In 16th-century England, bakers were restricted by law to making spiced buns only on certain occasions. One of these was Good Friday, when the symbolic ‘cross buns’ were sold warm, as the rhyme ‘one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns’ attests.
This recipe [from Mastering the Art of Baking by Anneka Manning] can easily be doubled.
Hot cross buns
Preparation time: 50 minutes (+ 3 hours 15 minutes proving)
Cooking Time: 22 minutes
80g (2¾ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
60ml (2 fl oz / ¼ cup) warm water
7g (2 teaspoons) dried yeast
125ml (4 fl oz / ½ cup) lukewarm milk
35g (1¼ oz) butter, melted
410g (14½ oz / 2¾ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
105g (3½ oz / 2/3 cup) currants
120g (4¼ oz / 2/3 cup) raisins
40g (1½ oz / ¼ cup) mixed peel (mixed candied citrus peel)
1 egg, whisked
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
115g (4 oz/ 1/3 cup) apricot jam
1 Combine a pinch of the sugar and the warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the yeast, then set aside for 7– 8 minutes or until foamy. Add half the milk, half the melted butter and 110g (3¾ oz / ¾ cup) of the flour and stir until smooth and combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
2 Combine the remaining sugar, the spices, salt, dried fruits and mixed peel. Stir into the yeast mixture with the egg, vanilla and the remaining milk and butter. Add the remaining flour and mix until a coarse dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5–6 minutes or until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic.
3 Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
4 Knock back the dough with just one punch to expel the air. Turn out onto a clean work surface and use a large sharp knife to cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly grease a baking tray. Roll each portion of dough into a ball (pic 1) and place on the greased tray. Cover with a tea towel (dish towel) and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1½ hours or until nearly doubled in size.
5 Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). To make the decoration, combine the flour with 2½ tablespoons water or enough to make a firm paste, beating with a wooden spoon until smooth. Place in a small piping (icing) bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe a cross on top of each bun (pic 2). Bake the buns for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
6 Put the jam and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir constantly for 1–2 minutes or until warm and combined. Pass through a sieve, then use a pastry brush to brush over the buns.
TIP: Hot cross buns are best eaten on the day they are made. They can be frozen, without the glaze, in a sealed freezer bag, for up to 6 weeks.
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