It's hard to talk about Easter food without acknowledging a few historical traditions. The foods we associate with this time of year have Christian and Pagan symbolism. Why do we traditionally eat certain foods on certain days?
Hot cross buns and various breads are eaten on Good Friday and Easter eggs on Easter Sunday. Mix that in with a good measure of 20th century commercialism, all manner of cute stuff like chicks and Easter bunnies, and we end up with a blur of something that probably, to many, means a long weekend full of sugar-loaded treats.
Whatever your beliefs, Easter is often a time for family and friends to get together. Here are some suggestions that take into account the historical and traditional meanings of Easter and acknowledge the celebration of sharing food with family and friends.
Spiced buns to be eaten on Good Friday were institutionalised in Tudor England by law. They could also be eaten at Christmas or funerals. The symbolism of the cross is obvious in Christian belief but also had Greek, Roman and Saxon references.
It is one of few breads that we only eat at this time of the year. Although we eat them before and after Good Friday, they are quite unique in their time of offering.
Sean Armstrong and his Loaf Bakery are well known in Auckland. As a restaurateur, Sean became frustrated about the lack of decent breads available to chefs and rose to the challenge to set up a bakery.
He became fascinated with the whole process and now bakes a variety of goodies that can emerge from a baker's oven.
I asked Sean if he would share an easy recipe for some hot cross buns. He agreed and forgave my clumsy attempt at making the dough, coming to the rescue with his skills. They did work, they tasted good and if I can make them so can you.
As I am still trying to learn, in baking correct measurement means all.
Hot cross buns
600g bakers' flour
20g dried yeast
50g milk powder
25g mixed spice
60g bing cherries (optional)
40g mixed peel
10g ground ginger
1 Mix together all of the dry ingredients in an electric mixing bowl, then add the melted butter and water and mix on slow speed for 2 minutes until the dough starts to form.
2 Change the speed to medium and mix for 6 minutes, then add the fruit and mixed peel and mix for a further 2 minutes until all the fruit is combined.
3 When mixed, remove hot cross bun dough from the bowl on to a lightly floured bench and scale (weigh out) the dough into 120g pieces.
4 Round into tight balls and place on a lightly greased pan with high sides, leaving a gap about half the size of each bun between them on the tray.
5 Cover loosely with plastic film and place in a warm place. Allow to double in size.
6 Pre-heat your oven to 200C on fan bake.
7 Once the buns have doubled in size, use a piping bag to put a cross on the top of each bun (see recipe below) and put in the oven.
8 Reduce the temperature to 180C and bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.
9 Remove from oven and serve hot with salted butter.
Hot cross bun crossing mix
Mix the flour and sugar together then add approximately 2 tablespoons of milk to form a thick paste. Place in a piping bag ready for use.
What's your favourite Easter treat? Any tips for making hot cross buns?