Easter is just around the corner so I thought it was the perfect time to try my hand at Hot Cross Buns. Traditionally baked for Good Friday as part of Easter celebrations they are now available to buy over a much wider time period. Interestingly, to me at least, food writer Elizabeth Day explains that whilst the buns are now known for there link to Christianity that was not always the case and actually they have their origins in paganism where they represented the moon and its four quarters. The reason they are only available around Easter? Queen Elizabeth I passed a law restricting their consumption to the religious holidays. Wikipedia explains that Queen Elizabeth wanted an outright ban because they were seen as a hold-over of catholic belief but they were so popular they could only restrict there consumption. I have always loved them and actually quite like the fact they are not available all year round, it makes them that bit more special. I was brought up in a Christian household and my parents are fairly traditional so we were always served these on Good Friday and aside from the Easter eggs these were my favourite part of the holiday. This was the first time that I have actually had a homemade version and even though they are far from the prettiest version, they still tasted pretty good. For my recipe I turned to one of my most reliable baking sources, Dan Lepard.
Hot Cross Buns – Dan Lepard
makes 9 large buns
75g unsalted butter
2 level tsp mixed spice (I would increase this next time)
300g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp fine salt
zest 1/2 orange
2 tsp (about 1 sachet) of easy-blend dry yeast
275ml barely warm whole milk
250g mixed dried fruit (I went with traditional currants)
3 tblsp golden syrup
100g golden caster sugar
a few drops of lemon juice
1. Rinse out a teacup with boiling water and dry it. Add in the yeast along with 50ml warm water and 2 tblsp of flour form the total amount and stir together. Set aside for 15 minutes until the mixture foams, this is your sponge.
2. Melt the butter in a frying pan along with the spices until they sizzle gently, remove from the heat and let cool. Place the flours, salt and orange zest in a large bowl. Pour over the butter mixture and rub well into the flour. Combine the sponge with the milk, fruit and golden syrup the pour this over the flour mixture. Scrunch the dough together with your hands until evenly combined, making sure there is no hidden flour at the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.
3. Remove the bowl from the fridge and form the dough into 9 equal balls, about 100g each. Lightly flour your work top and working one ball at a time flatten with the palm of your hand then fold it onto itself. Rotate this piece of dough an eighth turn and repeat the fold. do this 12-14 times to knead and smooth your dough balls out (Im pretty sure this is where my downfall was). Place the buns on a parchement lined baking tray leaving a gap of 2-3cm between each bun. Cover with a kitchem towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 1/2-3 hours until doubled in size (I used a switched off oven).
3. Preaheat your oven to 200C / 400F. Brush the buns with a little milk then pipe the crosses onto the buns. The cross mixture is equal parts flour and water mixed together to form a paste. Bake for 35-40 mins until risen and brown on top (mine browned too fast so I covered them with foil part way through to prevent burning). Remove from the oven and let cool.
4. For the glaze add the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the mixture is thickened/syrupy in consistency. Remove from the heat and add in your lemon juice, let cool then brush over then buns whilst they are still warm.