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I had a somewhat belated craving for hot cross buns yesterday, a carry over from the last few weeks addiction. Do try this one, it is the most tender version I’ve ever made at home. They look a little rustic, as I was a little hasty in shaping them, getting excited about eating them!
I wanted to say ‘failsafe hot cross buns’, as this recipe is straightforward. The dough only needs to be mixed for 4 minutes and then left to rise for about 2 hours.  I’ve been playing around in my Professional Baking book which is what this recipe is based on- that’s also why all the measurements are in grams.
sweet dough
100g butter, diced
100g white sugar
10g salt
25g milk powder
75g eggs
200g water
400g bread flour (or strong flour)
100g cake flour (soft or plain flour)
16g instant dried yeast
3g ground allspice
60g currants
80g sultanas
cross paste
150g water
135g cake or plain flour
30g vegetable oil
15g milk powder
1g baking powder
1g salt
clear glaze
25g water
50g glucose syrup
25g white sugar
1 Preheat oven to 50-100°C. For the sweet dough, add butter, sugar, salt and milk powder to the bowl of an electric mixer and mix until combined. Add eggs and mix until absorbed. Add water and mix well.
2 Add flours, yeast and allspice and mix on low to medium speed for 3 and a half minutes. Add currants and sultanas and mix on low speed for 30 seconds until mostly incorporated into the dough.
3 Remove bowl from machine, cover with cling wrap and lay a tea towel on top of the bowl. Place the bowl in a warm place such as on the open the oven door with the oven set to 50-100°C for two hours or until dough has risen. Increase oven to 190°C.
4 Form dough into 60-80g balls and sit next to each other, just touching on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
5 For the cross paste, mix all ingredients until smooth, then transfer to a zip lock or piping bag and pipe intersecting lines over your hot cross bun rows. Bake at 190°C for 20-30 minutes until golden and cooked through.
6 For the glaze, add water, syrup and sugar to a small saucepan and stir over medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Apply warm glaze to hot cross buns, with a pastry brush, reheating the glaze if necessary.
P.s. If you happen to live in the tropics you can just leave your dough to rise outside in a sheltered area and leave your oven off until you have to bake them.
N.B. I used a flat ‘K’ beater, as the dough hook didn’t blend the butter in properly and as it is such a short mix time it isn’t required here, as it would be for a normal dough.

…so I left you in Piedmonte, Italy. The journey then continued in our little Alfa across the border into the south of France and the fragrant region of Provence.
We had a forgettable lunch in Nice. Somebody please give me some tips for next time because I thought it was trashy, touristy, dirty and awful. But then again, we were only there for a few hours so maybe that’s not fair. Anyway, we were relieved to get out of Nice and into Grasse, a beautiful little place full of Perfume factories. I dragged Dave to the Fragonard museum and gift shop. Have you seen that episode of Mr Bean in the perfume department? 🙂
We were staying at a little B&B called La Surprise run by an English couple and we had the best breakfast of our trip here. The combination of good (strong) tea and coffee with home made fresh fruit salad along with fresh bread and patisserie from the local boulangerie was magnificent. A pity we only stayed one night.We had a wonderful dinner at a little town 5 minutes drive from there and were lucky to get the last table at a tiny restaurant swathed in red fabric with an interesting looking menu. The waiter was the husband and his wife was the chef.
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A spiced dip to start
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Deep fried fish balls, delicious though quite rich
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A savoury cheesecake
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Pesto risotto and pan fried white fish
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Some local cheeses
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Bananas in baked custard
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Some beautiful house made macarons
The next morning we took our host’s recommendation to get off the motorway and take the scenic route to our next stop, Aix en Provence (called ‘Ex’ for short) via the stunning Gorge du Verdon.
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Dave did a stellar job of navigating the windy roads with no guard rails and drivers who don’t slow down for blind corners!
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It’s embarrassing just how pleased I look with this apple tart that I bought at a little town we stopped at for lunch on the way to Aix-En Provence.
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A laid back restaurant we found in Aix that had a delicious foie gras and specialised in grilled meats:
http://restaurantlabrocheriepaysaix.com/
Our accommodation was amazing, one of the most memorable of the trip…Le Clos des Freres Gris:
http://freres.gris.free.fr/
We dropped our car back at the TGV train station where we caught the fast train up to Paris. Less than 4 hours later and we arrived in Paris! A cab to our apartment where we were met by our greeter who showed us around the apartment, handed us our keys, left us with a bottle of wine and some restaurant recommendations. We felt at home already.

They say it’s good for kids to have to self esteem right? But what happens when they grow up and start to think they can take on the world? When they boast quietly to their friends about what they can do? Their friends call them on it, that’s what. This is what happened to me recently, after torturing my friends with tales of testing the snow egg recipe and how delicious it was, and what time I had made it in, they decided I should consider bringing it to our next party. No, no, I said, are you mad? And anyway, my Sunbeam ice cream maker has died again, for no apparent reason. Oh. Disappointment reeks. ‘Well, maybe…’, I think, I could get that Kitchenaid mixer with ice cream making attachment I’ve been dreaming about for my birthday. After all, Grandma’s lovely old Kenwood mixer is about to stop mixing any day now, plus I can’t find the dough hooks and it would be so nice to make bread at home…ah the justification.
So yes, I agreed to the madness that is bringing snow eggs to a dinner party. Saner to do it at home, but only marginally. Let me just say this. Yes, I tested this recipe under competition conditions and did it in a short period of time, but this is nigh impossible to replicate at home. Who wants to cook under that kind of pressure at home? You want to relax, have some music on, do it properly.
If you, like me, have had your ego stroked and are considering the task of snow eggs for dessert- give yourself a few days in advance to shop, prepare the components ahead of time (I’ll tell you which ones) and you will make your life easier. Let me tell you that you will still be scared about ruining the maltose tuile on top but you get to play with a blow torch so it’s worth it.
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Strawberries and Guavas give this granita its coral colour
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The Guava Fool (a mixture of vanilla custard, double cream and guava puree)
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A small scoop of ice cream is placed in the centre of two meringue halves and the tuile is melted on top with a blow torch. Btw, I used glucose here instead of maltose as I had run out and it worked really well as a direct substitution.
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Oh Snow Egg, you look so easy on youtube…
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If you are working during the day and only have evenings to prepare, I would recommend doing the shopping 3 days before, the ice cream, granita and puree 2 days before, the vanilla custard and maltose tuiles the day before (keep in an air tight container between layers of baking paper). The meringue you should make on the day as it has a tendency to deteriorate if left around for too long- it is not a fully baked meringue, it is only poached for about 15 minutes so is still softish.
Remember, you can always just make the custard apple ice cream, which is delicious. I won’t put the recipe up as it already on several sites on the web. Just do a search for Peter Gilmore’s snow egg and you’ll find it.

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The salted peanuts whet our appetites. I’d love to know if these are cinnamon sticks or cassia bark…
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Lightly steamed oysters with ginger, shallots and soy
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Chinese pickled vegetables, sweet, salty and sour with crispy wonton skins sprinkled with schezuan pepper & salt
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Bugtail wontons with schezuan chilli oil
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Crispy prawn wontons with a sweet Vietnamese style dipping sauce
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Slow roasted lamb pancakes- peking duck style. The home made sauce was tasty but a little too thin for the application, it dripped everywhere! I am not a big fan of ‘thickened’ sauces (apart from gravy) as a general rule, but here it needs it.
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A standout crispy pork belly dish. Salty and moreish, with a refreshing coleslaw packed with fresh herbs to balance the richness of the meat.
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The silken tofu was delicate and beautiful with a poached egg in the centre of the plate.
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Crispy skin duck with citrus sauce
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Stir fried mushrooms, fresh, flavoursome, delicate and a wonderful foil to the rich meats we ordered.
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Pears poached in red wine with sour cream and almond praline- cleansing and light

This is not a comprehensive list, just the start of a list of the best places to get a good coffee in Darwin. The criteria? The coffee should be full of flavour, the milk silky and not burnt. That screeching sound? It sounds bad for a reason. If you can scoop your milk into a meringue shape then it’s over cooked.
My faves? A tie between Ducks Nuts on Mitchell St and Jay’s Coffee cart at various markets and the Nightcliff Jetty. I bought some gorgeous home roasted beans from Jay’s Coffee, some Ethiopian Sidamo and some PNG Purosa, both organic. I’ve been grinding to order at home on my Rocky grinder and my Rancilio Sylvia has been loving it! Thanks 🙂
Jay’s Coffee Bar
Great coffee, freshly roasted fairtrade coffee beans and I’ve heard the iced coffee is the best in Darwin.
Rapid Creek Markets (Sundays)
Nightcliff Jetty (Sat and Sun afternoons)
Ducks Nuts Bar Espresso
Mitchell St. You can sit inside Bar Espresso, or choose the lovely verandah outside, same coffee, more atmosphere. But you have to brave the heat. Come on, don’t be soft!
There’s another list here, but I haven’t tried them all. Will have to ask my trusty coffee scout to suss them out:
http://darwin.citysearch.com.au/restaurants/roundup/1119945819575/1137547155562

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As soon as the balmy sea air at Mindil Beach hit my face, I relaxed. Sustained by treats from the stalls at the Mindil Markets, there was too much to choose from; Indonesian, Thai, Malaysian, and Roadkill stalls all competed for my attention. Do try the Ice Kachang dessert if you can find it.
Enthralled by the hard-to-find-in-Sydney Thai vegetables at Rapid Creek Markets, along with a great selection of meat and other ingredients at the Greenie’s real food store that I visited far too many times than a 10 day trip justifies.
Thai Massage, an Iyengar yoga class outdoors that bordered on Bikram’s style, local Indigenous art and music, the Darwin festival, and my new favourite clothing designer, Gita.
I can’t wait to go back to Darwin, if only to recapture that breezy vibe.
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Sunset at Mindil Beach Markets
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Even in the dry season, Darwin gives you a nice sweaty glow…
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The view from The Wharf, a great place for dinner
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Fish & Chips, Laksa and Som Tam at the Wharf
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John Butler rocked the Darwin Festival
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Deliciously cooling pools at Buley Rockhole
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Florence Falls, a deep black pool beneath a waterfall filled with amorous fish

Today Phee and I had brekky at Ducks Nuts. They have an espresso bar and a bar & grill. We ate at the bar & grill outside on the deck and watched the world go by. The coffee is excellent, with silky milk and good flavour.
Phee had Eggs Benedict and I had French Toast. I didn’t need lunch after that!
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Ducks Nuts
76 Mitchell St Darwin

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Sorry for those who have had to wait so long for this itinerary, but here it is: our first dive into the north of Italy, the south of France, and a week long stay in the Marais in Paris.
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My lovely Dave, who managed to look Italian in Italy, then French in France. I’m pretty sure he could easily do Spain and Mexico with a little bit more stubble 🙂
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Roman pizza and Campari
Our original plan to have a few days on an island a few hours from Bangkok was foiled by riots in the city centre, so instead we just broke our flight at the Novotel Bangkok, had a shower and a Thai massage and continued straight on to Rome. We stayed near the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps) at the Frattina Terrace, a little B&B which is only open during the month of May. We were five floors up, and as the lift was broken we worked off our pasta on the stairs.
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It took us a few nights to find a decent place for dinner, as we were a bit jet-lagged and slept through most dinner times stumbling out at 9 or 10pm for a little bite, but on our fourth and final night we were determined to eat a proper dinner at a tucked away Italian eatery, so we stopped at the wine bar on via Frattina for olives and a glass of wine to fortify ourselves before we stumbled on a delicious and authentic restaurant called Settimio All’Arancio, on via dell’Arancio just a few blocks from our place on via Frattina. The dish above is baby octopus in a delicious sauce.
You can visit their website at settimioallarancio.com
After purchasing some leather gloves and hiring an Alfa Romeo, we were all set to tackle the Italian countryside, Italian roads however, another story. Dave, to his credit managed to steer us safely through, and though we did think Italian drivers slightly mad with the speed at which they took corners, they also had the skills to back it up.
On we went to Greve in Chianti where we stayed at an agriturismo, visited a wine museum, found the most delicious smelling shop for lovers of prosciutto and a sweet little restaurant we loved so much we ate there two nights in a row.
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Terre di Baccio, an agriturismo with an outdoor courtyard, vineyards and just down the road from the wine museum.
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The Museo del Vino at Greve in Chianti, you can visit the website at museovino.it
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I never wanted to leave Antica Macelleria Falorni, the norcineria (butcher) in Greve in Chianti, the most wonderful house of prosciutto I have ever come across.
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I have been transported back here by a piece of pungent pancetta that I recently cooked with, amazing how powerful and emotive smell is.
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Nerbone is worth a visit, the regional dish of calves hoof was richly savoury, gelatinous and wonderfully rich, I’ve never had a dish quite like it.
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Our favourite agriturismo called I due Ghiri (the 2 mice) was in La Spezia, about 40 minutes drive from the Cinque Terre, set in the mountains on a farm. Behind our room were some lovely sheep grazing on the side of the mountain and at the start of the driveway some well cared for chickens. We ate Gaia’s delicious regional cooking with Gaia and Stefano and a few other guests.
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A day trip to the Cinque Terre. We parked in Monterosso and had lunch and then took the train down to Riomaggiore.
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The local seafood was fresh and tasty
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Our next destination was La Morra in the Piedmonte region in the north of Italy near Torino. We stayed at a small winery that made beautiful Barolo wine called Cascina Ballerin.
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Per Bacco, a popular restaurant in La Morra with wonderful food, a great local wine list and exquisite service.
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The seafood plate
After eating the rich carbonaras of Rome, we welcomed a lighter style of food in the north. The reputation is for rich food, but somehow we found a lightness and modern approach that was delicious and refreshing. I would head back to this area in a heartbeat. Every wine we tried was great, even the cheap wine on the menu was wonderful. A new white wine variety I tried was Favorita, a white wine vaguely similar to Sauvignon blanc.
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The tomatoes were so flavoursome, little mini romas…
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Home made grissini and soft and chewy fresh bread made with olive oil, delicious.
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We ate here two nights in a row as well
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The view of the French alps from La Morra
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A fun night out with four Danish travellers who shared our love of Barolo
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The print on this plate reminds me of something from my mother’s wardrobe. The steak tartare was delicious.
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Egg linguine with a ragu sauce of three meats was a dish we ate at several restaurants, and we didn’t mind at all.
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Here ends our Roman holiday, the next instalment will be from the South of France up to Paris.