Hot Cross Buns
A fond childhood memory for me was my mother’s hot cross buns. She made them every year at Easter, and we’d all look forward to digging into the cinnamon and raisin goodness.
For the first time in years, I decided to bake my own hot cross buns. Baking bread has long been a challenge for me, and I have to say this recipe was very easy to make and turned out fantastically.
At first I thought I might make some other design on top of the buns. The cross, of course, is meant to symbolize the crucifixion. But neither Rich or I are Christian, so it seemed more appropriate for me to draw some other sort of design. However, when it came time to do that, I realized the sticky, paste-like dough was not easy to draw with. So in the end, crosses are what I made, since it’s easy to draw straight lines. Maybe next time I’ll try drawing a flower or something.
I got my recipe from a post I saw on Tastespotting. I modified it slightly, so my modifications are noted here. Also, the original recipe calls for using a scale and measuring most of your ingredients by weight. I recommend doing this if you want to use this recipe. Baking can be finicky and converting all of this to volume (cups, etc) may not produce the same results.
Hot Cross Buns
14g dry active yeast
500g white flour for bread, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground mixed spices. (I used approximately 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice).
Pastry for the crosses:
1/4 teaspoon sugar
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
Prepare a baking sheet by lightly greasing it.
In a small bowl mix the yeast, 2 teaspoons flour, 1 teaspoon sugar and 125 ml luke warm water. Cover with a with a damp cloth and place a in warm place for about 10 minutes. This will activate your yeast. After 10 minutes you should have a frothy, bubbly mixture. If not, your yeast is probably too old. Try again with fresher yeast.
In a large bowl, sift together your flour and spices, then mix in the sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces and add it in, mixing well with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the raisins and then pour in the yeast mixture and 185ml extra water. Mix the dough by hand, and then knead it gently until it all comes together. The dough should easily leave the sides of the bowl.
Dust a countertop with some flour and put your dough on top. Knead it for 5 minutes or so, just until the dough is nice and smooth. If you need to add a bit more flour to combat stickiness, feel free, but only add it in small amounts at a time. Once the dough is smooth, shape it into a ball and toss it into a lightly floured bowl. Cover with a damp towel and put into a warm place to rise until doubled in volume (approximately 30-40 minutes). Hint: I heat my oven up very slightly, so you can just barely feel the warmth. I then shut off the oven and put my dough in there to rise. If you have a drafty kitchen, this really helps make sure your dough has a warm place!
Once your dough has risen, put it back onto your floured countertop and knead it again until smooth. Divide it into 12 equal parts, then roll each portion into a ball and place it on the greased baking tray, making sure the balls are all touching each other (see picture). Cover the tray with a damp cloth and allow to rest in a warm place for another 20 minutes. The balls of dough will double in volume again.
Preheat the oven to 200C (almost 400F).
For the crosses, mix the flour, sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons of water into a thick but smooth paste-like mixture. Put into a piping bag or a small sandwich bag with a slight cut at one of the corners. Pipe crosses onto your buns, or, if you are handier than I am with pastry and want to be creative, make some sort of design instead.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Your crosses should still be fairly white, however.
To glaze the buns, mix together the sugar and water over low heat, just until the sugar is melted. With a pastry brush, brush over the buns while they are still warm.
Allow to cool a bit, then eat!
Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate, and Happy Spring to those who don’t!