Hot Cross Buns

Until a few years ago, I had never eaten a hot cross bun. They weren’t an Easter tradition where I come from and to be honest, I generally loathe dried fruit in baked goods. If you ask me, sultanas are the ruin of a quality scone. Which is why I was surprised the first time I tried a hot cross bun and immediately wanted another.

The exact history of the hot cross bun is not known. Some people say a monk in the 12th century baked the buns and incised them with a cross in honor of Good Friday. Others say it was a monk in the 14th century in St. Albans. During the the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a law was passed that restricted the sale of sweet buns to funerals, Christmas, and Good Friday. Thank heavens that isn’t the law now.

For my recipe, I chop the dried fruit before putting it into the dough. I feel that this helps people like me who have a fear of fruited baked goods. I also add a tart apple to balance the sweetness and stem ginger for a bit of warmth.

Per my friend Rachel’s request, here is my recipe. The quantity of dried fruit I’ve given suits my tastes but you should absolutely tailor it to suit yours. I hope you enjoy them like I do. For breakfast, for elevenses, for tea. . .



For the buns

300 ml + 2 tbsp full fat milk

50 g unsalted butter

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

a few dustings of nutmeg

500 g strong white bread flour (plus up to 250 g extra for kneading)

1 tsp salt

75 g caster sugar

7 g fast-action yeast

1 egg, beaten

the zest of 1 orange

25 g mixed peel, chopped

30 g dried cherries, chopped

15 g dried cranberries, chopped

10 g raisins, chopped

1 large piece of stem ginger in syrup, minced

1 small tart apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped (I use a Cox or a Granny Smith)


For the crosses

80 g plain white flour

95 ml water


For the glaze

1 tbsp apricot jam

1 tsp golden syrup

1/2 tsp water



Put the milk in a small saucepan and heat it on a low flame until bubbles form. Once this happens, turn off the heat and stir in the butter until it’s melted. Allow the mixture to cool a bit. If you can touch it and it doesn’t feel too hot, that’s perfect. Mix in the cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.

Make a well in  flour mixture. Pour the spiced milk mixture and crack the egg into it. Stir this with a wooden spoon just until the ingredients come together forming a shaggy sticky dough.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Add extra flour if it’s too sticky to handle, but keep in mind that too much flour will make dense dough. Knead the dough until is smooth. This takes me about 8 minutes. It might take more or less time for you.  Once the dough is properly elastic, put it in a large lightly greased bowl and cover it with cling film. Allow it to rise someplace warm and draught free until it doubles in bulk. This can take 1-2 hours.

When the dough has doubled, add the zest, peel, cherries, cranberries, raisins, apple, and ginger to the bowl. Knead them into the dough until they are well incorporated. Then once again cover it with cling film and allow the dough to rise a second time. Roughly another hour.

After it has raised a second time, tip the dough out of the bowl and divide it dough into 12 pieces. You can be precise and weigh it all like you’re in the Bake Off or you can eyeball it. I do the latter. Roll the pieces into smooth balls on a lightly floured surface.

Line a rectangular glass or earthenware dish with baking paper. Place the buns in it. They should be touching, but make sure there is also enough room for them to expand. Cover them with plastic wrap and allow them to rise one last time.

Preheat the oven to Gas 7/220°C/425°F.

While the oven heats, mix the flour and water to form a thick paste for the crosses. If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon of water. If it’s too runny, add a teaspoon of flour. Once the desired consistency has been achieved, spoon the mixture into a piping bag. Be careful that the paste doesn’t run everywhere. Gently pipe a straight line across a row of buns. I like to start going from left to right. Then do the next row and so on. To finish the crosses, rotate your dish and pipe lines in the other direction so they are perpendicular.

Bake the buns on the middle shelf of your oven for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. While they bake, make the glaze by putting the jam, syrup, and water in a small pot and bringing them to a boil. Allow it to thicken a moment before turning off the heat.

After you have removed the buns from the oven, immediately brush them with the glaze then transfer them to a cooling rack.




Silk Dyed Easter Eggs

Using silk to dye Easter eggs is my favorite way of decorating them.  The brighter the colors, the better.  You can use old ties, scarves, skirts, shirts, whatever.  Just make sure the fabric is 100% silk.  I can’t lie.  I often look in charity shops throughout the year for good patterns or color schemes to buy on the cheap and keep for Easter.  I found there were only so many times I could raid my husband’s tie drawer.


Here is what you need:

-white eggs (I like to use duck eggs)

-white vinegar

-rubber bands

-a large pot

-silk and white cotton fabric


Here is what you do:

If using ties, unpick them and remove the lining.  I save the linings for later use.



Next, cut the fabric into strips large enough to wrap around your eggs.  Be sure to make as much of the fabric touch the shell as you can.  Wrapping rubber bands around the fabric helps.  Tie them tightly at the ends with more rubber bands or some string.

silk wrapped

Wrap some white fabric around the colored fabric.  This is when I use the tie linings.

white wrapped

Place the eggs in a pot with cold water and a 1/4 cup of white vinegar.  Place a plate over the eggs to prevent them from floating to the top.  Once they come to a boil, allow them to cook for 25 minutes.


Remove them from the pot and transfer them to a bowl of cold water.  Cool completely.

cooling eggs

Remove the rubber bands and material to reveal your lovely silk dyed eggs.  Enjoy and happy Easter!  And yes, these make for a really colorful egg salad.

eggs carton of eggs last year's eggs 2 last year's eggs happy easter

Maundy Thursday Mani-Pedi

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus washed the Apostles’ feet .  This Maundy Thursday, I went for a pedicure.  As the esthetician rubbed rosemary oil into my toes, I finished Joanne Harris’ “Chocolat.”  The irony of reading this story about Vianne Rocher, a single mother, who moves to a small French village and opens a chocolaterie on Shrove Tuesday–a day marking the beginning of Lent–a season of self-denial, was not lost on me.  Especially with Easter only three days away.

In Harris’ novel, Vianne, scandalizes the local priest, Francis Reynaud.  She’s a single mother.  An attractive one at that.  She does not attend church and she believes “There’s a kind of sorcery in all cooking.”  Worst of all, her sinful chocolates tempt his flock to over-indulge.

In Reynaud’s eyes, Vianne is a witch to be run out of town.  Which is why one Sunday, he declares war on her.  The members of his congregation are forced to choose.  Church or chocolate?  With her Festival scheduled the same day as his Easter sermon, who’s to win?

Reynaud thinks he can.  After all, he has the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  But what he lacks is charm, intuition, and warmth–all of which Vianne has in spades.  He also overlooks that she has a holy trinity too.  White, Milk, and Dark.

“Perhaps this is what Reynaud senses in my little shop; a throwback to times when the world was a wilder, wilder place.  Before Christ–before Adonis was born in Bethlehem or Osiris sacrificed at Easter–the cocoa bean was revered.  Magical properties were attributed to it.  Its brew was sipped on the steps of sacrificial temples; its ecstasies were fierce and terrible.  Is this what he fears?  Corruption by pleasure, the subtle transubstantiation of the flesh into a vessel for debauch?”

Vianne’s success with the townspeople in spite of Lent, drives Reynaud crazy.  He delivers messages demonizing pleasure.  He insists people give up luxuries as penance.  Luxuries like chocolate.  He makes them ashamed of their desires.  Which is funny.  Because in the end, even Reynaud can’t resist the pagan temptation of bittersweet Mayan creaminess.  Especially when it’s bunny shaped and filled with toasted nuts.

The dark chocolate side wins.

If there is anything to be learned from Chocolat it is this: Embrace your desire.  Sometimes self-indulgence can save you.  But if it can’t, maybe a chocolate Jesus can.