Yesterday was parent-teacher evening at school for my daughter Anya who is in year 4. She is doing very well in school – she is so eager to please – but the teacher did raise three points that she should pay attention to.
1. Try to be more confident when sharing your ideas.
2. Stop being distracted.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others – just do your best.
As the teacher mentioned these points, I realised that it’s not just my daughter that needs to pay attention. These just so happen to be my issues as well. Although I don’t think I lack in confidence when sharing ideas, I am definitely a shrinking violet when it comes to being centre stage. In these days of selfies and endless self promotion I would rather hide under a table than swivel the spotlight in my direction. This became very apparent during a recent blog project (I will share more details soon) and it is something I need to work on. Regardless, I would rather have my work speak for me rather than my latest hairstyle – although I greatly admire those bloggers who have created a brand around themselves.
Stop being so distracted. This is probably not a problem unique to me in the age of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook etc. but all these combined are becoming just another way to procrastinate… I admit, I have a problem! It is particularly bad when you work from home as I do. Not sure how to combat this problem – I may have to give myself limited internet time.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Yikes! This may just be my worse trait and it is definitely one that brings nothing but trouble. Striving to be the best can be soul destroying – striving to constantly better yourself is a preferable driving force. I have had to take a look at all my old posts while attempting to transfer the blog over to WordPress (yet another example of my procrastination – this mammoth task should have been completed months ago) and I absolutely cringe when I look at most of the older ones. In reality, I should be happy that there is a definite improvement and progression over time.
But enough introspection – I am sure you are sick of it! And I hope that you have maybe skipped to the recipe part of this post anyway… Hot cross buns may just be the best thing ever – I love them with a passion. But what’s even better is hot cross buns made the tangzhong method. Tangzhong is a starter made with water and flour, literally a water roux. Added to dough it creates a type of bread that is pillowy soft, incredibly delicious and that stays fresh for days (simply reheat in the oven or toast). You can use this method to make all types of breads and I find it works best on slightly sweet doughs. Tangzhong makes dough incredibly sticky so it almost impossible to make by hand. It is best to use a bread machine or, failing that, a stand mixer. Make sure your starter is cool before using otherwise you may kill the yeast.
You can use this recipe to make hot cross buns – place the rolls on a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 20-25 minutes. But I really like a hot cross bun loaf which can be sliced and toasted for the best breakfast ever. I left out the traditional raisins in favour of chocolate chips – my children are grossed out by ‘raisins in things’. But you can use any combination you like – dried cranberries or cherries work really well.
Normally a loaf made with tangzhong only takes around 30-35 minutes to bake. This one took closer to 55 minutes but I am not sure whether this was due to the size or a quirk of my oven. I would recommend checking the loaf after half an hour. Use a baking thermometer if you have one – it really takes the guess work out!
I used a silicone decorating bottle from Oxo to pipe the crosses – this is part of baker’s kit to decorate cookies which I was sent to review but I have found it invaluable for drizzling glaze or caramel on cakes, dressing on salads and generally making food pretty. One day I hope to decorate some cookies with it!
25g | scant 1oz strong white bread flour
125ml | 4fl oz water
Hot Cross Bun Loaf
350g | 12oz strong white bread flour
125ml | 4fl oz whole milk
120g | 4oz tangzhong (all of the starter you made)
60g | 2oz dark brown sugar
60g | 2oz unsalted butter, very soft or melted
2 tbsp skimmed milk powder (optional)
1 large egg
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp instant dried yeast (suitable for bread makers)
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange
100g | 3.5oz mixed citrus peel
100g | 3.5oz dark chocolate buttons (or replace with raisins)
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1tbsp water to glaze
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1tbsp water to glaze
2-3 tbsp apricot jam to glaze
For the cross
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp milk (more if needed)
- To make the tangzhong, put the flour and water in a small saucepan and whisk over medium heat until the roux thickens. When the whisk leaves a trail of lines on the surface, it is ready. Put in a small bowl and place cling film directly on the surface to prevent a crust forming. Set aside to cool.
- To make the dough in a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, spices and zest to the mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the starter, milk and egg. Start mixing using the dough hook and add the softened butter once the dough forms a ball.
- Keep mixing until the dough passes the windowpane test (stretch it in your hands – it should form a thin membrane that is almost transparent without tearing). This can take up to 15 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and prove for an hour or until double in size.
- Grease a 20cm(8in) loaf tin and line with baking paper, letting the excess paper hang over the sides.
- After the proving, tip the dough on a floured worktop, knock it back and knead in the mixed peel and chocolate buttons until they are incorporated into the dough.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place into the prepared tin . Cover with greased clingfilm and set aside for an hour until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Brush the loaf with the egg wash.
- Mix the flour and milk in a small bowl until you have a thick but pourable paste. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe a cross onto each round of hot cross bun loaf.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes until the loaf is risen and a deep golden colour. Cover with foil after 20 minutes if it is colouring too rapidly.
- Heat the apricot jam until runny and brush all over the loaf to glaze.
Bread maker method
- To make the dough in a bread maker, add the milk, tangzhong and egg to the container. Top with the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, spices, orange zest and skimmed milk powder. Make sure the yeast does not touch the wet ingredients.
- Select the dough setting and add the butter when a soft dough has formed – after several minutes of kneading. The bread machine will mix the dough and do the first round of proving. Proceed with step 5 of method above.