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HOT CROSS BUNS

Serves 3 - 4

Hot cross buns are on sale all the year round nowadays, which I sometimes think detracts from their seasonal association with Easter. It is well worth making your own – not least because they taste so much better than the mass-produced variety. There is also a unique pleasure that comes with yeast cookery, with its tactile process of kneading and resting the dough, shaping and glazing the finished product. Your kitchen will be filled with a wonderful aroma while they are baking. And it is a rare chance to participate in an ancient tradition linked with the cycle of spring festivals.

If you have time, soak the currants in hot water in advance, to plump them up. And buy a new jar of mixed spice, which will be far more aromatic than the stuff at the back of your cupboard.

Ingredients

  • 300ml milk
  • 15 g fresh yeast or 1 sachet (7g) easyblend yeast
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 500g strong flour
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 110g currants, soaked and drained
  • For the crosses
  • 4 level tablespoons plain flour
  • Pinch of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • For the glaze
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 level tablespoons sugar

Method

If using fresh yeast, put it in a small bowl, add a little of the milk and stir to dissolve it. Heat the rest of the milk till hot and add the butter. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Put all the dry ingredients (including the dried yeast if using) into a large bowl and mix well. Once the milk/butter mixture has cooled, beat in the egg and add to the bowl with the currants.

Mix by hand to pull the ingredients into a soft dough. It will be very rough and sticky at first. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and start kneading it, by turning and folding it back on itself for a few minutes. The dough will gradually become smooth and springy, and lose its stickiness. Don’t add too much flour – it should remain fairly soft.

Lightly oil the bowl and put the dough back in, turning it to coat all sides. Cover and leave to rise until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour).

Line 1 or 2 baking trays or oven tins with baking paper.

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured table and knead lightly. Divide it into 16 pieces and form into balls, arranging them in rows on your trays. Leave a little space between each one, and make sure any cracks are underneath.

Cover with some oiled clingfilm and leave till they have doubled in size (about 30 – 60 minutes). Prepare the mixture for the crosses by combining the dry ingredients in a small bowl and adding the oil and enough water to make a smooth runny paste. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle, or a small plastic bag with one corner snipped off. Heat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6.

When buns have risen, pipe the paste across each row in one direction, and then down the rows to make crosses. Place in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown.

To make the glaze, warm the milk and sugar in a small pan until the sugar has dissolved, then boil briefly till syrupy. Brush the buns with this hot syrup as soon as they come out of the oven.

Cool on a rack. They are best eaten right away, but they freeze well, and are also great toasted the next day.

Posted in Erika’s Kitchen on Apr 01, 2023