“Oh, I dunno. I thought we could eat the ones we made yesterday and then try again tomorrow,” suggested Geoff.
I bit back the response that sprang to mind, and replied mildly that if we were going to get fat, it might as well be on something gorgeous. Yesterday’s attempts at hot cross buns had already turned into stodgy, stale things that were very easy to resist indeed.
Unfortunately, the dog of the blog had us up half the night, so we were feeling a little jaded, but I was determined not to give up on our dream of home made hot cross buns.
We discussed the possibility of doing everything by hand, but decided that we may as well let the machine do the kneading and proving, as long as we kept an eagle eye on it.
Having slept peacefully since her night-time exertions, Poppy sprang into action as soon as we started to move, determined not to miss out on the action and any possible spillages. She reached the kitchen before us, and stood waiting at the top of the stairs, wagging her tail and grinning broadly. (Did I mention my house is upside-down?)
As predicted, it was easier to get the various ingredients together the second time. The smaller grater worked a treat on the peel, and I knew exactly where the spices were. While Geoff measured and weighed flour, milk, sugar, salt and butter, I hummed happily and slung approximately the same quantities of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves as yesterday into the mortar.
A brief tutorial on how to assemble the hand blender later, Geoff had a duck egg whisked, and started to put the various ingredients into the bread maker. It was all going swimmingly. The dog slept peacefully on the roof terrace, coming in to check progress and cool off from time to time.
The butter was again rather hard, and again was put into the microwave. Again we forgot it, but this time the container was so hot when Geoff picked it up, that he had to weigh a second piece left handed, while soaking his right hand in cold water.
The observant among you may have noticed that yeast has not been mentioned yet today. Fortunately, we also noticed before we had made a fairly fundamental mistake. There was the other half of the pack of dried fruit left, so we had everything we needed for a successful second foray into the world of Easter baking.
We peered through the glass top of the machine, watching the dough rolling about, holding our breath as nervous as parents watching their child’s first faltering steps. We tried to distract ourselves by doing the washing up, making cups of tea, and working out our misgivings through the medium of interpretative dance. Poppy watched, yodelled briefly, and decided the roof terrace was a saner place to be.
Eventually, when the churning had stopped, but before the machine could begin to cook the dough, we turned it off at the mains. It felt slightly warm, so we swaddled it in clean tea towels and retired downstairs for the hour the recipe suggested.
At this point, drained by the emotional roller coaster, Geoff retired to bed. I consulted my Manchester correspondent about how to set the alarm on my mobile, and resisted the urge to run up and check on progress every five minutes.
At the allotted time, I followed the instructions to turn the dough out, smack it about a bit and then put it into a buttered bowl. The curry Geoff had left to cool on the hob made a rather excellent if slightly inelegant solution to the question of where to put the dough to keep warm. To avoid cooking the bottom of it, I balanced the bowl on a stack of cooking trays and cake tins, on top of the curry pan, congratulating myself on my ingenuity.
“Time for a cup of tea!” I announced to the dog. She politely declined, and then watched as I fiddled about removing the cut up lemon from the kettle. It had seemed a good idea to descale it while I had a naked lemon begging to be used, but upon reflection, I could see that Geoff’s suggestion of doing it overnight made a good deal of sense. (Cut up lemon boiled in the kettle works a treat and leaves a lot better flavour than Viakal. Not that I have ever been daft enough to do that, but I have this friend… )
When the alarm went off the second time, I disassembled my Heath Robinson dough proving contraption, cut the massive lump of dough into twelve not very even portions and rolled them into bun shapes, as per the recipe. At this point I became rather confused, as it seemed to suggest that I should cover them with a tea towel, whilst simultaneously putting them onto trays and wrapping them in greaseproof paper. I compromised by covering them with a tea towel while I looked for the greaseproof paper.
A second proving tower, this time using egg cups to space the trays, did not quite work, especially when I tried to follow the instructions to place the whole lot in a tightly tied plastic bag. Proving tower three followed, constructed from the outside of the Christmas cake tin and a chopping board. The egg cups held the greaseproof away from the buns, and the bag just about went around it all.
Two lemon-scented cups of tea later, the buns had risen a little, but I was suffering some slight doubts. I mixed up the flour and water paste to make the crosses with, and held a finger over the nozzle of the icing contraption to control the flow, as it was far too runny to need any help from the plunger. There seemed to be very little point in trying to scrape it off and start again, so I thrust the trays into the oven, hoping that the heat would set the paste before it all slipped off the buns.
To my astonishment and total delight, the buns began to grow at a very respectable rate, and in no time at all, the top tray were huge and golden brown. I whipped them out and slapped on a generous coating of sugary glaze just in time for the next tray to come out.
I had just finished poking the flour and water out of the icing nozzle and making a cup of tea when Geoff appeared in the kitchen.
We made happy, smug, mutually congratulating noises while he took various photographs of our wondrous creations. The paste drips hung like slightly cooked stalactites from the edges of some of them, and the shapes weren’t all perfect, but they were truly, ineffably fab. We concluded that our first home made hot cross buns had been rather labour intensive, but worth the effort. Geoff posed happily on the roof terrace for a photograph with his Beatle mug and a beautiful bun, then Poppy looked on with a quizzical expression as we sliced and buttered it and did a celebratory jig around the kitchen.