Up until now every Easter has been the same. Me, getting up at the crack of dawn to make Hot Cross Buns – pummelling my way through a truckload of dough, making awkward looking crosses, ceremoniously taking them out of the oven and calling to everyone ‘eat them while their hot’. But – you know how it is at Easter, everyone is pretty laid back, enjoying the few days off and relaxing. By the time they get to the table, let alone my buns – they are cold and hard and I have taken on their supposed persona being a hot cross lady. Let’s just say my rock hard Easter buns have been as ritualistic as Easter itself.
This year I knew things had to change. And I have spent the last couple of weeks baking buns from different recipes to get the perfect ‘one’. I am very happy to say the recipe that achieved this status was actually the easiest by far and comes from Donna Hay. I must admit the one thing I did do that made a significant difference was to substitute plain (all purpose) flour for bread flour (bread flour has higher gluten levels and also contains small amounts of malted barley flour that gives the yeast a little boost).
These buns are softly scented little rolls that retain their texture long enough to enjoy a couple of hours (if not a day or two) after being baked. The spices are not over powering, the fruit content is subtle and they really are quite delightful.
Now that I have perfected the Hot Cross Bun, I can retain my cool and calm demeanour in the kitchen this Easter. I am looking forward to joining my family at the table unflustered, grazing with a seemingly endless appetite and catching up with friends. Happy Easter!
1 tablespoon dry yeast
½ cup caster sugar
1½ cups lukewarm milk
4¼ cups bread (or plain/all purpose) flour, sifted
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
50 grams/1.8 ounces melted butter
1 1/3 cups sultanas
1/2 cup mixed peel
6 tablespoons plain (all purpose) flour
5 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
Place the yeast, 2 teaspoons of the caster sugar and all of the milk in a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate (bubbles should appear on the surface and it should almost look like it’s foaming).
Sift the flour with the mixed spice and cinnamon. Add this to the yeast mixture along with the butter, remaining sugar, egg and sultanas and mixed peel – using the dough hook of the mixer and a low speed, mix until a sticky amalgamated dough forms.
Take it out and place on a very lightly flour dusted bench and knead for about 8 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let it sit in a warm place for an hour or until it’s doubled in size.
When doubled in size, place the dough onto the bench and divide into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place in a rectangular ovenproof tray, lined with baking paper (mine was 9 x 12 inches).
Cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise again around 30 minutes to an hour. Once risen you can pipe the crosses over the top.
Mix flour and water together to form a thick paste. Place in a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle (or a zip lock bag with a corner cut out) and starting from the edge of one bun, pipe a straight line along the centre of each bun till you reach the end of the tray. Repeat this until all buns have a vertical and horizontal line across them (a cross).
Once piped, this is placed in a preheated 200c/400f oven for 25-35 minutes (depending on your oven type) and bake until golden brown and well risen.
Place sugar and water in a small pan and cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid thickens. Brush this hot syrup generously over the tops of the hot buns as soon as they have been removed from the oven.
Enjoy warm or toasted with butter.
Source: adapted from Donna Hay
© 2011, Michelle. All rights reserved.