I’m normally completely caught out by Easter. It’s not a holiday that we celebrate as a household, except for revelling in the extra days off work, and so there are no eggs around, chocolate or otherwise (we’ll talk about my egg issues another time). The most I tend to manage is to have a bouquet of fresh daffodils somewhere in the house.
However, this year Easter falls early, around the time of Mr L’s birthday and we’re travelling for the weekend. This has meant it’s been on my mind for a while and I’ve known the dates well in advance. No excuses this time around. I’m not actually that fussed by the idea of chocolate shaped as eggs, but there are two festive treats that I can get behind, hot cross buns and Simnel Cake.
With plenty of time on my hands last week while Mr L was away for work I decided to distract myself from the carnage the cats were causing and get in the kitchen. I planned to have some sort of tasty Easter treat ready for hubby’s arrival home, but was having trouble choosing which to make. I love a good hot cross bun, but can’t resist anything with marzipan in and am on a stealth mission to get Mr L to like it (I’m convinced it’s not almonds he dislikes but the fake almond essence that bakeries insist on using). From this dilemma was bourn a stroke of genius (even if I say so myself!) boozy marzipan hot cross buns. Because why only sneak in marzipan when you can also lace the fruit with alcohol.
The result is a heavier bun, heady with boozy almondy saturation and yet still capable of soaking up all the salted butter you dare it to when toasted. We’ve been enjoying them for three days and they’re still as good as the day I made them, which means you can prepare them in advance of Easter Sunday and enjoy them for breakfast or afternoon tea without having to worry about proving times.
Boozy Marzipan Hot Cross Buns – Makes 12.
For the buns:
100ml Calvados or brandy
230g dried fruit (I like a mix with some peel in and also like dried cranberries)
200ml whole milk
500g strong white flour
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
7g active dried yeast
50g softened unsalted butter
1 large egg at room temperature
120g natural marzipan
zest of one orange
2 tsp mixed spice
For the cross:
75g plain flour
3-6tbsp warm water
First place the dried fruit and calvados or brandy in a small saucepan and warm gently and stir together for around three minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool so the fruit soaks up the alcohol. Grate the marzipan into a freezer proof bowl and pop into the freezer to chill.
Meanwhile, heat the milk to hand temperature. It should be just warm and so when you dip a finger in it just feels warm. Set aside while you mix the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, or that of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, egg and butter. Slowly add the warmed milk whilst stirring together (I like to do this with the dough hook on the mixer with it running on the slowest speed) until you have a sticky dough. Add the fruit and any remaining alcohol, the orange zest, spice and the marzipan and mix to combine slightly. Then tip out onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes until elastic. It will be very sticky so flouring your hands does help.
Place in an oiled bowl and set aside for an hour or until doubled in size. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
When risen turn back out onto your floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces, form these into nice rounds and space out on the baking sheet. Cover with a slightly damp warm cloth and allow to rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F.
Mix up the cross mixture by sifting the flour into a small bowl and gradually adding water until you get a stiff paste that just drops off a spoon. Then scoop the paste into a piping bag and run across the risen buns from both directions to get crosses.
Place the buns in the oven for 20-25mins until risen well and golden brown. If you like at this stage you can glaze the buns with some warmed apricot jam to give them a shine. I did, but only because I happened to have some jam floundering in the fridge that needed using.
Allow to cool as long as you can bear and then serve with lots of salted butter.