To say that the last month has been a little chaotic would be an understatement, it has been both distressing & wonderful simultaneously. Either way this has led me to crave home comforts (food included).
There are many contributors to my maddening month… my career (or lack there of). I’ve been working extremely hard over the last few years in hopes that it would lead me towards a creative role. Finally, I thought my chance arrived as I undertook a learning position in design, however, 6 months down the line I received a rejection during one of two work trips to London for the job/department, needless to say I am little bitter (Bill Murray thought he had it bad, this is my personal Groundhog Day of seven years).
In a time where money is tight & boilers brake, let’s just say it’s been taxing. This week it was revealed that my regular role has been deemed no longer a requirement under a workplace review & I have complete uncertainty of my future. My dream job of owning a tea room (Becws Marmaled – aka Marmalade Bakery) is growing ever more appealing.
In complete contrast, I have had a marvellous Easter this year as I was finally able to cross somewhere off my travel bucket list, New York. Ever since I was a young film-loving child, I have been enchanted by the big apple. This year, courtesy of my wonderful family, my dream became a reality as I spent my Easter weekend soaking in the bustle & sights of this amazing city, fuelled by many a pretzel & cheesecake along the way (more on this in a later post).
All of this travelling however, has left me longing for the comforts & routine of home… marmalade for breakfast, the coziness of my own bed, a good cup of Earl Grey tea (everything apart from the grey skies of Wales). Easter is one of my favourite times of the year, it signals the return of spring.. the restoration of colour to the world, flowers bloom, birds announcing their return with the sound of merry chirping in the morning & perhaps best of all, the weather becomes ever more pleasant. All thoughts suddenly turn to the promise of longer summer days.
In the kitchen, spring signifies the reappearance of marzipan, a plethora of chocolate & my personal favourite, buns! Sticky, spiced, fruit-filled hot cross buns are an Easter essential. The buns, which bare a cross to represent the crucifixion of Jesus, mark the end of Lent. 40 days of fasting is certainly not my cup of tea, however a hot cross bun does indeed seem a worthy reward for your efforts.
Here in the UK, buns go on sale as early as January as yet again our supermarkets attempt to profit on the holidays. Whilst M&S do offer a very good store-bought version, I can promise you that nothing will ever compare to homemade. A wonderful activity for releasing your stresses (believe me), commit a lazy afternoon to producing a batch of these glazed decorative buns. Toasted, slathered in salted butter & accompanied by a pot of tea, there is no better respite from the daily burden. These are best eaten on the same day but freeze very well for up to a month.
HOT CROSS BUNS
- 500g strong white flour
- 7g fast-action yeast
- 75g caster sugar
- 5g salt
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 45g butter
- 1 large egg
- 300ml whole milk
- 200g sultanas
- 50g mixed peel
- Zest of 1 orange
- 90g apricot jam (to glaze)
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
For the crosses:
- 75g plain flour
- 75g water
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar & spices
- Warm the milk & butter together in a saucepan or microwave, until combined & leave to cool slightly until lukewarm
- Add the egg to the milk mixture & whisk to combine
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture & pour in the milk mixture
- Stir until the mixture no flour remains & a dough is formed (you many not need all of the milk mixture, alternatively use a little water if your dough feels a bit dry)
- Empty the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface & knead for 10 minutes (or 5 minutes if using a dough hook in a stand mixer) until it is smooth, elastic & it has a slight shine
- Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm & leave to rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size
- Once your dough has risen tip it out onto a floured work surface & knock back the dough (knead out the air pockets)
- Stretch out the dough slightly & tip over the dried fruit
- Knead the fruit into the dough until evenly distributed
- Divide your dough into 12 even sized pieces & roll each piece into a ball
- Place your buns onto a parchment lined baking sheet, placing them fairly close together and flattening them slightly
- Cover with cling film, a tea towel, or (my preference) place inside a bag for life & leave to prove for 30 – 45 minutes, until doubled in size
When the buns are ready, make the topping by combining the plain flour & water to make a paste
Spoon the paste into a piping bag & use this to pipe crosses on each bun
Bake the buns at 190C for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown
- Whilst the buns are baking, warm the apricot jam with the golden syrup in a small saucepan until fluid
- Once the buns are done, remove from the oven & brush all over with the warmed apricot jam before leaving to cool on a cooling rack