So...ta da! A whole new look. I decided that much as I loved the red and black of old, it was time to lift my head and see some clean bright lines. It felt right for what I hope will be sort of a new start. It's amazing isn't it just how dramatic the impact of sunshine is. It totally controls my mood, and every year I try and pretend it doesn't. I've spoken before about how I used to be such a winter person, I loved the short days and the dark nights to wrap up into, loved the layers of clothes and root veg stews. I still, every year, try and pretend that this is true, and in some regards it is, I love pies, and sausage and mash and hearty stews. I love crumbles and steamed puddings. But the older I get the more I come to realise that the sunshine is crucial, and without a heavy dose I am one depressed little lady. This year it hit harder than every as a long dark winter was combined with a whole bunch of uncertainty and insecurity in my own goings on.
Things are still mostly uncertain, and I remain as insecure as ever, but the sunshine is making me smile through it. As are wonderful inspirational meetings with new friends, and in lovely places, and with old friends on hilarious outings.
Oh, and cake of course. Yes, cake is definitely a crucial element. I have baked lots in the last couple of weeks, and so hopefully will have lots to share. I shall start with something delightfully seasonal, a treat that I wait patiently for each year, and then wish I just gave in and made them all the time: Hot Cross Buns. Oh, I love them so, with their hint of spice, and slight tartness from mixed peel and the sweetness of the raisins. Not to mention how unbelievable perfect they are at soaking up melting salted butter.
These are my "not cross buns" because somewhere along the way I forgot to put the crosses on, and then actually couldn't be bothered, and then realised that I liked them just as much without and it saves a step in the process, not to mention a few more bits of washing up.
Not Cross Buns - Makes 16 small(ish) or 8 large.
500g plain flour (in two 250g batches in different bowls)
125ml Cold Milk
125ml Boiling water
10g instant yeast
pinch of salt
2 tsp mixed spice
50g caster sugar
zest of one unwaxed lemon
75g mixed peel
50g melted butter
1 beaten egg
In one medium bowl (or the bowl of a food mixer) place 250g of the flour. In a jug mix the cold milk and the boiling water to give you a lukewarm liquid. Add a pinch of sugar and then the yeast. Leave until bubbles form and then pour into the flour and make a sticky dough. Leave to rise until doubled, about 45-50mins.
Meanwhile mix the other 250g flour with the mixed spice, caster sugar and zest. Then add the raisins and peel. Once the wet batter has doubled, add the dry mix to it, along with the melted butter and half the beaten egg and form into a wet dough. It will be sticky, but manageable. Leave this to rise for a good hour, again until doubled.
Turn out onto a well-floured surface and gently shape into a ball. Divide this into two, then four, and then eight (or sixteen depending on the size of bun you want). Shape these pieces in to slight rectangles and place on a greased and floured (or parchment covered) baking sheet(s). Leave for a final rise of 20mins. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Brush with the remaining beaten egg and place in the oven for 15min, until slightly golden. Then see how long you can hold out before tearing one in half, slathering in salted butter and stuffing into your face. I lasted five minutes, which I thought was pretty good, but then again I wasn't on the ball and hadn't prepared the pot of tea until the last moment. Rookie error!