Sunday, 23 March 2008

The willpower of a ripe banana

The vernal equinox has come and gone, but we have had a more definite proof of the start of spring: the feline equivalent of the Glorious Twelfth. Yes, pussy cat hunting season has started, and I have twice found eviscerated innards on my study floor in the last week. I don’t know who the culprit is: Mausel (piggle) is small and speedy and can turn on a sixpence, but is also very small, and I don’t know if she could manage to get in through the quite high-set catflap with something in her mouth. Pooky, on the other hand, is bright white and lives in a semi-permanent state of wide-eyed alarm, but has quite a bit of power behind him, and has certainly been known to bring in the odd mouse or bird. Neither is admitting anything currently. Neither has yet got out the Vanish carpet mousse either so I think I’m going to have to do it myself.

I completely forgot to say in yesterday’s post that the Easter biscuits were cut out and decorated with items from my blogging by mail package from April at Abby Sweets. Decorating them was a lot of fun, though we were a bit late for lunch at The Scientist’s parents because I got carried away. I also tried some of the blueberry and vanilla herbal tea she sent me last night, and I think it was the nicest fruity tea I’ve ever had. This package has just kept on giving!

But the main business of this post is my weak resolve when it comes to baking. I had decided not to make hot cross buns this year as we didn’t really need them, but then I was facing an afternoon of intensive spring cleaning today and decided I needed an incentive. So I caved. Making bread is a good cleaning accompaniment as you get a break at regular intervals, and see some real progress being made without you really having to do too much. I used a recipe I’ve used before, from an Australian Women’s Weekly book on breads, muffins and scones. The buns weren’t too sweet, so you might want to up the sugar a bit if you’re that way inclined, and I’d also go heavier on the cinnamon as it wasn’t as evident as I’d have liked. I had forgotten that I'd run out of both currants and dried peel, so mine just had sultanas, raisins and some random dried cranberries I had in the baking supplies. They were, however, very nice and light, and were lovely hot out of the oven with rosehip and crabapple jam home made by Dogophile Vegan Nurse (thank you DVN - it was lovely!). I think they’d also be good toasted. I do pipe crosses onto them despite my lack of religious conviction – it’s just another instance of tradition as far as I’m concerned. I would recommend making hot cross buns as a procrastinatory measure for cleaning. We had a nice accompaniment to our afternoon tea, and the kitchen is looking pretty spotless too.

So my weak will turned out ok for everyone concerned, really. Besides, having the willpower of a ripe banana is not always a bad thing. I got the expression from Eco Sis, who used it to refer to her lack of willpower in not flirting with someone she’d met on a placement. She was working with him; they were ultimately from different countries; she was worried about the effect it could have on the group they were with…. But she caved. And eighteen months later she married him.

Hot Cross Buns (from Australian Women's Weekly Muffins, scones and breads)

4 tsps (14g) dry yeast
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
1 cup (250 ml) warm milk
4 cups (600g) plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
60 g butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (125 ml) warm water
3/4 cup (110g) dried currants
1/4 cup (40g) mixed peel
1 tbsp apricot jam

Combine yeast, sugar, and milk in a small bowl, whisk until yeast is dissolved. Cover bowl, stand in warm place about 10 mins or until mixture is frothy. Sift flour and cinnamon into large bowl, rub in butter. Stir in yeast mixture, egg, water and fruit, cover, stand in warm place about 1 hour or until mixture has doubled in size.

Turn dough out onto floured surface, knead about 5 mins or until smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 16 portions, knead into balls. Place buns into greased 23cm square slab cake pan, stand in warm place about 20 mins or until dough has risen to top of pan.

Make up flour paste for crosses by mixing 1/2 cup (75g) plain flour and 1 tbsp caster sugar in a small bowl. Gradually blend in 1/3 cup (80ml) water and stir until smooth. Place paste into piping bag fitted with small plain tube, pipe crosses onto buns. Bake in moderately hot oven 10 mins, reduce heat to moderate, bake about a further 15 mins. Turn buns onto wire rack, brush with warm sieved jam.

Makes 16.


Johanna said...

your hot cross buns look lovely - I have read in the wild yeast blog of susan's about the pagan reasons for crosses on hot cross buns - quarters of the moon and crosses horns I think - so I have decided they are part of my heritage rather than religion - makes me more comfortable with it!

Lysy said...

That makes me feel much better about my crosses! I thought the ones you made looked lovely, too, and the happy childhood memories made it even sweeter!

LisaRene said...

I haven't had hot cross buns in many years but I can distinctly remember loving them as a child. The little bit of icing forming the cross made them extra tasty. The jam would be a wonderful compliment! A clean kitchen and warm from the oven buns, sounds like a successful day :)

Ilana said...

mmmm, they look yummy... yay for ripe bananas :)