As I delve deeper into my late twenties I begin to notice that my sweet tooth is often piping up, requesting desserts, chocolate delights and cake! I am a savoury tooth by nature and tend to cook savoury, salty dishes over baking sweet things. BUT, more recently I have decided that I need to be good at things like baking and pastry, in order to class myself as an OK creator of things in the kitchen.
Easter suddenly popped up, so a couple of days ago I decided to try my hand at hot cross buns, choosing a trusty Delia recipe to follow. They worked out rather nicely so I thought I would bake them again when back in the Shire for the four day Easter break. More to the point, I knew that once I got to mum and Big Al's there would be a bit of a competition on offer. Al is not often seen donning an apron but Easter time brings out his culinary side and every year he makes his buns in a very precise, delicate manner with a face full of concentration.
So, he got up at 9 and made his buns, using the Chorleywood method, something I have never heard of which involves putting viatmin C in the recipe to decrease the time you leave the dough to rise for, a method widely used in the UK bread making industry. My sister and I used Delia; I forgot to put the teaspoon of sugar with the water and yeast, so I then had a small strop because I thought they would not rise, complained about the temperature of my mum's house (not a good excuse as by this point Al's buns were the size of melons) and then decided it would all be fine as I could make 8 instead of 10-12 so that they were still of meritable size.
Is this cheating? Al says yes. Is vitamin C cheating? I say yes.
Two hours later and all was rosy. We glazed our buns in harmony and sat down to tea and a bun - half a bun of each recipe.
Al's buns: best served with a knob of butter.
Charlotte's buns: best served with a Haliborange.
2 oz (50 g) caster sugar, plus 1 level teaspoon
1 level tablespoon dried yeast
1 lb (450 g) plain flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice
3 oz (75 g) currants
3 oz (75 g) currants
2 oz (50 g) cut mixed peel
1½-2 fl oz (40-55 ml) warmed milk
1 egg, beaten
2 oz (50 g) butter, melted
For the glaze:
2 level tablespoons granulated sugar
First stir the teaspoon of caster sugar into 5 fl oz (150 ml) hand-hot water, then sprinkle in the dried yeast and leave it until a good frothy 'beer' head forms.
Meanwhile sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into a mixing bowl and add the remaining 2 oz (50 g) of sugar, the currants and mixed peel. Then make a well in the centre, pour in the yeast mixture plus 1½ fl oz (40 ml) of milk (again hand-hot), the beaten egg and the melted butter. Now mix it to a dough, starting with a wooden spoon and finishing with your hands (add a spot more milk if it needs it).
Then transfer the dough on to a clean surface and knead it until it feels smooth and elastic – about 6 minutes. Now pop it back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a lightly oiled plastic bag, and leave it in a warm place to rise – it will take about an hour to double its original size.
Then turn it out and knead it again, back down to its original size.Divide the mixture into 12 round portions, arrange them on the greased baking sheet (allowing plenty of room for expansion), and make a deep cross on each one with a sharp knife. Leave them to rise once more, covering again with the oiled polythene bag, for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C).Bake the buns for about 15 minutes. Then, while they're cooking, melt the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water for the glaze over a gentle heat and brush the buns with it as soon as they come out of the oven, to make them nice and sticky.