Thursday, 21 April 2011

Hot cross buns

It's been like high summer this week in London – very un-Easter like – and I had the surreal experience of making hot cross buns in such unseasonal conditions. Their spicy comfort seems much more suitable to cool weather, yet I forged ahead and gave them a whirl.

I used Daniel Steven's recipe from the River Cottage Handbook as for the soda bread I made earlier and was surprised how easy it is to bake hot cross buns yourself using a food mixer and dough hook.

Makes 8

250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
250g plain white flour
125ml warm water
125 warm milk
5g powdered yeast
10g salt
50g caster sugar
1 medium free-range egg
50g butter
100g raisins, currants or sultanas (or a mixture)
finely grated zest of half an orange (I doubled this)
1 tsp ground mixed spice (I used mainly cinnamon with some ginger and cloves)

For the crosses:
50g plain white flour – I kept adding more flour as the paste was too runny and it was still too runny!
100ml water

To finish:
1 tbsp apricot or other jam, sieved (I used quince jelly)
1 tbsp water

Combine the flours, water, milk, yeast, salt and sugar in the bowl and fit the dough hook. Add the egg and butter and mix to a sticky dough. Now add the dried fruit, orange zest and spice and knead on a low speed until silky and smooth.

Cover the dough and leave to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

Knock back the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into rounds and dust with flour. Place on a floured board and leave to prove, covered with a linen tea towel (or in a large plastic bag) for about 30 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and make the paste for the crosses by beating the water into the flour until smooth (add enough flour to make a fairly thick piping consistency – mine was too liquid). Transfer the paste into a piping bag or plastic food bag and snip off a corner to make a small hole.

Pipe crosses on to the risen buns and bake for 15–20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, melt the jam with the water. Brush over the buns to glaze them while they are still warm. Allow them to cool on a wire rack and serve warm, cold or toasted (and, ideally, spread with decent butter).

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