Classic Hot Cross Buns
Why go to the bother of making your own hot cross buns? Well, first, you can add as much spice as you like, and secondly your house will smell divine as they bake. This recipe, like a lot of breads – particularly the sweet ones, uses an egg to enrich and soften the dough. The flour-paste cross on the top adds nothing in the taste department but is completely necessary all the same.
- 150ml hand-hot water (use half boiling & half cold)
- 1 tbsp dried yeast
- 40g caster sugar
- 500g strong (bread) flour
- 1 heaped tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp salt
- 50g butter, melted
- 1 beaten egg
- 75ml warm milk
- Vegetable oil for greasing
- 75g raisins or currants
- 50g chopped mixed peel
- For the topping:
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 4 tbsp cold water
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp boiling water
Measure the water into a jug, stir through the yeast and a teaspoon of the caster sugar. Set aside for about 10 minutes until a foamy head forms on the surface.Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir through the spice, salt and the rest of the caster sugar. Make a well in the middle and set aside.
In another mixing jug or small bowl, beat together the melted butter, egg and warm milk. Pour into the well in the flour, along with the foaming yeast. Mix together with a spoon until the dough comes together in a rough ball, then tip on to the work surface. Knead the dough for at least 5 minutes, pushing away with the heel of your hand and rolling back towards you until it becomes stretchy and smooth. If it is sticking to the worktop, add a little flour, but be careful not to add too much or it will become dry. The fluffiest lightest bread comes from dough that is a bit sticky and wet to work with.
Place the dough in a bowl which you have lightly oiled, and cover with a clean tea towel or piece of clingfilm. Set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of the room, this will take an hour or two, maybe longer.
Once the dough has doubled in size, tip on to the worktop and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle over the dried fruit and mixed peel and gently knead into the dough. Using a knife, cut the dough in half, then cut each half into 6 equal-sized pieces. Gently roll each piece into a ball, tucking any fruit under the surface as much as possible because it can burn in the oven, and place in a deep-sided baking tin lined with baking paper. (You need a deep tin so that when you cover it, the buns have room to rise without sticking to the clingfilm.) Repeat with the remaining dough until you have 12 buns equally spaced in the baking tin. Cover lightly with a double layer of clingfilm, tucking it under the tray to keep the air out. Leave to prove again for 30–45 minutes until the buns have risen by half.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7.
Once the buns have proved for the final time, prepare the flour paste for the ‘crosses’ by mixing the flour and cold water until smooth. Spoon into a small sandwich bag and snip off a tiny corner to create a quick piping bag. Pipe crosses on to each bun. Transfer to the hot oven and bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown. While they are cooking, dissolve the caster sugar in the boiling water. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, glaze them by brushing with the sugar syrup. Put them on a rack to cool.