Hot Cross Buns

I ran my Easter cooking workshops this week and we had great fun with all sorts of Easter recipes, but I particularly loved teaching the baking of hot cross buns from scratch. It sounds terribly daunting but they’re actually a doddle – if you can get past the waiting time for the dough to rise.

This week leading up to Easter, I’ll share some of my lunch ideas with you, starting with these delicious spicy buns, best eaten straight from the oven with a good smear of butter. Why not practice them this weekend already? I can’t think of a better Sunday treat!

Here’s what goes in:

1 cup milk
3½ cups cake flour (or bread flour if you prefer)
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup castor sugar
Oil for the bowl
10g sachet of yeast
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fruitcake mix (with raisins and citrus peel)
Zest of one orange
½ teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the cross:
½ cup cake flour
75ml water
3 tablespoons of melted apricot jam, for glazing

How to do it:

Bring the milk to a gentle boil, and then, removing it from the heat, add the butter and set it aside to cool. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the spices, but reserving the dried fruit. Add the liquid (milk, butter and beaten egg), and combine everything until you have a sticky dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it on a lightly floured surface until it becomes smooth and elastic. You can flour your hands a little for easier handling. Add the dried fruit and orange zest and continue to knead the dough, turning it over until all the fruit is evenly distributed.
Lightly oil the bowl, pop the dough back into it and cover with a clean tea-towel (or beeswax wrap, which works really well). Leave it in a warm place for up to an hour to rise, or until such time as your dough has doubled in size. When it’s time, remove the dough from the bowl and knock it down, giving it a light knead again. Then allow it to rise, covered, for another hour.
After this time, you can divide the dough into 15 equal pieces to make the buns. I start by dividing it into 3 parts, and then make 5 balls from that. Arrange the balls on a large, lined baking sheet, slightly set apart so that they have room to rise and expand. Cover the tray with the tea towel again and set them aside to rise for about half an hour.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 190°C and make the crosses. Mix the flour and water to form a paste. Put the paste into a piping bag with a thin nozzle. When the buns have risen, pipe the crosses over the buns. I go from one end of the tray to the other, in one long movement, but do whatever works for you. Bake them for about 20 minutes until golden brown and then brush them with the melted apricot jam while the buns are still warm.

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