Monday, 1 April 2013


Hot cross buns are one of the first things I ever made with yeast. I must've been in my teens, not a hugely experienced baker but determined to make something tricky from scratch. I'm like that - I get an idea in my head and not much will stand in my way, least of all practicalities. I remember getting up early, before the rest of the house stirred. The kneading was exhausting and I waited so patiently for my dough to rise. The time factor shocked me. I hadn't realised how long baking can take, but as soon as those buns were out of the oven, their sticky glaze carefully brushed on, I was hooked.

As you can see from the pic, Delia Smith goes against the grain with her recipe, leaving hot cross buns with a deeply-cut cross rather than a piped-on pastry version. I am not Christian but I add this subtle cross as a nod to the Pagan symbolism of Easter, suggesting balance, the four seasons, balance, and the phases of the moon.

While these buns baked, their delicious sweet spice scented the whole kitchen and it reminded me of a beautiful book I loved as a child - Carrie Hepple's Garden. Three children kick their ball over the wall into Carrie Hepple's garden, a neighbour they are fearful of, perhaps they think of her a witch. When they go to retrieve the ball, they discover Carrie is a misunderstood character who tells them curiosities about plants, introduces them to a hedgehog, and invites them to take a 'hermit' from the crock by the door. The children are disturbed at the thought of a hermit living in a crock, but they soon realise Carrie Hepple's hermits are a type of sweetly spiced, orangey bun. Inspired by the book, I added a teaspoon of orange flower water to the glaze. (This book is also responsible for my love of a cottage garden - Carrie shows the children nasturtiums, love in a mist, and other beautifully classic plants that I have added to my own plot.)

Talking of which, the fragments of sunshine this weekend have been used to breath life into our neglected garden - we made a start clearing the weeds, pruning the roses, noticing the new green shoots, and making a shallow pond we hope will soon be inhabited by frogs or newts. But most of all, the kids played on the climbing frame, sliding and swinging in the sun.

On Sunday, friends joined us for brunch - eggs, buns, bellinis, and plenty of laughter. And that bunny came, bringing chocolate eggs in cardboard eggs tied with glitzy ribbon. Bunny is bling.

How was your Easter weekend?
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