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Chocolate For Breakfast?

April 10, 2010

There is great pleasure to be taken in eating great food at unconventional times. Leftover risotto, for example, is a great hangover breakfast. Sometimes chocolate is at its bargainous best when you buy smash-faced Santas from the bargain bin two days into the New Year. In February this year I was misinformed about the date of pancake day – but can you think of a better excuse to make them twice? In fact, I’m still not sure why I don’t eat pancakes every Tuesday (with chocolate sauce – awesome!)

Partly, this is probably natural resistance to authority. Most adults drearily accept that we need rules, and people telling us what to do to avoid some kind of debauched and drunken state of chaos (not that debauched and drunken chaos doesn’t sound like terrific fun, but somebody still needs to empty the bins and stick plasters on knees afterwards). That doesn’t mean we necessarily like being bossed about – and petty rule-breaking is a great psychological antidote whenever yet another law comes along telling us we must do this and we can’t do that. 

 My current pet gripe is the government and big business attitude to the environment. These institutions have spent the best part of a hundred years screwing over the planet, and now they’ve got the cheek to tell me I have to feel guilty for not re-using my carrier bags. As it happens, I do re-use my carrier bags most of the time, and always have done – but the sanctimonious sign in the shop telling me that’s what I have to do makes me want to split my already overpackaged six pack of yoghurts up and put each one in its own individual carrier bag to take it to my house two hundred metres down the street, purely as a great big “fuck you”.

Likewise, I’m normally a pretty healthy eater – but there’s nothing more likely to make me want to scoff cake all day than a patronising article in the women’s section of the newspaper telling me not to do it. Hmm … possibly I have issues.

 So, yeah, I always feel I’m sticking two fingers up at the school dinner ladies if I have a packed lunch and eat my crisps before my sandwiches. If you have never tried this, I fully recommend it. Indeed, now that you are an adult I suggest taking the opportunity to do all the things you were forbidden to do as a child at least once. Except perhaps biting other children or running at the swimming baths. Those don’t turn out well.

Anyway, Good Friday has come and gone this year – and for once I did actually make some hot cross buns. And I feel  a bit goody two shoes, and proper, and correct – which I choose to see as some ironic postmodern feminist statement before running off for a spot of therapeutic arm wrestling and parking large trucks in small spaces.

I do love hot cross buns, and again, I think they’re something that should be enjoyed all year round. Making them was my only real option, because most shop bought varieties contain orange peel – to which I’m allergic. To be honest, the homemade variety knock the socks of the ones you buy anyway – most of which are basically just low quality bread rolls with mixed fruit in them.

I found my base recipe on, swapped the mixed peel for a mixture of sultanas and glace cherries (I love cherries – you could of course use any fruit you like),  and instead of all white flour, used a mix of plain and wholemeal (full wholemeal flour makes a very heavy, stodgy dough, so I’d recommend half and half). In future I’ll use a much bigger tray to bake them on – they expand quite a bit during the process, so you need to give them space – mine fused together a bit and I had to split them with a knife. The original recipe was for eight buns, but you can easily get ten or twelve out of this.

So please – redeem me – make these on any day of the year EXCEPT GOOD FRIDAY.

The Uprising – Rebellious Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients: 250g strong white bread flour, 250g strong wholemeal flour, pinch of salt, 3-4 teaspoons of mixed spices (experiment), 50g sugar, 50g butter, sultanas (I used half of a 400g packet), glace cherries – pulled apart into small pieces, a 7g sachet of dried yeast, 200ml of milk, 2 eggs, honey.

Mix flour, salt, sugar and spice (and all things nice…) in a bowl

Soften the butter (either leave it out on the side for an hour before you start or blast in the microwave for 30 seconds). Rub it into the dry mix using your fingertips – so the mix becomes a little like breadcrumbs. Stir in the fruit and yeast.

Warm the milk in the microwave until it’s just hot enough to stick a finger in for a few seconds (be careful!), and beat the eggs into it. Pour the liquid mix into the dry mix.

Now mix the ingredients into a tough dough with a blunt knife or spatula or just your hands. You don’t need to knead it, just make sure it’s a smooth, evenly mixed ball of dough.

Cut dough into 10-12 pieces and shape into buns on a large tray. Cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm to rise for 45 minutes to an hour (I usually put things to rise in the airing cupboard in the bathroom – in front of the fire, or an oven set to the very lowest possible heat will also do).

When risen, gently rub honey over the surface of the buns. 

Now, you could just bake them as they are – crossless heathen buns, but if you’re a good boy/girl and want crosses, you need to mix an extra little bit of white flour with warm water to create thick paste.

Actually getting the crosses onto the buns was my sticking point as I don’t own anything as fancy as a piping bag (which would make things a thousand times simpler) – in the end, my boyfriend, who is far more artily inclined than me, painted them on using the back of a teaspoon. You do need to paint quite thickly as the lighter painted crosses disappear during baking.

Now, bake at 220C or gas mark 7 – it should take between 20 and 30 minutes, but check them regularly.

For more baking-related petty rebellion see Maggie Gyllenhall’s character in the film Stranger Than Fiction. One of my personal icons.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. calista permalink
    April 11, 2010 12:47

    I think in true punk style you should have put a skull or a safety pin design on each bun – although that would have been even more complicated than the cross and it really isn’t punk to own a piping bag. By the way I’ve been enjoying reading your blog especially as i’m usually such a kitchen nazi (I do like a recipe). So thanks to you I’ve been trying to let my hair down, sprinkling a few chilli flakes even if its not required – imagine! Keep writing please.

  2. April 18, 2010 09:46

    Thank you! I love the safety pins idea (someone must sell edible safety pins surely?)

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