Miss 16 and I made hot cross buns on Easter Sunday, and they were deliciously light, spicy, soft and sticky – a triumph. They were also enormous, the result of inaccurate yeast measuring, or making them too big. We called them mutant hot cross buns, but wolfed them down anyway, fresh from the oven and slathered with butter. I wasn’t going to add the recipe here, because they certainly did not look like the perfectly styled buns that have been littering the blogosphere over the last week or so. But then I took myself to task. A recipe for delicious buns was what I aimed for, and that certainly was the result. So here it is, my hot cross bun recipe, and the buns, in all their bumpy, over-sized, very imperfect scrumptiousness. Don’t wait until next Easter to make them. Leave off the flour paste crosses and call them currant buns. I certainly will be making them again.
There are thousands of recipes for hot cross buns; on the internet, in cookbooks, and even in old newspapers. I found recipes from the 1890s in Australian newspapers when I was looking for a source recipe.
What I liked most about the recipe I chose to base mine on was that there was no peel, lots of mixed spice (and I increased it further) and the dough was enriched with eggs and butter, keeping to the tradition of rich, yeasty breads to mark the celebration of the end of the Lenten season on Easter Sunday. It takes quite a long time to make any bread, but most of the time is taken up with waiting for the bread to rise. It’s easy and simple to potter around the house or garden while the dough is rising, a slow and relaxing way to spend a weekend morning.
Makes 16 buns (unless you too want giant buns!)
4 cups plain flour
14 g dried yeast
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups currants
3-4 dried apricots chopped into small pieces the same size as the currants
40 g butter
300 ml full cream milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain flour
4 to 5 tablespoons water
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Combine flour, yeast, sugar, mixed spice, salt and currants in a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the milk and heat for a little longer, until the mixture is lukewarm. It needs to be not too hot and not too cold to activate the yeast. Add warm milk mixture and eggs to the dry ingredients. Use a knife to mix until dough almost comes together. Then finish mixing to form a soft dough with your hands.
Turn dough out onto a floured bench top or board. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding a little extra flour if it is too sticky to work with. Place into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Put somewhere warm and let the yeast work its magic. It should take about 1 – 1/2 hours to double in size.
Punch the dough down to its original size with your fist – the most satisfying moment in bread making. Knead for 30 seconds on a lightly floured surface until smooth, or as smooth as it can be given the currants in the dough. Divide into 16 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Place balls onto a baking tray lined with silicon paper, about 1cm apart, which will give them room to spread without joining completely to the buns next to them. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Put somewhere warm again for about 30 minutes, or until the buns double in size again. Preheat oven to 170 C.
Make the flour paste by mixing the flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth. Spoon into a small snap-lock bag and snip off 1 corner of bag. Pipe the flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses. (The snap lock bag trick is a great one for all sorts of quick piping tasks, especially children’s birthday cakes.)
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until buns are cooked through. While they are baking make the glaze. Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. When the buns are ready, take them out of the oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Brush generously with the sugar glaze to coat all of the top of the buns. Serve the buns warm with butter. If they are not all eaten the day they are made they are delicious split in half and toasted.