At Easter time, or any time of the year for that matter, I love a good hot cross bun. Not the rubbish kind with barely any fruit in them, and definitely not the chocolate ones.
These ones are delicately spiced, the dough is golden and rich and they’re laden with fruit. I used the following recipes as guides – the Guardians – How to cook the perfect hot cross buns and Recipetineats – Hot cross buns.
Makes 14 buns. Prep time and cook time approx. 4.5 hours.
FOR THE DOUGH
200ml milk (full fat)
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp nutmeg
8 threads of saffron (optional)
3 cardamom pods, pressed
20g fresh yeast
450g high grade flour
50g + 1 tsp golden castor sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 orange, zested
2 eggs, lightly beaten
200g dried fruit (e.g. any or a mixture of raisins, sultanas, apricots, mixed peel)
FOR THE EGG WASH, CROSSES & GLAZE
1 egg + 1 tbsp milk
3 tbsp flour + pinch of salt + 1-2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp boiling water
Infuse the milk – put the milk, cloves, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, saffron and cardamom pods (press down using the side of a knife to split the pods slightly) in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Take off the heat and set aside for 1 hour.
Strain the milk using a sieve. Heat the infused milk to body temperature (36.5 °C) add the yeast and 1 tsp of sugar. Stir gently.
To make the dough put the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the salt, 50g sugar, ginger, cinnamon and orange zest. Using the flat beater, mix briefly. Grate in the butter and mix again. Make a well in the centre and add in the eggs and the infused milk mixture. Using the dough hook mix for approx. 7 minutes at speed 2. The dough should be smooth and elastic and come away from the sides of the bowl. You may need to add a little extra flour. Place dough in large greased bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film, leave to rise in a warm place free of draughts until doubled in sized (approx. 2 hours).
Add the fruit and form the buns – tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute of so. Flatten out and scatter the dried fruit/peel. Knead again and make sure the fruit is spread evenly. Form 14 equal sized buns and place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a tea towel or cling film and place in a warm place to prove, until doubled in size (approx. 1 hour).
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and gently take the cover off the buns.
Egg wash and crosses – brush the buns with the egg wash. In a small bowl mix the flour, salt and water to form a thick paste. Use a piping bag to pipe crosses onto the buns. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are a deep golden colour. Make the glaze by mixing the sugar and water until dissolved.
Glaze the buns using a pastry brush, as soon as they come out of the oven. Enjoy with a good smothering of butter.
TIPS & TRICKS
Yeast – you can substitute fresh yeast for dry active yeast (use 10g and leave in the milk for 5-10 minutes until the surface becomes foamy), or instant /rapid rise yeast (use 5g, you don’t need to leave it to rehydrate).
No stand mixer – you can do it by hand. After you’ve added the butter, use your finger tips to rub butter into the flour mixture (it should resemble oats or breadcrumbs). After you’ve added the milk and eggs, use a wooden spoon to bring the dough together then tip out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand (using the ‘stretch and tear’ method) for approx. 10 minutes. A dough scraper is useful to get the dough out of the bowl and to bring it back to the centre after stretching.