One of my favourite breakfasts is eating warm hot cross buns, pretty much straight out of the oven, ripped open and covered in salty butter. Any that aren’t eaten today are toasted for breakfast over the Easter weekend.
Some foods such as gingerbread, really do seem best eaten at certain times of the year… so even though these spicy buns are one of my favourite foods, I only make them about once a year (I’ll happily make a spicy currant loaf any old time, but buns are for Easter).
The smell of the dough proving and the even richer aroma of the buns baking in the oven takes me straight back to my childhood, when my mum would spend most of the morning in the kitchen baking no end of these Easter treats which me and my sisters would cover in butter and would eat as many as we could, being told to “remember to leave some for dad”.
They aren’t much bother to make and really taste so much nicer than the ones in the supermarket, which, even though I have a sweet tooth, I find too sweet and certainly too doughy (also the ones you buy won’t make your home smell as nice as baking your own).
Make the dough the evening before, pop the buns in the fridge over night to slowly rise and then take them out to come back to room temperature first thing in the morning…. then they can be baked and taken out of the oven for breakfast.
Hot Cross Buns
500g strong bread flour
30g fresh yeast ( or 1 tablespoon dry yeast)
125g currants (or you can use a mixed fruit blend)
1 teaspoon salt
60g brown sugar
60g unsalted butter
spice mix* (at least 2 teaspoons though we prefer to add more as we like them very spicy)
4 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
a couple tablespoons of warm water (enough to make a not too runny paste)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon hot water
a splash of milk
A baking tray that has been lined with baking parchment.
Makes between 16 -20 buns
* spice mix…. I like to use about 8 cloves, half a fat stick of cinnamon, a few black peppercorns, some mace blades and a small piece of dry ginger, then grind them in spice grinder so the spices taste fresher.
(the above picture shows the buns the morning after they have spent a night in the fridge)
In a pan, warm the milk and butter together. The milk doesn’t want to get too warm, just tepid . Remove from the heat.
Add the yeast and gently cream the yeast and milk together, add the brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of the plain flour. Cover and leave for about 25 minutes (enough time for the yeast and milk to bubble together.
Meanwhile, mix the remaining plain flour and the salt, spices and currants.
After the yeast has bubbled up, add to the dry ingredients. Add the two eggs.
Mix the ingredients so they form a dough. You may need to add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.
Kneed the dough. Sprinkle with a little more flour and place in a large bowl so the dough can rise. Cover with a clean cloth and allow about 2 hours for the dough to rise.
Once the dough has risen, carefully knock it back and divide the dough into two pieces. Divide again, so you make 4 or 5 balls. Place on a baking tray you have lined with baking parchment. Repeat 3 more times. This makes enough for between 16 – 20 buns.
Using a blunt ended spatula (plastic ones are less heavy handed than metal ones), press down the centre of the bun, then rotate the spatula and press down again so that you have made a cross shape in the bun. You can press down quite a bit as the dough rises up again.
Place in the fridge and allow to gently prove overnight.
Next morning, take the buns out of the fridge.
Allow the buns to come to room temp, about 40/50 minutes.
Turn the oven on to about gas 6.
Beat the remaining egg and a splash of milk to make the egg wash, coat the buns .
Mix together the flour and caster sugar, add enough warm water to form a paste, try not to make it too runny. Drizzle the paste over the buns so that you are high-lighting the cross symbol on top.
Pop into the oven and bake for between 17 – 20 minutes.
A few minutes before the buns are due to come out of the oven, cover the tablespoon of caster sugar with a little hot water and mix well so that the sugar dissolves.
As soon as the buns come out of the oven, cover them with the sugar glaze.
Tear the buns open and spread with salty butter.
Perfect with tea, coffee or juice.