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Thursday, 22 March 2018 06:15

A tour of movable feasts during Easter season

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Easter is almost here. And if you've been keeping Lent, or are otherwise anxious to tuck into a pan of chocolate hot cross buns, you'd do better to keep track of the ecclesiastical, rather than the astronomical, moon.

Otherwise you'll have to wait another week.
Confused? Me, too.
It's all more than a little bewildering, these movable feasts. Especially when Easter observance differs by hemispheres and most of us in the West have been starved for a good feast since December.
So, while you decide whether to let the yeast proof now or later, consider this:
Passover, the forerunner of Easter, is celebrated as a remembrance of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. It’s a seven day affair (except when it’s eight), and is calculated according to the Jewish calendar, falling from the 15th to the 21st of Nissan or, in 2018, March 30 to April 7.
It begins at twilight, and the traditional menu items are lamb and unleavened bread; the bread served with horseradish and sweet apple as reminders of the bittersweetness of the occasion. Kugel, latkes and various incarnations of gefilte fish, however, are also kosher.
Orthodox Easter, a much more Faberge occasion than its Western counterpart, is a lavish celebration that’s dated according to the Julian calendar and the “equinox as observed along the meridian of Jerusalem.”
Quite easily, this is the one I want in on. After all, when in Greece, for example, an Easter feast lasts up to four hours and includes assorted olives and tappas, patates fournou, spanakotryopita and spit-roasted lamb, followed by galaktoboureko, spoon sweets and coffee.
The Western world, on the other hand, seeking greater convenience, positions Easter according to an equinox constant of March 21st, allowing Easters to be calculated until the end of time.
As a result, generations of Easter hams can be ordered ahead, and hot cross buns baked on schedule, without ever having to consult the sky.
As it happens, Easter in this corner of the world begins this year on March 30st with Good Friday: the day that hot cross buns are traditionally eaten to commemorate the crucifixion.
If you're like me, however, you'll want to make your first batch of chocolate hot cross buns this weekend, and then just keep eating your way through them until Thanksgiving.
Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
approx 4 cups white bread flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
5 tbs cocoa
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, plus one for glazing
1/4 cup butter, melted then cooled
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips
white chocolate for piping
Heat milk to body temperature. Proof yeast in milk until foamy (about 10 minutes). Whisk in eggs, butter and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa sugar and salt. Add milk mixture and bring ingredients together with a fork. Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes to form a soft, elastic dough. When finished, incorporate chopped chocolate. Return dough to bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 3/4 hours, until doubled.
Turn out dough. Divide and shape into 16 buns and place on a  large Silpat-lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise until doubled. Cut crosses into the top of each bun. Brush tops with an egg beaten together with a little water. Bake in a 375F oven for about 18 minutes.
When buns are completely cool, pipe melted white chocolate into the marks made before baking.

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