This year, Easter’s come later, which sadly for me, also means delayed access to hot cross buns. Forget the chocolate bunnies and eggs,I’d much rather have a lightly toasted hot cross bun with a generous slather of salted butter.
Up until this Easter, I had never made them before, in the past, I’d look for the most spiced, fruit-packed, buns at the grocery store.
These are easier than it seems, and turn out fantastically soft, but it is definitely a labour of love as it requires 3 proves. My favourite way to make bread is to ensure that you have a freshly baked batch in time for breakfast, because nothing beats freshly baked buns to go with your morning coffee or tea. I like to time it is so that the last prove is done overnight in the fridge and taken out right when you wake up and left to warm to room temperature (at least 15 minutes, best at 30 minutes) before putting them into the oven. By the time you’ve gotten ready, these buns will be ready.
The below is adapted from the BBC Good Food recipe, because I found it incredibly finicky trying to mix the spices in at the end. Also because it needed a bit more flavour.
HOT CROSS BUNS
Makes 20 buns
Step 1: Dough
300ml full-fat milk, plus 2 tbsp more
¼ tsp vanilla extract
500g strong bread flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar
1 tbsp sunflower oil
7g fast-action or easy-blend yeast
1 egg, beaten
50g mixed peel
zest 1 orange
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- Bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla extract, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature.
- Put the flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and yeast into the mixing bowl, making sure the yeast is kept to the side before mixing in completely. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture, then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well, then bring everything together with your hands until you have a sticky dough.
- If kneading by hand, tip onto 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 5-10 mins until smooth and elastic. If by machine, attach the dough hook and on medium speed, mix for 5 minutes. You might need to hand knead at the very end for a few minutes until the dough becomes smooth and passes the windowpane test.
- What is the windowpane test? Cut a small piece of dough, the size of a chestnut and holding it between your thumbs and first two fingers and stretch slowly into a thin membrane that doesn’t break. This means your dough has developed enough gluten and has been kneaded enough.
- Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, lightly brush the surface of the dough with oil so it doesn’t develop a crust and cover with cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hr or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.
- With the dough still in the bowl, tip in the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, and apple. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed. Leave to rise for 1 hr more, or until doubled in size, making sure you lightly brush the dough surface with oil before covering with cling film.
- Divide the dough into 20 pieces – the best way to do this is weigh the dough within the bowl first, then tip the dough out into a lightly floured surface before weighing the mixing bowl again. With the help of some math (subtract the weight of the empty mixing bowl from the full one) you’ll get the weight of the dough and you can divide this by 20. Weigh out each of the 20 pieces before rolling into a smooth ball – this will ensure similar sized buns.
- 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 hr more.Or what I like to do, store in the fridge overnight and let it prove.
Step 2: For the cross & glaze
75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
3 tbsp apricot jam
- Heat oven to 200℃/400℉. Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make the paste for the cross – add the water 1 tbsp at a time, so you add just enough for a thick paste. 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 (see Tip below). Bake for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.
- In the meantime, prepare the glaze as you will need to apply it once the buns come straight from the oven.
- Gently heat the apricot jam to melt,and while the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and leave to cool.