I always think it's a shame we only get to eat Hot Cross Buns for a few weeks a year. Now I have a recipe, perhaps I can eat them all year round - if I don't pipe the cross on them they can masquerade as toasted teacakes! Having developed an addiction to various shop bought varieties in the past few weeks I was already considering making my own. Then I turned my lastest packet over and realised the massive amount of incomprehensible ingredients and E numbers in the recipe. That decided me - I was definitely making some without all the junk. They're not as fluffy and light as shop bought ones, but I prefer that - it's like the difference between proper bread and cardboard/cheap white stuff.
I clearly remember learning the tune to the nursery rhyme 'Hot Cross Buns' on the flute when I was younger - it's nice to think of them as part of a long tradition. They also say (or so wikipedia tells me) that if you share a hot cross bun with someone your friendship throughout the coming year is ensured, especially if you say "half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be'. I love this idea - the only problem is most of my friends here seem to have an unhealthy aversion to raisins. (Though I have to admit I think twice about eating 'humiliated grapes' every time I watch Benny & Joon...)
When I make these again (I definitely will!) I think I'll change a few things. Firstly, I found the buns far too big - I would make 16 out of this recipe. In fact, I'll probably make a half recipe as it makes a lot. I would probably slightly increase the spices to 3 tsp. I would mix the fruit around a bit more - I only had raisins - perhaps some currants and golden sultanas. I'll make sure to find some proper bread flour as I only had normal plain too.
I've also - as maybe you can tell - made myself a little DIY lightbox with some card, tissue paper and an old cardboard box. I haven't had this much enjoyment out of playing with a cardboard box since I was five! I don't think I've mastered using it yet, but I'm loving discovering and learning new things.
** If you want to try my hot cross buns, please make version 4 - thank you! **
Hot Cross Buns
(adapted from Good Food Magazine, see here)
500g strong bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 heaped tsp mixed spice (see note below)
50g caster sugar (golden)
50g butter, chopped
200g mixed dried fruits
7g dried instant yeast
grated rind of a lemon
Sift flour into a mixing bowl, then add the spices, sugar and salt and mix well. Rub the butter in. Stir the dried fruit into the bowl, then sprinkle the yeast over and mix in. Warm the milk (I used the microwave) till hot but you can still hold your finger in it for a minute or so. Beat the eggs into the milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry then use a blunt knife to bring it all together. Leave for five minutes to rest. Tip/scrape out of the bowl onto a well floured surface. Cut into eight even pieces if you want large buns (I would do 12-16 small ones another time). Shape into buns and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with cling film (remember to leave space for rising) and leave in a warm place until roughly doubled in size (about 45 mins to 1 hr 15).
3 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp golden syrup or honey
When risen, preheat oven to 220C. Mix the flour and water into a paste (I needed more like 3 tbsp of water) and put into a plastic bag/piping bag and pipe thin crosses over each bun (about 2 mm wide). Bake for 12-15 minutes in the over until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and brush with golden syrup (I heated mine slightly in the microwave to make it easier to brush). I also found the glaze sank in after a day, so maybe add some more at a later date...)
(I used 4 cloves (ground), 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger and a good grating of fresh nutmeg as I didn't have mixed spice)