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March 31, 2009 / City Living (Boston)

Ham, eggs and hot cross buns


Sizzling, splattering, smoking and salty.

Sizzling, splattering, smoking and salty.

I really don’t like ham.  I love bacon and it seems that there are many bacon lovers out there too.  I really enjoy a good prosciutto with some cantaloupe or wrapped around something for an appetizer.  I ate ham and cheese sandwiches almost daily for lunch throughout my pregnancy with my daughter, but I just don’t like ham that’s warm or heated.  When it comes to Easter I love the eggs, I love the sweets, but please don’t make me sit down to an Easter ham.  Luckily, we don’t celebrate Easter ourselves so I can pick and choose which Easter foods I care to bring home and nosh on. 

The egg is a symbolic and central part of the “story” for both Easter and Passover.  I am particular about my eggs.  I like them fresh, cage-free, and organic.  If they’re beautiful that is even better in my book.  I love to learn new ways to prepare eggs, but my favourite way to eat them is slowly scrambled until they are creamy and warm with some fresh chives snipped in.  My uncle Georges makes the best scrambled eggs in a saucepan constantly stirred over low heat.  It is almost a savory custard.

As a child, we occasionally celebrated Easter with friends but it wasn’t a religious Easter.  It was more of an egg hunt, lots of candy, and chocolate kind of Easter.  

For me, Easter and Passover are just a way to signal the early days of spring.  The presence of fiddleheads, and rhubarb at the farm stand, matzoh in the grocery store aisles and hot cross buns in the bakery are all some of the cues that spring is here and warm weather is approaching.  

Tomorrow is the first day of April and I’m thinking about making some hot cross buns with my daughter after school.  Maybe we’ll even get to the butter tarts one day this week.

Hot Cross Bun Recipe
from Classic Canadian Cooking by Elizabeth Baird

1 package active dry yeast (2 tsp.)
1 tsp white sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup minus 1 tbsp. milk, scalded
1 egg, well beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 cup currants (or raisins -I prefer currants)
1/3 cup candied mixed peel (as in lemon, orange, etc.)
1 egg white 
2 drops vanilla
icing sugar

Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp sugar in the water.  Let stand 10 minutes.
Combine the butter and 1/2 cup sugar.  Add the scalded milk.
Add the yeast mixture and the egg to the milk mixture.
Sift together the flour, salt, and spices.  Reserve 2 tbsp to dredge the currants and peel.  Beat the rest into the batter mixture, first using an electric mixer and then, when that becomes too difficult a wooden spoon.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board.
Knead in the raisins and mixed peel and continue kneading for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Form the dough into a ball; place in a greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch the dough down to original size.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board.
Shape the dough into 18 buns and place 2″ apart on a greased baking sheet.  Cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Cut a shallow cross on the top of each bun.  
Beat the egg white until frothy.  Brush lightly on each bun.  Keep the rest of the egg white.  
Bake at 375° for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350° and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer or until the buns are browned and sound hollow when tapped.
Combine the rest of the egg white with the vanilla and enough icing sugar to thicken.  Frost the crosses of the hot buns with this icing.  
Yield: 18 buns. 

 Classic Canadian Cooking: Menus for the Seasons, Elizabeth Baird
James Lorimer & Company, Publishers Toronto 1974


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