I’m going to come right out and say it; Easter annoys me. There are a few reasons for this. I know I've gone on about Easter before,; but I just cannot get my head round the sequence of events. Which day did Jesus do what? Was it bad Mary, good Mary or some other Mary at the foot of the Cross? And when are we allowed to eat our eggs?
I also get annoyed with Easter’s caprices. Why can’t there be a fixed date for Easter? All this drifting around the calendar plays havoc with my holiday planning (not to mention my blog cooking) and smacks of spoilt princess,
‘Look at me! I’m not fixed like Christmas, no I’m Easter, I shall do as I please and you will just have to fit in. And I now magnanimously declare Lent to be over; you may go ahead and eat chocolate/drink beer/bathe in champagne/etc'. Yes, Easter puts me in a bad mood.
Then there’s the whole Easter food thing. I’d never heard of a meringue nest until I met my Mother-in-Law; has my family been doing it wrong all these years? If Hot Cross Buns are for Good Friday (apparently), how come Sainsbury’s are selling them just as soon as they’ve cleared the shelves of Valentine’s stuff? The significance of the gold bunnies escapes me, and egg blowing? I have five words for you: Four kids, egg allergy, mess. It’s just not going to happen under my roof.
Then there’s the chocolate. I’ll let you into a little secret; people don’t mistake me for Kate Moss. My legs would give one of the taller Seven Dwarves a run for their money, and in a dim light you might mistake me for a Comice pear. The bulges from Christmas have barely diminished before, Behold! Here’s the Easter Bunny dressed in Green and Black. You know if she wore Cadbury one season I might not be that fussed, but Green and Black? I’ve got her clothes off quicker than you can say ‘chocolate orgasm’.
So, Easter arrives, and bang go the vestiges of my self control. In addition, the children are suddenly besieged with chocolate offerings. When the big day arrives there are four children rejoicing in the chocolate from heaven. Of course that’s very sweet, I like watching them happy, and I bought most of the chocolate anyway. Yet when the rejoicing has abated, the problems kick in.
As any good Mother would, on Easter Day (that's when you're supposed to eat them, right?) I allow them chocolate before breakfast, possibly some at lunch and a bit at tea. Then I – and the children – realise that we still have enough chocolate left to melt down and create our very own Niagara. They will be eating chocolate for weeks to come. They will be asking every single day, at least three times a day, for their Easter chocolate. What have I done?
They know they can wear me down. They approach me when I am thoroughly distracted; on the phone or sending a text. Or when I am immersed deep in a blissful bath. They come in their hordes and ask for chocolate.
‘I can get it Mummy, I know where you’ve hidden it’ says the eldest helpfully. Sometimes I give in. Sometimes I don’t, and then all the door-slamming, whining, tantruming powers of four children going chocolate cold turkey are unleashed upon me. It is a terrifying position to be in.
However, I have resolved that this year, it’s going to be different. They will receive their chocolate as usual, and then I am going to indulge in a little free fall parenting; I am going to let them decide for themselves how best to dispose of their chocolate. I shall give a brief lecture on the perils of over-indulgence, and will kindly but firmly insist they are responsbile for cleaning up their own chocolate-induced vomit. I shall ask them to stash their chocolate in a mouse-proof receptacle, and to please not eat in bed. Lastly I shall insist that if they are going to gorge themselves ten minutes before I serve a healthy tea; they must not tell me. I am going with the ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ approach.
I reckon their Easter stash is going to last three days, tops. It will all be over and done with in a sickly flash and I won’t have protracted chocolate negotiations that last well into July. I’m feeling quietly smug about this plan. I’m also feeling rather smug about my Hot Cross Buns. I give you my full permission to eat them whenever the hell you want and Easter be damned. Hmmm, I do hope I’m not storing up godly wrath for judgement day with that last remark. Maybe I could bribe my way past St Pete with a plateful of steaming buns?
Hot Cross Buns (Makes 6/7 buns)
If you are scrabbling around for decent allergy chocolate; help is at hand. The chocolate eggs in the picture are Whizzers' Speckled Eggs (no dairy, no wheat, no gluten) and should be available from all good healthfood shops. Failing that, they are available from Goodness Direct, or the super Dietary Needs Direct, who have also got lots of other fab, Eastery, chocolatey type products available. Get shopping!
For the buns:
150g cornflour / cornstarch
100g brown rice flour
1.5tsp dried yeast
0.5 tsp xanthan gum
0.5 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice
0.25tsp ground cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon (perhaps a bit less according to taste)
zest of 1 orange (ditto)
50g dairy free spread
225ml tepid water
For the Cross (optional)
4tbsps brown rice flour
a pinch of xanthan gum
enough water to make an iceable paste (approx 60ml?)
For the glaze (again, optional)
3-4 tbsps golden syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking parchment
- In a large mixing bowl place the flours, yeast, xanthan gum, spices, sugar, salt and grated zest of the orange and lemon. Mix around with a mini whisk
- Now to adding the water. Start by adding 180ml or so, mix it in a bit, then gradually add the rest. The mix should have the consistency of a cake mix. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix until the water is incorporated. Then beat like mad until the dairy free spread has blended in, and any lumps in the flour have gone. Any stubborn lumps can be squidged between your (clean) fingers
- Add the raisins, and stir them in. Scrape any mix down from the sides of the bowl, then place the bowl in a warm place and leave for approximately 10 minutes. The mix will not really grow, it sort of bulks up a bit
- Whilst the dough is proving, make the paste for the cross (if using). Put the flours, sugar and xanthan gum into a small bowl, and gradually add water - whilst whisking - until you have a smooth paste you can pipe onto your rolls
- There goes the timer, so carefully place large spoonfuls of the dough mix onto the baking tray. Try and give your rolls as much height as possible by sort of folding the dough back onto itself as it drops off the spoon. Yes, that's very clear isn't it? Well I thought it was fairly clear, but do ask for clarification if you have no idea what I mean
- When you have your rolls lined up on your baking tray, dollop your cross paste into an icing bag and pipe a cross onto the buns, don't press down on the buns, we want to keep them enhanced; think Jordan rather than Victoria
- Leave the buns to prove in a warm place for another five minutes, then place them into the oven
- Check them anxiously after about 10 minutes, then leave them for another 5 minutes or so until the tops are golden brown, and they sound hollow when tapped on the base
- Remove the baking tray from the oven
- If you're going down the glazed route (be warned, it does make the buns very sticky, but is most delicious if you gobble up a bun when it's still warm and the syrup dribbles over your lips leaving them sticky and shiny), briefly warm the golden syrup and brush it over the surface of your buns
- Transfer the buns to a cooling rack and leave to cool
- They are good warm with dairy free spread and jam, they are also good toasted. My lovely son proudly told me today - as I handed him an allergy friendly hot cross bun - that he made hot cross buns with egg and milk at school. 'But I might like yours more Mum' he added. He then boomed 'Delicious!' when he'd finished. The way to a small boy's heart is definitely through his tummy