Spring is in full-swing. The sunlight feels a little warmer, the landscape a little greener. The hedgerows appear to teem with life; rabbits frolic in their dozens and the banks glow with the delightful nod of daffodils. Rivers are full and rushing as the last of the land thaws. It is hard not to have a ‘spring’ in one’s step. Longer days begin to stir new ideas, a desire for new projects and an urge to head outside. If winter blues are hard to shift I can highly recommend the therapeutic qualities of filling a jug with a big bunch of hand-picked, spring flowers. Place them in a sunny window and admire their simple beauty.
Easter has always been my favourite holiday. It is the relaxed, spring-time cousin of Christmas, featuring good food and family without the stress and ceremony of yuletide celebrations. Even as a child I was drawn to the pastel colours of this holiday, preferring a precious clutch of chocolate eggs over a pile of presents. I was fortunate enough to experience the joy of yearly Easter egg hunts, nothing was quite as exciting as spying the red, yellow purple of a Cadbury’s Creme Egg nestled amongst the bluebells. These days, Easter weekend usually involves my dearest family members and a relaxed roast. Dessert is, more often than not, foil-wrapped and hollow. Tables are decked with jugs of daffodils and, if we’re lucky, spring sunshine will steam through the windows to remind us all that the winter is officially over.
The Easter kitchen exudes one particularly delicious scent; toasted Hot Cross Buns. This April, as always, the supermarkets and bakeries will be crammed with these soft, spiced delights. They must be gently toasted, lavishly buttered and served with a pot of tea. For a few weeks of the year these buns are an acceptable breakfast food, particularly when topped with a little marmalade or, in the case of my slightly strange Father, Vegemite. This year I am away from the UK but will be celebrating the scents and flavours of a traditional Easter with my Hot Cross Bun inspired bake; a centrepiece worthy, swirled currant-bun-cake with a marmalade glaze, perfect for tearing and sharing with sticky fingers at tea time.
Easter Tear ‘n’ Share Bun-Cake
For the buns:
440g all-purpose white flour
400ml warm milk (not hot)
7g dried yeast (standard sachet)
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
50g candied peel
For the filling:
120g softened butter
60g soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
For the glaze:
2 tbsp. orange marmalade, warmed
1.Combine the warm milk, sugar, salt and yeast for the bun dough. Make sure the milk isn’t too hot as it may kill the yeast). Leave for 2-3 minutes for the yeast to ‘react’.
2.Measure the flour into a large bowl.
3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and mix briefly. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size.
4.Make the bun filling by creaming together the softened butter, brown and spices. It should be thoroughly mixed and warm enough to spread easily.
5.Line an 11 inch (28cm) cake tin with baking paper and thoroughly butter the sides.
6.Once your dough has risen, gently work in the raisins and candied peel
7.Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface. Roll it into a rectangle approximately 40cm x 20cm.
8.Spread the bun filling evenly across the rectangle.
9.With the long side facing you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. You should be looking at a ‘sausage’ of dough that is approx. 40cm long.
10.Cut the dough into 10-16 pieces (any excess pieces can be baked separately)
11.Arrange the pieces’ spiral side up to fill the base of the tin. Don’t worry about small gaps, the dough will rise and fill them.
12.Cover the tin or tray and leave in a warm place to rise for a further 30 minutes.
13.Preheat the oven to 375F/200°C/175°C Fan
14.Bake for 20 mins (buns) or 30 mins (cake).
15.Allow to cool in the tin.
16.Once removed from the tin brush the warmed marmalade lightly over the top and sides.