Saturday, 3 April 2010

Good Friday Foodiness

It's been a day and a bit of firsts - gutted my first ever fish today (I'm by no means squeamish, but I don't think that's the sort of thing that anyone really looks forward to purely for enjoyment) and made my first lot of hot cross buns.

The fish thing was bouillabaisse - a lot of work, but it went down well. The recipe is one of Anne Willan's, from The Country Cooking of France.

The hot cross buns... well, I'd be the first to admit that I grew up quite spoiled on the food front. My Mum and Dad were never of the pre-fabricated, pre-sliced white mushy bread and devon brigade. It was often rye bread (not a fan at the time, but really like it now) and salami sandwiches, with a few gherkins thrown in as an accompaniment. So, hot cross buns at Easter were of the home made variety, and the long weekend wasn't complete without the smell of yeast and spices teasing from all unexpected corners of the house.

After one Easter away from home last year and no hot cross buns of comparable quality, this year it was time to bite the bullet, get Mum to cough up her recipe and get with the baking. Only one small hiccup - I made the shortcrust pastry too moist, so every single cross split, leaving me with hot cross g-string buns. Very tasty, according to all concerned, despite the kink.

I'm leaving the recipe in imperial, because it's just better that way - it's exactly the way I remember it as Mum completed the annual ritual.

Enjoy, if not as slightly late buns, then next year. Or whenever you might get the hankering!


1lb plain flour         
1 level tsp caster sugar         
1 oz fresh yeast (or 1 level tbs dried yeast)
1/4 pint lukewarm milk         
2 fluid oz warm water          
1 level tsp each of salt and mixed spice
2 oz caster sugar         
2 oz melted butter         
1 beaten egg         
1 oz currants (can be a bit heavier handed here)         
1-2 oz mixed peel

Sift 4 oz of the flour with the sugar.  Crumble (or mix in) the yeast and stir in the milk and water.  Leave the mixture in a warm place for 20-30 mins, until frothy.  Meanwhile, sift the remaining flour with the salt and spice.  Add the sugar.
Stir the melted butter, together with the egg, into the risen yeast mixture.  Gradually fold in the rest of the flour, currants and peel.
Knead dough until smooth on a floured surface.  Divide into 12 pieces and shape into buns.  Set the buns, well apart, on greased and floured baking trays and leave them to rise, in a warm place, until doubled in size.
Make a small amount of shortcrust pastry - I usually do 4oz plain flour, 2 oz butter and mix together with milk.  Roll out into a longish strip and cut it into strips about 5mm wide.
Put strips of pastry across the tops of the risen buns.  Bake just above the centre in an oven pre-heated to 190C (about 170C fan-forced) for 15 to 20 mins.  They should sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
Leave the buns to cool on a wire rack; while still warm, glaze tops - 3 oz caster sugar dissolved in 4 tbs water.  I put a strip of greaseproof paper under the rack, makes cleaning up much easier!
They keep well frozen, to defrost just warm up in the oven.

Good luck!