I am a girl on a mission: I really, really want to create the perfect hot cross bun recipe.
A year ago I tried my first ever hot cross bun recipe. I was so keen I made them on the 3rd of March. It was pretty exciting as a novice yeast baker, though I have to admit that next to the fluffy supermarket buns, mine were like rocks. Then later in the year I was challenged by the Daring Bakers to make Stollen. It was a revelation - I could make light fruited breads at home. And so I resolved to create fantastic hot cross buns when the time rolled around.
I want to create a great hot cross bun because I love them. Partly because they are the perfect excuse to get really crazy with the salted butter. My mum and I really love butter (could you possibly have already guessed this by my blog/career choice...?). I found a lovely motto on The Transplanted Baker the other day - "Good food should be made with butter and love".
(Disclaimer: I do not eat butter in every meal I eat. I promise. That would be unhealthy. I generally eat really quite healthily at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's just elevensies, afternoon tea and pudding that usually involve butter... but I'm generally v good at portion control)
So anyway, I really must insist that you try lots of salted butter on your next hot cross bun. It's so much better than unsalted for this and butter is almost as necessary here as it is on a crumpet.
I've made this recipe lots of times recently, trying to get it just right. It's still not there but I'm on my way.
The best idea I've had so far is to candy your own orange peel to include in the dough and then use the delicious syrup to brush over the buns instead of golden syrup. When you toast them it bubbles up and gets all sticky and brilliant and the taste adds so much to the overall finish. The buns you see above are the first batch I tried this with and are an example of a 12 bun batch (the others are a 16 bun in a smaller tin). I couldn't resist.
Because of the inconvenience that is revising for finals, I decided to bring back some of my last batch of candied peel and the syrup from Switzerland in some ziplock plastic bags. They survived the journey but my syrup had crystallized a bit. In trying to liquify it I half caramelised it so the main batch you see have a slightly funny topping. The caramel is pretty great though. Snappy on top. Might have to try it again if I don't have the syrup.
Also, these freeze really well. Just pop any you don't eat the first day or two in a plastic bag in the freezer. Defrost for an hour or two then toast and butter. Hot cross buns on demand. Perfect for revision.
I should imagine I'll be back next year with volume three. How exciting.
** If you want to try my hot cross buns, please make version 4 - thank you! **
Hot Cross Buns v.2
(adapted from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course)
150ml lukewarm water
1 tsp golden caster sugar
10g fresh yeast
450g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
4 whole cloves, ground
50g golden caster sugar
40ml warm milk
1 egg, beaten
50g butter, melted
1 tbsp plain flour (not strong)
1 tbsp water
4-5 tbsp reserved candied peel syrup (or golden syrup)
Lots of salted butter to eat them with
Pour the water into a small bowl, stir in the tsp sugar and then crumble the yeast in. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until frothy. Meanwhile sift the flour, salt and spices into the bowl of your stand mixer (or a mixing bowl if making by hand). Stir in the sugar, currants, sultanas and orange peel. Pour in the frothy yeast mix, warm milk, melted butter and beaten egg. Attach the paddle attachment and mix until you have a combined dough. Swap the paddle for the dough hook and knead for 6 minutes. (If making by hand make a well in dry to pour the wet into, then slowly pull in to create dough then turn out onto floured surface and hand knead). Place the dough into a lightly oiled big bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1hr 15 mins or until doubled.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down. Cut the dough into 12 pieces for big buns or 16 for small with a sharp knife. Line a tin with baking parchment and then arrange the buns on the sheet. Cover again with cling film and leave to rise for 45 minutes until puffy. Preheat the oven to 220C (425F). Combine the flour with the water to create a thick paste (adding a little more water if needed) then scoop it into a piping bag or a plastic bag with the corner cut off. Unwrap the buns and pipe the paste over each bun in the cross pattern. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and hollow when tapped. Brush the syrup over the buns then remove to a cooling rack.
Serve either hot from the oven with plenty of salted butter or split, toasted and topped with lots more salted butter.