I love this time of the year. It has nothing to do with the weather but yet, it has everything to do with it. Spring time festivals all seem to come along at the exact same time. I don’t think it’s coincidental that Holi and Easter come in the same week. I know somebody planned it that way all along and then let us play with it, make our own rules and call it something marvelous, with the perfect food to accompany the event.
Except, on Holi people are too stoned to remember and everything looks like perfect food. Not speaking from experience only because drinking cannbis-laced milk things doesn’t appeal to me. I spit it out and then filmed my friends acting their lives out in slow motion. On Easter, the food isn’t traditional but on Good Friday, my family has this “thing”. It’s a fairly new thing and my favourite part of it, is that it’s completely non-traditional (at least in my mind it is).
They go to the Good Friday service: Mother, father, and my sisters and me, when I was around. The chapel is on a hill, wonderful views but in 2000 degree heat, it doesn’t really matter. There is always place to sit and simple things don’t take forever to finish. My father, driving us there and back, loves pointing out that the church they usually go to “is still doing *such and such* part of the service”, (emphasis on the “still”). We are a crafty lot that way.
Crafty as foxes, in the meadows, stalking rabbits.
Except the rabbits are masala dosas and dosas need to be eaten. I did say it was non-traditional. Yes, we eat dosas right after church, in a restaurant, on Good Friday. I would say we’re going to hell but there is no proof of that. Just like the best, we make the rules up as we go. As for the hot cross buns, those are always waiting for us at home. Full of dried fruit and a zig-zag cross. If there was a better way to wash down a dosa, I don’t want to know about it.
This is it.
This recipe does take 2 days but most of the work has everything to do with bread-like waiting. Nothing about it is intimidating and if you’re a non-professional bread maker like me, this would make for a great first experiment. This was my first and only attempt with the help of this beautiful recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini. I changed some things but the base is the same. I do encourage you to read through Clotilde’s recipe as well simply because painstakingly she made this process so much easier for me.
For the buns
- 3 cups (400 gm or 12 oz) all-purpose flour. I used Gold Medal Unbleached.
- 2 tsp dry yeast
- 3/4 cup whole milk (room temperature)
- 1/2 cup fresh cream
- 6 tbsp pecans, roughly chopped
- 2/3 cup (100 gm or 3 1/2 oz) Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips (or any other good quality chocolate chips)
- 2/3 cup (100 gm or 3 1/2 oz) pitted and chopped dates
- 1 tbsp sweetener (agave syrup or honey or maple syrup)
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- Zest of 1/2 an organic lemon
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
For the crosses
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp water
For the glaze
- 50 gm (1/4 cup) raw cane sugar
- 3 tbsp + 1 tsp water
Mix the flour and dry yeast in a large mixing bowl and then pour in the milk and fresh cream. If you have a mixer, you can use it to mix the messy mass of dough but all I have are my hands. Once incorporated, leave the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
In a separate bowl, add the pecans, chocolate chips, dates, sweetener, salt, zest and cinnamon. Stir it up well. This messy mass of goodness will go into the dough in a little bit.
NOW. Mix the pecan-chocolate-date mass into the dough so that they’re spread out evenly. This can also be done with a stand-in mixer but like I said before, “this is a one-in-a-million hand.” Actually George said it. Love me, love my Seinfeld quips.
Fold the dough for 4 minutes. This video was in the original recipe and it shows you how it’s done (ignore the numbers and the texture of the dough in the video. Yours will look more “together”. Just take 4 minutes). At first, the dough will seem a bit tough but as you go along, it will soften up. Once this is done, place plastic wrap on the surface of the dough and cover the bowl with a plate. Your dough will then go into the fridge for 12 to 18 hours.
Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for 30 minutes. It will look like it hasn’t risen at all but of course, it has. It’s just a very moderate increase in size. Lightly flour a working surface and work with the dough making equal bun-shaped pieces of it. You should have 12, according to the recipe but I had 11. They should be more of less the same shape because you want it to bake evenly. Make sure each bun has close to the same amount of the pecan/date/chocolate mix so that no unnecessary fights break out.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the shaped dough an inch apart from each other. Cover it with a clean and damp towel and let it sit for 3-3 1/2 hours in a warm dark place or until they become 1/2 as big. Once the buns rise, it’s okay if they touch. You want that to happen. I personally love it when my food touches.
Next, turn your oven up to 360 degrees F (180 C). Brush the top of the bun dough with milk so they’ll brown well while they bake.
Make the mixture for the “crosses” on the hot cross buns. If you don’t have any of the piping tools to draw a cross on the buns, make one out of parchment paper. This video will show you how. Pipe the crosses on top of the buns. Place the baking tray into the oven (middle rack) and bake for 35-40 minutes or until they’re nice and brown on the outside.
I do make crappy crosses, if I say so myself.
While they bake, prepare the sugar syrup to glaze the top once the buns are out of the oven. Mix the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves and thickens into a syrup. Brush this on the buns while they are just out of the oven. It will form a nice sugary coat on the top. This step is entirely optional, especially if you’re trying to make it lighter.
Slice the buns horizontally let them cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.
“Store in an air-tight container.” Hahaha, only if you don’t eat them all at once. Did not happen.