March arrived as docile as a lamb and then began to roar, continued to roar and will leave still roaring. Spring took one look at the weather map and immediately fled southwards, leaving us cold, wet and miserable. Any daffodil foolhardy enough to raise its head was immediately decapitated, the primroses huddled in corners and even the skylarks were grounded. Day after day we listened to the shipping forecast – would it be a gale or severe gale, storm force winds from the south or north, with or without torrential rain or just squalls, or no wind and a heavy blanket of grey mist? Had the big island cast us adrift and kidnapped the sun?
After a long winter, in March any thoughts about the imminent arrival of Spring are delusional. As one swallow “doesn’t make a summer”, a few warm sunny days in March or April do not mark the departure of winter. Spring may flirt with us and flash her petticoats, but we all know that in this part of the world that she never arrives before May.
Today it is blowing a strong north-easterly and the arctic airflow is keeping the temperature down to a chilly 7 °C. Even the Whooper Swans are getting desperate to leave for their breeding grounds in Iceland. This morning we watched a herd of 30 set out, flying low over a turbulent sea and struggling against a strong north-easterly headwind. Eventually sense prevailed, they turned back, flew around the house a few times before settling in the bay to rethink their migration strategy.
My small greenhouse is full of seedling waiting to be “hardened-off”, and with a forecast of snow for the weekend, I am in need of a distraction activity. Decorating eggs for Easter? Making a Simnel cake? No it had to be a real challenge. I love seasonal foods and something with fruit and spices is irresistible. I have always been hesitant about yeast cookery and have produced some undistinguished loaves of bread in my time. However, watching Himself make brioche using the dough-hook on the food mixer, convinced me that it was OK to skip all the kneading by hand nonsense.
So by mid-afternoon I’d produced my first batch of Easter buns. Clearly a work in progress, they are a little mis-shapen (!) and not identical, BUT the texture is light and they taste good. Clearly I have to work on the hand-rolling technique and incorporating the raisins and mixed peel into the dough was not too successful. The recipe I used directed me to add the fruit and peel to the dough after it had risen and been “knocked-back”. I have since found other recipes where the fruit and peel are added to the flour, sugar and butter before the yeast-milk-egg mixture, so that it is incorporated during the kneading. I am not deterred, but as we can’t eat too many batches of Easter buns, perhaps I’ll try a Selkirk Bannock next.
I used a recipe by Felicity Cloake (who is always interesting and reliable) and I think any shortcomings were due to may faulty technique. However, incorporating my own mixed peel and using the syrup as the glaze was a piece of pure genius – in my opinion!