On the 23rd of June is a midsummer celebration called Sankt Hans/Midsummer’s Eve where the Danes have huge bonfires to both celebrate the balmy summer evenings and to remember all of the women who were burned back in the witch hunting days. Often they will even have a little scare-crow-esque “witch” figure on fire too. Early in the evening we had seen one being set up, and a BBQ just near home. The intention was to go by later in the evening when the celebration started, but time got away on us. Easily done in the north at the moment, as the sun doesn’t really go down until after midnight, so it is easy to think it isn’t late yet! Around 10pm we went for a drive and saw the embers of the fire, everyone having cleared out as it was actually a night more typical of a Danish summer: cold, drizzly and grey. We carried on driving to Horsens, where there was a fire on a raft in the middle of the lake, and even a band and bar
I woke up this morning to a drizzly view out the window, and a fine realisation that it was Good Friday, everyone was home and I had absolutely no plans. And with that I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to make hot cross buns. I’ve never actually made them myself, but last time I was at home for Easter mum made a tonne of them, and the weather was exactly like today. A perfect day to stay inside all day, bake and be nostalgic!
The first hurdle, however, was whether or not we had all the ingredients in the cupboard for a somewhat ambitious impromptu baking session. After a few different translation attemps it was established we didn’t have any raisins in the house, and the look of horror on my host mother’s face at the thought of getting the kids to eat them lead to a quick change in plans. Inspired by good old Quality Bakers (even though home made hot cross buns are in a delicious league of their own) and I whipped up some child-friendly hot cross buns. So here’s my version of the traditional Good Friday treat. I must say, I felt awful grown up preferring raisins to chocolate, but although hot cross buns have had quite the contentious history themselves*, they’ve always been difficult to introduce to kids, so the compromise version was fine by me!
While some might consider the method laborious, I think it is ideal for a relaxing day off, and slowly making them over the course of the day is a great way to enjoy being inside with the family, or motivate myself to study with scheduled breaks in the hot cross bun process! Perhaps it was festivity and familiarity, but they smelled amazing, even the dough. also enjoyed the lovely baking soundtrack that was Hungry Kids of Hungary while I made them. So here’s my version of the recipe:
- 1 cup (240 ml) milk
- 7 grams active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 500g all purpose flour
- 55 grams light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 70 grams butter, melted
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 C chopped dark chocolate
In a small saucepan, heat the milk using a very low heat until lukewarm. Add the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and stir to combine. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.
Combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Once the yeast is foamy, gradually add to the flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the melted butter and egg and beat until incorporated. At this point I really would have liked to have had my mother’s Kenwood Cake mixer, which is older than me and wouldn’t surprise me if it had its own specific mention in the will, but alas, some intense elbow grease was applied.
Gradually add the chocolate peices and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Add more flour if it is sticky, until it makes a good dough-y consistency.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning the dough once, so the top is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap or a teatowell and place in a warm spot to rise until it has almost doubled in size (about 1 1/2 – 2 hours).
When the dough has doubled in size, gently punch it down to release the air, and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a small round ball and place on a tray lined with baking paper. The buns should be spaced so they have enough room to double in size. Brush with a glaze made of one beaten egg mixed with 1 tablesoon of milk. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot until they have almost doubled in size (about 60 minutes).
While they are rising, mix up the “crosses” by combining 1/2 cup plain flour and 4 to 5 tablespoons water. Pour in to either a piping bag, or snip the corner off a snaplock bag.
Preheat oven to 205 degrees C. Brush the tops of the buns with the glaze again cut a ‘cross’ in the top of each bun. Pipe a cross in to the gap on each bun and pop in to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the buns are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.
Makes 12 delicious buns.
*Hot Cross buns were at one stage banned in Protestent England as they were thought to be propogating a few too many Catholic values, but Queen Elizabeth passed a specific law allowing bakeries to sell them at Easter and Christmas. Good to see deliciousness took precedence over politics.
One of the great things about being an exchange student is that you are surrounded by people from all different countries who are in the same boat as you – being in a brand new country and not knowing anyone. Which of course makes for instant friendships. It also means that you have to celebrate every single public holiday/festival in the world.
Our first such celebration was La Chandaleur, also known as Crepe day in English. It is usually celebrated 40 days after Christmas. About half of the exchange students are French-speaking (from France, Belgium, Canada) so it was only fitting we celebrate a French holiday first!
Initially, we were informed that it is a day early in February, this year falling on the 2nd, where everyone eats Crepes. Naturally, those of use who had never heard of it asked why it is celebrated, which drew a number of blanks. After consulting with Wikipedia we learned it was a religious holiday, celebrating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is typically celebrated with a feast and in France, which means Crepes!