We’re now well into Lent which means just one thing: Easter is on it’s way! This year I decided to give up jelly sweets which means no percy pig, milk bottle or dolly mixture pick-me-ups until the 21st April – help! To take my mind of the temptations of the sweets that I have lingering around the house I thought I would try out a new recipe (from BBC food) that is perfect for a Sunday treat and can only really be made at this time of year – Hot Cross Buns.
My buns (of the baked variety) didn’t rise as much as I was expecting and felt a little bit heavy once baked and I’ve got a feeling this is down to two things: using strong white bread flour instead of strong white flour and mixing the dry ingredients together before adding the egg and milk – I think this might have prevented the yeast from working properly so mind as you go with this!
Saying that, they don’t feel doughy or disappointing when eating so it wasn’t really too much of a problem, I’ll just have to bake up another batch to test my theory, and I can think of worse things than munching on another few hot cross buns!
This is definitely a bake that requires at least a full morning; theres a good 2 hour proving time needed, but I can promise you its worth it come the afternoon when you can enjoy one of these with your feet up – maybe you could bake a batch of these for a treat on mothers day next weekend?
Ingredients (Makes 12 Big Buns)
For the buns:
625g Strong White Flour
1 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Ground Mixed Spice
45g Unsalted Butter, cubed
85g Caster or Granulated Sugar
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Medium Egg
275ml Warm Semi Skimmed Milk
125g Dried Fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins and cranberries work well)
For the topping:
4 Tbsp Plain Flour
2-3 Tbsp Golden Syrup, warmed up ready for glazing
For the buns:
Sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the sugar and lemon zest and yeast.
In a separate mixing jug, beat the egg into the warm milk and slowly add to the flour. Mix together with your hands until you have a soft and smooth dough.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and carefully knead the dried fruit into the dough until it is evenly dispersed and well combined. Knead for another 5 minutes until the dough is elastic.
Shape the dough into a ball and add to a large oiled mixing bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave the dough to prove in a warm place for an hour.
When the hour is up, turn the proved dough out onto a lightly floured surface again and knock all the air out of it. Shape it into a ball and return in to the bowl to rise for another 30 minutes, with the tea towel covering it.
After the 30 minutes are up, turn the dough out onto your lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and squash gently into a bun shape with your hands. Cover the buns with the tea towel and leave to rest to one side for 5-10 minute.
Whilst the buns are resting, grease two baking trays with butter and find two large polythene bags (black bags work well).
After the 10 minutes resting time, transfer the buns to the prepared trays and place inside the plastic bags. Tie the end of the bags tightly so that no air can get in. Leave in a warm place for a final 40 minutes rising time.
In the last 10 minutes of the rising time, preheat the oven to 240C/220C Fan/475F and prepare the topping.
For the topping:
Mix the plain flour to a smooth paste with at least 2 tablespoons of cold water (you may need to add more water or flour to get the right consistency but this isn’t difficult).
Spoon the flour mixture into a piping bag and leave to one side whilst you remove the buns from the polythene bags. Pipe a cross on to each bun and place in the centre of the oven to bake for 8-12 minutes, until pale golden brown.
Once baked, remove from the oven and immediately brush them with the golden syrup before transferring to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
Serve with butter and if you’re feeling indulgent, a little jam and enjoy your handiwork!