I’ll come clean and confess to having not always had the best of relationships with the hot cross bun. In truth, any form of bread making usually involves a degree of finger-crossing. If baking is considered an exact science then, as far as I’m concerned, anything that involves yeast tends to be like advanced level quantum mechanics. I had a good few failures before I found a recipe that worked and a good few successes before I even considered tinkering with the ingredients. I like my buns soft and doughy and moist (I’ll choose taste and texture over good looks any day of the week) so I kept changing some of the quantities in an attempt to create something that ticked all of those boxes. I eventually found the easiest way to do this was actually by using giant golden raisins rather than increasing the amount of raisins (although the figure increased slightly). I found that too much fruit would just result in an uneven bake and the fruit clumping together. A final little tip, and I’m slightly embarrassed to even mention this because it’s considered heresy in this household. The tradition is a fine smattering of spread on your toasted bun, but I really do love it with some raspberry jam or if you have any lying around cranberry jam. Yes, I know, I should be ashamed of myself, but if it isn’t clear already, there are very few food things that haven’t been experimented on in my attempts to make them a little more evil!
Makes 16Print this Recipe
- 7 fluid ounces / 200ml milk, plus a little more for glazing
- 3 cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- Pinch of saffron
- ¾ ounce / 20g fresh yeast
- 1¾ ounces / 50g golden caster sugar, plus extra to glaze
- 1 lb / 450g strong white flour
- 3½ ounces / 100g butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 eggs
- 5¼ ounces / 150g currants
- 1¾ ounces / 50g mixed peel
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and saffron. Heat gently until just starting to boil, then remove from the heat and allow the spices to infuse the milk for about an hour.
Strain the milk to remove the spice residue.
Then, warm the milk back up to around 98°F / 36°C (blood temperature).
Add the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar and keep warm.
Either using your fingertips or a mixer, put the strong white flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until well mixed.
Reserve one tablespoon of caster sugar for later and add the rest of the sugar, the salt, and the ginger to the flour mixture.
In another bowl, beat two of the eggs.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture then add the beaten eggs.
Pour in some of the warm spiced milk and mix to make a soft dough. Keep adding the milk as required. The dough should not be dry or tough.
Knead the dough for around 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
Then, place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and leave until a warm place to rise. It will need around two hours to double in size.
After it has risen, tip it out on to a floured surface and knock it back by kneading it for a further minute or two.
Flatten it out and scatter evenly over it the fruit and peel.
Now gather the dough back up and knead it thoroughly to distribute the fruit and peel evenly.
Divide the dough into two halves, and keep dividing equally until you have 16 pieces. Roll these into bun shapes.
Score a shallow cross on each bun.
Line a baking tray. Then place the buns on the tray. Cover them, and leave them in a warm place to rise. They should be close enough together so that they just touch each other when they double in size.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C after the buns are ready to bake.
Take the last egg and beat it together with a little milk.
Separately, mix the plain flour with a pinch of salt and a little water to make a stiff paste.
Paint the top of each bun with the beaten egg and milk wash.
Fill a piping bag with the flour and water paste and pipe a thick cross on each bun in line with the cuts made previously.
Bake the buns in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden.
While they are baking, mix the tablespoon of caster sugar reserved from earlier with one tablespoon of boiling water. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them all over with the sugar mixture.
Transfer them to a wire rack to cool.
Instead of using a piping bag, you can try using a teaspoon with which to add the flour and water paste crosses to the buns.
To serve, cut in half horizontally and liberally butter both insides. This will be better if they are still warm. A non-traditional alternative that might appeal to some is to try any variety of cream cheese.
According to the Oxford Companion to Food, there is an old English belief that hot cross buns, or any loaves baked on Good Friday, would never go mouldy and could be kept as lucky charms for the rest of the year. Don’t try this at home!Print this Recipe