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hot cross buns

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Hot cross buns

Mince pies in the middle of summer? I’m not at all sure. There’s this bloke who’s been on television a few years ago, who apparently has Christmas every day. But roasting a turkey every day? I don’t believe it. Boo-oo-oo-ring.

Seasonal foods are so nice just because of what they are – seasonal. Something to look forward to – you think ‘oh yeah, Christmas is coming, better have some mince pies’. And then none for ten or eleven long months.

Hot cross buns shout out ‘spring! Easter!’ Fluffy sweet buns that you might well have during the year but not quite so spiced, not quite so shiny with glaze, nor adorned with those white crosses that have long lost their religious connotations but do look pretty don’t they? I start baking them in March, regardless when this movable feast will fall on, and I probably bake up to 50 in a season! Because there’s nothing, but nothing better to have for breakfast in early spring than a hot cross bun, home made, lightly toasted with a pile of butter on its sliced half.

This is the best recipe – Andrew Whitley delivers as usual (Bread Matters). I’ve found the mix of flours below makes for the best buns – a little wholesome with the addition of the wholemeal flour but not all wholemeal (sorry, Andrew). The amount of raisins is scarily large but pays off in the eating. Needs taking care while mixing them in though for even distribution of the fruit, who wants a raisinless bun, eh?

hot cross buns

Servings: 16 bunsTime: 2-3 hours

INGREDIENTS

  • For the ferment:
  • 20g (1½ tbsp.) sugar
  • 10g fresh or 1 ½ tsp fast action yeast
  • 280g (1¼ cup) warm milk
  • 140g (1 cup) wholemeal flour
  • For the dough:
  • 310g (2½ cup) strong white flour
  • 7g (2 tsp) mixed spice
  • 3g (1 tsp) cinnamon
  • 50g (3½ tbsp.) butter, softened
  • 35g (2 tbsp.) sugar
  • 1 medium egg (50g)
  • 5g (¾ tsp) salt
  • 180g (6oz.) sultanas
  • 80g (3oz.) raisins
  • 40g (3 tbsp.) white rum (or fruit juice, or water)
  • For the crossing mix:
  • 50g (4 tbsp.) plain flour
  • 1g ( ½ tsp) baking powder
  • 5g (1 tsp) vegetable oil
  • 50g (¼ cup) water
  • For the glaze:
  • 50g (¼ cup) honey
  • 25g (3 tbsp.) double cream

METHOD

Prepare the raisins well in advance, best to leave them to soak for a few hours or even overnight. Put the raisins and sultanas in a ziplock bag, warm the rum or juice (on the hob or in a microwave) until almost boiling and pour over the fruit. Squash it around in the bag so that the fruit is well covered in the liquid, zip up the bag and leave for the moisture to be absorbed.

Prepare the ferment by dissolving the yeast in the warm milk and mixing it well with the flour and sugar. Leave to rise and bubble up for about an hour.

Add the dough ingredients to the ferment and knead or mix in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment until the dough is smooth, elastic and bounces of the sides of the bowl or stops sticking to your hands. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Drain the fruit – there will be next to none liquid left - and then knead it in very gently, taking care not to break up the raisins. If using the standing mixer, mix the fruit in on the lowest speed and finish off by kneading it in with your hands. The huge amount of fruit makes for delicious buns but it’s difficult to distribute it evenly – so invariably you’ll end up with some buns more fruited than others.

Hot cross buns starter and dough

Leave the dough to prove in a warm place until doubled in size – at least an hour.

Turn it out onto lightly floured surface, trying not to de-gas it too much. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces (they will weigh about 75g each if you want to be that precise), mould the pieces into tight balls and place on baking trays lined with parchment, spaced about 5cm apart.

Shaping hot cross buns

Place the trays in large plastic bags, inflate each by blowing into it and quickly tying the ends and leave to rise for about an hour, until the buns are almost touching each other.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Make the crossing mix – beat all the ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon. Transfer it into a piping bag (if you haven’t got one, spoon the mix into a plastic bag and cut off a corner) and pipe crosses on the buns, using your finger to stop the flow of the mix after each line.

Hot cross buns before and after baking

Immediately put the trays in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until well browned – except for the crosses. Transfer to a wire rack on the parchment – it will make glazing them easier if they are still slightly stuck to the parchment and not dancing around while you brush the glaze on.

Heat up the honey until almost starting to boil and stir in the double cream. Brush the glaze on the buns – still warm or slightly cooled down, it doesn’t matter – and leave to cool completely or be snatched to tuck into while still warm.

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