, cover the tray with lightly oiled cling film and allow to stand until the buns have doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400F/Gas6 and place the tray into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
While the buns are still warm, brush with golden syrup.
Top with the thin strips of marzipan to form a cross over the buns.
Best served warm, straight out of the oven.
* For smooth marzipan strip edges, dip the knife into warm water after each cut, wipe with a cloth, dip into the water again, then cut the next marzipan strip with the wet knife.
Vermicelli Easter Egg Nests
(inspired by Martha Stewart's Phyllo Nests)
12 Vermicelli nests
oil, for brushing
50g butter, melted
Preheat oven to 160˚C/320F/Gas3.
Place Vermicelli nests in a small tray, making sure they don't touch each other.
Pour over enough boiling water to cover the nests and allow to stand for 3-5 minutes, or until the nests are just loosening up. Drain the water away.
Lightly brush a 12 cup muffin tray with a little oil.
Place 1 vermicelli nest into each cup in the tray.
Brush with honey, then brush with a little melted butter.
Place on the lower shelf of the oven and allow to bake for 15-20 minutes.
The nests are ready when they just start to get golden tips.
Allow to cool in the muffin tray, then gently remove and fill with chocolate speckled eggs.