Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hot cross buns

We have just, or rather Tom has, as it's his thing and lives in its own corner of the kitchen where he occupies himself with it, acquired a breadmaking machine. I know, it's desperately passé, but then so are we.  It's also not a very logical or sensible thing to acquire for people who are trying to keep a handle on their weight by steering clear of the heftier kinds of carbohydrate, but it is only a small one, which makes a small 500 g cuboid loaf, and we've calmed down since the first couple of times when we wolfed most of it down as soon as it came out and felt considerably the worse for it.  Now we stick to only eating it at lunch, not in the evening, and Sunday's white loaf makes bacon sandwiches that day and egg and cress the next, and Wednesday's brown one is bread and cheese that day and bread and honey the next. It remains to be seen if it remains a regular part of our lives, or ends up at the back of the cupboard like other people's.

At the moment he's sticking to the mixes that we ordered with it.  They're not bad, still experimenting with the settings, the wholewheat's a bit coarse so he mixes it with the white, but any bread that's made with simple and good ingredients and which you can smell while it's cooking and eat still warm is going to be delicious really.  We've never made bread here much in the traditional way, largely because the place isn't consistently warm enough, especially not in winter when you most fancy doing it, and of course the quantities needed to be worth the making have always seemed too much for two of us, and you can buy good bread anyway.  Having got the machine now, we are much more bread-minded, so when Tom came across the hot-cross bun recipe in the Radio Times he immediately wanted to make some, but quickly realised he wasn't confident  of being able to convert it, and anyway, it would have to be half-quantities, and would that be enough when it came to hot cross buns?

So it was back to the kneading board, and out to buy bread flour and yeast.  Flour here is given a number according to its strength and wholeness, basic white pastry flour is type 55, then you can get 60 and 80, wholewheat is usually 110, and in Brittany you can always get buckwheat flour, but that doesn't have a number it's just called sarrasine, and it doesn't have any gluten in it so you mustn't try baking with it.  It's a little confusing; in the supermarket they had a lot of bread mixes and yeast but only type 60 flour, which the girl stacking the shelves didn't seem to think was any good for bread.  So we went the extra couple of kilometres to the biologique shop, where they told us that in fact type 60 is OK for bread, but we were able to procure a big, 5kg brown paper sack of locally grown, stoneground type 80 organic flour for not great deal of money, which turned out to have that lovely wholesome unbleached pale buff colour, and we picked up a pack of Japanese incense at the till on the way out.

So Tom spent today mixing, kneading, proving, knocking back, etc etc.  It took a long time and we ended up lighting the fire by lunchtime to get the temperature up enough to get things moving.  But finally the cinnamonny dough was shaped into twelve balls, we'd freeze at least half of them, we said,

left to puff up one more time,  

then the white crosses were made on them with flour and water paste, and about half an hour later, this was the result:

They were unbelievably, lusciously, sensuously good.  I'm not sure how many the freezer's going to get.

If I don't speak to you again before, happy Easter.


Fire Bird said...

ooh I want one of those. Happy Easter!

Zhoen said...

We would get some from the local bakery, but they've been unhelpful - let us say.

My mother made them once, and swore never to do it again. Which scared me off, as her one real cooking skill was the baking of sweets.

But, maybe I will. D so loves them. And they are hardly one-a-penny, two-a-penny any more.

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh, what does the freezer need hot cross buns for? Frohe Ostern! Frohes Hasenfest!

Roderick Robinson said...

This post has an extra level for those who care to take it that way. Normally I don't, given my antipathy towards the voodo aspects of daily life, but here I couldn't escape it. It's that time of year. Bread in its Biblical sense, a symbol for sustenance as a whole, a unifying device as at Holy Communion. The idea of Tom with his own work space (A huge concession!) in the place where you - as custodian and bottle-washer - may only grant space grudgingly. The parable-like nature of that anecdote in which you both tore into that irresistible, almost mythically desirable, substance (evoking another couple giving into a similar temptation) and ending up "sore afraid". OK, OK, I'm going off the deep end and it's time to switch on A Quartet For The End Of Time. But it's got be chapeau, Lucy, for my brief period of madness.

Besides, what I really wanted to say I've already said. Hot-cross buns provide the basis for a truly superior bread-and-butter pudding. Just what you wanted to be reminded of. Off I go, leaving a whiff of sulphur behind.

Ellena said...

Tom seems to have applied his best. If they taste as good as they look, BRAVO!
Here they spoil them by making the crosses with a sugar paste.
Kalo Paska!

Avus said...

That first paragraph had me salivating, Lucy.
My wife used to bake delectable bread when we had 3 young children - trouble was it was ravaged and eaten by the troops within hours.
At least, in our dotage, we have found a local baker who probably supplies the best bread in East Kent.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

And a happy Easter to you two, Lucy. Wish I could eat one of those buns. What gives them their glossiness?

Francesca said...

They look so smooth and glossy. I made the same recipe yesterday, and mine looked more like rock cakes, although very nice to eat. There is something magical about baking bread isn't there.
Happy Easter!

missHLiza said...

Hi Lucy, I would like to send email to u but couldn't find your email add here. Pls drop me a few words at as there's something I need to say to you. Thanks.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

FB, well I'd send you one but it might get squashed in the post!

Z - I was quite surprised to learn Americans did HCBs. It was a time consuming process though very satisfying, though there might be quicker ways, or good quality ready-mixes even.

R - no, the freezer really isn't interested, its favourite food is chicken stock anyway.

RR - yes, I've been thinking about bread and its significance lately. We do in fact have just three left, which are a mite stale now, so the B&B pud is becoming more of a possibility...

Ellena - the crosses were a bit chewy. Overall they weren't too sweet, not much sugar in the mix and much of the sweetness coming from the fruit, cinnamon and glaze.

Avus - I bet your kids loved that bread. We can buy good bread, it's true, but the French do not know HCBs. In fact British sweet baking in general we miss rather, but these were better than shop ones anyway.

Natalie - the glaze was sieved and thinned apricot jam, applied while they're hot out of the oven. It looked and indeed tasted very good, but was a bit too sticky really, and made them rather difficult to handle, and the top half stuck to the plate when they were split and buttered. Other recipes call for a simpler sugar syrup glaze.

Francesca - did you? We found the rising and proving bits took a lot longer than the recipe said. But you can't really go wrong with sultanas and cinnamon in them can you!

HL - done!

Marly Youmans said...

Oh, those look lovely and golden and prettily glazed. Must say they look far more enticing than the ones from our local bakery.

Happy Easter-to-come, Lucy...

Unknown said...

I hope and I am sure they do that those buns smell and taste as spicey as they look inviting. Bought hot cross buns usually let you down.

Julia said...

Now you have inspired me to drag out my old bread machine, replace the fuse, wash it down and start baking bread. And I think I may have to try the hot cross buns later, they look so lovely they make my shop-bought ones look unappetising!
Tell me, how many did make it to the freezer?

The book arrived, thank you so much Lucy, it's very kind of you to send me a gift. I feel quite unworthy but very happy.

Happy Easter and may the sun shine on Brittany but may my brambles not thrive!

zephyr said...

These look absolutely positively scrumptious!! The ones we purchased are very nice...but Tom's have me salivating.

Happy Easter, Dear Lucy, Tom and Molly.

Pam said...

They look exceedingly good. Happy Easter!

Anonymous said...

Wow, they're about the best looking hot cross buns ever, congrats!