Monthly Archives: April 2012

steamed treacle sponge, rhubarb, custard

scotch eggs

         

easter breakfast, simnel bun

       

hot cross buns

Good Friday means making hot cross buns. I love this sort of ritual food, the sort of thing you make inevitably, not just out of duty to the day or season, but because it’s good too, and you feel glad that there’s a time each year you’ll make and eat it. Ritual like this is so important to me, not really for the sake of tradition, but because it inscribes a taste for good things, makes you remember what’s well with the world.

Onto the bunnies. The ones at the back of the oven got a little dark – but so it goes, and really the recipe turned out well: sweet, light, egg-and-butter enriched dough and gentle Easter spice. Cinnamon, nutmeg and citrus, sparingly used, sing of Easter.

Plenty of good butter and a cup of a light, fragrant tea like darjeeling are imperative.

And – and! – they’re lmost more lovely toasted the next day.

Very lovely things.

I don’t normally write detailed recipes but I think with yeast and flour recipes it’s worth elaborating, because details make all the difference.

Hot cross buns

The basic dough is based on the one I use for Swedish cinnamon buns, but I feel there ought to be an egg in the mixture here, for a little extra richness and lift.

Dough: Strong white flour – 10oz; milk – 5oz; sugar – 2oz; butter – 2oz; egg – one; quick yeast – heaped tsp or standard sachet; salt – 1tsp; cinnamon – 1tsp; nutmeg – a quarter.

Crosses: Strong flour – a handful, perhaps 1-2oz; water – enough to make a paste; yeast – two-finger pinch; salt – pinch.

Filling: Raisins – handful; sultanas – handful; zest of an orange and a lemon.

Make the paste for the crosses: beat the ingredients into a paste you’ll be able to squeeze out of the cut corner of a freezer bag, or a piping bag.

Mix the dough. It’s a good idea to keep back a handful of the flour to incorporate during kneading so you don’t throw off the proportions. This dough needs to be, and will be, wet, so you have to persist in beating it with your hands like a brioche dough, and stretching it until it starts to shine and pull together. Perhaps 10 minutes of beating and stretching will do it. You might use a dough hook, but I don’t have one. Dust with of the rest of the flour, knead, shape into a tight ball and set to prove – overnight is good, and often convenient, in a cool place, or two or three hours in a warmer one.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle on a surface dusted very lightly with flour and zest the orange and lemon over evenly. Generously scatter with raisins and sultanas and roll up into a sausage. Divide into twelve equal pieces and shape them into buns. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and set to rise in a warm place for 45mins. (I like to turn an oven on for a minute and turn it off again to make a warm, still place to prove and rise things.)

Once they’re puffy, turn on an oven to 200 degrees, and attend to your buns. Paint them with egg wash, and then pipe on crosses, keeping them as fine as poss. Slip them straight into the hot oven and bake for around 15 minutes, though they might need a little longer.

Glaze the hot buns very lightly with a simple sugar syrup made with equal quantities of sugar and water, heated until clear – perhaps a tablespoon of sugar and water will be enough. The buns should be deep gold, glossy, and smelling wonderfully of spice and zest.