“One a penny, two a penny hot cross buns…” As I surveyed the carcinogenic fug of smoke ominously rising from my well-intentioned Easter creations, I reflected on the rhyme of my childhood. I had spent significantly more than a penny, and I had indeed got hot and cross – but my reward for my efforts? Well, nothing that resembled the uniform creations that grace the shelves at this time of year. For one thing, they were more individual in character (read deformed), and the outside was very much darker and crustier. I would like to say that this was the result of my intention to give my baking a dose of rustic, home-made charm… but it was in actual fact due to Dan Snow coming on TV and distracting me long enough that the buns made an attempt to join the dark side.
Hot-crossed buns are just one of the Easter-related foodstuffs in my dubious baking repertoire. The bun fiasco was preceded by simnel cake-gate. The cake itself, suspiciously resembling a less alcoholic Christmas cake is crowned with eleven marzipan balls (each is supposed to resemble a disciple). Judas is denied the honour of being represented by a small beige ball of almond paste, a fact which may have something to do with him having betrayed a friend for money (but that’s another story). The almond paste balls, after being firmly cemented onto the layer of marzipan that tops the cake, are meant to be ‘coloured’ slightly by the application of heat in order to create a delicious caramelised outer layer. Maybe it was because I was a little over generous with the sugar and egg-white glaze, or maybe it was because my choice of heat application devise was a slightly modified blow-torch from a camping shop. I’m just glad that the bible has a written in a get out clause: the Holy Spirit purportedly appearing to the disciples as tongues of flame. Flames atop of the marzipan disciples certainly featured heavily in my impromptu cake recreation.
My attempts at creating foods (if a little burnt) topped with Christian symbols could be seen as rather prophetic, what with ongoing controversies in the news over how much influence religion should have on a secular society. With supermarkets using Easter as an excuse to force-feed us more chocolate, and figures such as Richard Dawkins publicly attacking the relevance of religion in society, one begins to wonder: why do we engage in these sorts of ill-advised sentimental religious shenanigans in the first place?
Apart from an extended period of time off (which is further enhanced by the additional bank holidays) Easter is an excuse to indulge just a little more, perhaps for the first time since the new year – be that in the form of food, drink, or like one friend of mine a spot of ‘lamb-hunting’ (involving shooting the lambs with a camera, rather than the slaughter of unwary baby sheep). Easter would appear to be here to stay. So even if you don’t think it should play a part in our society at all, or just see it as the slightly lesser cousin of Christmas, we can all use a little time to recharge before exams and look on the bright side of life. As it turns out my otherwise condemned hot cross buns, toasted and with a bit of melted butter, were exquisite.