On Saturday, our resident baking master Rob took a group of participants through the delicious process of making Chelsea buns and hot cross buns for our pre-Easter Bread Special: Sugar & Spice baking course… and it has to be said, much as I’m a fan of a range of cuisines from around the world, there’s something about the smell of baking hot cross buns that cannot be beaten (and instantly makes me want to get the kettle on).
Rob started by going through the very many similarities between Chelsea buns and hot cross buns, and indeed celebration breads from around the globe. Then we got cracking with some basic techniques: mixing the dough for both buns followed by a good bit of kneading.
As a bonus, while this was going on, our two amazing volunteers Claire and Eva got stuck into making some sun-dried tomato, olive and rosemary foccaccia bread for our lunch break… so to add to the wonderful smells of cinnamon, mixed spice and orange zest, there was now a delightful olive and rosemary scent in the air (you may have guessed I was hungry at this point!).
Our participants learned how to knead, shape and roll their various breads. It’s little things like how to add fruit to a dough without smooching (yes, that’s a technical term) it into a paste while shaping and kneading that really make the difference. Also a quick lesson in how to get the spice mix just right so that your hot cross buns smell like heaven.
One of the things that I like about Cracking Good Food's bread courses is that, because breads and buns need to sit and rise before going in the oven, there’s time for the group to sit and chat about food over a cup of tea (and, thanks to our volunteers, a big hunk of foccaccia!). We were soon back to our delicious work, learning that the best way to get a perfect golden top and an amazing glaze on our Easter breads is to use Rob’s patented (OK, maybe not actually patented) mix of egg wash, followed by apricot glaze.
It’s always lovely to see people building confidence and skills in working with leavened dough, as it does scare some people off, particularly if you have made a few "Chelsea bricks” in the past (come on, we’ve all done it!). But with a few simple tips, and a good demonstration or two, you can be sure that you’ll have the best buns in town! And here are the results...
Chelsea buns before…