I’ve been looking forward to Easter baking and whilst I’m itching to try a Simnel Cake I have to confess that there is still a Christmas cake left in the back of the cupboard so it seemed a bit greedy to make another fruit cake. Instead I thought I’d have a go at Hot Cross Buns which are traditionally eaten on Good Friday but I would happily eat year round so long as they are toasted and slathered in butter.
My first attempt at this delicious teatime snack was back in High School and I remember them being fairly awful, in fact most of the class ended up with very dry and crispy buns and you could tap the crust to create holes revealing a doughy and inedible inside. Not great! This years HCB season kicked off a few weeks ago at Borough Market when I brought home a couple from an artisan baker after parting with £1.00 for each of them. Sadly they were rather disappointing, quite bland and lacking in the delicious spicy orange Easter scents, even toasting and buttering them failed to make much of a difference, so I started looking through recipes and asked about on Twitter for favourites and variations to have another go at doing my own.
In the end I thought it best to keep it fairly simple and plumped for a Delia Smith recipe as they usually tried, tested and fairly foolproof. I don’t have much experience of working with yeast and it can be such a temperamental thing, plus our flat isn’t that warm so finding a good spot to leave the dough to rise is always tricky. When I made Cinnamon Buns a few years ago we had a different boiler and the room it was housed in was very warm and and cosy, perfect for yeast. Anyhow, the dough all came together really well and I decided to give the hook on my Kitchen Aid it’s maiden tryout so popped it in and left it to do its thing, at least that was the plan! It turns out that the KitchenAid jiggles about rather a lot when mixing dough and I just caught it before it bounced itself off the counter!
Once the kneading was done I covered the bowl with oiled clingfilm and popped it in the bathroom on top of the clothes airer next to the radiator, hoping that would be a suitably warm spot for the yeast to do its job, which it did, though not quite as spectacularly as I had hoped but it had been an hour or so and I took it out, kneaded it back by hand, split it into individual buns, drew a cross through the top of each one, covered them back over and popped the tray back into the bathroom. The suggested half hour passed and it didn’t look like much was going on so I left them for a further 30 minutes and in the meantime Mr K got home and inspected them. We decided they probably weren’t going to rise anymore and I threw them in the oven with a wing and a prayer.
They look okay, I’m fairly happy with their appearance but as suspected they are still a little bit doughy on the inside and sadly, whilst toasting and buttering does greatly improve them and I have to say the flavour is really good, they still aren’t what I wanted them to be and I’m not sure where I went wrong. Did I kill the yeast with warm butter? Maybe the yeast itself isn’t as fresh as it could be? Is it the recipe or maybe a combination of things? I really don’t know and if anyone has any ideas or tips and tricks I’d love to hear your thoughts. Mr K also had a go and even though I thought he would end up with buns the WI would be proud of, his came out very similar, in fact even more doughier than mine. We both also found that the currants get completely obliterated when kneading, whether by machine or hand, so in future I will save half the fruit and add it nearer to the end, and I will have another go but using a different recipe and with a new batch of yeast.
Never mind, I’ve learnt a whole bunch of lessons and as the grandmaster of butlery said in Batman, ‘Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up.’
Happy Easter to one and all!