Paganism, Christianity and Superstition…..no, not a band from the 70`s, its Easter with parades, chanting, incense swinging, and the star of the show, Jesus dragging his cross round our fair streets of Palma this month.
Yup, things are gonna get yeasty around here good Islanders and I’m not talking about uncontrollable itching or STDs. Easter is upon us and it´s time to stuff our faces with not just chocolate, but all the sweet, spiced fluffy hot cross buns we can get our hands on.
Predominately a British Easter treat, hot cross buns, those little
raisin studded delights have been around since the 14th century when a monk named Father Tomas Rocliffe was recorded to have made small spiced cakes to be distributed to the poor on Good Friday. Throughout history, these buns have had extremely holy connotations and were believed to be able to cure all ills, including the most dreadful diseases. How that could be achieved, well, that certainly makes the mind boggle.
For some bizarre reason in 1592 Queen Elizabeth 1st decreed that hot cross buns could no longer be sold on any day but Good Friday, Christmas or for burials. I weep when I image that she would say if she were to wander into Coles or Sainsbury’s just after Christmas…..Merry Cross Buns…..talk about seasons colliding 🙂
The Saxons ate buns marked with the cross to honour Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring and light but by the 19th century, the buns were believed to offer protection to sailors readying themselves for sea and were often taken on board ships for good luck. These days, hot cross buns alongside overcooked lamb, cheap red wine and hernia inducing levels of fat laden chocolate are a long running thread in the culinary fabric of Easter. Long may it last!
Well, I’ve got on the bun bandwagon and included two rather funky variants of the traditional hcbs to spoil your guests and crew this Easter. Yes, yes, I know, a bit of a mission, but your reward will be complete when you watch their little faces light up on Good Friday.
Or, alternatively, here´s an idea, if you’re feeling like a lazy bu**er, you can always pimp up your store bought abominations. Try toasting them and slavering with peanut butter and jam, experiment with Nutella and jam; die and go to heaven with a combination of cinnamon, vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup. Or combine your buns and chocolate in the ultimate Easter pig out….warm up the crew sandwich press, halve your buns, pop them on each side and fill with Cadbury creme eggs, close and wait for death by chocolate.
Hot cross buns with dried cherries and dark chocolate
2 and 1/4 strong bread flour
2 tablespoons plus half a teaspoon caster sugar – separated
Half teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter – melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup milk, slightly warmed
1 teaspoon active dried yeast
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
For the cross and glaze
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon honey or golden syrup, warmed
In the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.
In a measuring cup stir together the milk and remaining
half a teaspoon of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and give it a quick stir. Let it sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast begins to foam and bubble.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the milk/yeast mixture, then the butter, then the egg. Mix on low for about 1 to 2 minutes letting everything get together. Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and elastic….about 8 minutes.
Add the orange zest, cherries and chocolate and mix for another minute until all is combined.
Now turn on to the counter and shape into a ball. Pop it into a
lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a draft free and warm place in the galley for about 1 and a half hours.
Preheat oven to 190C and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and divide into six pieces, shape into balls. Place buns into an oven tray with greased baking paper, about 1 inch apart from each other. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes to an hour until buns have bubbled in size.
Just before the buns have done proofing, mix together 1/4 cup flour and 1 tablespoon water until all the flour is absorbed. It should be a thick paste. Place in a piping bag. When the buns are ready, brush then with the beaten egg and then pipe a cross on top of each bun.
Bake in a preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden, rotating halfway through baking. Remove from oven and brush with warmed honey and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on cooling rack for at least 10 minutes. Oh, yes…….
Fig, orange and rosemary hot cross buns
100g chopped candied peel
150g dried figs
5 sprigs rosemary
350g strong white bread flour
150g strong wholemeal bread flour
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 and a half dried active yeast
For the crosses
90g plain flour
25g chilled butter
For the glaze
4 tablespoons milk
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Soak three of the rosemary sprigs in boiling water and leave for 15 minutes. Chop the figs up and along with the peel pop them into the rosemary water and leave overnight.
Gently warm the milk until lukewarm and whisking, sprinkle the
yeast in and let sit for about 10 – 15 minutes until the yeast starts to foam. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg and ginger, stir to combine, then pick the leaves from the remaining rosemary sprigs and mix in.
Crack an egg into a jug and beat lightly, add the sugar and beat
again then pour into the dry ingredients along with the yeast
Mix well with a wooden spoon and add the dried fruits.
Knead roughly for 10 minutes by hand or 4 minutes if you are using a mixer with a dough hook. Dough should be elastic and not sticky…..if it is, add a bit more flour. Roll the dough into a large ball, set in a bowl and cover with a tea towel.
Pop it somewhere warm in the galley to prove for about 1 and a half to 2 hours.
After proving, use your fists to knock dough back down. Line a tray with baking paper and roll the dough into 12 equally sized balls.
Set them on the tray, cover with a tea towel and pop them back into that warm place for another 1 – 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200C. To make the pastry for the crosses: sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar. Chop the butter into small squares and add to the bowl. Rub the butter into the flour, pour in the milk, then using your hands to combine until you have a soft pastry. Roll out until thin, then cut into long, thin slices (1 cm wide) and loosely place over buns to form a cross.
Put the buns in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes……while the buns are cooking, pour the milk for the glaze into a small saucepan, add the sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle in the sugar. Warm gently, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. When you get the buns out of the oven and brush to paint the glaze on top. Set on a wire rack to cool. Enjoy with a cheeky sauvignon blanc.
Grab your bonnets, bunnies and buns! Happy Easter.
Galley Goddess xoxo