Suffice to say, this is not the Easter weekend we were expecting. Lockdown may have taken cookery school classes off the agenda for the foreseeable future, but it has at very least encouraged many of us to spend more time cooking. As someone famous really should have said, nothing calms existential uncertainty quite like baking.
Many UK cookery schools have obviously pressed pause on their activities, but some of the bigger beasts have the resources to pivot to a digital approach, offering online courses and live cook-along sessions. Leiths School of Food and Wine, for example, is doing a fantastic job of keeping calm and carrying on cooking. At 3pm today, for example, Indian chef Angela Malik will be live on the school’s Instagram for a live #CookWithLeiths masala-making session.
With impeccable timing, Leiths have also just published a foolproof recipe for that irresistible Easter staple – hot cross buns – which we have reproduced below. These are, of course, the ultimate Easter comfort food – and we all need as much comfort as we can eat right now…
15g fresh yeast
2tbsp warm water
30g caster sugar
250g strong plain flour
2tsp ground mixed spice (or more to taste)
Extra flour for kneading
1 tbsp chopped mixed peel
Oil for oiling baking sheet
Extra 50ml milk for glazing
Extra 1 tsp caster sugar for glazing
For the crosses:
50g plain flour
Pinch of baking powder
Place the milk in a saucepan, bring it to scalding point, then remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool to body temperature.
Mix the yeast with the warm water and ½ tsp of sugar to create a loose paste. Beat the egg and add it to the yeast.
Sift the flour, spices and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips. Stir in the remaining sugar.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture and two-thirds of the milk. Make sure all the yeast is scraped into the well. Stir with a cutlery knife and then with your fingers, adding enough of the reserved milk to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, using as little extra flour on the work surface as possible.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with lightly oiled clingfilm or a damp tea towel, and place it in a warm place for about an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knock it back for two minutes. Knead in the currants and peel without allowing them to break up the dough too much.
Heat the oven to 200°C/180ºC fan/gas mark 5. Shape the dough into 8 even-sized buns and place on an oiled baking sheet, flattening them slightly with the palm of your hand. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove.
Meanwhile, make a paste to create the crosses. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the 2 tsp oil and enough cold water to make a thick but pipeable paste. When the buns have doubled in size, mix the 50ml milk with the a teaspoon of sugar and brush the buns lightly. Pipe a cross of paste over each one with a ½cm nozzle. Bake for 15 minutes then brush again with sweetened milk and return to the oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown, light for their size and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.