Thursday, 21 April 2011

Hot Cross Buns

"The flesh, alas, is wearied; and I have read all the books there are".  Stephane Mallarme (1842-1898), Brise Marin

Every Good Friday since 2007, I've made a batch of Hot Cross Buns.  I've used three difference recipes - hand baked buns from Jane Grigson's English Food, a recipe from Leith's Cookery Bible and I've also dug out my old breadmaker (long retired after heavy service) to prove a dough that then can be shaped into the buns.  I have to say, all of these come out pretty well.  The thing I struggle with is the cross!

I've taken to adding the cross after the final proving so that it's the same size as the bun (adding it before the final rise was my first mistake in 2007) but I still can't seem to get it quite right.  I think that people assume that a cross is shortcut pastry but there seem to be plenty of alternatives including; a knife slash, almond paste (marzipan) or a paste of water and flour that can be piped.  I tried the water/ flour  last year and it was very bland and a bit of a faff.  This year I tried home made almond marzipan paste.  I'd made this before at Christmas and again, it is completely different to the shop bought yellow marzipan.  I grinded whole almonds in a blender, added icing sugar, a whisked egg and lemon juice and then kneaded.  I sliced thin stips off and rolled them out with my hand to create crude crosses.  I had been hoping that they would blend into the dough, but they didn't and were a little crumbly and crude looking when the buns came out the oven.  They tasted delicious though.  I might make some more tomorrow and this time flattened the almond paste into strips (akin to shortcrust pasty) to go for a neater look.  I also did the daft mistake today (in my keenness to get the crosses on) of not glazing the buns in egg and milk until after the crosses were on.  This interfered with the crosses and made it unnecessarily fiddly.

Bread making is perfect for kids; short bursts of activity and dough is very forgiving to little fingers.  My two year old loves putting the dough down for a nap and carefully covering it with a tea towel.  I've told him that it grows in it's sleep, like him, and he says "shush" as we put it for a 'nap'.   I used bread maker dough today as I wanted to concentrate today on the crosses. At least this has given me the energy to do another batch tomorrow of which our neighbours will be the recipients.

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