Easter is upon us! And I guess it could be said that this is not a particularly “normal” Easter, but I still believe a tray of soft hot cross buns can only make it better. For many lucky people, these are easily available in the supermarket (although homemade is still clearly the winner), but for me, if I want a hot cross bun, I gotta bake it.
I have tried out several recipes, sadly with one or two results that resembled something closer to a rock cake, and I have settled on the one I found in Julie Goodwin’s book – the Heart of the Home. These are wonderfully fluffy, just the right amount of spice and the top of the buns doesn’t get too hard (a problem I’ve had with one or two other recipes).
The dough initially is quite sticky, but this is fine, I found it more manageable after the rise. Don’t be tempted to add more flour, I did not add any during the initial kneading, or when dividing up the dough into balls and forming them.
I have also had trouble in the past with either hard topped buns, or the glaze making the top of the buns so sticky, you couldn’t eat one without making a mess (and putting them in a plastic bag to store ended in disaster). When baking the latest batch I thought I watered the apricot jam down too much, but it actually produced the best tops on the buns I’ve had so far.
If on the off chance these do manage to last a few days, and they start becoming a little stale, slice them in half, put under a grill or in the toaster and then slather with some butter, consume with a cup of tea, and you’re sorted!
I know yeast has been more difficult to come by lately in a lot of places, but if you can get your hands on some (may I even quietly suggest after Easter too), I would highly recommend baking up a batch of these. There is nothing more comforting and satisfying that warm homemade bread (or buns!).
Hot Cross Buns
For the buns
- 310 ml milk
- 55 g sugar
- 28 g fresh yeast (or 14g dried yeast)
- 600 g plain flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp salt
- 60 g butter at room temperature
- 250 g sultanas
- 2 eggs
For the cross
- 50 g flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
For the glaze
- 2 tbsp apricot jam
- Gently heat the milk until lukewarm, add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Add the yeast and whisk in (make sure your milk is only warm, you don't want to kill the yeast).
- If using dried yeast, leave for 5-10 to activate until it's nice and frothy.
- In a large bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, mixed spice and salt. Rub the butter through the flour mixture until well distributed.
- Stir the sultanas through the flour and then add the eggs and yeast mixture. At this point either stir to bring it together and then turn out on a board and knead it for 5 minutes, or employ your electric mixer and dough hook for 5 minutes.
- Note: at this point my dough looks pretty sticky, but don't despair, this is fine, don't be tempted to add lots of extra flour.
- Place the dough in a bowl and cover (I love using beeswax wrappers for this) and leave to rise for about 45 minutes in a warm place.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (or about 160°C fan-forced). Take the dough out of the bowl and knead a few times before dividing up into 12 equal pieces and then shaping them into balls.
- Place the balls on a greased baking sheet (I just used a reusable baking sheet/paper) pressed lightly up against each other, cover with a tea towel and leave for a further 15 minutes to rise.
- To make the cross: Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and add about 3 or 4 tablespoons of water until you have a runny batter. Place in a piping bag with a narrow nozzle (or a bag with the ol' snipped corner trick) and pipe the crosses over the buns.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until they are a lovely golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
- In a small saucepan heat the jam with a little water and then brush this over the hot buns to glaze before placing them on a baking rack to cool (the less water you add, the stickier the top of the buns will be).