Friday, March 15, 2013

Hot Cross Buns

Easter time is upon us and although I have been making hot cross buns at work now for the last month, I decided it was time to give them a go at home. Every year my mum makes Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday and we compare results. Hers usually turn out pretty perfect and mine are a bit of hit and miss. I use a different recipe every year just for something new but I really should learn to stick with one I know will work.

The buns we make at work are just basically a sweet bread dough with spice and fruits added. Don’t get me wrong they are delicious, but I wanted to make a rich dough with eggs and butter galore! I came across such a recipe on the Guardian website. In the article “How to cook perfect Hot Cross Buns” Felicity Cloake trialled several methods and concluded with her perfect recipe.

I cheated a bit when I made these as I didn’t want to go out and buy too many ingredients and there are quite a few spices in her recipe. Instead of infusing the milk with whole cinnamon sticks and cloves, I just added some ground cloves and cinnamon to the mix (boring I know but its what I had in the cupboard). I also decided to make a batch with chocolate instead of fruit (predictable!). I used Cadbury Mini Drops because they look like little coloured eggs and well, it is Easter after all.

I had a few problems with this recipe, simple things that I should have known better than to do. The yeast I used was a bit old, not past its use by date but pretty close. I should have bought fresh yeast. Also when I added the yeast to the milk it was still pretty hot, I convinced myself that it was an alright temperature but I was clearly wrong. If yeast is exposed to too high temperatures it dies. So with these two issues combined I didn’t get the best lift out of my buns. They did not rise as well as I would have liked, but I promise you if you follow the recipe properly (UNLIKE ME!) your buns will be light and rich and delicious!

Hot Cross Buns

Adapted from Felicity Cloake at

What you will need

200ml milk, plus a little more for glazing
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
20g fresh yeast or 7g dried active yeast
50g caster sugar
450g strong white flour ("00" flour)
100g butter
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp mixed spice
3 eggs
150g currants
150g sultanas

For the cross
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar

For the glaze
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 cup boiling water

What you will need to do

Heat the milk in a saucepan with the cardamom pods and bring to the boil. Turn off heat and leave to infuse for an hour. Bring back to about 28*C, strain milk and add 1 tsp caster sugar and the yeast. Set aside.

In a large bowl place the flour and add the butter. Combine by either rubbing with fingertips or using a dough hook in a mixer. Add the rest of the sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and mixed spice. Beat two of the eggs together then add to the flour mix along with the yeast mix. Combine using the dough hook until you get a soft dough. Either continue mixing with the dough hook or knead the dough by hand until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic. Place in a warm spot until dough doubles in size. This could take hours, be prepared for that!

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch out the air. Flatten it out into a rough rectangle shape and scatter the sultanas and currants all over. Fold dough over and knead until fruit is evenly dispersed throughout. Place back into the bowl and leave to sit and rest for another 20 minutes.

Tip the dough out and cut it into 80g pieces (I got about 13). Roll the pieces into rough ball shapes and place them on a greased tray, cover with plastic and rest for another 20 minutes.

Re roll the balls into tight, neat buns and place back on a tray lined with baking paper. Give them about one centimetre gap between each bun. Cover with a tea towel until doubled in size and touching each other. Preheat the oven to 200*C and place an empty tray on the bottom rack. Make up the cross mix by combining the flour and sugar with enough water to make a thick paste. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the tops of the buns (I forgot this step, but I think it will make your buns turn out a lot more golden and delicious). Fill a piping bag with the bun mix or use a teaspoon and make crosses across the top of the buns. Place buns into the oven and throw a handful of ice onto the empty bottom tray. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Make the glaze by adding the sugar to the boiling water and stirring until dissolved. Brush over the tops of the buns.

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