Monday, 10 April 2017

Spring time: hot cross buns and PhD proposal

I had a very exciting early spring time working hard as an IB examiner, preparing my literature lessons and assessments for my students and above all digging deep for my PhD proposal. I had also time to try new recipes: I experimented new cakes and, being Easter near, hot cross buns.

The brighter, warmer days and the energy boost that comes naturally with spring time gave me the right trigger to work on my PhD proposal and submit it. The idea came to me after reading The Blind Assassin, a true masterpiece. So many connections came to my mind together with a total sincere admiration for what I consider a real work of art, that I started to study about a year ago, research and collect critical works on Margaret Atwood and link it to other books I read in the past. At first my ideas were generic and confused but then they took shape and focused on the role of female characters, how their identities developed and were influenced by previous female characters in western literature (but not only in literature, in visual art and music as well). An intertextual kind of research sprang from it! I repeatedly visited the British Library in search of texts to support my work. It is such a beautiful place to spend time in, there are exhibitions, bookshops and comfortable reading rooms that looked like pleasant lounges. I felt so deeply motivated and younger, going back to my university years when I used to spend hours and hours in the Biblioteca Nazionale (National Library) in Rome or in the Vatican Library.

Studying in a library adds concentration and cosiness to the research as well as a sort of solemn aura: it is the temple of knowledge and you are in it to accomplish a task of some importance. And there is the pleasure of reading and researching that goes with it, of course. An exciting process of studying, understanding more, solving problems hoping to reach your goal at the end. All my passion and commitment to Margaret Atwood finally has a goal and I can dedicate my next years to the study of her work. What a great electrifying adventure!

In a typical woman multi-task mood (and in accordance with an postmodern Atwoodian mixture of genres and registers), I also had time to experiment a hot cross buns recipe from a magazine, but I adapted it as usual. Here it is:

You need: 300 ml of milk, 60 g of butter, 250 g of strong white flour, 250 g of strong brown flour, 100 g of golden caster sugar, 7 g sachet of fast action bread yeast, 1 egg (lightly beaten), 100 g of sultanas, grated zest of one lemon, 1 apple (peeled and grated), 1 tsp of cinnamon; for the crosses you need: 150 g of plain flour and 100 ml of water; to glaze you need: 3 tbsp of warm apricot jam or marmalade.

Warm the milk and butter and let the butter melt. Mix the flours in a large bowl, add half a tsp of salt, sugar, yeast, then pour the warm milk and butter in. Mix it with a fork, then knead the dough by hand till smooth. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rest in a warm place for at least two hours till it doubles in size. Remove the damp cloth and knead the dough adding sultanas, lemon zest, apple and cinnamon. Add some flour if it is too sticky. Divide the dough into round pieces and set them on an oiled oven tray. Prepare the dough for the crosses mixing the plain flour with water, roll it out and cut strips to arrange on top of the buns, securing them with water. Cover the tray with cling film and let the buns rest in a warm place for an hour. Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes at 200° C till golden. Finally brush the jam (or marmalade) on top when the buns are still hot. And enjoy!

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