Friday, April 22, 2011

Frohe Ostern!

Well, well, well, if Berlin didn't suddenly decide it's Spring! This week's weather has been superb – stockings and coat banished, summer dresses and sandals donned; I don't even feel insecure about my casper tan, because everyone's in the same boat! Well, apart from those Germans that feel the need to be tan all year round – yes old buff dude at my gym who looks a lot like Gianni Versace, I'm lookin' at you! 

Anyway, Easter seems to be quite the celebrated affair over here in Germany. Supermarkets and department stores have cleared way for all manners of Easter paraphernalia, from the usual Lindt bunnies, to the more obscure fake grass in which to line Easter baskets. Oh yes, you don't just get one measly little Easter egg over here in Germany, land of the carb, you get a whole BASKET: “The Easter Basket ritual has its origins in the German folklore of the Easter Hare. According to a German legend, a white hare would leave Easter baskets filled with candies, brightly coloured eggs and other goodies for kids to gorge on Easter morning.”

Like Christmas, Germans like to get all 'O Tannenbaum' at Easter too, and decorate trees with brightly coloured eggs, hanging from equally colourful ribbons. The effect is festive, and the eggs come in all manner of decoration – Faberge, decoupage and dyed. 

I mentioned earlier that people gift baskets of eggs. Well, these aren't any old Cadbury mini eggs. At our nearest department store, an entire wall of the first floor has been cleared to make way for chocolate. Lindt's presence in Germany is large; at Christmas and Easter – and particularly the latter – it is huge. Lindt bunnies in several sizes and types of chocolate are frozen, huddling on shelves, watched by the Grand Master Lindt bunny, poised above them all, with a bell the size of my head.

Pralines, truffles, marzipan and more marzipan, Lindt chocolates in all Easter-related shapes and sizes, packaged in tins and bags and squeaky plastic cellophane. Would you like strawberry-centered Niederegger mini eggs or a white chocolate Ladybug (a sign of spring)? For a chocolate lover, the sight was slightly overwhelming. I grabbed my over-sized Kinder Surprises (known as the same name in German – Kinder Uberraschung) paid, and bolted for the door, before I could trigger the addict in me who was dying to tear at emerald green and rose pink foil. 

Not quite THIS big, but still pretty big!

With such festivity surrounding my favourite holiday (do I have to explain this? The one holiday I can legitimately eat chocolate for four days straight) I couldn't shake the feeling that something was missing. If I'm honest with you, the feeling had been around since late February, and usually happened around breakfast time.

Then the one-a-penny, two-a-penny dropped. Hot Cross Buns.

Subliminally, I had been missing them, but my conscious mind failed to catch up until a week or so ago. Good thing for my waist line! With an abundance of time on my hands, I set about researching a recipe that didn't look too scary. The rest is history – very delicious history!

Recipe from with additions by me

Makes 16 buns

1 1/2 cups (375ml) warm milk
2 tsp (1 sachet/7g) dried yeast
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
60g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly whisked
4 cups (600g) plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbs mixed spice

1/4 cup (40g) plain flour, extra 
2 tbs water
2 tbs caster sugar 
2 tbs water

Combine the milk, yeast and 1 tbs of the sugar in a jug. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until frothy (I turn the oven on and leave the jug on the stove top).

Add the butter and egg to the mixture and whisk to combine. Place the flour, sugar, salt and mixed spice in a large bowl and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre. Pour the milk mixture into the well and use wooden spoon to stir until just combined, then use your hands to bring the dough together.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size. 

Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease a 23cm square cake pan. Punch the dough down with your fist. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 16 even portions and shape each portion into a ball. Arrange dough portions, side by side, in the prepared pan. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until dough has risen 2cm. 

Combine the water and extra flour in a small bowl until a smooth paste forms. Place in a small plastic bag and snip off the end. Pipe a continuous line down the centre of each row of buns, lengthways and crossways, to form crosses. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180°C and bake for a further 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through (buns are ready when they sound hollow when tapped on the top).

Turn onto a wire rack. Place the sugar in a small saucepan over high heat with two tablespoons water. Cook, stirring, for several minutes until the mixture becomes a syrupy consistency. Using a pastry brush, paint cooled buns with mixture to create glossy buns. 


Xo Fifi von Strudel

P.S. You wouldn't believe how hard it was to find Mixed Spice in this country!

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