Bread comes as a staple to many, and I doubt anyone has ever lived a life without bread. There's something strangely satisfying about the way bread tears, to reveal the fluffiness, the nooks and crannies, and the doughy smell that comes with it. It's rustic, familiar and comforting, that fragrance of freshly baked bread. If I could, I'd christen it Eau de Bread, the fragrance that lures many to bakeries with their noses in the air.
Bread is rather unique too, in the sense that it's present in all the cultures, and the mixture of powdery flour, yeast and water/milk can take up so many different forms and shapes. There's rye - dark and sturdy, ciabatta - pocketed and fluffy, baguettes - with their crusts and all, pizza, focaccia, as well as brioches and bagels.
This Easter, we celebrate by baking hot cross buns. (I shall launch into a monologue on the history, origins etc etc) As many know, Easter celebrates Passover, which we don't celebrate in this small island, but rather, rejoice for that extra day of respite. It was a day, many a century ago, when blood was shed and lives extinguished like snuffed-out lights. Since then, it's morphed into a sort of festivity (seized by corporations everywhere), into a season of chocolate bunnies, carrots, egg hunts and painting. Not many remember the true meaning of the date, and that of hot cross buns, of which cross on top is compulsory.
These are a little unlike the usual hot cross buns. Yes, they are leavened with yeast, and scented with cinnamon, and nice spices, but in terms of flavor, they resemble sourdough a little. I'm not too sure, though, as I haven't has a bakery-made hot cross bun for ages. But, what I do know is that it is incredibly satisfying to eat bread- made by the self. They're studded with refreshing zest and plump raisins, along with the ever-present cross on top. If you want a little more sweetness, glaze over with honey. (Unfortunately, we were too impatient to wait, and in my opinion, buns are best eaten straight out of the oven, rather than having to wait for them to cool completely.) Try spreading them with honey, butter, or jam if you really crave the additional sweetness.
Hot Cross Buns
260g bread/strong white flour (I used 200g white flour and 60g oat flour)
1 sachet yeast (11g)
1.5 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 c milk (I used almond)
1 egg white
1.5 tbsp. coconut oil/ oil of your choice/melted butter
1/4 c raisins
1 tsp citrus zest
1/4 c flour
4 tbsp. water
1. Combine flour and oil in a bowl. Rub with fingers until mixture has the texture of crumbs.
2. Add in yeast, sugar, salt and spices. Mix well.
3. Add in egg and slowly incorporate milk. Mix into a smooth dough.
4. Knead well on a lightly-floured surface until dough becomes smooth, elastic and does not stick to hand.
5. Incorporate raisins and zest, and return to bowl. Cover loosely with oiled clingwrap and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or more.
6. Tip dough out on a floured surface and knead once more. Cut into 8 pieces and roll into balls. Place them on a greased / lined baking sheet and cover with oiled clingwrap. Ensure that there is at least 2 inches of space between each bun. Leave to rise for another 30 mins in a warm place.
7. Preheat oven to 190c. Combine ingredients for crosses and pipe crosses over buns. Bake for 12 to 15 mins. Leave for 5 mins to cool.
-The microwave is a good place to let bread rise.
-Bread should produce a 'hollow' sound when tapped at the bottom after baked.
-If you want a gloss over buns, try glazing honey over.
-These contain egg, so keep for 1-2 days in an airtight container, if they can last as long without being eaten.