Thursday, 28 March 2013

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Happy Easter everyone!

Today I have a final Easter recipe for you - chocolate hot cross buns. This recipe is technically a throwback to last year, but I am reposting it with better pictures.

I'm now off to spend the weekend with my family (brother, parents and Dad's parents) but will be back next week for my uni break. Hope everyone is well!

So, about these chocolate hot cross buns. They are a perfect Easter treat - for your kids, for you, for brunch, for breakfast, for a snack; hell, for anytime and anyone. So, while they are not healthy, I promise you the taste makes up for it. Besides, a little bit of chocolate never hurt anyone.

This is a brilliant recipe for Easter. We had ours with cold orange juice, which was amazing, and some Carmello and Malteser eggs. Obviously, as this is an Easter themed treat, you can serve it with anything you want – but we loved having ours as a mini-brunch.

Recipe adapted from: Achieve Success

Makes 12 hot cross buns.

You will need:
-          1 ½ cups warm milk (I warmed mine in the microwave for about 45 seconds)
-          2 sachets of dried yeast (mine were 7g each)
-          ½ tsp salt
-          ½ tsp sugar
-          4 cups self raising flour
-          1 tbsp cocoa
-          1 tsp cinnamon
-          2 tbsp sugar
-          55 g butter, melted
-          1 egg
-          1 cup chocolate chips (I used ¼ cup dark (bittersweet) chips, ¾ cup milk chocolate chips)
-          1/4 cup water
-          1 tbsp sugar
-          Nutella / chocolate ganache (Recipes of mine which include ganache are: Malteser Brownies and Roasted Cherry Brownies with Roasted Cherry Ganache

What to do:

In a large bowl combine milk, yeast, salt and ½ tsp sugar in a large bowl. You have to mix this together well – I prefer to use a wooden spoon. Make sure the yeast is well mixed in. Cover loosely with plastic and leave bowl in a warm spot for 10 minutes or until the mixture is slightly bubbled on top. Mine was not very frothy/bubbly, but I left it for around 12 minutes and there were bubbles on the top of the mixture.

In another large bowl, sift flour, cocoa and cinnamon together. Add the 2 tbsp of sugar, frothy yeast mixture, butter and egg. Stir until the mixture comes together. It will be a thick, shaggy dough and very sticky. Turn the mixture out onto a well floured bench. Make sure your hands are well floured. Knead the dough until it is smooth. I had to knead mine for 10-15 minutes. It actually wasn’t working for a while, so if this happens for you, just do what I did – leave the dough for a minute or two and let it breathe. Then, retry. My dough wasn’t perfectly smooth, it was still a little sticky but it stuck together.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I simply sprayed mine heavily with coconut oil). Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap. Leave the dough in a warm place so the dough will rise. I left mine for about 1 hour 10 minutes, but leave for up to 1 hour 30 minutes if the dough has not doubled in size. Mine doubled very quickly – in fact it rose over the bowl and stuck to the plastic. There is nothing wrong with this, it means you’ve done a good job. I went for a run while my dough was rising.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down to its original size with your fist. This is the best bit of the recipe – it’s so much fun.

Turn down on to a floured surface and add the chocolate chips slowly, kneading the bread until the chips are evenly spread throughout the mixture. 
On a tray or in a large, deep pan, divide the mixture into twelve equal portions to make twelve balls of dough. Mine were not perfectly circular – not at all. But it doesn’t really matter, it still looks good. Make sure you place the balls about 1 cm apart, as the dough has to rise one more time.

Cover the balls with plastic wrap and leave the pan in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This takes about 30 minutes. I left mine for a good 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Bake the buns for 15 – 20 minutes. The top of the buns will be a golden brown and when a skewer is inserted into the dough it should come out clean. This may take less time depending on your oven – keep a good eye on it.

If you want to glaze the muffins, simply boil the water with the remaining 1 tbsp of sugar for about 3 minutes. Then brush the sugar mixture over the warm muffins.

After this, while the muffins are warm, make the crosses. I used a knife and Nutella to simply spread the nutella over the buns to make a cross. I also used, for these pictures, homemade ganache, which I simply placed in a zip lock bag, pushed down to one corner, cut the corner of the zip lock bag off, and squeezed out the ganache to make the crosses.

Serve warm. You can serve them at warm temperature, but warm, when the chocolate chips melt out into your mouth, is so much better. These buns can be reheated easily. I don’t know how long they last in the fridge, because we ate them all.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Guest Post: Michelle Pino - Jade Butterfly Martini

Hi guys,

I have a great guest post to share with you today. It's the first one ever here on Half Baked and I even broke posting schedule to put it up. So today Michelle Pino, who is from Skana spa in upstate New York, has a great spring cocktail for you guys.

I think I've mentioned before I don't really drink - I pretty much exclusively drink vodka (including mixes), cocktails and mango daiquiri. Yes, I like girly drinks. And I'm also pretty young, so give me a bit of credit for not liking wine or hard spirits yet. Point is, while I haven't tried out this recipe myself, Marnie and I were thinking of throwing a cocktail-bar kind of birthday party for ourselves later on in the year and this will definitely be on the list. I absolutely love pineapple juice (or any juice really) with vodka, and this is a great combination. For those of you who don't know, CuraƧao has an orange-like flavour and is a little bitter, which is why the pineapple juice compliments the taste.

Well that's enough from me today. I'll let Michelle take over and tell you all about this delicious Spring cocktail - perfect for an Easter brunch or Spring drinks with girlfriends. It may not be Spring in Australia, but it's hot enough where I am for me to want to try this now.

P.S. - Check back tomorrow for one final Easter recipe from me. It's a good one, even if it is a throwback!


Spring has officially begun, and even though it might not feel like it in most parts of the country (I'm looking at you, fifty degree weather!) it's time to start looking ahead to those garden parties and backyard brunches. Sunny skies and day trips to the park are on the horizon, so keep your chin up and fake it until you make it by throwing a fun little party to usher in warm weather. Nothing screams "Spring is here!" quite like a light, colorful cocktail, so break out those martini glasses and whip up this signature drink that's sure to impress your guests!

Recently, I stumbled upon a great cocktail recipe while attending a wedding at the Turning Stone Resort, which is a Central New York wedding venue. They had a list of exclusive cocktails that are only served at major events.  The Jade Butterfly Martini was the favorite of the evening, because in addition to being delicious (which is very important!) it's just so pretty. Spring cocktails are all about being fun, colorful, and fruity-- and this one is no exception. The traditional Butterfly Martini is yellow in color, but in this version, the Blue Curacao combines with the pineapple juice and sweet and sour mix to transform the drink into a refreshing, light green delight. If you’ve never used Blue Curacao in a cocktail you’re in for a big surprise! It’s a fun way to add a splash of color and a hint of orange flavor to an otherwise predictable drink. Jazz up the glass with a slice of fruit on the side for the full effect. Your guests will think you’re much more of a mixologist than you actually are!  Here’s what you need:

Shake all ingredients and strain over ice in a chilled martini glass.

And there you have it!  Mix up a batch of these, relax on your deck, and impress everyone at Easter brunch. The fun thing about kicking off spring with a party is that you have a chance to create a signature cocktail—something memorable that your friends will immediately associate with you in the future. This light, pretty little number is sure to win over friends with its yummy taste and festive color, so why not make it your signature drink this season? Happy spring, everyone!

About Michelle: Michelle Pino has provided these tips in hopes to educate others on how to lead a more organized and less stressful life.  Michelle believes a more organized approach to tasks will result in more completed goals.  Her hobbies include crafting, reading and learning about healthy lifestyles.  Michelle is thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Rebecca and together share their ideas on “Half Baked”.


If you guys are interested in some more recipes from Michelle let me know! And if anyone else wants to do a blog swap, or guest post over here, feel free to shoot me an email. I will always reply.

Check back tomorrow for some final Easter treats! 

Monday, 25 March 2013

Another A-Z post

Here is a quiz. It is in an attempt to put a bit more of 'me' out on this blog. Stolen from Alex. As all the good things are. Interspersed with pics of the holiday (I know, I'm still going, but it's the last lot).

 Lobsters caught by my friend's Dad in MA.

A: Age –Nineteen, with only about seven months left of uni. That's not bad.
B: Bed size –This is a stalkerish question.
C: Chore you dislike –Cleaning the shower. I hate it. I actually hate cleaning bathrooms. In my first year of living at university my roommate and I had a deal - he would clean the bathrooms if I would do the kitchens. Best. Deal. Ever.

 Fudgy brownie topped with whipped cream, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, hot fudge sauce, caramel sauce and a cherry. Yes.

D: Dogs –I love them! I've never had one though, but I totally want them when I live in a dog-friendly area. I want Dalmations or English Cocker-Spaniels. And I've even picked out names. That's how much I want a dog.
E: Essential to your day – Eating breakfast. I just don't get people who don't eat breakfast (sorry, Marnie, you know I love you).
F: Favorite Color –Red or black - I can't decide. And now that my hair is black, I love dark, emerald green - makes my eyes stand out.

 Columbus Circle in NYC. Went to a jazz club there. And Whole Foods.

G: Gold or Silver – I have a lot of silver jewllery that I wear daily, but all of my special stuff is gold, so to me gold is special occasion jewllery. I have the greatest necklace and ring from my parents in gold, and the BEST bracelet from my grandparents. 
H: Height –I had to look this up because I don't know my height in feet. I'm 5'7 apparently. According to Google that's the same height as Beyonce and Keira Knightly.

The view from Empire State Building. It's hard to do it justice.

I: Interesting Fact – My Chemical Romance broke up! Teenage me is still upset about it. But, I suppose you want a fact about me; I hate my eyebrows. Like, really, really hate. And I obsess about people's eyebrows. That's pretty weird.

 The United Nations. This was such a great experience.

J: Job Title – Still a student, but graduating at the end of the year!
K: Kids – Definitely not. As for in the future; it's unlikely, but you never know.
L: Live –Brisbane - in the best state in of one of the best country's. I'm incredibly lucky to be here.
M: Mom’s name – That's a bit personal. But I will tell you she loves her name as it's not a very common one.

Grand Central Terminal. Again, the pictures just don't this place justice. Other than the NYC Public Library this was one of the best places I visited - absolutely beautiful.

N: Nicknames - Well, Bec, obviously. My real name is Rebecca, but no one calls me that.
O: Overnight Hospital Stays – I don't think I've had any. I've certainly been there enough and have had operations, but I've gone home, even if it has been in the middle of the night.
P: Pet Peeves – People who block the whole street/sidewalk when they are walking (yes, family, you do this). And people who block the escalators (again, yes, family, you do this). And rude people in the retail. I mean, I'm sure retail is not always the greatest job, but there's no need for salespeople to talk about how a dress looks on me behind my back. I can hear you.

Bryant Park Hotel. It's just so pretty.

Q: Quote from a Movie – "Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end." - Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
I'm adding in favourite book quotes here:
"All was well" - Harry Potter.
"Love isn't sensible, Red. I think that's the point." - Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde.
"Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win." AND "I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks." - To Kill A Mockingbird


R: Righty or Lefty – Weird story here. I was born left-handed but my Mum did not want to be a lefty, so she used to hold my left hand while I was doing things so I would be a right-hander. I now write awkwardly with my right hand, play guitar left handed and because of my bad grip playing tennis have screwed up some tendons in my right wrist (nothing serious though). Oh, I also hold my knife and fork weirdly and have no idea how to set a table (I put the knife and fork on the wrong side apparently, but its not the wrong side for me).

More Broadway.

S: Sibling – One brother, who studies IT at the same university as me. Moved away from home this year.
T: Time you wake up – 5:00-6:00 usually. Around 5:30 these days. In Winter it's more like 6:30 at the latest, but usually 6:00. I'm like this because my entire family is. I don't sleep very well, which I get from my grandad.

 I took this picture of the play/musical signs while waiting at TKTS for cheap tickets to a Broadway show. I recommend doing that - I got a great seat and paid so little. I saw Newsies, which I recommend seeing. It has to be the best thing I've ever seen on stage.

U: Underwear - I am a little worried about some of these questions.
V: Vegetables You don’t like - Most of them. I'm not even joking. I HATE greens - lettuce, peas, cucumber, beans, etc. I do eat spinach and asparagus though.

 Roxy's! I had a really great lunch here one day. I love NYC deli's. They're fantastic.

W: What makes you run late? – Nothing. I'm not late. I'm not even joking; I time everything perfectly. I'm one of those annoying people.
X: Xrays you have had – A few - I've had them for my teeth several times and while technically not an x-ray, I had a couple of sonograms a few years ago which was just an awful experience. If you've ever had one you know what I mean.

 The Nederlander; the theater where I saw Newsies. It was such a fantastic experience.

Y: Yummy food you make – Um, brownies. And bread. And pasta. I think that's all I can make.
Z: Zoo animal favorite - I would mention the bad grammar in this question, but you'd all just point out the multitude of mistakes I have made in this post alone. But I am pointing it out, so go ahead. As for a zoo animal - I love leopards. They're my favourite animal ever actually.

Last picture of the city. Radio City!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Easter Egg Brownies

I know, I know, more brownies. I probably should make something else at some point, but when something tastes good, I can't help it. And these taste amazing.

I know I make a lot of brownies and always talk about how great they are, but these are just as good as any of the others I've raved about. These brownies are absolutely fantastic; they are the usual soft and fudgy brownies I make, but not quite as rich. To make up for that, they are filled with crispy M&M Easter eggs which slightly melt into the brownie batter as it bakes, leaving a somewhat crispy and milk chocolate after taste.

It is important to use, if possible, some type of medium sized crispy Easter eggs, as they work well with these brownies. They have a very soft flavour, but the flavour of the M&M Easter eggs adds to it. I would try to grab a packet of the eggs I mention below if you can.

These are based on my usual brownies, so if you have tried them, you know these will work well. And, again, I've added these brownies to Buns in My Oven What's Cookin' Wednesday linkup. Check it out if you're looking for some amazing ideas.

Level of difficulty: As easy as all brownies.
Menu Options: I recommend what type of Easter eggs to use below, but I shall say it here - M&M Speckled eggs or some other kind of crispy M&M eggs if they are not available. You could add more chocolate to the recipe (provided you melt it in the first step of instructions) but otherwise, if you like giant, fudgy brownies, keep the recipe simple.

Makes 16+ brownies, depending on the size you cut them

What you need:
-          100g dark chocolate – 75% cocoa at least
-          ¾ cup butter
-          ½ cup brown sugar
-          1 cup sugar
-          3 eggs
-          1 tsp vanilla
-          1 cup flour
-          1 tsp salt
-          1 cup M&M Easter eggs – I recommend buying the M&M crispy speckled eggs which are essentially M&M’s with a bit more chocolate or some other kind of M&M Easter eggs with a hard shell – they are what give the brownies the slight crunch

 Picture from my instagram

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Grease a brownie pan and line it with parchment paper. I always advise this because it so easy to remove the brownies from the pan.

Break up the chocolate and place in a large, microwave proof bowl with the butter. Microwave the butter and chocolate in 30 second increments until the butter and chocolate have melted together.

In the same bowl, provided it is large enough, add the sugars. Whisk until the mixture is well combined.

Add the eggs and vanilla at once and whisk until well combined.

Sift the flour and salt into the mixture and using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture together. Be careful here not to overmix the brownie batter. You want to mix until the last of the flour strands are fading because you will mix the mixture again in a minute.

Stir the chocolate bits into the mixture. This won’t require a lot of stirring – make sure the chocolate bits are evenly spread throughout the mixture and there are no flour streaks.

Pour the batter, which should be heavy and thick, into a brownie pan. Place in the oven and cook for 20 – 25 minutes. Keep an eye on the brownies after 20 minutes because you don’t want the edge of the brownies to burn. The mixture may seem slightly undercooked when you first take it out of the oven, but once it has cooled the brownies remain fudgy yet firm.

Allow the brownies to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Youtube + Workouts

Seriously, that is an odd title.

But it's what I wanted to talk about today. So, YouTube. I rarely use it. Only if a song I like is on YouTube but not released yet will I use it. Or if I'm watching movie trailers or CommunityChannel has finally put up a new video. Otherwise, I just don't use it. But then I stumbled across Jack's Gap the other day and it was hilarious and I pretty much watched every video in their collection. Same with some other British comedy guys. So my question for you guys is, are you Youtube fans? Got any good, funny suggestions?

 Oh, and Fitness Blender and Blogilates for workouts. Check those guys out - their workouts are pretty quick, intense and they leave you feeling pretty haggard.Do you guys have any good recommendations for online workouts? I'm always looking for a good workout online. Yoga, pilates, cardio, strength, circuit, pylometrics - anything? 

Speaking of workouts, this leads in to what I'm talking about next. I went to the most amazing boxing class last Friday. I'd never done boxing before. It was fantastic! Not only was it incredibly difficult, but it left me feeling exhausted and like I had really worked out hard. And it was completely empowering. Which was just amazing - I felt so strong and powerful. This is coming from a young girl of average height - I am anything but powerful and threatening.

As for my other workouts I've definitely noticed a difference in my performance. I started working out seriously last year and while it's been a bit of a slow process, I feel like I am definitely improving both in how my body looks and what I can do. I can run faster and for longer, I can lift more, I can jump higher, I can hold my handstands for longer and I can almost do a pullup (almost!). It's pretty exciting when I notice these changes. I've also noticed my body is a bit more toned but I'm not sure if I'm imaging it because a lot of people have said I don't look any different. I'm just going to keep thinking I do. I hope I do - with the effort I've been putting in, I should.

One thing I've noticed around the fitness blog world lately is everybody talking about how they can do handstands - now. And I thought that was strange because I've always been able to do handstands (I did gymnastics for a looong time, and have been able to do handstands since). I am very proud to be able to say that I can do handstands - and good ones (except in this picture, where my arms are weird).

I often get discouraged reading health and fitness blogs; seeing all these people who can run faster than me, lift more than me, are better at yoga, can hold longer planks and in general, are better than me. But then I remembered that some of them can't do handstands. And I can. So the lesson here is, and it's an important one, that there is always something you can do that someone else can't. And vice versa.

Finally, one last quick note: I found this article was great. It's really refreshing and, honestly, empowering, to see that those perfect looking women you see on tv do not look like that all the time. And in all honesty, these two women look absolutely amazing in their regular bodies (a lot less creepily tanned and not as super thin) and it's great to see that perfectly sculpted abs are not around every god damn day like we're led to believe. Anyway, give the article a read.

Hopefully you've stuck with me through this. And as I was asked so nicely, here are some more pictures of my holiday in America.

Boston! I only got one day there, but I loved it. It was my favourite place in America.

Harvard University - it was such a wonderful place.

Actual ivy on the walls! Makes me wish I was eligible to go there.

That's right. We ate at the Cheers bar.

Still at the bar. I cannot believe how long my hair was. 

Still the bar.
 Following the Freedom Trail. One of the best things I've ever done. We followed the trail all around the city and got to see some absolutely amazing things. I wish I could tell you and show you everything, but we did so much in one day. It was brilliant.

Modern Pastry - named as one of America's best bakeries. You can bet we stopped there.

My chocolate cheesecake from Modern. OMG. That is all I can say.

According to my friend from MA, this is Boston's other major bakery and we should have gone there as well.

The beautiful streets of the Italian section.

We saw the Boston Celtics vs Indianna Pacers. I love live basketball so this was fantastic. And you know, I've never been in such a big stadium! Was so cool.

So that's all for today, guys. Check back for an AMAZING recipe for Easter later this week! Have a good one.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Malteser Brownies

Thank you for all the lovely comments and emails I received after my last post. I know it was a bit heavy and I am sorry about that. I've had a much better week so far and am in a much more positive place. So, to celebrate positivity, here are some brownies.

As a quick note, I entered my Chocolate Raspberry Cinnamon-Sugar Challah Bread Sweet Rolls into Buns in My Oven's What's Cooking Wednesday linkup. For some amazing looking food, head on over there.

Now, back to these brownies. I made these for my roommate Marnie who absolutely loves Maltesers. I made these AGES ago and never got around to posting them. They were for her birthday last year, which I never even mentioned on the blog. So, Marnie - I hope this post reminds you that about these amazing brownies. And I hope you remember how much I appreciate you and love living with you. Living in Brisbane just wouldn't be the same, and I'm so glad we're both bad with directions.

For those who don't know, Marnie and I met the first day of university ever, when we were both hopelessly lost and confused. We're both from small towns, have great families and value the same things. We've been friends ever since.

So as you've probably noticed, I make an awful lot of brownies. I absolutely adore them. These brownies do not follow my base recipe, but instead are a new base recipe. They still taste amazing and are not only easy to make and clean up, but look fantastic. These guys are fudgy, dense and chewy (like all good brownies - but admittedly, not quite like my other ones). They have a slight crunch both inside the rich centre and on top; the Maltesers give them this fantastic malt kick in addition to this crunch.

Furthermore - that ganache is to die for. Very simple, but very rich. The richness of the brownies and ganache is offset by the sweet milk chocolate and malt from the Maltesers. You need to trust me on this one and make these guys. SOON.

Level of difficulty: These brownies are like all of my others – easy, delicious and fudgy. Very simple.

Menu Options: Now Maltesers can be found in most European countries including the UK and in Australia. But I don’t know how widely available they are in other countries and I can only assume as to what would be a suitable replacement for them. Maltesers have a malt honeycomb centre which is covered by milk chocolate. So, I think, in America a replacement would be Whoppers. I would try using them anyway. Otherwise, no other replacements are needed in this recipe.

While this recipe is an original it was inspired by ShugarySweets, Picky Palate and OK! - all of whom made brownies with sweets in. 

Makes 12 – 15 brownies, depending on size

What you need:
For the brownies:
½ cup butter, melted
100 g dark chocolate (at least 70& cocoa)
1 cup flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
3 eggs
150 g packet Maltesers  - 1 cup of Maltesers (chopped) is used in the brownies, while the remaining Maltesers are used to top the brownies

For the ganache:
1/3 cup cream
100 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
Remainder of Maltesers from the packet – used for topping the brownies

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and paper a brownie tin (whatever size you usually use is fine) and set aside for later.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments until melted together. Whisk together well.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl. Add in the sugars and combine well, using a whisk or wooden spoon. You can mix all of these ingredients together at once.

Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking as you do. Make sure there are no streaks of flour or egg in the brownie mix.

Add the one cup of chopped Maltesers to the brownie mix. They do not have to be chopped neatly; just broken in any which way works fine.

Stir in the Maltesers using a wooden spoon. Do not feel the need to stir them in too much, as you do not want to overmix the batter.

Bake the brownies in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove brownies and allow them to cool.

Once they have cooled, at least slightly (say half an hour), make the ganache.

Over a stove on low-medium heat, combine the cream and chocolate in a saucepan. Stir the mixture continuously until the cream and chocolate have melted together, creating an oozing chocolate coloured ganache. Take the ganache off the heat and allow to cool slightly. This will thicken the ganache, as when it is on the heat it is quite thin.

Do not allow the ganache to cool fully, but allow it to thicken. Once you thick it is still easy to pour but rather thick, spread the ganache evenly over the brownies. I recommend using a spatula to do this, as that way you will get all of the ganache from the saucepan and it will spread evenly across the top of the brownies.

Top with the remaining Maltesers from the bag. You can chop these or leave them whole (though chopping them is prettier).

Serve as you please – warm or cold, these brownies are amazing.