Festivals make me so home sick…brings back memories and I crave for all the halla gulla of yesteryears…..Lent however is a period of penitence and reflection, meditation and abstinence….it is also mostly bang in the middle of financial years….and spread over 40 days which makes travelling to the other city to be with the family not a viable option….as a family we aren’t very ritualistic, however there are some things that we do follow….but being on my own, many things do get diluted….i try to keep the spirit as true as I can, giving the symbols and rituals a miss…..
To signify the 3 hours from 12 pm to 3 pm that Christ was hanging on the cross, worship and meditation services are held at that time….as kids, it was such a challenge for amma and peddi to prepare us kids to sit in church (quietly) all that time….they would arm themselves with colouring books, biscuits and a bottle of water to keep us occupied when we were really little, and later a strict warning and a stare would suffice to fix us….of course once we got involved in what was happening around you, this treatment was suspended…..one constant of the good Friday service, was the promise of Hot Cross Buns from a very famous bakery next door…..infact such was the demand for these HCBs that people would sneak off mid service to get their booty and avoid disappointment later…with about 5 large congregational churches within a 2 kms radius, this baker knew when he’d be in full demand…. After the intial enthusiasm, I began wondering what the big deal was all about the HCB….to begin with, they were’nt very different from the buns we got all year through…the cross that was marked on it, usually was so leathery, you’d have to gulp water to help swallow it….(obviously I developed a critical eye very early!!)….but traditions being what they are, we simply continued them…..this year however, it was different ……….On one day, two posts from two fabulously talented bloggers with cult following (i meant her…and her)…that’s what assaulted me a few days before Good Friday…. I did my usual internet research and decided; homemade was the way to go this year!! With K working like there is no tomorrow, and work being a little less than usual, I had enough time on my hands…..Thursday was spent reading and re-reading the recipes…and mentally planning the course of action…..i fear baking…all last year, and whatever posts you see on my blog, are the results of a very nervous person…I don’t trust myself to do well…for me baking is something that is still not my best buddy…….add yeast to it and you have a proper nervous wreck on your hands….. While I can mask this very well with people around….i prefer to indulge in my madness when I am on my own….. each project therefore is a test of nerves….successes are a delightful surprise …. I spend lots of time at blogs with fabulous bakers…hoping to draw courage from them….
So gallantly I walked into the kitchen….literally had my hands in a knot while the yeast took its own time to rise…. I didn’t set out any of the stuff I needed till the yeast was frothy, because there would be less to clean up if the first step failed….i wasn’t sure if the yeast would rise at all….and when you are standing over the bowl of warm water and yeast pellets, willing for it to froth up already!! Time passes excruciatingly slow…. Rise it did….not as I wanted …all frothy and all…but I figured it will work….i substituted whole wheat flour for APF for the entire recipe….didnt have currants so just added raisins….and prayed that the dough would raise itself and double up….friends B and J (no not the world famous bloggers) called and said they’d come over and spend the night….and I hadn’t seen them in a long time so I wanted to see them too….when they arrived, I had just about set the dough to rest for the first rising…. I wonder if they noticed I was like a cat on a hot tinned roof all the while….till dinner…and later when we sat chatting too….every now and then I would pop into the kitchen to do something of the process….and finally made the buns and put them in the oven…….the smell of freshly baking bread…when it fills the house is indescribable……I think it would make it to the top three on a list of “these are a few of my favourite things” for me……. Its difficult to escape….the aroma mixed with the spices…..it can momentarily calm the most nervous person!! While I accepted the compliments for the aroma that spread through the house, I still didn’t know if I would end up with buns or bricks….. after all that tension!! Buns it was!! They had an angular shape because of spreading out a little on the baking sheet….but other than that, they looked lovely…like tanned beauties….and the texture!! It was crumbly and had a grainy texture…. it wasn’t spongy like APF bread is…but more like a cake….the spices lent just a bit of sweetness to it….tasted fabulous with a light spread of butter…. By the time I came back from church on Friday, the folks at home had eaten more than half of the buns….that is compliment enough for me….i think I will continue this as my own tradition for good Friday….the buns, minus the crosses will be baked again in my kitchen….they make a very filling breakfast…and because they are ever so slightly sweet, don’t need anything in the form of a spread….i was also happy that whole wheat could be successfully used in this….this one is a keeper….by the length of this post you can make out how excited I was!!
11/2 tbsp instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup castor sugar
50 grams melted butter
4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour plus some more for dusting (I used ashirwad wheat flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tbsp all purpose flour + 2 tbsp cold water – For piping the crosses
3 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water – For sugar glaze
To the mixing bowl, add the yeast, all of the milk, 2 tsp sugar. Whisk well and keep covered in a warm place for around 10 minutes, till it has turned frothy
Add the flour into a bowl, the spices and raisins and whisk till well incorporated.
Add the yeast mixture, melted butter and knead into a dough that is sticky, but has all come together.
Place on a slightly dusted surface and knead for 5 mins till the dough is smooth and elastic
Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling wrap and leave in a warm place to double in volume. It takes about an hour.
Punch down the risen dough, remove the air by folding it over a few times.
Divide into 10 same sized balls. Grease a baking tin / sheet (I used a 12X9 inch baking sheet because that is the only one I had, a square 9X9 one is better) place the buns in rows, snugly together. Cover and leave it to rise for another 30 mins.
Preheat the oven to 185 degrees C, make the batter for the crosses with 3 parts dough and 1 part water. Place this in a piping bag (I used a regular plastic bag with a hole cut at the bottom for piping), slash the buns with a knife and pipe crosses across the buns.
Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 25 mins.
When done, make a thick syrup of sugar (2 parts) and water (1 part) simmer for a couple of minutes and brush onto the buns when still hot.
That’s it!! Hot cross buns are ready!! Enjoy them warm or toasted with butter and jam / jelly or a fruit spread of your choice….we tore off pieces and gobbled them…the slight sweetness makes the need for a spread totally optional.
What I will do next time:
Use a smaller baking tin
Place the buns in rows of three to keep the shape