It's a nice feeling to know that you have found your happy place. To feel secure and sane in your own mind and deep within your belly. To find a place that grounds you. To have a positive point of direction. To know that you are no longer a stumbling act of lost, but a confident, purposeful and functional being. To know who you really are, what you like and don't like, the way you would prefer to spend your day and the people you like to surround yourself with. How much milk you like in your tea, the type of music you like best on road trips, your favorite place to hide for quiet time. And, to know that finally, your working days are spent doing something that invigorates you.
There aren't many food products that I miss from home. I was never really into Vegemite and meat pies from the bakery have never really turned me on. But hot cross buns at Easter time, those I miss. Actually, hot cross buns anytime, I miss. I usually take every advantage of the Easter season arriving early in the supermarket. It means weeks, sometimes months of Eating as many hot cross buns as I can get my hands on. My Mum is a bit of a stickler for making sure that I only eat them on Good Friday. Not that either of us are religious, but I think it is just a tradition that she remembers from being a kid. Too bad mum. Hot cross buns have happened -- and it's not even Thursday yet.
Knowing that I can't find these sweet, fruited, warmed up, buttery buns in the shops in Jacksonville, (well not in the traditional sense anyway), hasn't disappointed me. Instead, it made my toes wriggle with excitement. It meant that I had the excuse to spend an entire afternoon sifting, measuring, folding, kneading, kneading, more kneading, rising, piping, baking and finally eating these little beauties, and this to me is pure - time flies by and I forget what day it is - bliss. I love slow food. I love making a recipe from scratch. I don't mind spending extra time in the kitchen which is why I decided that I just had to make my own candied orange peel to put into my hot cross buns. Because I knew that it would make them taste better. Because taking that extra time and putting energy and effort into making nice food makes me happy. Because being in the kitchen is my happy place. And then being behind the camera, photographing what I make in the kitchen, is my other happy place.
I guess Easter is a good time to take note of the importance of being, particularly working, in a happy place. Because for a while there, I wasn't. I was working in an area that didn't make my toes wiggle, or give me wonderful excuses of how to spend my afternoon. Instead, I found myself trying to convince my lungs not have a panic attack before entering into a classroom full of disrespectful teenagers, who I was also trying to convince that I was capable of handling their repulsive behaviour, along with the importance of teaching them basic day to day manners. How does this relate to Easter and hot cross buns? As we all know, Easter is affixed to the triumph of life and to me, life means growth. Growth means change. And during this rather reflective, metaphorical time of year, I am glad for the changes that I have made that have allowed me to be constantly invigorated. I am and so very grateful that I now have a positive and purposeful direction and my working days are filled with far fewer panic attacks and many more hot cross buns. And I thank you, who ever is out there reading this, for allowing me to share my happy place with you.
Here are the recipes - and if you are anything like me, you will have to make it all at least twice for there to be any buns left for the entire Easter weekend...
Hot Cross Buns
prep time: 1 hour 40 (including rising time)
cook time: 20 minutes
total time: 1 hour 50 minutes
yields: 16 buns
750 gm (5 cups) plain flour, sifted
55 gm (¼ cup) caster sugar
2 tsp (14 gm) dried yeast
1 tsp allspice½ tsp cinnamon
250 gm (1½ cups) rasins approx.
60 gm candied orange peel (see recipe below)
rind of one lemon
300 ml milk
100 gm unsalted butter, chopped
55 gm (¼ cup) caster sugar
¼ tsp mixed spice
Combine 700 gm of the flour, sugar, yeast, spices, sultanas, orange peel, lemon rind and 1 tsp sea salt in a bowl. Gently warm milk and butter over a low heat until butter melts and mixture is tepid. Add egg to milk mixture and whisk. Make a well in the centre of flour mixture, add milk mixture and stir. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Knock back dough and cut into 16 equal pieces. Knead each piece into a ball, place in a lightly greased 24cm-square cake pan, cover with a damp tea towel and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 220C / 430F. Combine remaining flour and ¼ cup water and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle. Pipe lines down each row to form crosses. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C / 390F and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden. (They’re ready when they sound hollow when tapped).
For glaze, combine ingredients with ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Brush glaze over hot buns, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Candied Orange Peel
prep time: 20 minutes
cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes
total time: 2 hours 5 minutes
1 large orange
300g / 1 1/2 cups sugar
350 ml / 1 1/2 cups water
Place a medium pot of boiling water on to boil. Meanwhile, carefully cut away the peel from the orange trying to leave behind as much of the white pith as possible. Remove any left over white pith by slicing away with a knife. Cut the peel into long strips, about half a cm (1/4 inch) wide. Place the strips of peel into the boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and drain again.
Bring the sugar and water to boil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add the cooked peel. Return to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the peel is very soft - about 45 minutes. Drain.
Preheat oven to 100°C / 200°F.
Lay the peel on a sheet of foil on a rimmed baking sheet being sure to separate each of the strips. Place in the oven for 1 hour to dry out, checking every 20 minutes to make sure the peel is only drying, not cooking.