Who loves a good Easter bun - me, me! ME!
I must say I am a bit of a hot cross bun snob because for me it is not a Hot Cross Bun unless it's got the perfect balance of dried fruit, mixed peel and deliciously warming spices! When I was travelling overseas and found Hot Cross Buns harder to find than water in the dessert I decided the only option was to make my own because for me it is not Easter without these babies!
I have to say that my disappointment soon turned into triumph and jubilation (yes I really was that excited) when I produced these gorgeous buns and I swear the aroma that will waft throughout your home will lift your spirits and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!
I also like to gift these to friends by popping a fresh bun with a few mini chocolate eggs, into a little Easter gift bag - so cute!
If you have your reservations about cooking with yeast, rest assured that today's yeast is a lot easier to work with and if you follow the tips below your breads will always turn out perfect!
Always ensure your liquid is the right temperature for the yeast and that you add some sugar for it to feed/ferment properly.
Using a thermometer helps a lot unless you are a seasoned expert because if your liquid is too cold or too hot the yeast will not do it's thing and your bread won't rise = disaster!
Greasing your dough hook (if using a machine) with oil before you start kneading your dough will ensure it removes easily off the hook once ready.
If after 10 minutes your yeast is not bubbly and frothy don't even bother going ahead with the recipe because your yeast isn't working and your bread won't rise. My advice would be to get some fresh yeast, ensure your temperatures are right and start again - it will save you a lot of heartache!
Ensure your dough gets a nice rise in a nice, warm, draft-free environment. An oven that has just been heated a little and then turned off is ideal or if you are a having a lovely warm day, just pop it outside, covered of course, and let it do its thing.
Bread flour is best for recipes like this because of it's high gluten content which allows you to achieve the right texture and consistency.
If you notice your bun tops browning early in the baking process and are worried about possible burning, you can cover with foil during your bake to protect your tops and continue baking until cooked.
The traditional way to enjoy hot cross buns is warm or toasted with some fresh butter but if you are a cheese freak like me then you can also enjoy them toasted with melted cheese (and even ham) - sounds weird but the sweet/salty flavor is truly awesome! These also make an excellent base for a rather fabulous bread pudding.
And last but not least;
Store your yeast in the fridge to keep it as fresh as possible
You can omit the fruit and/or mixed peel if you like from this recipe
You can add 3/4 cup white, milk or dark choc-chips and/or 1/2 cup chopped nuts (at the stage you would add the dried fruit)
YOU WILL NEED
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
1 tablespoon caster sugar
3/4 cup skim milk + 1/2 cup skim milk (you can also use whole or lactose free milk too)
50g | 1.7 ounces | 3+1/2 tablespoons melted butter
3 ½ cups bread flour OR 3 ½ cups plain flour + ¾ tablespoon gluten (plus extra flour if needed)
1/2 cup | 120g | 4 ounces sultanas
1/2 cup | 80g | 3 ounces mixed peel
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2+1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup water for crosses (plus more if needed)
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
In a small saucepan warm ¾ cup of milk to 46°C/115°F. Pour into a jug or small mixing bowl and add the yeast and sugar. Give a good brisk stir (10-20 seconds) to make sure it is all well combined. Cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes or until frothy.
Add the ½ cup cold milk, melted butter and egg to the yeast mix, whisk together until well combined.
Grease your dough hook of you stand mixer and then bread flour/or plain flour + gluten, sultanas, mixed peel, caster sugar, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and cardamom.
Slowly add the milk/yeast mix to into the flour mixture and turn your stand mixer on low to combine the ingredients together. Scrape down your bowl from time to time to ensure everything is well combined.
Turn up and continue kneading on medium speed for 6-8 minutes OR knead by hand only for about 10 minutes. You will know that the dough is ready when it "comes together" into a nice ball easily and you can feel a good "stretch". If you dough is too wet add a little more flour in small amounts - 1/8 of a cup at a time, kneading well between each addition until the dough comes together nicely into a ball.
Place dough in a large well-greased bowl covered with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
Turn out the risen dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. Separate into 12 rolls and place the rolls into a well-greased 21cm x 21cm/8 inch x 8 inch OR 30cm x 21cm/12 inch X 8 inch baking tray/dish.
Cover and set aside in a warm place for another 30 minutes to rise and double in size.
Combine ½ cup flour with ¼ cup water to make a workable paste for the crosses. If there is not enough water in the flour add a little more water until you have a thick paste (think something like toothpaste consistency). Place into a small piping bag or resealable sandwich bag and cut a small hole in one corner to pipe the paste in a cross shape across your buns. (You will not need all the mix, that’s fine.)
Bake at 200°C/390°F for 5 minutes and then reduce to 160°C/320°F for another 20-25 minutes.
For the glaze place the sugar into boiling water in a small saucepan and on medium-high heat allow sugar to dissolve. Boil until it thickens slightly then take off the heat.
Brush the hot glaze over the warm buns and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Serve warm with fresh butter. Happy Easter EISer's!
MAKES 12 LARGE HEAVENLY BUNS