Friday, 16 March 2012

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns
Ok, here are the things I like about Easter, in no particular order: two extra days off work, chocolate eggs, normally an extra game of football to go to, a big family roast feast and hot cross buns. That's about it, really. I certainly don't do church or religion and I find the whole story behind Easter the biggest borefest ever conceived. I don't even know if you're supposed to be happy or sad. At least you know where you are with Christmas and it's got some bloody catchy songs to sing along to. Maybe if Slade released a toe-tapping Good Friday single to play in the shops every year it might not be so bad. "IT'S EASTERRRRR!!!!" Easter just doesn't have an exclusivity about it – chocolate eggs and hot cross buns are available to buy and scoff almost before the final knockings of the Christmas stilton is digested and flushed down the toilet, so by the time Easter comes around there's just a massive "so what?". And before I receive any emails (please) piously stating that the hot cross bun has the Christian symbol of the crucifixion on its sweet, sticky dome, I shrug my shoulders in indifference in your general direction. My dad used to do Spot The Ball religiously every week (and probably prayed to god for a big win in the process), marking his entry with hundreds of bloody crosses, and for what? (Actually he did win £500 once, so maybe the big beardy fella in the sandals was listening after all.) Look, it's a cross. On a fruity bun. And they get a big thumbs up from me. Other denominations are available. Here's how to make them, thanks to Felicity Cloake of The Guardian. Makes 16

200ml milk, plus a little more for glazing

3 cardamom pods, bruised

1 cinnamon stick

2 cloves
¼ tsp grated nutmeg

14g dried yeast

50g golden caster sugar, plus extra to glaze

450g strong white flour

100g butter

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground ginger

3 eggs
150g currants

50g mixed peel

3 tbsp plain flour

1. Heat 200ml milk gently in a pan along with the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg until just boiling, and then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour. Bring back up to blood temperature and then mix the strained milk with the yeast and 1 tsp sugar.
2. Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and grate over the butter. Rub in with your fingertips, or in a food mixer, until well mixed, and then add the rest of the sugar and the salt and ginger. Beat together 2 of the eggs.
3. Make a well in the middle, and add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture. Stir in, adding enough milk to make a soft dough – it shouldn't look at all dry or tough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, then lightly grease another bowl, and put the dough into it. Cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – this will probably take a couple of hours.
4. Tip it out on to a lightly greased work surface and knead for a minute or so, then flatten it out and scatter over the fruit and peel. Knead again to spread the fruit around evenly, then divide into 16 equal pieces and roll these into bun shapes. Put on lined baking trays then cover and put in a warm place to prove until doubled in size.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and beat together the last egg with a little milk. Mix the plain flour with a pinch of salt and enough cold water to make a stiff paste. Paint the top of each bun with egg wash, and then, using a piping bag or teaspoon, draw a thick cross on the top of each. Put into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until golden.
6. Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp caster sugar with 1 tbsp boiling water. When the buns come out of the oven, brush them with this before transferring to a rack to cool. Eat with lots of butter.

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