Easter baking: hot cross buns

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns!

As regular readers of Bangers & Mash will know, I have a few insecurities when it comes to baking. Probably because around 50% of my efforts are complete flops. I put it all down to not being taught to bake as a child. But enough of the self-psychoanalysis. I am turning my baking life around. Who cares if a cake doesn’t rise occasionally and what’s a burnt biscuit or two between friends? The more I try, the better I get. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

One of my hands down successes recently has been hot cross buns. When I took these little beauties out of the oven, I can’t tell you how proud I felt. They looked just like proper hot cross buns. And they smelled amazing, simply filling the kitchen with sweet, spicy goodness. It’s going to be difficult bringing myself to eat the shop-bought variety again.

So if I can make these bad boys, anyone can.

What surprised me most wasn’t the fact they were easy to make. They were. But how quick they were to make. Isn’t bread supposed to be complicated? I did the first part before ballet lessons on a Saturday morning (OK there was a  15-minute kneading session, but I found that rather enjoyable), leaving the dough to rise while the girls did ‘good toe, naughty toe’. Then they took another ten minutes work when we got back, plus a little more rising time and then into the oven. You just need to factor in time for rising. They also freeze really well, so great to make in advance and simply whip them out when you need them.

This recipe is by The Fabulous Baker Brothers aka Henry and Tom Herbert, which appeared in the April edition of Delicious magazine. I’d been thinking about trying hot cross buns for a little while and when I saw them on the front cover I took it as a sign. I stuck pretty much to their recipe except I swapped zest for mixed peel, only because I still have a big pot left over from Christmas I’m trying to use up.

We ate some of the buns warm from the oven with butter and cheese for a light lunch, and some the following morning with strawberry jam. The rest went in the freezer for some easy homemade home-baked pleasure whenever I fancy!

Hot cross buns

Makes 16

680g strong white bread flour
2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
10g salt
100g caster sugar
80g soft butter
15g mixed spice
175ml milk, tepid
175ml water, tepid
1 egg
80g currants
80g sultanas
40g mixed peel

For the cross
100g strong white bread flour
Pinch of salt and sugar
25g butter, melted
125ml water

For the glaze
75ml boiling water
1 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of mixed spice

Into a big mixing bowl put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, butter (make sure it’s really soft), mixed spice, milk, water and egg. Stir well (you’ll need to put some effort in here) until  you have a loose dough. Add a little more water if the mixture looks dry.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth. Gently work in the dried fruit and mixed peel. I stretched the dough out flat, scattered on a handful of fruit, folded the dough over and kneaded. And then repeated this until all the fruit was worked in.

Plop your dough back into the big mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for at least 45 minutes until it has doubled in size.

Before...
...and after!

Line a baking tray with good high sides with baking paper. Turn the dough out of the bowl and cut in half using a plastic scraper. Divide each half into half again, then keep repeating until you end up with 16 pieces.

Roll the pieces firmly  in your hands to make pert round shapes. Arrange them in the baking tray in a four by four formation with half an inch between each bun. Cover the tin with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes or so until the buns have doubled again in size.

Preheat the oven to 210ºC/gas mark 6-7.

Combine the dry ingredients for the cross in a bowl and gradually whisk in the melted butter and water until you get a smooth mixture. Pour into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Cross the buns by piping continuous lines across the length and breadth of the tin.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden. While they’re in, make the glaze. Boil the water with the sugar and mixed spice for half a minute, then put to one side. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush the tops with the spicy glaze.

 

The Little Loaf is hosting the Fresh from the Oven challenge this month and as the theme this time is hot cross buns I thought I might enter mine. Now, the Little Loaf is an amazing baker so I’m a little nervous with my amateur offering but hopefully she’ll appreciate my enthusiasm!