As many of you will know I am a big fan of baking cakes that are baked at a certain time of the year and there are many countries that have wonderful Easter cake traditions. English hot cross buns and simnel cake, Italian dove shaped Colomba (I love making this one, it is such a crowd pleaser), Croatian Pinca, Finnish cardamom flavoured Pulla and many many more. Most of these are a version of an enriched sweet bread dough with each country’s twist.
I have decided to go for an English Easter bake this year and am making hot cross buns and a simnel cake and both are from Nigella’s Feast (one of my favourites for cake recipes). Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday (although I could eat them any day of the year) and who am I to mess with tradition.
Nigella’s recipe calls for the dough to be made the night before and left in the fridge overnight for a slow rise. The dough is an enriched one with milk, butter and eggs, the Easter bun spices, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and mixed fruit (sultanas, currants, raisins and mixed peel). I have recently discovered the wonder of the dough hook on my KicthenAid, in fairness I knew it was there but I was a bit weary of using it. I felt that it couldn’t really work as well as hand kneading, but I was wrong. I used it for an enriched dough in March (a dough for the Swedeish lenten Semlor) just because the recipe called for it, I figured I would give it a go and it worked really well. I think it works well with the stickier doughs, they are always a little trickier to knead. As this was an enriched dough I went for the dough hook. Having said that this dough was quite a dry one and the next time I would knead it by hand. But hindsight is a great thing!
Next morning I took it out and left it to warm up before knocking it back and dividing into buns. I upped the ingredients by a third as I wanted a good few buns for Easter presents, even given that I was pushed to get 16 buns out of the dough, the recipe was for 16-18 with a third less ingredients! Once rested I “crossed” them and into the oven they went. Here they are just before going in.
They bake for about 15 minutes in a hot oven, 220 C. Mine were not the most pretty of buns, a bit misshapen truth be told but once they were glazed with sugar and water they looked pretty good.
I went around to a friends house on Saturday for lunch and bought these as Easter gifts, my friend texted me yesterday saying that the toasted bun was very nice indeed. We had ours on Good Friday evening with lashings of butter. As my father used to say, a great pastime!