Thursday, March 20, 2008

Annual Bunfest

Bank Holiday weekends. Don't you just love them? A free day off, and in the case of Easter, two! I get uncharacteristically excited by the prospect of this annual four day weekend, which somehow manages to avoid all the intense pressures and emotional minefields that inevitably punctuate the Christmas break. Perhaps because we are all full of the joys of Spring, spurred on by the presence of daffodils and blossoms on trees, and more importantly, fuelled by chocolate (which surely must have a positive effect on the collective endorphins?) that it seems to be an altogether jollier affair. This weekend I shall be taking the opportunity to go out dancing several nights in a row, safe in the knowledge that there will be no shortage of compensatory sleep-time available. I also have to make a start on my final photography project, the subject of which being People at Play, so am hoping that tonight's Super Hair party and tomorrow's Piratefest will provide plenty of suitable subject material.

Of course no Easter weekend would be complete without the obligatory gastronomical over-indulgence, of both the solid and liquid variety. It's a custom amongst my clan to spend most of Good Friday eating Hot Cross Buns - freshly baked of course, none of your lame shop-bought imitations (the worst possible example of which amusingly bemoaned here by Alien Spouse), heaven forfend. There's nothing like the smell of rising dough wafting through the family home to warm the cockles - the anticipation of that first warm buttery bite (real butter of course, no margarine for me please), the softly spiced aroma teasing the senses, until finally the first batch of buns arrive on the table, only to be snatched up in an instant by eager hands and salivating mouths.

Mother's buns are truly superior to any others I've sampled - traditional and simple, they tick all the boxes without over egging the pudding. I prefer her little pastry crosses to the doughy ones you usually find on commercial versions - the contrast in texture between soft bun and crumbly pastry really hits the spot, and is what makes Mum's buns extra special. Having said that, I'm not averse to experimenting with convention and can't seem to shake the notion of marzipan crosses from my culinarily inquisitive mind.

The idea first occurred to me when Mum announced that she wouldn't be making a Simnel cake this year, and we all agreed that the thing we'd miss most about it would be the little toasted marzipan balls on top. So I naturally started pondering how else these almondy treats could be incorporated into the Easter festivities, and was soon researching the feasibility of marzipan-topped buns. Turns out I'm not the first one to come up with this concept, in fact an article in this week's Times suggested marzipan as a common alternative to dough for cross-making. So why, in a family where marzipan is the ultimate comfort food, more often than not eaten by the block, have we never thought of this before? Not wanting to rock the boat of family tradition, I've floated the notion past my mother via text message, saying simply: "Marzipan Hot Cross Buns - heresy or genius?". I'm really hoping she agrees the latter.

Photo of Hot Cross Buns courtesy of Joellybaby at Flickr.
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