Why Hot Cross Buns?
It is Easter, so I decided I should come up with a recipe relating to this theme. After thinking of what recipe to use I came up with either the traditional carrot cake or the Hot Cross Bun. Carrot cake because I was thinking along the lines of: bunnies being linked to Easter, bunnies liking carrots and thus carrot cake being something you could to serve at Easter.
I decided evidently to go with the Hot Cross Bun. Although carrot cake is a classic favourite, as much as I tried I could do no justice to making it ‘recipe of the week’; especially considering it made top five fad foods of the 1970’s.
So Hot Cross Buns it is.
Traditionally, these little spiced buns are meant to be eaten on Good Friday, however feel free to make them whenever you feel, as they are definitely too yummy to be kept to just one day.
Although these days’ Hot Cross Buns are widely available from stores, I still find something comforting and rewarding about baking breads at home. It may have something to do with the patience involved in proving and proving again, not to mention the aromas that surround the house.
The recipe below is based on one by Nigella Lawson. I agree with her that you do need to use bread flour in this recipe as plain flour will not do you the same justice, and if you have committed to baking at home then you should at least end up with a gorgeous result.
However, I have changed her recipe for the dough slightly by including a tablespoon of sugar. Her dough recipe asks for yeast, however saying that, she has not included any sugar. Sugar is important to yeast activation. Simply put, sugar helps yeast create carbon dioxide (the air pockets that make bread rise), while fats and salt slow down yeast growth. With this inclusion of sugar the dough should rise efficiently.
Enjoy these little buns warm from the oven, or as I have always had them with melted cheese.
Also another idea, if you are feeling decadent replace the dried fruit with choc chips.
So hop to it and start baking.
For the Dough
Zest of 1 orange
2 cardamom pods
400g bread flour
1 or 7g packet dried instant yeast
125g mixed dried fruit or mixed peel
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 ground ginger
1 tablespoon caster sugar
For the Egg Wash
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
For the Crosses on the Buns
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 tablespoon caster sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water
For the Sugar Glaze
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water
First the dough. Heat the milk, butter, clove, cardamom pods and orange zest in a saucepan until the butter melts. After the butter has melted turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the stove for the milk to infuse.
Place the flour, yeast, dried fruit and spices in a bowl. Strain the milk to remove the cardamom and other spices. When the milk is at blood temperature. You can check this by placing a finger in the milk. If you feel nothing, as in no change in temperature from your finger to the milk it is at blood temperature. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients.
Knead the dough either by hand or with a machine with a dough hook. Although I have a Kitchen Aid at home with a great dough hook attatchment, I always prefer to finish my dough by hand. I think you get a better result, and also it is more rewarding. If the dough is a little dry add a tablespoon or 2 of milk. Continue to knead the dough until it becomes elastic and silky. This can take up to 20 minutes, but preserver.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to prove overnight in the refrigerator. If however you do not have that long, leave the dough in a warm place covered with a damp tea towel for 1-1 1/2 hours. Letting it prove longer however will give you a better texture and overall taste.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 220∞C.
Once the dough has come to temperature punch it down and knead it again till smooth. Divide this dough into 12, and roll into bun shapes. Don’t worry how neat they are; home baking can always look rustic!
Line a tray with baking paper and place the buns 1 cm apart from each other. With the back of a knife mark each bun with a cross. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for a further 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes or so the buns should have risen and joined together. Whisk the egg and milk for the egg wash and lightly brush each one.
Mix together the flour, water and sugar for the crosses. You may need to add a little more water until a thick paste is formed. Drizzle this paste with a spoon over the indented crosses.
Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes till the tops are golden.While the buns are baking boil your water and add to the sugar to make the sugar glaze. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. If the sugar doesn’t seem to want to dissolve, pour the liquid into a saucepan and continue to boil until it has.
When the buns come out brush them with the glaze until glossy. This is best done when they come straight out of the oven because the glaze will slightly absorb into the buns, making them even more delicious.
Enjoy toasted with butter, or just warm from the oven.