Hot Cross buns are rounded enriched (sweet) breads made from a rich yeast dough containing flour, milk, sugar, butter, eggs, currants and spices such as cinnamon. The dough for them can be quite tricky but it is great to learn how to knead tricky doughs as so many sweet bread have very wet doughs and if you can’t handle them properly then they won’t come out well. It does take practice but you will be rewarded with delicious breads in the long run.
These buns are best made when you have plenty of time as the process is quite lengthy. Kneading and 3 rises all add up to make for a long baking session and considering grocery stores will begin lining their shelves with these buns weeks before Easter and they are available so cheaply, why would anyone bother to make their own?
Well the simple answer is that the whole process of making the buns is so enjoyable and the end result is much tastier than any supermarket version. These buns are a lot like humans. They both start off as a wet sticky mess but give them love, care and warmth and watch them grow as they transform into beautiful things. And it is this journey that causes me to wish next Easter would come sooner.
Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday and the the cross represents the crucifix. There are lots of superstitions involving this innocent bun and one such superstition is that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday never went mouldy, and were sometimes kept as charms from one year to the next. However I wouldn’t worry about this one, these buns won’t last more than a day.
All superstitions and folklore aside, Hot Cross Buns are just plain good eating!
The recipe below is by Paul Hollywood which I have adapted slightly.
For the buns (makes 16)
300ml full-fat milk
500g strong white flour (Plain flour would work but would not give as good a result)
1 teaspoon salt
75g caster sugar
10g fresh yeast or 7g fast action dried yeast
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon oil, for greasing
50g dried cranberries
50g mixed peel
Zest 1 orange
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
For the Cross
75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting (when kneading dough)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
For the Glaze
2 tablespoons apricot jam
- Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature or cooler. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture and then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well, and then bring everything together with your hands until you have a sticky dough.
- Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heel of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.
- With the dough still in the bowl, tip in the cranberries, sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple, if using, ground ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed. Leave to rise for 1 hour more, or until doubled in size, again covered by some oiled cling film..
- Divide the dough into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the buns on one or two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean tea towel, then set aside to prove for 1 hour more.
- Heat oven to 190 degree for fan assisted ovens. Combine flour and sugar in small bowl, gradually blend in water, and stir until smooth. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses (Pipe the crosses over the buns slowly so that the paste ‘hugs’ the curves on each bun). Bake for 15 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.
- Gently heat the apricot jam to melt and then sieve to get rid of any chunks. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool.