When I was at primary school Easter was a big deal. We made bonnets (crumpled tissue paper glued to a head band) and paraded around the assembly hall like show ponies. We decorated eggs with glitter and sequins and the day ended with the eggstavaganza (sorry) of egg rolling. Yes, every year we would hard boil eggs (usually adding vinegar to the water for its fabled strengthening properties), take them to the top of the hill in the playground and roll them down. After the eggs had been rolled we would tear across the grass, dodging the debris and laughing at those who had forgotten to boil their weapon. The aim was to throw your egg the furthest without it exploding in a flurry of yolk and shell. Ah, those were the days.
- Cream the fresh yeast with 1 teaspoon of the sugar and dissolve in the water. If using dried yeast follow the instructions given on the packet.
- Sift into a large bowl the flour, salt and spices.
- Rub the butter into the flour as if you were making pastry.
- Mix in the rest of the sugar and the dried fruit. Make sure you break up any clumps of fruit before adding.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the yeast and the egg/milk mixture.
- Combine the mixture into a dough with a wooden spoon and then your hands. The dough should be pliable but not overly sticky. Add a little more warm milk or flour as appropriate.
- Knead the dough for around 6 minutes until it is smooth and elastic in texture. Some of the fruit may want to pop out as you do this. Simply push it back in to the dough again.
- Leave the dough to rest as you wash the bowl and lightly grease it. Put the ball of dough back into the bowl, cover with cling film and a clean tea towel and leave to rise somewhere warm. Because this is an enriched dough it rises more slowly than normal bread, therefore somewhere warm like an airing cupboard or in a warmed oven with the light on will help the dough rise. Leave it until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour).
- Once the dough has risen, turn the it onto a floured board and knead it smooth again. Pinch out any large air bubbles.
- Shape the dough into buns (remember that it will spread so don't go too big like my monster buns). You can do this by rolling the dough in your hand and tucking the edges under like a cushion. Mark a cross on top of the buns using a knife. Put them on a greased baking tray.
- Loosely cover the buns with cling film and a tea towel and then leave them in your warm place until they have spread and become puffy (about 40 minutes).
- In the meantime mix the flour, water and caster sugar together to make a smooth paste. It needs to be a pipeable consistency. Fill a piping bag with a small nozzle or use a freezer bag with the corner cut out.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and pipe a cross on your buns. Put them in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden.
- While the buns are in the oven, boil the milk and sugar together until it becomes syrupy.
- Remove the buns from the oven and put them on a cooling rack. Before they become cool, paint the syrup on top until they gleam.
If you prefer, you can make a hot cross bun loaf with this dough. Instead of dividing the mixture you just put it into a loaf tin and leave out the crosses. Cook the loaf for 10-15 minutes at 200 degrees then lower the temperature to 180 degrees for a further 25-30 minutes or until firm.
Apologies for the less than inspiring photos. I made these this evening and the light in my kitchen is a yukky yukky yellow. Booooo