A few weeks ago we celebrated Easter Sunday. And a few weeks before that I sat down with Nick to make a plan for how exactly we wanted to celebrate the holiday. While Easter is of course a deeply religious holiday for some, it wasn’t for us. We still wanted to participate however, as it has become such a widely celebrated public holiday here in Britain, and therefore part of the culture, but we needed to figure out how to do so. Yeasty, warm, slightly sweet Hot Cross Buns… or Warm Cross-less Buns as was the result, and a good egg hunt at Nell’s school the week before, seemed like the perfect way to do just that. I haven’t worked with quick action yeast in a while, but as soon as I tipped out the first batch of risen dough onto my floury work surface, I remembered just how much I loved the sweet earthy smells it produces when mixed with flour and sugar, and the feeling of the soft airy dough. And although I had not anticipated it, I actually really enjoyed the lengthy procedure of proving the dough three different times, then knocking it back and kneading it three more times still. I did buy a package of pre-made buns from the shop just in case these didn’t work out (Nick has specifically requested Hot Cross Buns after all and I didn’t want to let him down), but I can say with pride it will likely be the last time I do so, as the results of my labour more than made up for the effort.
Having recently watched Michael Pollan’s ‘Cooked’ series on Netflix, I’ve been inspired to go back to the basics and cook with a bit more intention and love, whenever time permits. In one of the episodes (Air) he discusses the significance and downright backbone of bread-making in many cultures. It resonated with me as I remembered my grandmother’s Challah, and that same sweet yeasty smell that filled her kitchen almost weekly.
I felt like I accomplished something by making these little guys from scratch, especially as I had never done it before. As girls watched while I rolled out each ball, it felt like we were sort of starting a tiny piece of our family’s set of traditions together. It was fun and felt far more intentional than just tossing an extra pack of buns in my shopping cart, especially as I had no real previous experience in celebrating the holiday and was attempting to create my own path. I also made a few substitutions to the recipe, so I could use the leftover buns for future more versatile purposes.
I used this recipe, subbing out the mixed peel for chopped apricots and leaving off the glaze and the crosses (because I frankly couldn’t be bothered). We ate them on Easter morning with butter and marmalade (like Paddington Bear) and then I froze the rest as I think they will be perfect for mature cheddar cheese toasties in the near future. The near future pretty being much right now.