|my considerably bigger buns!|
There are people who despair of the fact that no sooner are the shops denuded of Christmas foodstuffs, then the Easter parade of edible goodies begins. They will opine that we are losing the celebratory aspect of food if it's available all year around. Well, yes. Ok. But . . . well if I can eat hot cross buns all year around, then I will and it is never too early to start.
This was only the second time I have made hot cross buns. My first attempt was a few years ago. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes in his The River Cottage Year that his go-to bun recipe was one of Margaret Costa's from her seminal Four Seasons Cookery Book. He descrribes it as by far the best. "The texture is light and very bunny . . ." Bunny? Light AND bunny? How could I resist?
I inferred that the recipe was idiot-proof. Well clearly I am the village idiot, as my buns emerged looking rather like World War II naval contact mines, where all the fruit was studded menacingly on the outside. The buns were probably not that deadly, but they could have understudied as cricket balls. I suspect that I had put the fruit and mixed peel into the mix at the wrong stage. I was somewhat disheartened and decided to concentrate on the kind of yeast cooking I can do. Plain bread.
Recently my yeast baking has become more adventurous I haven't gone all wild and crazy but I have moved on to other types of bread and yeasted cakes, including stollen.
Right now, as well as craving green vegetables, my taste buds are demanding a cornucopia of exotic spices; the kind of tastes and flavours that my ancestors could only have dreamed of if they had had the imagination or inclination after a hard day in the bogs, fields or down t' pit or where ever these familial peasants were keeping their heads down.
For the past few months I seem to have been obsessed with spices. It is not just their flavour it is the romance of them. A wild history of danger, derring-do and astonishing flavours; from cardamom and cloves to cinnamon and ginger, and I'm happy. Throw in some allspice, nutmeg and saffron and perhaps a little lemon zest and I'm ready to sing and dance, and generally annoy my neighbours.
I had a craving for hot cross buns. A little early maybe. But if a hot cross bun without a cross is merely a fruit bun, I really didn't see the harm in it.
The dough had a long cool proof during the day. I returned home, added the fruit. Shaped the buns and left them to proof for another couple of hours. Unfortunately, I fell asleep and didn't wake up until early the next morning. By which time the buns had had another long slow proof.
They had spread out a bit. Quite a lot actually. They were looking much larger and flatter than I had intended but I decided that if they failed to rise in the oven then they would probably end up tasting like very fruity teacakes and there is nothing wrong with that. I was pretty astonished when they emerged looking pretty much like hot cross buns are supposed and the kitchen was awash with the most glorious smells of yeast and spice.
To appease the neighbours, I invited them around to taste my second ever attempt to make hot cross buns. I turned my back and half of the buns had gone. By the time I had mentioned that I needed to keep some back to photograph, it was too late. They had all gone.
I know they are a greedy bunch but I was rather pleased. Just an excuse to make another batch and take a few prettier pictures!
* I love the "we need considerably bigger buns" scene in the film Calendar Girls. Is it very typically British humour? A bit "Carry On?” I can't say, but it always brings a smile to my face.