Anyone who has stayed with us will know that we have an excessive number of cookbooks. One might think therefore that when Easter arrives all I have to do is peruse a couple of my favourite baking books, pluck a Hot Cross Bun recipe at random and off we go. No such luck.
I spent a good 5 minutes before I even opened two of my favourites, explaining to Lorraine why the books are so good. “God of baking, this book never fails, my go to reference blah blah blah etc etc…. ” By this point she seem utterly convinced (or bored) that within a couple of hours we would be eating the worlds greatest ever HCBs..
Doubt crept in early in my reading process, skim the first recipe ..yep, yep, yep all good….. er hang on a minute. “Bake the buns at 250C for 45 mins” WTAF? I’m making tea cakes, not charcoal.
Second book, Flatten the dough in to a rectangle, then perform some elaborate puff pastry-esque folding and buttering process. Hold on my son.. these are English at heart aren’t they? No one there is going to be arsed with that and… why?
I don’t mind saying I was panicking now. I had given it the big un (as a friend round these parts would say) and now I was left sans recipe and floundering.
In the end I did what I often end up doing, amalgamating several recipes in to something I think will work. In this case I used our burger bun recipe from our cookbook, combined with some of the quantities and ingredient ideas from my two ex-favourite/relegated to the bottom shelf books. Lucky for me I think they came alright and now I can call the recipe ours! x
p.s If there is any error in this recipe please feel free to start tutting loudly…
150g luke warm water (30-35C)
15g fresh yeast or 8g dried (make sure it is in date)
300g plain bread flour
200g wholemeal flour
70g melted butter
60g caster sugar
1 large egg beaten lightly
2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
70g finely chopped mix peel and dried fruit (cherries, dates whatever you have). I used 30g dried orange, 10g dried lemon, 30g dates
1 egg yolk
8 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp cold water
75g caster sugar
To make the dough, combine the milk and water. Place the yeast in a small bowl and cover with a little of the milk and water mix. Add a teaspoon of the sugar and leave to stand for 5 mins until the yeast has fully dissolved.
In to a large mixing bowl (the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one), put all the ingredients for the dough except the salt and bring together with a spoon. If using a machine at this point use the dough hook and mix on a slow speed. Whilst the machine is running gradually add the salt. Continue to mix for 8 mins.
If you are doing this by hand scatter the salt in to the mixing bowl gradually whilst bringing the dough together with your hands. Remove from the bowl when you have a workable dough and kneed on a lightly floured surface for 8 mins.
Once the dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a large oiled bowl and cover tightly with clingfilm or a damp cloth. Place somewhere warm for anything from 1 – 2hours until it has doubled in size. The time it takes to rise will vary dramatically depending on the temperature of your room. For me it took 2.5 hours as it was a cold spring day.
Prepare a couple of large lined baking trays and get two pieces of baking paper the size of the trays and couple of clean tea towels.
Once the dough has risen to at least double its size, knock it back on a very lightly floured surface and then divide up in to balls of dough approximately 90g each.
Take each ball and tuck it round on itself so that it has a smooth top with no obvious folds. Place these balls on a baking tray with a good distance between each one (they will grow to about 2.5 times the size). Press on them to flatten slightly.
Cover the baking trays first with a sheet of baking paper then loosely drape a tea towel over each one. Place these baking sheets somewhere warm to start the second rise. They need to double in size again and this can take 1-3 hours.
Prepare your glazes and toppings. First mix the egg yolk and milk in a small bowl. Next prepare the sugar glaze by melting the sugar in to the water over a gentle heat in a small saucepan. Keep aside until later.
To make the paste for the cross, combine the flour and sugar and then start adding the water whilst stirring. You want to get to a thick paste that is just possible to pipe on to the buns, too thin and it will just run off, too thick and it will sit on top. Once you have a paste you think will work, place it in to a piping bag with a small nozzle or a sandwich bag with a corner snipped off. Try piping the paste on a plate and if you are not happy with it, start again.
Once the buns have doubled in size, heat your oven to 200C fan assisted. Do not cut corners here, it is better to wait than start to cooked under-prooved dough. Place a casserole dish in the bottom of the oven and 1/2 fill it with boiling water. Let the oven become nice and steamy before you cook the buns.
Take a pastry brush and brush the egg wash over your first tray of buns. Then use your piping bag and pipe a cross on to the top of each bun. As soon as you have done this place the tray in the middle of the oven and cook for 15mins, turning the tray 180 degrees after 7 mins.
Remove the buns from the oven and brush with the sugar glaze (you may need to warm this slightly to make it runny). Once you have glazed the buns cover them lightly again with the baking paper and tea towel (very important this bit as it lets them steam and soften).
Repeat this process for your second tray of buns.
When the buns have cooled down they are ready to be eaten or wrapped and stored in the freezer till needed.
We like them toasted on the cut side and lathered with salted butter.