Easter is a week away, how do hot cross buns and flavoured marshmallows sound?
Bernadette Gee has a love of baking that has goes back to when her daughter was a wee one and she was a young adult. With Easter on the way, she shares her recipes for hot cross buns, an allergy-friendly version and flavoured marshmallows. Plus the story of her food journey so far.
It all started when Gee saw an opportunity she couldn't resist.
“A colleague was purchasing a chocolate cake online for his partner and I may have bullied him slightly to allow me to do it for him for $20 because I knew that my chocolate recipe was amazing," she says.
That planted the seed.
“I did everything instantly, I registered the business as a limited liabilities straight away and I opened banks accounts straight away, I thought this is me, this is what I’m doing.”
Everyone thinks it’s hilarious and now asks her to make them a cake for $20, she says. It’s a quick no.
It became her side-hustle, caking in the weekends and things got to the point where she was doing all-nighters to bake cakes.
In 2011, she set up Magnolia Kitchen while she had her second baby on the way.
She rented a commercial kitchen and her son James was born but before she was due to go back to work she fell pregnant with her third child, Edward.
Life became very busy, she says.
Gee would eventually give up the commercial kitchen and begin working from home again, but she was reported to the Council and served a cease and desist order. It became the push she needed to open up Magnolia Kitchen Sweet Cafe in Silverdale, Auckland.
She opened it a week after her wedding.
“You have to appreciate the craziness of it, both my husband and I, like he organised the entire wedding himself because I was so busy setting up the shop. It was a beautiful wedding, he did an amazing job but he has said that he would never ever ever do it again.
“You have to laugh and I think we just had to realise along the way that that’s just how I do things, if I don’t have 120 zillion things going on at once, I wouldn’t be me.”
She’s starting to embrace the stress and use it as a driver, she says.
On top of all that, Gee has a very healthy Instagram following, 191,000 and counting.
“I’ve built up such an important online community and when I talked about my business being shut down, so somebody actually reported me… I was completely upset. So I took to social media, to my online community and they rallied around and they picked me up and they just made me feel like I could still move on and carry on and still have this amazing business.”
She’s determined to be her authentic self, which has annoyed a few people, she says.
“I don’t just share my business, my Instagram wall is beautiful, it’s got all my creations and my art and everything. Then on the flip side, you’ve got my Instagram story which is basically an insight into my life.”
Her full-of-energy kids are part of that.
It’s about sharing what she’s learnt and showing people they can do it too, she says.
With Easter looming, Gee has recipes for hot cross buns and also an allergy-friendly version and flavoured marshmallows. Also, an extra recipe, for maple and nutmeg butter, which goes well on hot cross buns.
Hot cross brioche buns:
Basic Brioche Dough
This dough can be made into a brioche scroll, doughnuts, fruit loaf or hot cross buns.
Prep 20 mins
3 hours, or overnight
Makes approx. 700 g
50 g (1¾ oz) caster sugar
1 tablespoon salt
240 ml (8 fl oz) milk
10 g (¼ oz) instant dry yeast
170 g (6 oz) butter
560 g (1 lb 4¼ oz) flour
In your mixer bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt.
Pour the milk into a suitable bowl, and heat in your microwave (in short bursts) until lukewarm*. Now add your yeast to the lukewarm milk and whisk to combine. Add the milk and yeast mixture to your mixer bowl and stir to combine.
Use the same bowl you used for the milk to melt your butter in the microwave-this will save on dishes (you’re welcome). Add the melted butter to your mixer bowl and mix to combine. Add half the quantity of flour and whisk by hand to combine.
Now put the dough-hook attachment on your mixer and add the remaining flour to the bowl. Mix on low speed until the flour is combined, then increase to medium speed and leave mixing for about 5 mins. The dough will start to climb up on the dough hook and pull away from the sides of the mixer bowl. (This is one of those instructions where you will just have to trust me-and you will be like ‘A-ha!’ when you see it climbing the hook.)
If you’re making this dough for hot cross buns or fruit loaf, now is the time to add the spices, zest and dried fruit. Continue to knead for a further 2 mins until combined.
Transfer the dough to the same bowl you melted the butter in (saving on dishes again!). Cover the dough with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap gently against the dough. Place in the fridge and proof for about 3 hours (or you can leave it overnight).
*I know recipes often say ‘lukewarm’ but what is lukewarm? Who is Luke? This is really random, so I’m gonna try to describe what lukewarm is. Put your finger in your mouth now. Hopefully your mouth is warm-this is my best description of lukewarm.
Hot Cross Brioche Buns
Prep 8 mins (plus
Baking 30-40 mins
Makes 9 buns
1 recipe Basic Brioche Dough with the following spice, zest and dried fruit* added (when instructed in the recipe page 31)
2 tablespoons mixed spice
zest of 1 orange
80 g (2¾ oz) sultanas
80 g (2¾ oz) raisins
30 g (1 oz) warm water
100 g (3½ oz) plain flour
100 g (3½ oz) caster sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
50 ml (1½ fl oz) boiling water
Prep a deepish 20 cm (8 in) square baking tin with cooking spray and a lining of baking paper on the bottom. Flour your bench generously. Remove your proofed dough from the fridge and knead it on the floured bench a few times until smooth.
Cut the dough into nine evenly sized pieces, using your scales to weigh them to make sure they are the same. Now make a cage with your fingers around each of the pieces of dough in turn, and move your hand in a circular motion with your fingertips just touching the bottom of the dough-this should give you a nice evenly round bun. Place the buns in the tin so that they are just touching. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm area for about an hour or until they double in size.
Meanwhile prepare the cross mix. Add small amounts of the water to the flour, mixing it in well each time, until the paste is smooth with a slightly runny piping consistency. When it looks about right, put it in a piping bag and snip off the end about 3 mm (⅛ in) from the bottom.
Preheat your oven to 160°C (315°F). Pipe crosses on the risen buns. Bake for 30-40 mins until they’re golden and a knife comes out clean when you stab them buns, hun.
Prepare the glaze by dissolving the sugar and vanilla bean paste in the water. Brush the cooked buns with glaze immediately. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, then move to a cooling rack. Serve warm with BUTTER.
*For a chocolate version, sub the dried fruit for 150 g (5½ oz) chocolate chips.