With the Easter mood seeting in, I felt like doing some festive baking. While not adhering to the religious aspect of the festival, I do enjoy other activities that are traditionally linked to it. Painting egg shells, hunting for chocolate eggs filled with yummy marshmallow or making easter baskets out of plastic containers are part of my childhood memories related to Easter.

I sometimes revert to my younger self and find it fun to decorate few eggs or craft a tiny basket. And even if I no longer get to participate in easter egg hunts for egg shaped candy and chocolate, I won’t say no to a Cadbury creme egg or think twice before biting off the head of a chocolate bunny.

The egg was a symbol of the rebirth of the earth in celebrations of spring and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. Which kinda explains the origin of easter eggs. How bunnies came to be part of the equation I dnt quite understand. And how the chicks fit it? Can anyone tell?

Another baked goodie more relevant to our festival are hot cross buns, also called easter cross buns. The buns, traditionally eaten on Good Friday, have a cross shape piped on each to symbolise the Crucifiction. They are now prominently displayed on supermarket shelves throughout the easter period often at discounted rates. Half a dozen for Rs30 at Shoprite.

The idea of making my own buns came to me as I could not get back to sleep after being disturbed at 04:30.  After googling for some likely recipes I settled on one from Vanielje Kitchen – I halved it to make a dozen. I also had the success of my macatia coco [sweet coconut buns] to spur me on 🙂

If you ignore the long proving times, it should look pretty easy.  “The results are so worth it” says Vanielje Kitchen. I wholeheartedly agree with her; this recipe yields cross buns that look nice in pictures, made your kitchen smell of fresh bread & spices and taste heavenly with a dab of fresh butter. You’d better bookmark this if you are looking for failproof  cross buns recipe.

HOT CROSS BUNS

  

Ingredients:

1/2 tbs instant yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 2/3 cups + 2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup vanilla caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp nutmeg

40g softened butter

1 large egg, beaten

90 ml milk

1/4 cup sultanas

1 tbs lemon zest

 

Method:

  • Mix yeat and warm water in a bowl until yeast dissolves.
  • Add 1 2/3 cups bread flour and fold in. Cover bowl with cling film.
  • Leave it in a warm spot to activate the yeast for 90-120 minutes.
  • By this time the sponge should have risen and become bubbly.

 

  • In the bowl of your mixer or a large bowl, sift 2 cups bread flour. 
  • Stir in sugar, salt and spices until thoroughly distributed.
  • Add beaten egg, milk and softened butter to flour. Pulse on low speed.

 

  • Then add yeast mixture and mix on lowest speed for 8-10 minutes.
  • The dough should have become soft and pliable by now.
  • Add sultanas and lemon peel and pulse for 1 minute to fold in.

 

  • Turn dough on lightly floured surface and knead well for 1-2 minutes.
  • Dump dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film.
  • Set bowl in a warm place and leave to prove until doubled in size for 45-75 minutes. I placed mine over a covered pan of warm water.

 

  • After 1st proving, knock back dough slightly on a floured surface. 
  • Divide into 12 pieces. You can weigh each piece to make sure they are equal but I do not have the patience for this and therefore dnt bother.
  • Form each piece into a ball and place them on a lined baking sheet in parallel rows. They should not be touching each other.

 

  • Cover buns with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30-40 minutes.
  • Turn oven to its maximum heat [around 240 oC].  
  • While you wait for the 2nd proving, prepare a paste for the crosses.
  • Combine 4tbs flour and 1 tbs caster sugar with 2-3 tbs water.

 

  • Place paste in a pastry bag. and pipe crosses over buns only after they have finished proving. Buns will be almost double in size.
  • Brush with egg or milk wash if desired. Pop buns in preheated oven. 
  • Bring down oven temperature to 180 oC as soon as they are in.

 

  • Bake cross buns for about 30 minutes until golden in colour.
  • For glazing, bring to the boil 60g sugar and 2tbs water to form a syrup. Brush on buns as they come out of the oven. I omitted this.
  • Serve plain or buttered. Makes 12 hot cross buns.
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