Hot Cross Buns

2 Feb

With Christmas over, I’m already thinking about upcoming celebratory holidays to give me an excuse to bake! For some reason I had a hankering for a freshly toasted hot cross bun; I absolutely love dried fruit, I’m actually terribly addicted to dried fruit in any shape or form. Fruit cake, muesli, tea cakes, rock cakes….or simply straight out of the bag. Dried fruit is a great source of fibre, and a healthier alternative to refined sugar to satisfy any sweet cravings, however it is still quite high in natural sugars, so don’t go crazy!

It isn’t clear exactly where the history of hot cross buns lies, and there are many theories. The most common and widely accepted theory is that these crossed, dried fruit studded buns represent Jesus’ crucifixion, and should be eaten on Good Friday. The bread represents the bread of the communion, the spices represent the spices that Jesus was wrapped in before he was placed in the tomb, and the cross is representative of the cross upon which he was crucified. So, I thought it only fitting to have a bit of a practise before Easter. For perfections’ sake, of course. Yum.

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These really are a lot easier than I thought they would be; stick everything in a bowl, mix it together, leave it for a while, shape it into balls, leave for a little while longer then bake 15 minutes. Done! My only learning point is that the thinner you do the cross, the better. It was a little too chewy for my liking!

Recipe (makes 12) – recipe from ‘The Great British Book of Baking’

  • 450 g strong white bread flour
  • 50 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (or freshly grated)
  • 1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
  • 50 g unsalted butter, diced (or margarine)
  • 125 g mixed dried fruit/peel
  • 200 ml lukewarm milk
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten

For cross

  • 4 tbsp strong white bread flour
  • 2 tbsp cold water

For glaze

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  1. Mix flour, sugar, mixed spice, nutmeg, salt and yeast (put the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl otherwise the salt can kill the yeast) in a large bowl and mix together well. Add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the dried fruit and make a well in the centre of the mixture. Pour in the milk and eggs, and using your hands draw the flour into the centre of the bowl to bring a soft dough together. 
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for around ten minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour – not too much or the dough will become dry.
  3. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel, then leave in a nice warm place for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Knock the dough back, then shape into twelve equally sized buns.
  5. Grease a baking tray, then place the buns on the tray, giving them enough space between one another to rise a bit more. Mix the flour with the water in a little cup until a thick paste forms, and pipe a thin cross onto each bun.
  6. Put the tray in a large plastic bag (I used two standard shopping bags and held them together in the middle with a cocktail stick); try to make sure that the buns aren’t touching the plastic. Leave it in a warm place for another 45 mins – 1 hour until they’ve risen some more, then place into a preheated oven (200 C) for 15 minutes until golden (instead of leaving them in a warm place for an hour, the book suggests that you can place them in the fridge overnight and then bake them in the morning).
  7. When it comes to the end of the baking time, make your glaze. Place the milk and sugar into a pan and heat over a medium heat to allow the sugar to dissolve. Allow the mix to boil for one minute, then take it off the heat. As soon as your buns come out of the oven, brush the glaze over the top of the buns, place them on a cooling rack and leave to cool.
  8. Invite your buddies over for a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake, and bask in the smugness of making your own buns! Delicious! And so much lighter/healthier than the bought version………

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