The hot cross bun is a marvelous little thing. Don’t pick them up at the corner shop though, they are far easier than you might think to make!
by John Pope on March 25, 2016
I have during my life to date eaten a LOT of hot cross buns but I had until this week never actually baked one. It is the Easter season and for some reason the creation of a small fruity bun decorated with a couple of intersecting lines suddenly seemed like a shocking thing to have never done.
A quick Google search for hot cross bun recipes pops up about 1.2 million results, but I have chosen to follow none of them and instead concocted my own based on the most interesting bits of some others and my limited knowledge of baking. After all, when there are that many recipes, one more can’t hurt and besides my very quick scrutiny found many of them were a bit lacking.
What makes this recipe (in my own slightly biased opinion) a bit special is the fact that the spices are infused into the milk, the fruit is soaked in rum, and the addition of a decent amount of citrus zest.
I am sure that the history of the hot cross bun is very interesting, but to be honest I don’t know it and the various accounts I have just sifted through are all a bit mixed up and vague. I don’t know whether the cross on the top was originally from an ancient Greek cake, a pagan festival, or created specifically to signify the way that Jesus died. What I do know is that Christians have appropriated it, that these buns are traditionally eaten at Easter and that they taste wonderful (especially when toasted with oodles of butter).
And so I give you…
For the dough
- Whole milk150 ml
- Unsalted butter50 g
- Caster sugar50 g
- Fine salt1 tsp
- Zest of an orange
- Zest of a lemon
- Dark rum2 tbsp
- Cardamom pods2
- Strong bread flour400 g
- Easy blend dried yeast14 g
- Mixed dried fruit125 g
- Ground cinnamon1 tsp
- Ground nutmeg½ tsp
- Ground ginger½ tsp
- Large egg1
For the wash/cross/glaze
- Large egg1
- Plain flour3 tbsp
- Caster sugar1½ tbsp
Put the mixed fruit in a bowl with the rum and leave it to soak while you sort out the milk and the dry ingredients.
Zest the lemon and orange, and add the zest together with the clove, cardamom pods, the butter and milk to a small saucepan. Heat until the butter melts and then leave it to cool to skin temperature.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the sugar, salt, and yeast.
Remove the cardamom pods and clove from the milk, beat in the egg and pour it into the bowl of dry ingredients.
Add the soaked fruit and mix everything together well, then knead for about five minutes until you have an elastic dough with a bit of a shine to it. Form it into a ball, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size, which will take about 1½-2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F).
Give the dough a sound beating to knock the air out of it and knead until it is smooth and elastic again. Divide it into 10-12 pieces and shape them into smooth round buns.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper and arrange the buns on it, so that they are close together but not touching as they will expand as they rise and use a knife to gently score a cross across the top of each bun. Cover them with a clean towel and leave in a warm place to rise again for about 45 minutes, until they look well risen.
Beat the remaining egg with a splash of milk to make an egg wash and brush the surface of the buns. Mix together the flour, half a tablespoon of the caster sugar and about two tablespoons of cold water to form a smooth paste. Using a piping bag (or whatever else you have to hand) draw two lines over the top of each bun to make a cross.
Pop the buns into the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes.
When you take the buns out of the oven, mix the remaining tablespoon of caster sugar with a tablespoon of boiling water to make a glaze. Brush it over the top of the buns to give them a lovely glossy shine.
Look a bit smug and pleased with yourself because you have just created something that looks, smells and tastes far better than the ones you buy in your local supermarket.