It had never even occurred to me to make my own hot cross buns until a friend posted a pic on Facebook last Easter of her oven-born, home baked buns.
They looked just like the shop bought ones – which of course you should never say, but to me, who’d imagined hot cross buns to be as beyond the scope of the domestic cook, as marron glace, or any Heston Blumenthal recipe, it was the biggest compliment I could imagine.
So far adrift of the baking zeitgeist was I that when she said it was Paul Hollywood’s recipe, I imagined this to be a friend of hers. I know! Yes, I’m still embarrassed but I don’t watch ‘Bake Off.’ Yes, I’m probably the only one who doesn’t and no, I don’t feel this undermines my credentials to write about baking.
Anyway, back to buns. I decided to give Paul Hollywood’s recipe a go but in hunting it down I discovered there are many ways to bake a bun, especially if it’s a hot cross bun.
There are some with stout – a Dan Lepard recipe. But I feel stout could overpower all the zesty, candied peel appeal.
There are some that require you to prove the dough over-night. Nigella’s requires this, so you can be sure that any TV footage of her baking her buns includes a scene where she sneaks downstairs in her silky negligee to see if anything’s risen – affording much opportunity for euphemism about things rising in the presence of Nigella in a nightie.
Personally I don’t have much patience with leaving things to prove overnight plus my stumbling about online brought me to another baker on a similar quest for the perfect hot cross buns. And do you know what she found them! So here they are:
Felicity Cloake’s Perfect Hot Cross Buns
Makes 16 hearty buns
200ml milk, plus a little more for glazing
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Pinch of saffron
20g fresh yeast
50g golden caster sugar, plus extra to glaze
450g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground ginger
50g mixed peel
3 tbsp plain flour
Heat 200ml milk gently in a pan along with the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and saffron until just boiling, and then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour. Bring back up to blood temperature and then mix the strained milk with the yeast and 1 tsp sugar.
Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and grate over the butter. Rub in with your fingertips, or in a food mixer, until well mixed, and then add the rest of the sugar and the salt and ginger. Beat together 2 of the eggs.
Make a well in the middle, and add the beaten eggs and the yeast mixture. Stir in, adding enough milk to make a soft dough – it shouldn’t look at all dry or tough. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, then lightly grease another bowl, and put the dough into it. Cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size – this will probably take a couple of hours.
Tip it out on to a lightly greased work surface and knead for a minute or so, then flatten it out and scatter over the fruit and peel. Knead again to spread the fruit around evenly, then divide into 16 equal pieces and roll these into bun shapes. Put on lined baking trays and score a cross into the top of each, then cover and put in a warm place to prove until doubled in size.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C and beat together the last egg with a little milk. Mix the plain flour with a pinch of salt and enough cold water to make a stiff paste. Paint the top of each bun with egg wash, and then, using a piping bag or teaspoon, draw a thick cross on the top of each. Put into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until golden.
Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp caster sugar with 1 tbsp boiling water. When the buns come out of the oven, brush them with this before transferring to a rack to cool. Eat with lots of butter.
Original recipe published here.