Get hot and cross making buns
My challenge for the week – make my own hot cross buns. Overly ambitious? More than likely. But Easter is almost upon us and while I have been gallantly avoiding hot cross buns in the five months prior to Easter that they’ve been on sale (for the sake of my thighs, you understand), I can no longer avoid the call. And how wholesome and mumsy-like to bake your own. Surely it’s healthier, somehow?
Anyway, a window of opportunity presented itself while the rest of the family were out (I figured I was going to be struggling enough without small pudgy ‘helping’ hands), so I found me this glazed hot cross bun recipe – which, better yet, had an accompanying video which made it all look very easy – and got cracking.
Things got off to a brilliant start. I was measuring, I was pouring, yeast was wielded about, making me feel very professional and baker-like, jazz was playing in the background, it was like a feelgood scene in a movie. The recipe then called for luke warm milk and eggs. Now, having just had a very long detailed conversation with a beer-brewer-in-training not the day before, I knew how important temperature was to the yeasting process. I had to get this right. I tinkered with that microwave timer like a mad scientist, ten seconds here, five seconds there, until it was perfectly luke warm. I was just about to add it to my eggs when I thought (rather brilliantly), ‘but hey, my eggs came from the fridge. They should have probably been room temperature. Which would mean my milk should be approximately three degrees warmer to compensate.’ I know, right? I think this whole 40 Weeks To A Better Cook thing might really be paying off.
Knead for ten minutes, said – or should I say, demanded – the recipe. I began kneading enthusiastically, although my dough was very sticky so I had to keep adding flour to my floured surface. My dough didn’t get any less sticky, so after about five minutes it felt like I’d added in about an extra quarter of a cup of flour. (My flour container was also getting very grotty from my sticky dough fingers.) But anyway, on I kneaded. Kneading, kneading. It was all getting a bit boring. I cursed the video’s sneaky use of time-lapse photography that made it all seem such a breeze.
Next step. Add softened butter (bugger) and knead for another five minutes (double bugger). Has anyone ever thought to pre-soften their butter? My butter waved at me from the fridge, where it sat firm and solid. Emboldened by my earlier skills at the microwave, I decided it to work ‘softening’ my butter. It worked a bit too hard. Bugger.
In the video, a nice soft blob of butter is folded into the dough. Mine is a river that slops all over the benchtop and turns my dough all slimy. More disturbingly, my dough actually starts writhing, as though it’s come to life and is trying to breathe. In fact it looks like it could sprout nostrils at any minute. I wonder if my hot melted butter has somehow over-activated my yeast. Now I know how Pete Evans’ almonds feel. Nevertheless, I plough on, or knead on. Then I add what seems like a huge amount of dried fruit and knead still more. I feel the need, the need to knead. (Well I did, but the feeling passed about 15 minutes ago.)
Set the dough aside for two hours, proclaimed the recipe. Two hours? I had hoped to have a lovely warm hot cross bun for afternoon tea, but instead it meant I would have to finish it at the same time that I’m preparing dinner – that’s going to end in tears, surely?!
My dough doubled in size, which was a good sign. The video suggested I should knead it some more, but bugger that. I moulded it into a loaf shape, then cut it into bits like the vid suggested. Except, my bits weren’t exactly even. Some were lemon sized, others looked more like a grapefruit. At least they were all from the citrus family.
I then had to make the ‘icing’ for the crosses. Man, this recipe is HARD WORK. Especially when you’re making mashed potato and boiling corn cobs at the same time. Place the icing into a zip lock bag, snip the end and make your crosses, the recipe explained. My snip must have been a bit indelicate because before I knew it, a huge fat slug had deposited itself on my buns. (Don’t go there.) Amid much cursing and harumphing, I hastily did the rest, slightly less-sluglike, and bunged them in the oven. According to the recipe I needed to now use this time to make a glaze, but I’ve always thought a matte hot cross bun more preferable. (Ok, I’m lazy, I was eating dinner and I’d lost my baking mojo. What can I tell you?)
Anyway, out they came. Finally. They looked ok, in a multiple-sized, slug-like cross kind of way. I tried one and, well, let’s just say it was a little… dense. Dry, you might even say. Liable to choke a horse, would in fact not be inaccurate. Able to be used as a cricket ball, even. Ok, I’m slightly exaggerating. Slathered in butter and washed down with milk it was edible. But edible is not exactly what we’re striving for, now is it?
Lessons learnt: Beware the time-lapse video. And there’s no crime in buying hot cross buns from the shops.