I take Easter, and particularly Good Friday, very seriously. It’s not just because of the sheer number of professional commitments I have around Easter (and Good Friday is pretty much the peak of these, as I tend to have a late service on Thursday evening, then help lead the Way of the Cross procession through the city all morning on the Friday, before settling in for an afternoon service somewhere – Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are relaxing by comparison!), or even just about the religious aspect, though this is important to me, too.
In fact, these days I have a personal Good Friday ritual that involves fish and chips and a re-watching of the really good 1971 Jesus Christ Superstar film – because I spend so much of Easter feverishly keeping track of how many more rounds of chant I need to do, or where in the pew sheet I am, or how to make that hymn scan in Italian, or concentrating feverishly on using my voice efficiently so that it actually lasts through four days of epic singing, that there really isn’t much room for personal religious observance. I’m too busy concentrating on doing my job right! And that’s totally fine, but I then need something that will let me stop and contemplate the season, and it turns out that JCSS is great for that. Especially this year, when I’ve spent so much time living in Passion land, between St Matthew, and the readings this week, and listening to the St John Passion sent to me by my pen-friend’s mother.
I just got totally distracted from what I was going to say, which is that for me, Good Friday is also sort of a birthday. I was born on Good Friday in 1976, so I tend to view the entire Easter Weekend as fair game for birthday gatherings, if there is no time on the day itself. And the first thing my mother ate after I was born was a hot cross bun, so I am undoubtedly pre-disposed by the conditions of my birth to take hot cross buns seriously, too!
Anyway, after doing the Hot Cross Bun class at Gewürzhaus, I was consumed with the need to make hot cross buns, repeatedly. And when I saw the recipe for the choc-chip kind (which I actually view as Not Proper Hot Cross Buns, but never mind that), I was immediately seized by the conviction that these needed to be veganised. Of course, I then got totally overwhelmed by singing commitments, but yesterday’s afternoon service, in addition to being long, was also fairly inaudible from the organ loft, and so I found my brain turning to recipe design. As one does. In particular, I could not help thinking that chocolate tahini would make an amazing substitute for all the butter and eggs that one normally finds in hot cross buns. Oh yes, indeed. And since there is at least one vegan in the choir I’m singing with tonight, this is clearly exactly the right time to unleash vegan chocolate hot cross buns on the world!
Happy Easter to you, if you celebrate it. As for me, I’ll be singing…
Your Shopping List (for 24 choc-cross buns)500 ml soy milk or almond milk 100 g chocolate tahini 1 tsp dried orange powder, plus 1 tsp for the crosses (or use finely grated zest from one orange for the bun and leave the crosses plain) 750 g flour, preferably bread flour, plus 9 tbsp for the crosses 50 g cocoa 1 1/2 tsp salt 100 g castor sugar, plus 3 tbsp for the glaze 11 g dry yeast (give or take a gram) 4 1/2 tsp hot cross bun spice mix, which is a combination of cinnamon, ground coriander, ginger and cloves, if you don’t have any to hand, plus a pinch of spice for the glaze 100 g dark chocolate, chopped 100 g dried apricots, chopped 25 g dried cherries chopped
Now what will you do with it?
Combine the soy milk, tahini and orange powder in a small saucepan, and heat to melt the tahini. Not that it melts, really, but you want it soft enough that it stirs into the milk fairly well. Don’t worry if not all of it dissolves, you will deal with it later. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm. Now would be a good time to chop your chocolate and dried fruit and to measure out your other ingredients.
Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, yeast and spices into a large bowl, and stir together. Make a bit of a well in the centre. Pour the milk mixture into this well, and mix everything together until it forms a very sticky dough. Don’t worry – tahini drinks moisture like you wouldn’t believe, so you want it to be sticky now, or it will be too dry later. In fact, my dough wound up a little on the stiff side despite being really mud-pie-ish to start with, so sticky is good!
Add in the fruit and choc chips.
Rub a little oil into your hands, to help them not stick, and attempt to knead the dough. Don’t be tempted to add more flour, really, this dough is going to get less sticky very fast indeed.
If you are exhausted, like me, knead the dough badly for about eight minutes and then give up and set it in an oiled bowl to rise, with a tea towel to cover it. What you should not do is put it in the oven on a ‘keep warm’ setting of 35°C, even with a bowl of water next to it, because this dough wants to dry out. Have I conveyed yet just how much this dough wants to dry out? I do hope so.
Let rise for at least three hours, or until doubled in size – this dough takes much longer to rise than most doughs, because it is heavy from the tahini and soy milk. But it will rise eventually, I promise. Which is rather symbolic in the circumstances, don’t you think?
Once the dough is risen, punch it down, and turn out onto the table. Line a baking tray with baking paper, and divide the dough into twelve portions.
Roll each portion into a ball. Set these about 1cm apart on your prepared tray – you want them to start rising into each other in the oven.
Let the balls sit, covered by a tea towel again, for about 15 minutes, to relax the gluten, because heaven knows there is nothing worse than tense gluten. What does that even mean, anyway? I think, in any case, the purpose of these 15 minutes in normal English is to let the balls start puffing up just a little again.
Make your cross paste! To do this, take 9 tablespoons of flour, 1 teaspoon of orange powder, and 7 tablespoons of water, and mix together to make a thick paste. Put this into a piping bag.
Now is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
Pipe your crosses in long lines across entire rows (they look better this way, and it’s also easier).
If your oven isn’t ready, it’s fine for everything to sit for a while until it is.
Bake the buns for 20 – 25 minutes, or until done – some of the crosses will start getting golden, and if you detach one of the buns, turn it upside down and knock on it, a pixie will come out. OK, that is simply not true. But it will sound a little bit hollow, as if the pixie had been hollowing it out in order to make a special little chocolate-scented pixie home. With a cross on the door indicating that the pixies have caught the plague. Oh God, that’s horrible. Please don’t read that bit. I haven’t had enough sleep, can you tell? I promise the pixies are OK, really. They are happily eating the chocolate chips, and everything is fine. Pixies can’t catch the plague anyway, because they have tame hunting cats that keep all the rats well away from them. And anyway, they and the cats are immune. Honest. The pixies really are fine, and so are the hunting cats, in fact the hunting cats are better than fine, because they really love killing things, and I’m going to stop here before I dig myself any deeper.
While the buns are baking, make the glaze, which is really easy – dissolve 3 tablespoons of sugar in 100 ml boiling water, maybe with a pinch of mixed spice.
Once the buns are cooked, use a pastry brush to brush glaze all over the buns, two or three times each.
Eat hot, or warm, or re-heated, with butter or chocolate tahini, depending on how decadent you are feeling…
These buns are vegan and nut free. They are not low GI, or low fructose, or gluten-free. You might manage to make them low fructose by using spelt flour and replacing the dried fruit with more chocolate, but they will take even longer to rise – spelt is slooooow.
If you don’t have chocolate tahini, you could use regular tahini, add another 25 g of cocoa to the recipe and maybe another 25 g of sugar, too. Or you could use Nutella, at which point you would no longer be nut-free. The fruit is, obviously, optional and you can use whatever you have to hand – I thought apricots and cherries were a nice mix with the chocolate and tahini, but dried cranberries would also be great, and you could also be a bit more traditional and use raisins. Which I, personally, think should be soaked in brandy first. I seriously considered soaking the apricots in cointreau, but Andrew gets testy when I steal all his cointreau for cooking. (To be fair, it was half a bottle last time, so I can see his point).
You don’t have to make this mixture into hot cross buns, of course. You could also make it into a larger sweet loaf. Personally, I’d plait it. Or be even more decadent – roll it out into a big rectangle, spread the rectangle with vegan chocolate ganache or more chocolate tahini, roll it up like a Swiss roll, and have the most evil chocolate bread ever. Even the pixies aren’t going to touch that one, but it would be worth it. This would probably need a cooking time of around 45 minutes.
Really, anything you do with this will be yummy.
I am submitting this to my own Anyone Can Cook Vegetarian Food challenge, with an Easter theme this month. What will your submission be?
Happy Easter to all who celebrate it, and happy long weekend to those who do not!
One year ago: Peperonata topping for Pizza