As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, food styling is not really my strong point. Can I make food taste nice? Yes. Can I make it look nice? Not so much. So I was really excited about how well these home made hot cross buns came out.
If you’re not British, then you might be wondering what on earth hot cross buns are. Put simply, they are sweet bread rolls, enriched with dried fruit and spices that are traditionally served at Easter, usually on Good Friday. The crosses on the top are said to symbolise the Crucifixion. If you’re further interested in the symbolism and history of hot cross buns, you can find out more at Food Timeline.
This is not a recipe to make in a hurry – you’ll need at least 3 hours for prep, rising time and cooking, but they aren’t difficult. Most of the time is used up waiting for the dough to rise.
Depending on how big you make them, this recipe should yield between 12-16 fist-sized buns.
- 500g strong bread flour
- a good pinch of salt
- zest of 1 lemon (optional)
- 2 teaspoons of mixed spice (if you can’t buy as mixed spice, it’s usually made from ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and coriander)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (to make it extra lemony)
- 50g sugar
- 50g butter
- 100g sultanas (substitute for raisins if you must, but not currants as they’re too crunchy)
- 100g mixed dried fruit (you can buy packs ready diced, or cut up a mix of your favourites – I used dried apple, figs, apricot and peach chopped up tiny)
- 1 x sachet of easy-blend yeast
- 200ml milk
- 2 eggs
For the crosses:
- plain flour
- a couple of tablespoons of water
For the glaze:
- a couple of teaspoons of honey
1) Stir together flour, salt, mixed spice and sugar in a bowl, before adding the butter in cubes or pieces. Rub the butter in with your fingertips as if you were making crumble, but don’t expect it to turn into breadcrumbs. Once the lumps of butter are gone, you can move on to the next stage
2) Stir in the yeast and dried fruit to mix everything together.
3) Heat the milk until it is hand hot (you can do this in a pan on the stove, or heat in the microwave in 20 second bursts), then beat the eggs into the milk.
4) Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and tip in the milk and egg mixture. Mix together with a spoon at first, and then your hands, to make a soft dough. If it seems too dry and flaky, add a drop more milk or water until the dough comes together and feels fairly silky.
5) Turn out the dough and knead until the dough feels smooth (apart from the fruit!) and springy. This will take around 5-10 minutes. To check if it is ready, make a thumbprint on the surface of the dough. If it springs back up then it’s ready. If the indentation stays as you made it, you need to do some more kneading.
6) Rinse and dry out the mixing bowl, then return the dough to the bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm. Leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – this will take around an hour (I put mine on a shelf over a radiator in a sunny window to get heat from the top and bottom!)
7) Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and punch it down, then knead for another minute or so. Divide into pieces and roll them into balls, before flattening down slightly and putting on a baking tray (don’t worry too much about putting them next to each other, it’s not like baking biscuits). Cut a shallow cross into the top of each bun before covering the trays loosely with clingfilm again and leaving for a second proving.
8) As it will take around 45 mins – 1 hour for the buns to rise, now is a good time to preheat your oven. You can even leave the baking trays on top of the oven if you like as the rising heat will help them on their way. Preheat your oven to around 210 degrees celsius/Gas Mark 6.
9) Next, make the paste for the crosses. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour to a bowl and mix with water until it forms a loose but not super-runny paste. Once the buns have risen, you can either pipe the paste into a cross shape, or try and drizzle it on carefully with a spoon.
10) Bake the buns on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 mins or so (start checking at about 12 mins, but they may take up to 20 mins) They are done when they are golden on top and when you turn one over, the base is done and not soft and doughy.
11)While the buns are still warm, brush with honey to make a nice glaze.
There you go – it sounds fussy but give them a try and you’ll see they aren’t as hard as they look. Eat as they are on the day they’re made, or split them, toast them and serve with butter for an indulgent treat for up to 3 days afterwards!