Easiest Buns in the World

I knew I shouldn’t have started this challenge quite yet.  It hasn’t been ideal having the builders here building our new kitchen extension and the plumber as well moving the boiler and lots and lots of piping!  Because of this I haven’t been able to access the existing kitchen very much and when I do it has only been for short periods of time – normally to make them tea or coffee!!

Anyway, looking through the book the other evening I came across this recipe and it seemed ideal as I didn’t need to spend ages kneading the loaf.  It could be mixed together in the evening (once all the contractors had left for the day), put in the fridge and baked the next morning or whenever I needed some!  Perfect…

Jane’s comment on this recipe is:-

“I confess I am not a fan of the end-result of the ‘no knead’ method of making bread.  I am a kneader, I like the texture of kneaded bread better.  However, the ‘no knead’ bread method is very popular and even for committed kneaders, it has a time and a place; when you know you will be in a rush.”


  • 650g plain all-purpose white or wholewheat, wheat or spelt flour (or a mixture)
  • 600g water
  • 2g instant yeast/4g dry yeast or 8g fresh yeast
  • 12g salt
  • A handful of seeds, nuts or dried fruit, chopped (optional)


220°C (425°F), Gas 7.

I think it was around 9pm when I decided to start on the recipe.  Not having baked for over a week now, not even a cake, I needed to get back into the kitchen even if it was for a few minutes!

This recipe begins the night before you want your buns.  Basically you put all the above ingredients into a large bowl and mix them together.  The bowl was then covered with a ‘shower cap’ and put in the fridge for the next day.

photo 2

I love the wording in Jane’s book for this recipe she lets you know how simple this is by describing what you need to do in the morning.  Basically, you get up and preheat the oven, brush your teeth while the oven heats up and then decide how many buns you need to bake for that day!

You then return to the kitchen, take the bowl out of the fridge (I have to go to the dining room at the moment as that is where the fridge is whilst the building work is going on!!) and in Jane’s words, “Exclaim in delight as you see how puffy the dough is”!

Using two spoons you need to drop blobs of dough onto the baking sheet “stacking them as best as you can so that are more round than flat”.  The bonus about this dough is that you don’t need to use it all in one go, you can keep it for another 2-3 days in the fridge.

I decided that I’d make 4 buns to start with (the recipe makes a total of 16).  The blobs were put onto the baking sheet, but I think my dough may have been a little on the runny side compared to the photographs in the book.  It started to spread.  I tried in vain to scoop it back onto itself.

And again, Jane tells you to go and have a shower whilst they bake and then get dressed whislt they’re cooling!!

Into the oven they went for 20 minutes.  I hadn’t put any seeds or anything into the dough as the children can sometimes be fussy about this, so I thought I’d make some plain ones to start with.  After 20 minutes the kitchen was smelling of lovely freshly baked bread – yum!  The rolls were a golden brown, so they were removed and popped onto a cooling rack to cool.  Within minutes of taking them out my husband and daughter had already spotted them and decided to try them.  They both liked them, I myself wasn’t too sure, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what they reminded me of.  In the end, I decided they tasted a little like crumpets.

I decided that my dough was a little too runny as the buns had spread quite a bit, so I added a couple more spoons of flour.  I think if I make these again, I won’t add as much water as my dough, although thick, was a little too runny.

The next day I made another 4 rolls and decided to use the rest of the mixture up by making very small loafs in my miniature loaf tins.  I sprinkled the to of these with poppy seeds, linseed and a sprinkling of flour.   These were baked for about 5 minutes longer than the rolls.  They all rose slightly more on one side compared to the other and looked a little like slabs of cheese when I took them out!  However, my husband took a whole loaf with him to work that day, filled with chicken and salad and said it was absolutely delicious and could I make some more!!!  I can also say that my son and daughter liked them too.  Me, slightly torn.  They were easy to make but in my opinion they didn’t taste as good as the bread that has been kneaded and loved…

 photo 1

Monkey Buns

The book had arrived my challenge could at last begin.  The book looked wonderful and so enticing, I couldn’t wait to start.  

But first things first, I had to read through the fantastic introduction, after which there is a page on ‘Bun Ingredients’.  It was lovely to see that in all the recipes you could use fresh, dried or instant yeast.  A lot of the bread books I have only give measurements usually for one, so I was pleased to see this as sometimes I bake with fresh yeast and other times I use instant yeast, so there would be no excuse now not to bake (not that there normally is).  Jane gives a very detailed description of ‘Working with Your Dough’ which was quite different from the way I had been used to making bread, so  this should be interesting.  Finally there was a few pages on shaping techniques – again quite different from how I usually shape my buns!!

I was now at the recipes.  The next thing to do was to pick one, but which one.  I looked through the book numerous times and quite a few recipes jumped out at me, but I couldn’t decide which one to bake.  It was left to the family in the end of pick one.  However, I had one vital ingredient missing for the first recipe, but a couple of days later when I had to quickly nip into town for a few bits and pieces, I picked up the missing ingredient – Pecan Nuts.  The challenge could now begin…

My apologies, I think this blog may be a little long, but please keep reading..

At the beginning of each recipe Jane puts a few words explaining the bread, hopefully she won’t mind if I take this small extract from her book to let you know a little about it too

“The origin of the name Monkey Buns (also called Monkey Puzzle Bread, Sticky Bread, African Coffee Cake, Goden Crown, Pinch-Me Cake, Bubble Loaf and Money Brains) is uncertain. What is not uncertain is that it is delicious in almost any form”


  • 600g plain flour
  • 12g fresh yeast/3g instant years/6g dry yeast
  • 50g sugar
  • 225g full fat milk (heated up to boiling point, then cooled to room temperature)
  • 12g salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g butter

For the Deliciousness

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 tblsp cinnamon
  • 100g chopped pecans
  • 100g butter


  • Bundt Tin or Large (solid bottom) Deep Baking Tin


  • 200°C (400°F), Gas 6, Fan 180°C

Having read through the recipe quite a few times in the past few days, I knew the first thing I had to do was to heat the milk up.  So when I got up in the morning, I put a pan on the cooker and heated up the milk and put it to one side to cool, whilst I had my first cup of tea for the day, breakfast etc etc, the usual things we all have to do first thing in the morning.  By the time I was ready the milk had cooled sufficiently.  Into a bowl I put the flour (and I admit I was surprised to see that most of the recipes in the book actually use plain flour and not the strong bread flour that I am used to making bread with) and made a well.  Into the well I crumbled the fresh yeast and the sugar.  It was then time to pour over the milk.  Aaargh, when I went to weigh the milk I found I didn’t have enough, even though I’d followed Jane’s tip to heat up more milk than was needed as it has the ability to reduce in quantity dramatically once heated.  I quickly heated a little more milk up and poured this into my already cooled milk.  Luckily I didn’t need too much, so it didnt affect the temperature considerably.  The milk was poured into the well and then some of the flour flicked over the top of it.  This had to rest for an hour, which was perfect timing as it meant I could take the dog out for his walk before I went on to the next stage.  I do intend on taking quite a few photos of my experience, but I didn’t take a photo of this first stage as it really didn’t look much different from a ‘bowl of  flour’.

Having walked the dog, in the sunshine for once, I was ready for the next stage.  I was pleased to see that the yeast had started fermenting and a few bubbles were appearing through the flour.  The salt was sprinkled around the edge of the flour and the eggs and vanilla extract were put into the middle.  I started to mix everything together with a knife, but soon it was a case of putting my hand in to bring it all together to form the dough.

Dough x 4The dough was turned out onto an unfloured board and with the timer set for 10 minutes I was off kneading.  The buzzer soon went off and I had a lovely smooth dough.  The next part was another first for me.  Usually I put the butter in at the beginning, but in this recipe you cube the butter up and add it now to the dough.  I flattened the ball of dough out slightly and put half the butter into the middle and pulled the edges over the top of it.  I kneaded it a few times and then spread it out again and added the remaining butter.  With the timer set for another 10 minutes, I was off kneading again.  Hopefully I’ll soon get rid of my bat wings with all this kneading (I hope so anyway!).  This is where it started to become a little messy.  Although the butter had come straight out of the fridge, the cubes were so small that they soon began to soften.  To begin with it wasn’t too bad, the butter was in the middle of the dough, but as I kneaded it a little more, thedough began to split and the small cubes were being spread across the board.  Not to be disillusioned, I scraped them up with my dough scraper, put them back onto the dough and carried on kneading.  Within 5 minutes the butter had all been incorporated and I had a lovely smooth dough to knead for the last five minutes.  Back into the bowl it went.  I coveredit  with a ‘shower cap’ (just one of the cheap ones, which covers the bowls perfectly).  It now had to be left for two hours.  I’m loving this recipe, it means I do a little, have time to go off and do something else and then come back and continue with it!

It was actually a little longer than 2 hours when I returned as the dog had to have yet another visit to the vets – I actually asked them if they did a loyalty card as I seem to have spent most of the month and most of my money this month with them!  They are lovely there and the dog actually loves going to see them, although my purse doesn’t.  Anyway, enough of that, back to the recipe!

Coming Together x 4

It was now time to shape the dough.  The dough was tipped out gently onto an unfloured board, I was determined not to use any extra flour and divided into 4 portions.  I actually weighed the bread so that each portion was the same.  Each portion had to be shaped into a tight sausage.  You’re probably all thinking, hang on she hasn’t knocked the bread back.  No, that is another thing that you shouldn’t do. Instead you should ‘stretch and fold’  the dough.  I quickly turned to the beginning of the book to make sure I did this correctly.  Basically you need to pretend your dough is a clock.  Starting at noon, pinch about 1cm from the edge of the dough and pull it away from the blob, stretching it as far as you can  without breaking it.  Fold the pinched piece back over the blob and gently lay it down.  Continue around the blob, 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc etc.  I found it easier to turn the dough around, rather than trying to twist yourself and your hands around the dough.  Once this had been down it was time to shape the dough into a tight sausage.

Each sausage was then cut into 6 pieces, so you ended up with a total of 24 even pieces.  These were put onto a board and covered with a clean tea-towel and left to rest for 15 minutes.  Whilst the dough was resting I greased my bundt tin (although a deep round tin can be used if you haven’t got one).  A great tip in the book is to use a pan with a solid base not a removeable one because the butter that goes on at the end will leak out and go all over the bottom of your oven.  I’ve made that mistake in the past, so I was pleased to see this tip in the book!

I also took the opportunity to get the ‘deliciousness’ ready.  The brown sugar and cinnamon was mixed together and the pecans were chopped up.  In a jug I melted the butter and allowed it to cool (you don’t want it at boiling point).

Once the pieces of dough had rested, they had to be rolled into tight balls.  This is something I love doing when making buns, for some reason I find it very relaxing and theraputic (I’m easily pleased).  To roll the dough into a ball, cup your hand over the dough with your fingertips on the table and your palm touching the dough.  Move your hand around in a circle, keeping your fingers on the table and your palm gently on the dough (don’t push down).  Because the dough is slightly sticky it creates enough tension to pull the surface of the dough around itself.

Six dough balls were placed in the bottom of the bundt tin and a third of the cinnamon sugar was sprinkled over the top, together with a third of the pecan nuts.  This process was repeated until all of the dough balls, cinnamon sugar and pecans had been used up.   The tin was covered with the shower cap again and left for 45 minutes.  I was pleased to see after this time that the ‘buns’ had increased in size.

With 10 minutes to go the oven was put on to preheat.  I reduced the temperature by 20°C as I have a fan oven and I wasn’t sure whether or not the temperature in the book was for a fan oven or not, so to be on the safe side I thought I’d reduce the temperature for the first recipe.

Before baking the buns the melted butter was poured evenly over them – the reason you don’t want to use a loose bottomed tin!  Into the oven it went for 45 minutes.  Within about 10 minutes the smell of buttery cinnamon was wafting through the house.  After 30 minutes the top of the tin was covered with foil so the buns didn’t go too brown during the last 15 minutes.  Once removed from the oven the buns were allowed to rest for 10 minutes before turning out.  I’ll admit I didn’t think they would turn out, I thought they would stick, but they didn’t.  The finished product looked amazing, although it did look a little too brown compared to the photograph in the book.  I think in hindsight I should have used light brown sugar, but I used dark brown sugar (well it wasn’t that dark more of a medium brown) – hopefully it wouldn’t make too much difference to the flavour.  The bottom of the ‘bun cake’, ie before turning it out looked the same colour as the photo in the book.

I couldn’t wait to dive in.  I ripped a bun off the stack and wow, they were amazing, I don’t think I have every made such light buns.  The buttery cinnamon sugary outside was to die for and the pecans topped it all off.  Even my son liked it and he is so, so fussy, he drives me mad when I bake things and he says he doesn’t like it.  Within minutes he was back for more.  It is the sort of bread you can eat any time of day.  My husband had some for his breakfast the next morning and even took some into work – it must have been good.

So pleased with my first recipe, although it does look a little dark, but it’s definitely not burnt, I think the buns have taken on the colour of the sugar –  obviously the sugar I used was a little too dark!  Can’t wait now to bake the next recipe!!

The Bread

My New Challenge

Having finished my last challenge before Christmas last year, I’ve taken a few months off,  baking from the other books I have  (and believe me I have quite a few, well more than a few) and experimenting with a few of my own ideas.

However, now has come the time to pick a new challenge.  Having spent the last few months browsing through books and on the internet trying to find something that will both challenge my baking skills and something which the family will also enjoy eating,  it came down in the end to two categories – either pastry or bread.  Bread (I’m pleased to say) came out the winner.

It was then a very hard decision on which ‘bread’ book to bake the whole way through.  Initially I was drawn to  Richard Bertinet’s books from  Bertinet Kitchen and Paul Hollywood’s books, but looking through these they were mainly breads I had heard of or seen already in my local bakery.  I wanted something a little different, so I carried on looking.  I spent a lot of time in my local Waterstone’s store, where I’m sure the staff must have thought that lady is always in here but never buys anything,  but spends hours looking through baking books!  After a month of so I found myself being drawn back to the same book again and again.  I had finally made my decision!

So, you’re all thinking what is the book you are going to bake from.  Well, it is…

The Book of Buns - Hardback - 9781849754354 - Jane Mason

This book looked so exciting, the front cover said it all to me – ‘Over 50 brilliant bakes from around the World’.

It wasn’t your usual loaves and buns, it was something a little different from all the other books.  Each recipe states where it is from and Jane gives a small foreword at the beginning of each recipe to tell you a little about its history.  Looking through the book I knew it was something that not only I’d enjoy baking, but also my family and friends would enjoy eating.

Jane opens the book with the statement  ‘A bun’s a bun the world around’  – There are hamburger buns and hot dog buns; hot cross buns and iced buns; steamed buns and sticky buns; cinnamon buns and coconut buns.  There are thousands of kinds of buns – sweet and savoury, for celebration and daily bread – from almost every corner of the world.

I was hooked already after just reading the opening paragraph!

Jane carefully describes the ingredients she uses and gives you fantastic instructions on working with the dough, together with all the shaping techniques needed.

The hardest decision was deciding on which recipe to bake first!  The book had been passed around my family quite a few times with all of them picking a recipe or two for me to bake first.  To begin with there was always one ingredient missing from the recipes they had picked.  However, on my next visit into town I remembered one ingredient that I didn’t have enough of,  I purchased the missing item.  I could now bake the  first recipe …

I hope you enjoy reading how I get on with this challenge, I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully by the end I will have mastered bread making or at least ‘bun making’!

Just click on The Book of Buns to follow their Facebook page,  follow Jane on Twitter by clicking on @VirtuousBread or visit her website at Virtuous Bread

Chocolate Orange Cake

I found a Chocolate Orange lying around, left over from the Christmas stash of chocolates and sweets.  I could, quite easily have unwrapped and tapped it and eaten it all myself, but thought I’d put it to good use in a cake!  Unfortunately the cake was eaten so quickly that I didn’t manage to get a photo of the inside, but it did taste good!  Next time I have a chocolate orange spare (haha), I’ll make this again and update the photo!

Chocolate Orange Cake


  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Butter (softened)
  • 4 eggs
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • Grated zest of one orange
  • 2 tbsp orange juice


  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Half a Chocolate Orange


  1. Lightly grease and line the bottom of 2 18cm sandwich tins.  Preheat the oven to Fan 160°C.
  2. Put all the ingredients into a bowl  (sieve the cocoa powder) and mix until thoroughly combined.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and level the tops.  Place in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes.  A skewer inserted into the top should come out clean.
  4. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  5. Melt half the chocolate orange and put to one side to cool slightly.  In another bowl cream together the butter and icing sugar.  Add the chocolate and mix again until fluffy.
  6. Either put half the buttercream in the middle of the sponges and spread the rest on top of the cake, or spread a third of the buttercream in the middle and spread the remaining on the tops and sides of the cake.
  7. Finish the cake off by using the remaining half of the chocolate orange to decorate the top.
  8. For an adult version you could always try adding a bit of Cointreau to the cake mixture or buttercream!!


Time for a mix up – a cross between a doughnut and a muffin – a duffin?

This is a very easy recipe and so quick to make.   Whatever you do, do this using a bowl and spoon, DO NOT use an electric mixer, it will not work out very well as the mixture will become too runny, it does not need to be whisked or beaten!



  • 140g caster sugar (plus extra for rolling the duffins in afterwards)
  • 200g plain flour (or self-raising flour)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (omit this if you use self-raising flour)
  • 140g melted butter
  • 100ml buttermilk OR natural yoghurt (they both produce lovely duffins, but slightly different – try each to see which one you like best!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (I prefer the paste)
  • Filling – jam, nutella, whatever takes your fancy really


  1. Take a 12 hole muffin tin and lightly grease it.  Do not use muffin cases!  Preheat the oven to 190°C
  2. Into a large bowl weigh out the sugar and sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda into it.  Mix thoroughly together.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the melted butter, buttermilk (or yoghurt), eggs and vanilla paste.
  4. Add this to the dry ingredients and very gently fold the mixture in.  Using a fork works best!  Stop folding as soon as the dry ingredients are combined.
  5. Using two-thirds of the mixture spoon this in to the 12 hole muffin tin.
  6. Add about 1 tsp of your filling to each duffin.  I use home-made jam or nutella (which is delicious in these).  Spoon the remaining mixture on top of the filling and using a spoon or your finger gently make sure the filling is completely covered.
  7. Pop the tin in the oven for 15-18 minutes until  they are well risen and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave them in the tin to cool slightly for approximately 5 minutes.
  8. In a small bowl tip a quantity of caster sugar.  Remove each duffin from the tin and roll in the sugar to coat completely.  Finish cooling them off on a wire rack.

These are very simply to make, but don’t take a bite into one when they’re still warm as you may burn your mouth on the filling!

Tunis Cake

I’m sure a lot of you will have seen The Great British Bake Off Christmas Special in which Mary bakes this cake.  Not being too keen on fruit cake (unless it’s one that is more cake than fruit, if you know what I mean!), I decided to bake this for our Christmas Cake and am so glad I did.  It would also make a great birthday cake – just alter the decoration on top!

The recipe can be found here:- http://thegreatbritishbakeoff.co.uk/mary-berrys-tunis-cake/

It’s quite a simple recipe really and looks stunning – it’s an all in one cake which was great just before Christmas.

Into Henrietta (my new Kitchenaid) I put the softened butter, sugar, ground almonds, flour, eggs and lemon zest and mixed it on high-speed for about a minute.  Once it was thoroughly mixed, the mixture was turned into a 20cm deep cake tin, both the base and sides having been lined with parchment.  Make sure you bring the parchment up past the top of the tin.

The cake was baked for 45 minutes after which time the top was covered with foil and baked for a further 15 minutes.  It’s ready when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Mine actually needed another 10 minutes.  Remove the cake from the oven but DO NOT remove it from the tin.  Allow it to cool.

The next step is the chocolate ganache to go on the top of the cake.  Into a pan went the cream which was brought almost to the boil.  To this I added the chocolate – I actually used half plain and half milk chocolate instead of all plain and I’m glad that I did as the result was a lovely tasting chocolate, which seemed to please everybody in the family!  The mixture was stirred until the chocolate had melted and was lovely and glossy.  This was put to the side to cool a little.

Once the chocolate had cooled slightly it was poured over the top of the cake (which is still in the tin).  The chocolate finds its own level.  Put aside until the ganache has almost set.  I actually removed my cake before decorating it as I found it easier.  Very gently remove the cake from the tin (a loose bottomed tin is obviously the best type for this recipe) and gently peel off the parchment from the side.  You should have a layer of cake and then a layer of very thick chocolate on top!

Mary decorated her cake with coloured marzipan, but as I had some green and red icing leftover from another cake, I used this to make some holly leaves and berries.  My leaves are much smaller than the ones that Mary makes – I could only find an enormous holly leaf cutter or this tiny one.  I decided on the tiny cutter and spent the next half hour cutting out the leaves and then rolling extremely tiny balls with the red icing for the berries.  Luckily my icing was still quite tacky, so the holly leaves only needed a gentle push on to the icing for them to stick.  The berries were stuck onto the leaves using a little water.

We actually cut the cake on Christmas day as the children wanted to try it for their pudding.  I think this was because I also changed our pudding this year – instead of making a traditional Christmas pudding I made Tom Kerridge’s Spiced Orange Cake with Plum Sauce (this was definitely a pud for the adults).  Mary’s Tunis Cake was lovely, although even I thought the ganache was a little sickly – it was very thick indeed!  The cake is slightly ‘domed’ so the ganache isn’t as thick as it looks on top of the cake and it does keep well.

It’s definitely a cake I’ll make again for Christmas if not for a birthday or other special occasion.

Go on, give it a go!

Tunis Cake


Malteser Trifle

Happy New Year everybody!

I thought I’d share with you a recipe for Malteser Trifle, it’s a recipe I’ve been making for many years now and something we always have to have at Christmas/New Year.  It originally appeared on one of the recipe cards you can get from Sainsbury’s many years ago and was written by Jamie Oliver which I’ve slightly adapted!  It’s quick and easy to make –  something I usually need as Christmas or the New Year approaches.


  • 1 pt raspberry jelly
  • Large Madeira cake (shop bought one is fine)
  • 312g can Mandarins (drained)
  • 200g raspberries or other soft fruit such as blackberries (or slightly more, it’s up to you)
  • tablespoons sherry (or I like to use Amaretto)
  • 500g tub of fresh custard (or you can make your own)
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • Pack of maltesers (the larger the better!)


The first thing to do is to make up the jelly following the instructions and leave to set in the fridge.

Trim the Madeira cake and cut it into cubes about 1cm thick (eat the off-cuttings!).  Put the cake into the bottom of a large bowl and spoon the mandarins and raspberries over the cake.  Splash the sherry (or other alcohol) over the fruit, so that it soaks through the fruit into the sponge underneath.


Spoon over the custard so that it covers the fruit and then gently top it with the jelly (I usually use a knife to cut the jelly up whilst it’s still in the jug).


Lightly whip the cream with the icing sugar

Just before serving, bash up the bag of maltesers and sprinkle them over the top.until it forms soft peaks and spoon it over the top.  If you’re really careful you should be able to spread it over the whole top of the jelly.

The trifle tastes even better when you leave it for a day – that’s if there’s any left.