Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!
Seasonal means occasional
Would you fancy mince pies in the middle of summer? I’m not at all sure. There’s this man living somewhere in England who apparently has Christmas every day. You must be truly obsessed to roast a turkey every day. Perhaps only every other day? Who knows?
However much I love some foods, I wouldn't want to eat them every day. That's why seasonal foods are so nice - simply because of what they are, seasonal, occasional.
It's something to look forward to, something to eagerly anticipate and relate to a cheerful time of spring, summer, holidays. Christmas is coming, we'd better make some mince pies! And then we have none for ten or eleven long months which makes the hearts and taste buds fonder for when they next come round.
Hot cross buns for Easter
Hot cross buns shout out ‘spring! Easter!’ Fluffy sweet buns that you might well have during the year in the guise of tea cakes or cinnamon buns, 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 so pretty.
I start baking my first batches in March, regardless when this movable feast will fall on. I probably bake up to 50 in a season since I have many eager, greedy hot cross bun enthusiasts among family and friends.
Because there’s nothing, but nothing better to have for breakfast in early spring than a hot cross bun, homemade, lightly toasted with a pile of butter on its sliced half.
How to make wholemeal hot cross buns
This is my best recipe for hot cross buns, tested about a thousand times. It comes from Andrew Whitley's book Bread Matters.
I’ve adjusted the mix of flours compared to the original which instructs to use only wholemeal flour. But a little wholemeal flour goes a long way and hot cross buns should not be too heavy.
The amount of raisins is scarily large but in my house the ideal raisin to dough ratio would be 1:1. If you're not so big on raisins, cut the amounts by a third - it will still be a lot.
It is an easy, forgiving dough, it just needs a morning or afternoon devoted to mixing, kneading and shaping at sensible intervals. I like making them because it is such structured work: ferment, dough, shaping, crosses and glaze.
The ferment gets the yeast going - and it matters not whether you use fresh or instant yeast. The main dough is best mixed with a Kitchen Aid or another standing mixer, otherwise it is going to take a lot of elbow grease.
The crossing mix is a joy: I don't believe in just painting the crosses on the buns with white icing as some bakers do. Piping the sticky mix carefully onto risen buns is the best part.
Can you use currants?
Any dried fruit you prefer can be happily used. I don't normally put in citrus peel but it might be a nice option.
Do they keep?
They don't - they usually get eaten within a couple of days! Joking aside, they stay surprisingly fresh for two days, thanks to the glaze. I usually freeze half the amount, mainly to save some for later, but you can also keep them all in a tub or a bread bin because they are blissfully good toasted.
You need to take care not to ruin your toaster though because of the glaze. The best method is to slice the bun in half and place it, cut side down, on top of the toaster. Alternatively turn on your oven grill and place the buns on a piece of parchment set on the oven rack, cut side up.
And then spread some butter, unsalted according to my personal preference, over the golden crunchy surface and enjoy it. Happy Easter!