Easter is just around the corner. This year it is expected to be an unusual occasion. With people all over the world doing their bit in practicing social distancing, public celebrations will be limited to a minimum and instead of visiting family, many people will likely be staying in. All the more reason to make the most of Easter at home! Catch up with your loved ones over the phone, bring in those spring flowers and enjoy a leisurely Easter brunch in the small circle of your nearest and dearest. The one thing that won’t be missing on our brunch table are these soft, chai-spiced Easter buns. Studded with tea-infused dried berries, they’re delicately flavoured, festive and easy to whip up, using only storecupboard ingredients.
These Easter buns are made from a simple yeast dough. It’s made with a mixture of plain flour and whole spelt flour, and slightly sweetened with raw cane sugar. I used a bit of a cheat’s method to give the dough its delicate chai flavour, by steeping a bag of my favourite vanilla chai tea and using this as the wet component in the dough. It’s quick and easy and the rising dough will fill your room with the most delicious fragrance! If you don’t have vanilla chai tea bags at hand, though, or you prefer to use your own mixture of chai spices, you can replace the tea with plain water and stir the ground spices directly through the flour mixture. I listed a combination of spices as a guideline in the recipe below, but feel free to play around and adjust the flavours and quantities to match your personal preference.
The dough is studded with dried cranberries and yellow raisins, which have been soaked in hot green Earl Grey tea during the first rise of the dough. Soaking the dried fruits before mixing them into the dough makes them plump and juicy and brings out their natural sweetness. The green Earl Grey tea adds a fresh and citrussy note which is just wonderful with the sweet flavour of the dough.
I turned the dough into spiral-shaped buns, by rolling each portion of it to a ribbon and then twirling this to make a little spiral. Folding them this way gives them their pretty looks, but it’s also an easy way to make sure the dried berries in the dough are evenly distributed. Instead of a spiral, you can of course choose any shape to your fancy. You can make simple round buns, fold the dough into elegant mini-wreaths or braids, or go for a traditional hot cross bun shape, glazed and all. Or you can make it a fun Easter morning project with the children and shape the buns into Easter bunnies, roosters, bears or something like this:
Of course making these buns doesn’t necessarily have to be limited or linked to Easter. Truth be told, I make them all year round. As part of family lunches when there’s a birthday to celebrate, as a special treat in a welcome-to-our-home-and-country brunch for our Syrian friends, or just as a treat to myself when I feel I deserve something special. Because if there is anything these strange days remind us of, it’s that there is always a good reason to celebrate the little things in life.
Soft chai-spiced Easter buns – makes 10
- 1 bag of vanilla chai tea*)
- 100 ml boiling water
- 2 tsp. dried instant yeast
- splash of agave syrup
- 130 g whole spelt flour (sub for regular whole-wheat flour if you haven’t got spelt at hand, or use a gluten free mixture if needed)
- 225 g plain wheat flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. raw cane sugar
- ½ tsp. ground cardamom
- 3 tbsp. rapeseed oil or other neutral-flavoured oil
- 40 g yellow raisins
- 40 g dried cranberries
- 2 tsp. green Earl Grey tea leaves, collected in a tea egg infuser (alternatively, use black Earl Grey tea leaves, or an Earl Grey tea bag)
- enough boiling water to cover the dried berries
*) If you don’t happen to have vanilla chai tea bags at hand, you can flavour the dough by adding your own mixture of chai spices. 1 tsp. of cinnamon, ¼ tsp. powdered ginger, ¼ tsp. ground fennel seeds, ¼ tsp. of ground cloves, a grating of nutmeg, ¼ tsp. vanilla extract plus the above-mentioned ½ tsp. of ground cardamom will yield a similar result. In this case, use 180 ml of luke-warm plain water to activate the yeast and stir the spices through the flour before adding the wet components.
Pour 100 ml of boiling water into a measuring jug. Add the chai tea bag and leave to infuse for a few minutes.
Remove the tea bag. Add cold water to the hot tea until you have 180 ml luke-warm tea. Stir in the dried yeast and the agave syrup. Set aside in a warm place for about 10 minutes for the mixture to turn frothy.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flours with the salt, cane sugar and cardamom. Add the oil and the yeast mixture and knead to form a smooth dough. It should be moist, but not sticky. When sticky, add a bit more flour; when too dry, add a spoonful of water.
Lightly brush the mixing bowl with oil, then place the dough in the bowl and turn until covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Leave the dough to prove in a warm spot for about an hour, until doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, mix the raisins and the cranberries in a small bowl. Pour over enough boiling water to cover the fruits. Leave to cool slightly, then place the tea egg or tea bag in between the berries. Leave to infuse while the dough is proving.
Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
Remove the tea leaves, drain the mixed berries and pat them dry with a piece of kitchen paper.
Knock back the dough. Knead briefly and fold in the dried fruits. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions.
Shape the dough to your fancy. To make the swirls in the picture, take a ball of dough and roll it into a ribbon.
Roll the ribbon into a spiral shape.
Fold the end of the ribbon under the roll to prevent it from unfolding in the oven. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Divide the rolls over the baking sheet, leaving enough space between them to expand without them touching each other. Loosely cover the baking sheet. Leave the rolls to rise for another 20 minutes until soft and puffy.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
Bake the rolls for 15-20 minutes until golden.
Leave to cool slightly, then enjoy straight away.