Anyway, the approaching holiday means hot cross bun time - what could be better than spiced bread, fresh from the oven and slathered with butter?
Hot cross buns are pretty easy to make, but they are one of those things you have to plan ahead for - there are wait times of 10 minutes + 60 minutes + 30 minutes + 25 minutes - so if, like us, you put off starting until 7.30pm you'll probably go to bed bloated, since once they're ready the whole house will smell delicious and you won't be able to stop eating them.
The first step is activating the yeast, and I don't know what it is but sometimes mine goes frothy and sometimes it doesn't - this time it didn't. The buns were fine, though, so apparently that's not a cause for concern. Once the yeast has been sitting in its milk bath for a while you beat in the eggs and butter. The way I do it the resulting mixture looks awful - lumpy and gross - but it doesn't really matter, you're just trying to break up the butter and mix the yeast evenly through the wet stuff. Once you add it into the flour mixture it'll all smooth out.
After a couple of phases of rising - first in the bowl and then on the tray once you've made the dough into buns (bonus points if your teatowel is as appropriate as ours!) it's time to make them cross.
I just add milk until I get the consistency I want - basically, as thick as possible, but you have to be able to squeeze it out of a piping bag, so unless you have lots more muscle than me you'll still need the milk. ;-)
If you plan ahead and place the buns closer together (they only rise a little in the oven) you can just pipe the crosses as lines, but I'm not that clever. You could also be more creative - I see Hell Pizza are offering buns with an inverted pentagram on top of them, which sort of goes against the sentiment of Easter but I guess seems more fitting for their brand...
What's your favourite way to have hot cross buns? Do you like the traditional ones, peel and all? A lighter fruit version? Or are you a complete non-traditionalist like me and go for the chocolate version?
Hot Cross Buns
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp each of mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg
¼ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp yeast
1 cup milk, warmed
100g butter, softened
1 cup mixed dried fruit or chocolate, chopped into small pieces (optional)
Paste for crosses
½ cup flour
1 Tbsp butter
¼ tsp baking powder
Blend flour, salt, spices and brown sugar. Stir yeast and warm milk together and leave to stand for 15 minutes in a warm place. Beat eggs and softened butter into the yeast mix, then add to dry ingredients and fruit, and mix until at a dough consistency (add a little extra flour if too sticky). Place dough in a greased bowl and leave covered in a warm place for an hour to rise.
Turn onto a floured board and divide into 16 portions, rolling into balls and placing on a greased oven tray. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 190 C. Brush each bun with milk. Mix extra flour, butter and baking powder and just enough milk to make a paste and pipe crosses on top. Bake 20-25 minutes.