One a penny, two a penny: spicy, sweet hot cross buns and luxuriously lavish ranunculi.
If I had to pick a single flower that inspired me to get myself down to a local floristry college and get learning the art of flowersmithing, it would be ranunculus. Hands down. These blooms never cease to appeal to my creative urges and I cannot pass a flower seller empty handed who has these beauties in their window. Brimful of generously packed petals, I struggle to let a spring wedding go by without the welcome presence of luxurious ranunculi in a bridesmaid’s bouquet or five. Ranunculi aren’t the cheapest flowers and it’s rare to see a bunch in a supermarket, but they are a real treat and an absolute delight so why not spoil yourself a little this week and buy a frush bunch to adorn your Easter table.
I’ve said it before, but hot cross buns are a real addiction of mine. Genuinely, the one good thing I find about Christmas being over every year is that freshly baked hot cross buns will be back on supermarket shelves pronto. I probably purchase my first batch of buns on 27th December and then it’s a slippery slope down to hot cross debauchery. I’ve made my own a couple of times, but bread isn’t my baking forte which has resulted in some lacklustre buns in the past. Finally though, I’ve found a recipe that really works for me. And these buns totally knock the socks off of their supermarket counterparts.
This recipe has been adapted from Essex granny’s favourite, Jamie Oliver. I found that the finished buns could be a little sweeter so I have increased the amount of sugar slightly here.
- 200ml semi-skimmed milk
- 65g unsalted butter
- 2 x 7g sachet dried yeast
- 455g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
- 55g caster sugar
- 2 pieces of crystalised stem ginger, finely chopped
- 1 large free range egg, beaten
- 8 tbsp plain flour
- 85g sultanas, raisons or any other combination of dried fruit of your choice
- 2 tbsp mixed peel
- Runny honey or apricot jam to glaze
- Add the milk and 50ml of water to a small pan and place over a low heat for a couple of minutes, until slightly warm to the touch. Do not overheat – you should be able to keep your little finger in the milk without scalding it.
- Meanwhile, add the butter to a separate pan and place over a low heat for a minute or so until it has completely melted. Put the melted butter to one side.
- Place the warmed milk into a bowl and stir in the two sachets of yeast. Set aside.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, cinnamon, ground spice, grated nutmeg, stem ginger, and caster sugar. Stir together.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted butter, followed by the milk and yeast mixture, and finally the egg.
- Using a fork, mix the ingredients together until you have a rough, wet dough. Turn the dough out onto a flour dusted work surface and knead for around 10 minutes until soft and springy. You’ll find that the sticky, wet dough will suddenly change consistency to become smooth and will bounce back to the touch. This is when it is done.
- Return the dough to a lightly floured bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place for an hour or so, or until the dough has doubled in size. In my cold, Edwardian house this usually takes 1.5 hours in front of a warm radiator.
- Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and knock the air out by bashing it with your fist. Place the dried fruit on top of the dough and knead for 1-2 minutes until the fruit has been evenly distributed.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll into balls. Space the dough balls onto a greased and lined baking sheet and cover again with a damp tea towel in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. Again, in my cold, old house this takes around 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190c/375F/Gas 5.
- Place the plain flour into a bowl and add around 8 tbsp of water. Mix until you have a thick batter which can be piped. You might need to add a little more flour or a little more water to get the right consistency.
- Once the dough balls have doubled in size, pipe over the batter carefully tracing a shape of the cross.
- Place the buns in the over for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
- Brush the buns with the honey or apricot jam to glaze and then transfer onto a cooling rack.
- Scoff the whole batch over the Easter weekend. It’s possible.