Easter: lambs, lions, swans & buns

Easter buns

March arrived as docile as a lamb and then began to roar, continued to roar and will leave still roaring. Spring took one look at the weather map and immediately fled southwards, leaving us cold, wet and miserable. Any daffodil foolhardy enough to raise its head was immediately decapitated, the primroses huddled in corners and even the skylarks were grounded. Day after day we listened to the shipping forecast – would it be a gale or severe gale, storm force winds from the south or north, with or without torrential rain or just squalls, or no wind and a heavy blanket of grey mist? Had the big island cast us adrift and kidnapped the sun?
After a long winter, in March any thoughts about the imminent arrival of Spring are delusional. As one swallow “doesn’t make a summer”, a few warm sunny days in March or April do not mark the departure of winter. Spring may flirt with us and flash her petticoats, but we all know that in this part of the world that she never arrives before May.
Today it is blowing a strong north-easterly and the arctic airflow is keeping the tempearture down to a chilly 7 °C. Even the Whooper Swans are getting desperate to leave for their breeding grounds in Iceland. This morning we watched a herd of 30 set out, flying low over a turbulent sea and struggling against a strong north-easterly headwind. Eventually sense prevailed, they turned back, flew around the house a few times before settling in the bay to rethink their migration strategy.
My small greenhouse is full of seedling waiting to be “hardened-off”, and with a forecast of snow for the weekend, I am in need of a distraction activity. Decorating eggs for Easter? Making a Simnel cake? No it had to be a real challenge. I love seasonal foods and something with fruit and spices is irrestible. I have always been hesitant about yeast cookery and have produced some undistinguished loaves of bread in my time. However, watching Himself make brioche using the dough-hook on the food mixer, convinced me that it was OK to skip all the kneading by hand nonsense.

So by mid-afternoon I’d produced my first batch of Easter buns. Clearly a work in progress, they are a little mis-shapen (!) and not identical, BUT the texture is light and they taste good. Clearly I have to work on the hand-rolling technique and incorporating the raisins and mixed peel into the dough was not too successful. The recipe I used directed me to add the fruit and peel to the dough after it had risen and been “knocked-back”. I have since found other recipes where the fruit and peel are added to the flour, sugar and butter before the yeast-milk-egg mixture, so that it is incorporated during the kneading. I am not deterred, but as we can’t eat too many batches of Easter buns, perhaps I’ll try a Selkirk Bannock next.
I used a recipe by Felicity Cloake (who is always interesting and reliable) and I think any shortcomings were due to may faulty technique. However, incorporating my own mixed peel and using the syrup as the glaze was a piece of pure genius – in my opinion!

11 thoughts on “Easter: lambs, lions, swans & buns”

  1. I have only just had my breakfast but you are making me feel hungry! I love spiced buns, but a whole batch just for me would be decadent! We thought it was a long winter here, but it does sound as if yours is going on a bit too long, and I hope the swans are able to leave soon. Now that April is here I am patiently awaiting the arrival of our housemartins. Seeing the first pair always fills me with such joy and hope. 😃

  2. I had spiced buns for breakfast! I usually manage to give some of my baking to friends as part of our “barter” system – baking, vegetables and preserves in return for eggs.
    Yesterday there were over 400 swans loafing around on the lochs waiting for the weather to change. Fortunately the wind has dropped, so I’m hoping to see lots of swans heading north.

  3. They look amazing. My Mum is sending me hot-cross-buns in the post, but I really should follow your example and bake some. Trouble is, my gardening to-do list is astonishingly long and quite urgent, and we do happen to have very good gardening weather (it was over 20 degrees C here today), so baking might have to wait till the weather turns. I hope you get a few warm days even if spring won’t properly arrive until May.

  4. I wasn’t ambitious enough to try adding the cross! Baking normally signals an impending out-break of “cabin fever”. Fortunately the wind has dropped sufficiently for us to get out, we have a little sunshine, but the temperatures are still frigid!

  5. They look delicious!
    My first lot of Hot Cross Buns, the first year I’ve tried it too, went in the bin. Inedible. Undeterred I tried again and the second batch was OK. Mine had chocolate bits in, quite a challenge to incorporate without them melting during all the rising and knocking back. I do often make bread, the cheat’s way, in a machine. So I’m thinking about how I can adapt the recipe to make it work that way, at least as far as getting a kneaded dough.

  6. I enjoyed reading your mixed bag of a post, Christine, and am glad you decided to push Himself aside and give yeast baking another try and are enjoying the results. The recipe I use for hot cross buns mixes the fruit in before the liquid is added and there weren’t too many raisins on the floor by the time I had finished kneading – but I remember my recipe for stollen has a seemingly impossible amount of fruit added after first proving!

  7. I’m not sure I’m ready for chocolate bits, but I will have another go. I think the dough hook in the food mixer is the solution to my lack of confidence with kneading. We’re forecast another miserable week of weather, so it could be a baking extravaganza – not good for my waistline!

  8. Thank you for confirming that it is better to add the fruit before the liquid! This is not the first of my baking “mishaps” – who could forget the “Revenge of the Gingergbread Men” and the Christmas Kringle?

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