I love seasonal food. Mince Pies at Christmas, Haira at Ramadan*. There’s something about food that’s only available for a limited time that makes me crave it like crazy.
I also love food that you can only get in certain places in the world – those turtle chocolates in Mexico, the white crunchie bar in Cape Town and the Cuban sandwich at Café Habana in New York (I want that right now).
Everything is so accessible what with globalisation, and the supermarkets are conveniently packed with everything you need to whip up a veritable united nations of cuisine. The only time food feels scarce or special is when you travel, or when there’s a particular holiday – like Easter. Hot Cross Buns at Easter are probably my favourite seasonal food.
What I do notice about the Hot Cross Bun is that there are some seriously frightening versions. I mean supermarket chain buns – what the hell is going on there? What texture even is that? And don’t get me started on chocolate chip versions – an abomination. World’s. Gone. Mad.
I like Hot Cross Buns pretty traditional with a baker who’s gone a little heavy handed on the spice side of things. I would prefer without the peel, but am not going to go all crazy face if they’ve been thrown in.
The beauty of making your own Hot Cross Buns of course is that you can load up with as many sultanas and currants as you prefer, give the mixed spice a good old fashion shake, and you have the added benefit of having your place perfumed with the beautiful smell of fresh, fruity easter baking (very handy tip for those who have their house at auction).
It is however a pretty massive commitment. I felt like I was babysitting when I did this batch. My morning seemed to revolve around the preparation of these things. But the reward.
They looked fantastic! I didn’t even know I was capable of such things. If you happen to have a Kitchen Aid you have absolutely no excuse to not give this a go. I find kneading a total bore so the dough hook is a fab option.
HOT CROSS BUNS (Makes 12)
14gm yeast (two satchets)
350ml milk, luke warm
90gm caster sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
600gm bread flour
15gm cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp mixed spice
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
2 tsps golden syrup
2 heaped tsp caster sugar
1/3 cup water
1. Put the sultanas and currants in a boil and cover with hot water. Leave for 30 mins
2. Put the yeast in a jug with the milk a little caster sugar and leave for about 10 minutes for the yeast to activate (get frothy).
3. Combine the vegetable oil, caster sugar and egg.
4. Put all the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and patiently wait for your fruit and yeast to get it together.
5. Drain the fruit and add to the dry ingredients, followed by the vegetable oil mix and the milk mix.
6. Leave mixing in your mixer with the dough hook on for 6-10 minutes. Make yourself a tea or some such.
7. You should have a well combined but sticky dough. Put some flour down on a clean benchtop and then massage the sticky dough into a roundish ball.
8. Pop back into your bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and rest somewhere warm for an hour.
9. Contemplate your life. Rearrange a sock draw. Grease some baking trays and line with baking paper.
10. The dough should have now doubled in size. Punch the air with satisfaction then the dough to knock a little steam out of it. Cut into 12 pieces.
11. The dough will still be sticky so using a little flour to assist rolling into even sized balls.
12. Place onto baking trays with a little space between each. Cover with tea towel again and leave for another half an hour. Preheat oven to 220 degrees.
13. Make the ‘cross paste’ by whisking flour and water. Pop in a sandwich style zip lock bag.
14. When you come back they should have expanded again and be touching each other. Apply your crosses! Bung buns in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn heat down to 210 degrees.
15. Make the glaze by putting the golden syrup, sugar, cloves and water into a jug and popping in the microwave for a minute.
16. When you buns come out of the oven they should brushed with the glaze whilst still hot.
17. Stand back and admire your cleverness.
WATCH OUTS: Sometimes if the milk is too hot it kills the yeast. You’ll know you’ve experienced a major fail here because your dough mixture won’t have risen. If this isn’t happening throw the whole thing out and head to Bourke Street Bakery and pick up a fruity dozen Hot Cross Buns there.
* Actually Harira you can make anytime but I blanked on other seasonal food favourites right now. Suggestions welcome.