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And here’s my latest salient column…

Since Easter is less than a week away, it’s definitely Hot Cross Bun time. Easter’s a great holiday: you get chocolate, you can make Hot Cross Buns, and there’s no chance of hearing ‘Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer’. Although supermarkets stock these, home made buns – sweet, warm, spicy, covered in butter – are far more delicious.

If you’ve never baked with yeast before, don’t be scared. Always use fresh yeast (not the jar the last tenants left), check the expiry date, and once opened, store in the fridge. When rising the buns, leave them somewhere warm, like by a sunny window (Aro Valleyers could hop in a sleeping bag with it). Any liquid ingredients should be around blood temperature. If they are above 60°C, it will kill the yeast. Once you’ve got these points, the rest is easy.

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Hot Cross Buns (makes 15)

The buns:

275 mL tepid water

1 tablespoon + ¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon yeast

3 ½ cups flour

⅔ cup currents

½ cup sultanas

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

75 g mixed glacé peel

25 g butter

½ cup milk

The crosses:

3 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon water

1 teaspoon sugar

The glaze:

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons water

To start, place 150 mL of tepid water together with the yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare dry ingredients by mixing flour, fruit, sugar and spices until fully combined. Melt butter, and mix the remaining warm water with the milk. By now, the yeast mix should have formed a brown foam on top. Pour yeast mix, the milk and water, and melted butter into the dry ingredients, switching between the three and mixing as you go. Knead the dough on a floured surface for ten minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave to rise for 40 minutes. Once risen, knead for another minute, then cut into 15 pieces. Place on a baking tray, and rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

If you want crosses, mix all ingredients together. Put in a clean plastic bag, and make a small hole in the bottom. Use this to pipe crosses onto the top of your buns. Bake until golden brown. If you wish to glaze the buns, boil the sugar and water, then spoon over the cooked buns.

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