Summertime is yawning to a close. The oaks and maples have begun to golden and our ornamental dogwoods shine burnished red in the unseasonably strong sun. The long days we appreciate so much on the farm are receding but regardless there's always work to be done. Our biggest harvest season yet is wrapping up and I must admit I'm looking forward to swapping tomato salad for some braised winter greens.
Over the last few weeks my days (and dreams) have been consumed by tomato picking. Even as I write this I'm thinking about how many kilos I need to pick this afternoon to fill tomorrow's order. When I'm finished my hands are fluorescent green with tomato dust. I feel like a bee covered in pollen. But we're forced to constantly think ahead on the farm and just because one crop is ending doesn't mean we'll get a break. On the weekend we planted over one thousand brassica seedlings by hand on our small market garden farm - a mixture of broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, collards and mustards. To say I was knackered is an understatement, but at least I felt tired in a good way. There's something incredibly rewarding about providing food for people. Thankfully we have good friends who help out. On Good Friday we've organised a working bee in exchange for a delicious lunch.
Easter Sunday will be our day of rest. We'll slow roast a shoulder of lamb and dig up an array of our colourful heirloom carrots, roast them in butter and thyme and drizzle them with local honey. The tender first leaves of our new silverbeet plants will provide a lovely side dish, gently wilted and dressed with olive oil. But being a sweet tooth from way back, my favourite Easter treat is Hot Cross Buns. Oliver and I have tested a number of different recipes over the years and have combined a few to make a recipe that produces buns far better than we could buy. It's an adaptation of a Gourmet Traveller recipe that we love.
200 gm golden raisins or sultanas
65 gm raw caster sugar
14 gm (2 sachets) dried yeast
1½ tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
Finely grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
845 gm plain flour
420 ml milk
100 gm butter, coarsely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp sunflower oil
50 gm caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
Combine golden raisins, sugar, yeast, spices, rinds, 770gm flour and 1 tsp salt in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid or other electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low to incorporate. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter melts, set aside to cool slightly, then add egg and whisk. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes; dough will be quite soft). Place in a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (approximately 1 hour).
Knock back dough, divide into 18 even pieces, then roll each piece into a smooth ball. Arrange dough balls in concentric circles on a large baking tray lined with baking paper, leaving 1 cm between each for dough to expand. Cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (about 30-40 minutes).
Preheat oven to 220 C. Combine remaining flour, sunflower oil and 60ml cold water in a bowl and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven to 200 C and bake until buns are golden and sound hollow when tapped (around 8-10 minutes). Set aside to cool.
For spice glaze, stir sugar, spice and 50ml water in a small saucepan over medium heat to dissolve sugar, bring to the simmer, then set aside to cool. Brush glaze over buns and serve buns warm or at room temperature. Slather with butter, honey or Nutella and be sure to enjoy more than one as they'll never be better than when they first emerge from the oven.
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