If you were born (to baking at least) a year ago, you may never had kneaded anything. At best you may have kneaded (accidentally I hope) your pie dough and realised it was BAD. Then more articles than you can shake a wooden spoon at were written on how kneading was not only perfectly optional but completely unecessary. I'm not even going there, there isn't a blogger around who isn't gloating with his/her first no-knead wonderloaf, me included. Kneading is *so* out (c'est tellement ringard). People who still knead nowadays are likely to be people who continue to send letters with actual stamps, use a landline or drive a horse carriage.


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I hate to be old-hat, kids, but I wouldn't give kneading up so fast. Like those hot cross buns - if someone comments that they have achieved perfect buns with a no-knead method I'll slap'em in the back of the head (je leur colle une beigne). You don't want to mess with good old methods if you're going to make something as traditional as, say, cannelés or hot cross buns. Besides, they don't take long, and kneading is really easy.

Opening a parenthesis, I have seen hot cross buns with ICING crosses in Boston last weekend. I won't comment on this double heresy but basically people, I don't think the Archbishop of Canterbury (or me) would be too impressed by this systematic candification of Easter. There. Parenthesis closed.

Start things off by mixing a yeast sachet (7g) with 1 tsp flour and 1 tsp sugar, and diluting the mix with 60ml of lukewarm water. Let it bubble like crazy while you mix the rest.

In a large bowl, mix 2c bread flour, 1 tsp mixed spices (cinnamon, clove, allspice - pumpkin pie spice mix works fine), 1.5 tbsp sugar, and a couple of pinches of salt.

Rub in 1.5 tbsp of soft butter, add 3/4c raisins, and pour in the bubbly yeast mix. Then while you mix, add about 100ml lukewarm water until you reach a chewing-gummy (?!) consistency. Flour your countertop and knead five minutes like you mean it. Give it a hard time. It's tough love (c'est l'amour vache). Put it back in the bowl, cover loosely with cling film and let it rise about 40 minutes. Mine almost quadrupled in volume. It's its way of being appreciative of you taking the time to massage its gluten (hence "hot" cross buns). While it rises (oh shut up), you have just enough time to do the proverbial "Jane Fonda workout". Or watch your rommate do it while you eat toasted soda bread with raspberry jam.

Punch the dough down, split it in 8 (I did six but they ended up being slightly too big), re-knead them vaguely and shape into balls, huddle them snuggly on a silpat or parchment paper, let them go wild for another 20 minutes or so. And they will, trust them.


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Stay on the flippin silpat you freaks.


Prepare the crosses: in a small bowl, make a paste with 1 tbsp flour and enough water to get a spreadable but not runny consistency. Don't put any sugar in (I did, bad girl [oh la vilaine]), because it will promote browning and we don't want that. We want them to stay really pale. Transfer to a small sandwich ziploc bag, cut off a small corner and draw crosses on the buns.


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Bake in a preheated oven 16 minutes at 400°F, or until nicely browned. If you so wish, glaze them with a simple syrup (1tbsp sugar+1tbsp water melted on low heat). They are best warm out of the oven. The archbishop loves them with a smattering of Devon salted butter and a nice cuppa Darjeeling.


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Or so he was telling me at lunch today. Rule Britannia.