We recently caught up with Sarah Brunella, who is a baker, blogger and food photographer, based in the Italian region of Switzerland, Tessin. Sarah is a big fan of baking in her Falcon and shares her chocolatey take on the traditional hot cross bun below. They are good enough to be served plain, toasted or spread with your favourite jam.
BAKING TIPS AND HOT CROSS BUNS
F: Can you tell us a bit about you and what you're working on at the moment?
SB. Well, even during a pandemic I had a lot of things to do. Working mostly from home really helps me get things done even with all the restrictions we have. I’m always working on new content for my Instagram (@sarah_fel) and my blog (Fragola e Limone) and keep working on a long term collaboration with a swiss food magazine/portal (Fooby). I have a few secret projects in mind, but I am not allowed to talk about them. I would also like to open a YouTube channel, just to be able to share more of the baking processes and techniques used for all my recipes.
F. Baking has become so popular this past year. Do you have any top tips?
SB. Buy some good kitchen scales. I know, it doesn’t sound innovative or such a big tip, but in fact it really is. When you're a beginner everything is difficult, you have to understand many new things. You often start baking with recipes from other people, just to feel more confident, and a scale makes such a huge difference. When recipes call for cups they may vary a lot, and this is just another thing that can make things go wrong. Weighing all your ingredients can simplify a recipe, and reduces enormously the chance to fail.
F. What will you be baking over the Easter holidays?
SB. Even if they are not traditional to me I love hot cross buns, so I will probably bake them. For our Easter lunch we usually have veal roast, fried artichokes and potatoes. And if I have some spare time, I'll also bake Colomba, an Italian traditional Easter sweet bread which I love.
F. You're a fan of Falcon Enamelware. What’s your favourite product and what do you use it for?
SB. I have the bake set and love it! I often use my baking trays for cinnamon rolls, roasted potatoes or baked pasta. They have different sizes, so they are perfect for small families and also when we have dinner with friends.
F. Are there any local eateries/small businesses you'd like to shout about?
SB. Well, I live in the Italian region of Switzerland (Tessin) and last November the biggest and most known mill of Tessin burnt to ashes. Their flour was excellent and it was devastating for everyone here. The owner decided to rebuild it, so we all hope we will have it back as soon as possible. If you're ever in Tessin in the future, Mulino Maroggia is the place to visit.
F. How have you been keeping during this time? Do you have any tips for small business owners and creatives?
SB. I know it can be weird, but as far as I am concerned, 2020 was an extremely good year for my job and industry. As a food photographer I often work from home, where I created my little WFH studio. I know I am a lucky one, but I think that the best tip to live by these days is to always be prepared to reinvent yourself. It obviously can't be possible for everyone, but as creatives we can choose different paths. I had to cancel a few projects because my presence was requested and I couldn't travel, so I focused more on finding other ways to get in touch with people, create connections, be visible. A lot of my clients knew me thanks to social media, and it was important for me to always be there, trying new things and new forms of expression.
CHOCOLATE HOT CROSS BUNS
Makes 6 big buns, you can also make 9 smaller
- 320 g of bread flour (I used 260 g of a 12% proteins – W 220 – and 60 g of a stronger one – W350)
- 5 g instant dry yeast
- 60 g of sugar
- 180 ml of full fat milk, lukewarm
- 90 g of chocolate chip cookies
- 1 egg
- 1 ts vanilla extract
- 30 g of soft butter
- 1 pinch of kosher salt
For the crosses
- 40 g bread flour
- 50 ml water
- 50 g sugar
- 50 ml hot water
* You could also glaze them by simply using 2-3 tbsp of jam. Heat 3 tbsp of jam to melt, then sieve to get rid of any chunks. Brush it over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the dough attachment, add flours, yeast, vanilla and sugar. Mix for a few seconds, then add the egg and about 1/3 of the milk and start kneading at medium speed. Add the milk gradually, leaving the dry ingredients the time to absorb all the liquid.
Once all the milk has been incorporated and the dough starts getting smoother, add the salt and the soft butter and let knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is soft, smooth and clings to the hook.
Add now the chocolate chips, knead for one minute.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand just the time to make a ball, then put it in a big bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise, room temperature, until double in size.
Once the dough is ready, take it out of the bowl and cut it into 6 equal pieces (they should be somewhere near 120 g each). Make a ball out of each piece of dough and place them in a baking tray (mine is the serving tray from Falcon, 28 x 22 cm, 3.5cm depth), cover again with plastic wrap and let them rise until almost doubled.
Prepare the batter for the crosses, simply mixing flour and water: you need a not so runny batter, but hydrated enough to be spread out of a pastry bag. Spoon it into a piping bag: pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses.
Bake in a preheated oven (180°C/356°F) for about 20 mins on the middle shelf , until golden brown.
Prepare the syrup.
Put sugar and water into a small saucepan and gently eat until the sugar dissolves completely.
Once the buns are ready take them out of the oven and brush immediately with the syrup. Transfer them on a rack and leave to cool.
USEFUL FOR THE RECIPE
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