choc-chai cross buns
Every Easter weekend, since time immemorial (or so it seems to the Carey kids), Koji’s family has held an Easter Egg hunt. Mum always hid them in obvious places – along the edge of a shelf, at the base of a pot plant. Dad, however, would be a little bit more conniving.
We’ve found eggs scattered around their home as late as August, wrestled from the underside of an upturned mug, behind a whiskey bottle on the top shelf. Wedged in between the base of the sofa and the rug. Squashed in between the inner lining and the covering of a cushion.
This will be our first Easter without him.
I’ve not always held my cards so close to my chest on this blog, so perhaps that last sentence might have been a bit of a surprise to some of you. And maybe it’s because it’s so hard to quantify the loss.
My late grandfather and I had so much time – and while I was so desperately saddened at his passing, I knew that he’d done what he came for, that he had lived his life to the fullest and that time had simply run its course.
But what do you say about the father-in-law you almost had? About a man who was as much family as anyone could ever be? Almost seven and a half months later, I’m still at a loss.
And I still miss him, every day.
This Friday, the Lees, ex-Lees and soon-to-be-ex-Lees will be gathering at my parents’ place for chicken laksa, pork rolls wrapped in bean curd skin and a chocolate bunny hunt.
Each of us has bought a chocolate bunny of our own choosing – “No crappy ones, please!” said Bean – and a hiding spot in mind. We’ll gather upstairs and, one by one, have 30 seconds to hide our bunny somewhere in the maze below. When the last bunny is hidden and everyone is ready, there’ll be a thundering of feet down the stairs as the hunt begins!
We’re only allowed to keep one chocolate bunny each, so we hunt wisely. I’ve heard rumors that someone is bringing a bunny with popping candy in it(!) so will likely be finding (and re-hiding) any other potential prizes I see in my search for it. Or maybe I’ll just grab whatever I can find… anything to avoid being that poor, last person who still hasn’t found a bunny and is forced to keep the hunt up while everyone else laughs at them through mouthfuls of chocolate.
On Sunday, we’ll be back at the Careys’ for too much food (roast lamb? Shall we?) and the annual egg hunt.
There may not be as many impossible-to-find eggs this year, but there are a few things that are certain. Koji will end up eating my entire stash, as well as his own, before we get home that night. Lisa will pretend she hasn’t found any and trick mum into showing her where the caramel ones are hidden. Lisa will also probably steal eggs from my stash in the course of the game should I leave them unattended for even a second.
“I found them!” she’ll yell, holding my bag in the air.
“They’re mine! Give them back!”
“I found them in a bag on the coffee table! Now they’re minnneeee!”
And in amongst the chaos, Emma will hunt like a mad thing – pushing people out of the way, diving past your nose to grab the egg your hand was reaching for, telling Lisa that she, in fact, won because caramel eggs are worth two normal eggs so she has the most and the best.
And so, after all of that, this year’s recipe for hot cross buns.
Chocolate chipped and chai tea spiced. Best eaten warm from the oven or split and toasted with a good glob of butter between the halves.
I bundled them up to give to family, and to a neighbour whose kids go mad for them, but not before savouring one or two myself. Still in pyjamas, face unwashed and hair unbrushed. Wearing Koji’s jumper even though I have one almost exactly the same.
Because life isn’t always picture perfect, but somehow, even in the darkest moments, there is always room for joy.
Happy Easter everyone xx
- 400ml milk
- 120g butter
- 8 cardamom pods
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 star anise
- 6 cloves
- 2 black tea bags
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 750g plain flour
- ½ C caster sugar
- 14g instant yeast
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- ½ C chocolate chips
- 2 black tea bags
- 100g sugar
- Put the milk, butter, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, star anise, cloves and tea bags into a small saucepan and put it over a low heat, stirring occasionally so that all of the tea and spices brew into a luscious, buttery, chai tea. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put the cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, flour, sugar and yeast into a large mixing bowl. Zest the orange and lemon directly into the mixing bowl. Now stir everything in the bowl together so that it is evenly dispersed.
- Strain the milk so that the tea bag and whole spices have been taken out. When the milk is cool enough to touch without burning your finger, pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture, add the egg and stir well to combine.
- Knead the dough well using a stand mixer with a dough hook, or your hands, until it is smooth and elastic. When the dough is shiny and bouncing back, roll it out into a large rectangle, scatter the chocolate chips on top and then roll it up into a log so that there's layers of chocolate chips in the log. Bring it together into a round circular shape then knead it for another couple of minutes to bring the dough back together.
- Oil a large bowl and pop the dough into it. Cover with cling film and leave it to rise for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- When the dough has completed its first rise, pull it out of the bowl and give it a bit of a punch about to knock the air out of it. DIvide the dough into 20 smaller portions. Roll each portion well between your palm and the benchtop so that there are no visible seams and then position it on a lined baking tray. Repeat until you all 20 portions are rolled out.
- Pop a tea towel over the dough balls and leave them for a further 45 minutes to rise again.
- While the balls are rising, pre-heat the oven to 200C.
- If you would like to pipe crosses, mix an equal amount (in volume) of water and flour to create a thick paste - it should be the consistency of peanut butter - adding more water to make it runnier, or more flour to make it thicker. Pipe the crosses across the buns using a piping bag with a cut off tip.
- Bake the buns for 20 minutes, checking on them towards the end to make sure they do not burn.
- While the buns are baking, add 100g sugar and two black tea bags to 3 tbsp water in a small saucepan and let it bubble away until all of the sugar is dissolved. Set it aside to cool slightly.
- When then buns come out of the oven, brush the sugar syrup over the top immediately, making sure each bun has been glazed. Leave it for a couple of minutes and then repeat with another layer of the glaze before they're ready to eat!