Cocoa. Chai. Hot Cross Buns.
Three of my favourite things, all wrapped up in one.
Actually, it’s four things: I love kneading dough.
With the Easter holidays, I’m finally getting some time to breath. Time to sit down at home in my pyjamas and write half a novel. Time to make myself six mugs of tea (each one a different flavour) throughout the day. Time to go below the river to spend some time with the Cookie Monster. Time to wear my yoga clothes all day if I like and jump into a handstand at random, and wear pretty dresses and red lipstick. Time to work on my assignments with a focused mind. Things have been beyond crazy — only 7 weeks of classes before we graduate, OMG — and I was feeling myself slipping. I couldn’t finish books on time, I forgot to print assignments and bring them to class, I felt frazzled, panicky, exhausted all the time.
Bread has a funny way of keeping you sane. It may appear cumbersome at first — sticky dough clinging to the crevices between your fingers, somehow getting stuck in your hair, and flour all over the kitchen, argh! — but trust in the magic of baking bread. It works, I promise you. Feel the soft, elastic dough hugging your palms, your wrists as you roll it first left, then right, then left, then right. The repetition is like a nursery rhyme: so simple, you’ll remember it in seconds. University, work, rent, traffic — it all disappears in the soul-soothing kneading of bread. Wrap yourself in a comfy ‘weekend’ jumper and read your favourite novel while the bread bakes. The smell wafting through your home will always bring you back to a safe place, a simpler time.
I’m a self-confessed nostalgic sap, and a big, big lover of baking bread. I don’t do it often enough, but I just might start the habit with these buns.
Another one inspired by the latest issue of Jamie Oliver magazine, which we all know is my favourite magazine in the universe.
*I know applesauce might sound like a really weird substitute for traditional egg glaze, but trust me, it works, and the buns don’t even taste of applesauce afterwards. Pinky swear.
*If you don’t have chai tea on hand, just use a tsp of mixed spices (cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)
Prep time: 15 minutes + 1 hour and 45 mins proving
Baking time: 20-22 mins
250ml soya milk
50g vegan margarine, melted
500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp cinnamon
75g brown or caster sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp chai tea leaves (ground)
14g dry active yeast
a pinch of salt
50g plain flour
3 tbsp agave syrup
1 tbsp apple sauce
a pinch of stevia (or just more agave)
Warm the milk and the margarine in a small pan over medium heat until the margarine has melted. Set aside.
In a large bowl, place the flour, cinnamon, yeast, cocoa powder and sugar, along with the salt. Use a mixer to start combining the dry ingredients, then slowly pour the warm milk and melted margarine while the standing mixer does its job. Let the standing mixer work the dough for 5 minutes, then lightly flour a clean surface and knead with your hands for another 5 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.
Cover the ball of dough with a clean cloth and let it rest in a warm place for an hour, until it’s doubled in size.
Line 2 baking tins with baking parchment. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, knock it back by kneading for another 2 minutes. Cut the dough in half, roll each half into a sausage shape and cut each ‘sausage’ into 6 parts. Roll the 12 pieces into small balls, then place them in the baking tins and leave them to rise for another 45 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk 50g plain flour and 3 tbsp agave syrup until you obtain a thick paste. If it’s too thick, add a little more agave or a tiny bit of water. Using a piping bag with a small nozzle, draw a cross over each bun.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180ºC for 20-22 minutes.
Let the buns cool for 10-15 minutes.
Whisk the apple sauce with a pinch of stevia or a tsp of agave syrup and brush over the top of the buns.
Serve with hot cocoa, tea or coffee 🙂 These are also delicious sliced in half with a few banana slices sandwiched in the middle.