Easter schmeaster. Eat these when you fancy.
Apparently there is a bit of controversy about hot cross buns, with The Dean of St Albans recently getting his cassock in a knot about it. Interestingly, crosses were placed on bread and buns in Ancient Greece so his assertion about Christ, the cross etc and a connection with the buns and Easter would appear to be a load of old bollocks. Besides, the Christians hijacked the “Eostre” festival from the Pagans anyway.
The addition of the cross itself is an interesting one too – this appears to be a very recent thing, with a flour and water mix usually being used, which to me is a bit grim really, and renders your home made buns a little de trop, so I’ve omitted it. It seems as well that when these first came about, it was when the spice trade was well under way, so I’ve included cardamon which gives an nice further flavour without being that awfully overpowering medicinal thing it sometimes can.
Anyway, here endeth the lesson, and here starteth the leaven.
for the starter:
2 heaped tbsp of leaven
100 grams room temp water
100 grams strong white bread flour
500 grams strong white flour
1 tsp of salt
2 1/2 tsp of ground, mixed spice
100 grams unsalted butter cut into cubes
100 grams golden caster sugar
zest of a lemon (finely chopped)
200 grams of mixed dried fruit
200 grams of whole milk
40 grams of double cream
10 grams of dark rum
an ejaculation of vanilla extract (exact amount may vary)
4 cardamon pods
for the glaze – 3 heaped tbsp of golden syrup
Make the starter the night before and leave it in a cool place (covered tightly)
in the morning, put the cardamon pods in a freezer bag and give them a bash with something heavy and chuck them in a pan. add the milk and cream and slowly bring to a simmer. Once its reach simmering point, give it a stir and turn off the heat and leave for an hour or so – you want it to infuse
Add the vanilla extract and the rum to the milk, give it a stir, then discard the cardamon pods
in a big bowl place the starter and the milk mixture and combine thoroughly. Then add the fruit (you’re doing this so the fruit gets wet, its easier than adding it dry to the other mixture)
in another bowl place the flour and the butter and rub it in with your finger tips like you’re making crumble or do it with a food processor with the blade like I did, as I am lazy.
add the leaven / milk mixture to the flour bowl
then add the salt, sugar, spice mix, lemon zest, egg (don’t bother beating it first, there’s no need)
using a fork, break up the egg and start to combine it all, then use your hands, get stuck in until you have a rough dough
cover and leave for 30 mins
lightly flour your worksurface
knead for 30 secs
leave for 30 mins
knead for 30 secs
leave for an hour
knead for 30 secs
leave for another hour
Weigh the dough, then divide it into 14 pieces
fold them into balls by bringing the edges into the middle and pressing down (you know how to make balls by now, right?)
flatten them a bit, flour the tops and place on a baking parchment covered baking tray (you might need two trays).
cut a cross into each, about half way down
cover with a large split plastic bag and leave for 2 hours (they wont rise much)
place the tray(s) into a pre-heated oven at 210c (fan) for about 20 minutes. Check them after 15 though. Your kitchen will smell Amaaaazing.
When they’re golden and cooked, remove them from the oven and place on a wire rack. Warm up the golden syrup in a pan until its runny and brush your buns.
With a huge ego, I have to say these are the best I’ve ever had. No pappy supermarket nonesense here. Delicious. In fact they’re so good I’m going to bake some more and let them go a little stale then make a bread and butter pudding with them. Oh yes.