The other day, I stopped by my local bookstore. Going there after what seemed like ages, I realised how much I miss this whole experience, of which I seem to be doing much lesser these days. I have fallen for the practicality and convenience offered by e-retailers that deliver books right to my doorstep and honestly, I haven't been able to resist their phenomenal discounts either. And yet that day I understood why an hour or two at a bookstore is so precious. You walk around the aisles, peep into the shelves, browse through the books and then pick up one at random. Not because the book is on some bestsellers' list but because maybe the title caught your eye or the author is an old favourite or the book jacket is eye catching or even better, it is the compelling synopsis at the back.
And then there's the personal equation with the bookstore owner who not only gives you your time and space to browse around but every once in a while directs your attention to a book that he thinks might interest you. Not guided by some algorithm based on your browsing history but as someone who has seen your sensibilities mature and your interests develop. Agree??
Talking about things I haven't done in a while, I realised baking bread is one of them. So, I baked a batch of these hot cross buns, studded with raisins and dark chocolate. Traditionally, these buns are baked for Easter and that's when I first tried them this year but never got round to blogging about them. These are adapted from a recipe by the Bake Club's Anneka Manning. It's a simple one that any baker reasonably comfortable with yeast can attempt.
Never judge a book by its cover and don't judge these buns by my clumsy piping of the crosses or for that matter, my not-so-clever idea of squishing them in a round tin that resulted in these slightly misshapen buns. Because the end result is simply delicious, for lack of a better word. The milk, eggs and butter in the dough ensure that the final buns are soft, tasty and have that beautiful golden crust. You can have them slathered with butter but do remember, they are best had warm and plain, straight out of the oven, when the little chocolate chunks have not yet set and still molten and melting. Ah heaven!!
These are best made for a leisurely weekend morning when you can indulge yourself after a week of muesli-yoghurt breakfasts!!
I am currently reading Elif Shafak's 'Forty Rules of Love', highly recommended by the guy at the book store. What's been occupying your bed side table??
Hot Cross Buns
For the buns
For the buns
- 2 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1/8 cup caster sugar
- 1 sachet (approx. 7gms or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dried yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup dried raisins
- 220 mls milk
- 30 gms butter, cubed
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 50 gms dark chocolate, chopped
- extra butter, to grease
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/8 cup water
- 2 tablespoon apricot preserve or any other fruit preserve
- Take 2 tablespoons of the milk and warm it to a luke warm temperature of 80 deg F to 90 deg F. Whisk the yeast into the milk and leave it to rest for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to dissolve and the mixture to turn creamy.
- Put the flour, caster sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and mix to combine. Stir through the raisins.
- Combine the butter and the rest of the milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter just melts and the milk is luke warm.
- Whisk in half of the whisked egg and vanilla.
- Add to the dry ingredients and use a wooden spoon and then your hands to mix to a soft dough.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
- Lightly grease a clean large bowl with a little butter, add the dough and turn to coat the dough in the oil.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Line a large oven tray with non-stick baking paper.
- Punch the centre of the dough down with your fist and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Knead in the chocolate until evenly distributed.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place into the tin.
- Cover with a slightly damp tea towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Meanwhile, make the flour paste by combining the flour and water in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Spoon into a small plastic bag.
- When ready, lightly brush the tops of the buns with the remaining whisked egg. Snip a small hole in the corner of the flour past bag and pipe crosses on the tops of the buns.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until cooked through and sounding hollow on the base when tapped.
- Meanwhile, to make the glaze, take the fruit preserve and heat it gently in a small saucepan until runny. Transfer the hot cross buns to a wire rack and brush the tops with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter.