I like bank holidays. I like that Good Friday is less than a week away. I don't like that in the Netherlands you don't get Good Friday as a bank holiday. You only get Easter Monday. This makes me want to move.
So instead of making my hot cross buns on Good Friday like you're meant to, I'm making them a few days early. This also means that I can make these over Easter weekend too. Every cloud and all that I suppose.
I've never actually made hot cross buns before. In fact, as a child I didn't really like them but now that my taste buds have grown up a bit I love em. A sweet, spiced, yeast leavened bun filled with dried fruit. What's not to like? They have a cross piped onto them prior to baking and are traditionally eaten on Good Friday to symbolise the crucifixion.
Apparently there are many superstitions surrounding the humble hot cross bun too. Did you know that a hot cross bun made on Good Friday will not spoil or go mouldy over the coming year. Guess I'll not be able to test that one out though will I? If there are any sailors out there, take one on your next voyage to protect against a shipwreck. And if you're a bread baker, then hang one in your kitchen and it will protect against fires and ensure that your bread turns out perfectly every time.
By the way, this is just a bit if friendly advise. I do not take any legal responsibility if your bread gets burnt or your boat sinks. Maybe you should just eat them all instead. That sounds like a much tastier and less silly plan to me.
Makes 12 buns
I was quite nervous about getting the spicing right but thought I'd go with a recipe from 'The Great British Book of Baking'. I've made A LOT of things from this book and everything has turned out great including the teacakes which are fairly similar so I figured these would hit the spot too. If you love baking and haven't got the book, I'd say go and buy it this weekend.
Adapted slightly from the 'The Great British Book of Baking'
For the buns
450g strong white bread flour (The recipe called for 350g of white and 100g of strong wholemeal bread flour but it worked out great with just white).
50g caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 x sachet 7g instant yeast
50g unsalted butter
150g mixed fruit and peel (I only used mixed fruit as I can't find mixed peel here).
200ml warm milk
For the cross
4 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp water
For the glaze
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp milk
Put the flour, sugar, salt, spices and yeast into a large bowl and mix well. Add the diced butter and using your fingertips rub it in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the dried fruit. Make a well in the centre, pour in the lukewarm milk and the beaten eggs and gradually draw the flour into the liquid to make a very soft dough. Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead thoroughly for 10 minutes by hand or 4 minutes with a mixer on the lowest possible speed until silky smooth and very elastic.
I found that my dough was very sticky at the beginning and almost unworkable so I added a bit more flour. It didn't need much though and definitely be careful not to alter the ratio of ingredients too much. The dough shouldn't be sticking to your fingers, but you don't want a tough, dry hard dough.
Return the dough to the cleaned bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or put in a plastic bag and leave until doubled in size - about 1 hour. If my apartment is really cold I put the bowl in front of a preheated oven to give it a helping hand.
Punch down the risen dough to deflate and turn out onto your work surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape them into neat balls. Set them well apart on a greased baking tray and slip it into a large plastic bag, slightly inflated so the buns don't come into contact with the plastic. Leave to rise until doubled in size again - about 45 minutes to an hour. Towards the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
For the cross
Mix the flour with enough cold water to make a smooth thick paste that can be piped. I found that I needed a bit more water than the recipe states to get something loose enough to pipe. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with the smallest nozzle or use a plastic bag and snip off the corner. Uncover the buns and pipe a cross on to each one. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.
For the sticky glaze
Towards the end of the baking time, heat the milk with the sugar until dissolved. Boil for 1 minute, then brush over the buns as soon as they emerge from the oven. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
And finally, enjoy with a cup of tea and lashings of butter.