Friday, 2 April 2010

This is not just a M&S ad...

No, I haven't gone mental.
I've been gone back and forth several times, thank you.
To me there is absolutely no contradiction between slashing Easter in one post, just to have it followed by a post about a traditional Easter recipe.
Yes, it's an English traditional food, but, unknown as it is in Italy, I could have baked it any other time of the year (well, winter times, I hope to go back to that nice habit of mine of not using the kitchen oven for at least 5 months!).

Some nights ago, instead of sleeping, I was wasting time on the net (I checked on the dictionary and I fear the verb "cazzeggiare" belongs to the untranslatable words). I don't remember what I was looking for, perhaps a promo for a movie? a re-run of Report (my favourite Italian tv show)? or that insane double interview "Le Iene" did with the Bergamasco Bros?
I can't recall what, but somehow I click on the wrong link and the video that started had an ads at the beginning.

An M&S ad, the new one just released for Easter.
I was a bit ehm, surprised... 
What the f**k happened to their food porn!?!?!
The slow motion of the chocolate dripping down, Samba pa ti, the voice over stating that this is not just an high in salt, sugar and E-numbers Indian ready meal that tastes more or less like an high in salt, sugar and E-numbers Italian ready meal, oh no, you nasty boy! This is an M&S high in salt, sugar, etc. etc.
I was so puzzled by the new "just because" line that I thought it was a spoof.

I found the M&S Food (Porn) ads quite annoying when they were broadcast, and I still do, but it made me remember that it's been ages I wanted to try some English recipes.
When I left Nokia, I got not one, but two books on English food. A gentle reminder from friends and colleagues in case I missed UK too much perhaps? 
Both books have quite nice photos.
One of them, "British Food", sports asparagus with mayo as a traditional recipe and states that vegetable stock is a traditional British food.
The second book is by James Martin, "Easy British Food": unintentionally, when I opened it for the first time, in front of my colleagues, I landed on the page of pizza margherita.
The page starts very well: "The pizza may not be traditionally british". May??!!?? Of course, eveybody knows it was invented by Americans! but it's one of his favourite thing to eat. 
Moreover, as it's something I like to have with friends, I don't think 3 garlic gloves, peeled and finely chopped, are something advisable for pizza to share during a night in with friends.

Anyway, both of the books had a recipe for hot-cross buns. I never had a hot cross bun in UK, but always been curious about them. As many of the item advertised with food porn ads, the sad reality of the high street hot cross bun is, well, sad. I remember going to the M&S Food in Surbiton, looking at the display and thinking they didn't match the ad visually, so probably wouldn't taste that nice either (maybe I'm wrong, who knows?).

So, today I had the perfect chance to try to bake them. I'm going to meet Nonna Nara (she's the granny of my best friend Francesca) tomorrow, so I've been thinking what to bring her a present. She hasn't been 100% well, but she still can enjoy cake(s) over tea. 
So I put the 2 recipes together, add a 3rd recipe from James Martin taken from BBC website and changed some bits and pieces on the way.
At the end that's what came out of the oven:

hot cross buns

These are not just M&S hot cross buns, these are Virgi's hot cross buns!

Ingredients (makes 18):
For the basic dough
450 gr flour
1 tsp nutmeg
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
25 gr fresh yeast
150 milk
boiling water
55 gr sugar
80 gr butter
1 egg + 1 for brushing
90 gr raisins
50 gr candied peel

For the cross paste:
5 tbsp icing sugar
150 gr flour
10 gr ground almond

For the bun wash:
70 gr sugar
7 tbsp water

Mix 330 gr of flour with the spices, the sugar and the salt in one bowl.
Crumble the fresh yeast into another bowl and add 1 tsp of sugar and the remaining flour.
Pour the milk into a jug and make up to 250 ml adding boiling water. Using a wooden spoon mix the liquid with the yeast mix. Leave it to rise for 30 mins.

Rub the butter in the flour mix, form a well and put in the egg and the frothy yeast mix. Mix with the wooden spoon for a while, then knead it for 10 minutes on a floured surface, adding more flour if required.
When the dough is smooth enough, place it in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth and leave it raise for at least 1 hour (I left it 2 hrs).
Meanwhile, leave the raisins in a mix of warm water and rhum.
Once the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down, add the drained raisins and candied peels.

Divide the dough in 18 small balls and shape them into buns. Leave them to raise, covered with a cloth, for 30 minutes.
To make the paste, mix the ingredients with water, until smooth and compact enough.

Preheat the oven at 220°C.
Brush the buns with a beaten egg. Put the paste into a pipe and form a cross on each bun.

Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes. Once baked, take them straight out of the oven and brush them with a syrup made by boiling the sugar and water together.

And here they are, out of the oven, just in time for my dad 4 o'clock snack! I'm not sure how close my results is to the traditional recipe, but the result was quite good. My mum, that simply hates anything with cinnamon in it, did like it enough to have a second one after dinner. It's quite a huge compliment coming from her!
buns & stripes

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