Hot Cross Buns – a seasonal treat not to miss!
Hot Cross Buns are always a sign of spring. Whether you associate them with a cultural memory or just nostalgic senses of smell and taste, they’re sure welcome at this time of year.
I learned to make these in Chef School. What a pleasant surprise that was to see this childhood favourite on the curriculum. Of course, the original recipe which I made (from school) could feed an army. These do freeze well, but they are so nice to eat fresh and are easy enough to make it’s good to do a smaller batch.
If you’re new to bread making, take a look at my post on basic bread making for some general directions. Making yeasted breads is a treat that is a shame to miss. It’s much easier than you’d think.
Little hits of sunshine for the season
Please do remember to glaze these little guys with some warmed and strained apricot jam. One year I made them I completely forgot to do that and could not figure why they looked so odd … and sadly did not taste as good!
These buns do of course contain candied peel. Please don’t let that put you off! We’ve all had the dried out, tasteless candied peel in countless things before and I know many people really don’t care for it. This brand, is really nice. You, of course, may not want to buy a 900g bag of the blinking stuff, so it does come in smaller packages.
I also use the peel in a lovely Dundee cake which I shall post soon. That’s a traditional Scottish cake full of raisins and just a wee bit peel. You can also add peel to biscotti and other cookies for an intense hit of flavour.
Easy prep – “scaling” other ingredients
When I make these, the recipe asks you to mix half the flour with the water and the yeast and let it sit. This is a good time to mix up all the other stuff – I have written the recipe to say do that all first – you don’t want to forget to do the extra bits and then are scrambling.
One of the things I’m passionate about is not washing dishes! You can see here that I measure all of my other ingredients into the same bowl. This, to me, is one of the bonuses of using a scale. No extra spoons, cups or whatever to wash. Not all recipes work well this way, but this one does. I use a wide container to start adding all the ingredients to, then when it’s time, scoop all of it into the mixer.
This batch pictured here has raisins. These buns are also completely awesome with currants. I just happened to have opened a fresh bag of raisins the other day to make muffins and thought that raisins would be good in today’s batch of Hot Cross Buns.
Working with the dough
I do weigh the buns as I shape them, this is quite easy to do and ensures that all the buns bake evenly. It may seem like a lot of extra work, but trust me, it’s worth it. After the dough has proofed once, I put it on the counter and with a bench or bowl scraper, cut off little blobs.
If you don’t have a scale, don’t worry about it, but do consider buying one. When I cut the dough for buns, I’ve now got quite a good at eyeing the size, but in the beginning, I was off quite a bit. You may end up with some buns that are underbaked and doughy in the middle if they’re all different sizes.
Toss each one on the scale and shape into buns a couple at a time. Make sure to cover your dough as you work. This includes the blobs… this will prevent the dough from drying out a bit.
After the second proof, the buns are ready to have the crosses added – or not – the crosses are made from a mix of flour, oil and water with just a hint of sugar and salt. They really do not add any taste, they’re there just for looks. I’ve seen other recipes in my baking travels that have the crosses made from a pastry dough, but I’ve chosen to go with this version.
I use a piping bag to do the crosses, nice and easy.
After they’re baked, don’t forget to brush them with some warmed and strained apricot jam. It gives a lovely shine and an added hit of sweetness,
Here’s the recipe – let me know how you like it!
- 250ml (1 cup) water
- 12g (4 teaspoons) dried yeast (active or instant)
- 500g - 600g (4-5 cups) all-purpose/bread flour split into two equal amounts
- 150g (3) eggs, beaten
- 75g (1/3 cup) butter
- 75g (6 tablespoons) sugar, white
- 10g (1 and 3/4 teaspoons) salt
- 10g (2 and 1/2 teaspoons) hot cross bun spice (please feel free to use less if you prefer a mildly spiced bun).
- 40g (1/2 cup) each candied lemon and orange peel, diced
- 75g (1/2 cup) currants or raisins
- 60g (1/4 cup) apricot jam, gently heated and strained
Hot Cross Bun Spice
- 20g (4 teaspoons) cinnamon
- 5g (1 teaspoon) allspice
- 5g (1 teaspoon) ground cardamom
- 2g (1/2 teaspoon) ground cloves
- 2g (1/2 teaspoon) ground ginger
Topping (water dough)
- 40g (1/3 cup) flour
- 40g (1/3 cup) canola oil
- 40g (1/3 cup) water
- 3g (1/4 teaspoon) sugar
- 3g (1/4 teaspoon) salt
Please read all the instructions before starting this recipe. There are a couple of steps involved. No special equipment is required. If you do not have a piping bag, then a freezer-type ziploc bag will work.
I use a stand mixer to make these buns, you can definitely do it by hand, kneading times may take longer.
The ingredients for the Hot Cross Bun Spice makes more than you need for this recipe, but it keeps well is a tightly closed glass jar.
- Assemble the Hot Cross Bun Spice mix and set aside.
- Assemble the topping dough and set aside.
- Mix the water, yeast and 250g (2 cups) of the flour to form a smooth but wet dough. Leave the dough in the bowl you mixed it in and cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and set aside to rise for 20 minutes.
- Add the remaining flour, sugar, the eggs, butter, salt and spice mix.
- Mix until the dough is smooth and well developed (everything is incorporated into the dough). You may need to add up to another 50g to 100g of flour depending on factors such as size of your eggs, humidity in your work area etc. (Also type/brand of flour you are using).
- Knead the dough until it is very elastic and smooth. The dough will have a lovely light brown colour due to the spice mix. In a stand mixer this is approximately eight minutes. You may need to go longer if kneading by hand.
- Add the fruits in the last minute of kneading.
- Set aside to proof for 60 minutes. This is the same as for plain white bread. Cover, put in a warm place and let rise. You will want the dough to double in size. This is a good time to check to see if your inclusions (chopped peel and raisins/currants) are well distributed throughout the dough.
- The dough is ready to make the buns when you gently press a finger into the dough and it springs back.
- Gently deflate the dough (push down with your hand) and scoop out onto a very lightly floured counter.
- Divide the dough into equal sized pieces - roughly 75g (approx 2 and 1/2 ounces) each.
- "Round up" - which is taking each piece and rolling into a ball. Once you have a ball shaped, gently roll your hand over the top of the ball and form a consistent round shape without too much pressure. You are cradling the ball of dough between your hand and the counter.
- Place the buns on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, each bun should have some space between them, but not too much as you want them to touch each other after they have proofed again. Cover the tray (with a clean towel) as you are forming the buns so they don't dry out.
- When the buns have doubled in size, (this should take 30-40 minutes in a warm spot) this is the time to add the crosses on the top. Pour the topping dough into a piping bag (if your are using a disposable one, snip a hole in the end approximately 1/4" in diameter). If you're using a resusable bag, select a plain tip around that size.
- Because the buns have proofed up and doubled in size, they should be touching each other. Pipe a whole line across the middle of the buns without stopping. Do the entire row of buns. Then do the same thing the other direction.
- Bake for 18 minutes at 375F (190C). If you're using a fan oven, lower the temperature to 350F (175C). They should be a nice golden brown on the top.
- Once the buns are cooled a bit, brush them with the strained apricot jam for a beautiful glaze.
- Eat the buns within a couple of days for ultimate enjoyment or freeze and bring out as needed over the next couple of weeks.
My recipes are all created using metric weight measurements. Conversion to spoons and cups are approximate.
The amount of time it takes for a yeasted dough to rise will depend very much on the temperature of your kitchen/house. All times noted in the recipe are approximate.
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