These are good buns. They’re properly doughy, not blousy and brittle like day old sliced bread. They’re headily spiced. They’re sweet, but not overly. And then there’s a novelty factor. If you feel like it, hide an egg inside a few before they bake. It’s then a hunt and a surprise once you break them open. When they’re served warm, the eggs will melt and create a ready made chocolate spread.

I have a feeling my dad would like these buns.

I was thinking a lot about him while I was making them yesterday. I was thinking about him, and while I’m not particularly religious, I was musing pretty solidly about the notion of resurrection.

It’s been a day or two for counting blessings. As I type this, on the other side of an ocean he’s recovering from a spot of unplanned spinal surgery. All it takes is a twist of fate, a tumble in the surf and a sharp introduction to a sand bank for your world to shake. Lucky for all of us one of his best friends was out with him, otherwise this would be a very different piece of writing, shared in a much bleaker forum.

Yet the hours between incident and answers can be long- particularly when it involves stabilising small bones that carry numbers and letters like C4 and C5. They’re long for the family members sitting through dark hot nights in glowing waiting rooms, obligingly updating you with text messages, while their own babies sleep three hours down the coast. And they stretch and sag while you watch sleet gather on a sill and every bleep from your phone makes you catch your breath.

To pass the time there’s plenty to reminisce about. I don’t have my photo albums here with us in London, but there are plenty of images racked in my head which spun in a carousel yesterday.

There’s secretly spying my Dad staying up late playing Tetris on an 80’s vintage Macintosh, so in the morning he could point at a score higher than mine.  Him never missing a Saturday morning netball game, despite the fact that I was in the 11E’s and most of the team strategy involved not having to pass me the ball. There was the mysterious presence of the ‘biscuit bunny’ on nights when he would arrive home late – a fantastical creature who would secretly stash cookies from the office kitchen in his suit jacket pockets. It was my job to find and rescue them. If I remember correctly, this bunny had a preference for orange creams. Later; schooling me why a ginger nut is actually the perfect accompaniment to a cup of weak Earl Grey tea on a frosty morning.   Then there’s watching him put the Tetris skills to work while packing a trailer and car for a week by the beach at Shoal Bay every summer. The car would tow the boat. The bikes and boogie boards would be stacked in the boat. And the windsurfers would be strapped to the roof of the car.

He has a threadbare t shirt that we all loved; it read; he who has the most toys when he dies, wins.

Frankly, I’m just not ready for him to win yet.

Thankfully, neither is the universe. The family jokes that for an active man who sails close to the wind (literally at times) he has nine lives. On last calculations we think he’s got about three left.

This is not the first time we’ve sat and anxiously awaited the results of major emergency surgeries.

If you haven’t the need to celebrate the continuing survival of a Dad like mine, feel free to take these at face value as great Easter buns. But for me, they’re a little bit more. They’re cheeky with spice. They’re strong around the edges and yieldingly soft at the core. There’s the sneaky traces of orange creams, from the mellow zest of a mandarin. There’s also an echo of ginger nuts from some finely diced stem ginger- that same ginger syrup is also used to glaze them once baked. And then there’s the Earl Grey. The sultanas get steeped in hot black tea for a spell before they’re baked . I used the left over tea in a slurry with flour to make the paste for the crosses (though despite the considerable improvement it offers in flavour, its tannins will leave you with a darker mark than the more classic white).

You can stuff half of these buns with mini Easter eggs for a built in hunt worthy of the Biscuit or Easter Bunny, or just make them plain and eat warm with butter.

Make them on Easter Sunday. Have a fleeting thought or two about resurrection if you’re inclined. And be sure to portion your dough into nine before they’re baked; one for each life.

(I’m going to be sure to hang onto the last three of this batch. I’m going to need them to last us a long time yet).

 

Hidden Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Makes 9 buns

Equipment

1 large bowl, plastic wrap, piping bag, 23 cm cake tin, cooling rack.

Shopping/foraging

125 grams sultanas
1 Earl Grey tea bag steeped in  ½ cup of boiling water
2.5 cups/375 grams of plain flour
1 tbsp of icing sugar/powdered sugar
7 grams of dried yeast
1 tsp of mixed spice/ pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
50 grams of candied peel
1 lump of stem ginger in syrup, finely diced (or an extra 25 grams of peel)
Zest of one clementine/mandarin
150 ml milk
50 grams butter
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp olive oil, for greasing the bowl
Optional 5-9 mini chocolate eggs
3 tbsp of plain flour for the crosses

1.5 tbsp of stem ginger syrup for the glaze (or apricot jam)

Method

1) Combine the sultanas, boiling water and tea bag and leave to steep for 15 minutes.

2) In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, spices, candied peel, stem ginger and clementine zest.

3) Melt the butter, then combine it with the milk and beaten egg.

4) Drain the sultanas, reserving the tea, if you would like to make Earl Grey flavoured crosses. Add the sultanas into the flour mix.

5) Pour the milk/butter and egg mix into the flour/sugar yeast, fruit and spices. Use your hand as a claw to mix together until the mix is combined into a raggedy dough.

6) Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead with your hands for up to ten minutes, until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough.

7) Grease a glean bowl with the olive oil. Place the dough into the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place somewhere not-too-cold for 40 minutes, until it has doubled in size.

8)  Knock the dough back with your hand to expel some of the bubbles from the yeast. Divide the dough into nine balls each around 95 grams in weight , roll and shape until smooth and place in a 23cm cake tin, cuddling up next to each other.  Cover cake tin with plastic wrap and place somewhere not-too-cold to prove again for 40 minutes.

9) Preheat the oven to 220C/xx F

10) Unwrap the chocolate mini eggs. Bury an egg in half, or all of the proved buns and fold over the dough to seal the egg  inside. Place the buns back in the pattern of nine in the cake tin.

11) Make a paste out of three tablespoons of plain flour and two tablespoons of water or the reserved Earl Grey tea. Transfer into a piping bag and pipe crosses onto the top of the buns.

12) Bake for 10 minutes at 220 C. Turn the oven down to 200 C and bake for another 10.

13) The buns are baked when they sound hollow when tapped.

14) Glaze the buns with the stem ginger syrup while hot. Eat warm, or allow to cool on a cooling rack and warm later in a low oven or microwave before serving.