Easter Baking: Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns make their appearances in Australian supermarkets and bakeries every year around Easter time. Perhaps it's an English/Australian thing because Rob and I recently discovered that our American colleagues and friends don't really know what hot cross buns are, although they are very familiar with the song. Honestly, I hadn't heard of the poem until I did some searching for the recipe. Traditionally it is a spicy, fruity bread with a cross painted on the top of the bun, but more recently the chocolate types are gaining popularity in Australia. Anyway, we missed eating hot cross buns last year, so this year I decided to bake a batch so we don't feel so far away from home. I think it turned out pretty well considering I used only cinammon and nutmeg for the spices (most recipes call for "mixed spices" which includes allspice and perhaps a few other spices). I am familiar with baking yeasted bread by hand, so a lot of the method are from intuition. Nevertheless, it is still a very easy recipe to follow, so maybe you can have some home-baked hot cross buns next Easter!
Hot Cross Buns
Makes a batch of 12 buns
3 cups (425g) flour
2 teaspoons (6g) dry active yeast or breadmaker yeast
1/4 cup (45g) caster sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground spice (cinammon, nutmeg, allspice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (120g) dried fruits (traditionally, currants are used but I used sultanas)
1 cup (200mL) warm milk
2 tablespoons (35g) butter
Flour paste for the cross
1/2 cup (75g) plain flour
1/3 cup (80mL) water
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
If using dry active yeast, it needs to 'bloom' in some sugar and warm water solution (no hotter than what your hand can handle) for 10minutes.until it's frothy. If using breadmaker yeast, you can just incorporate it into the dry mix.
1) Heat the milk gently in a saucepan over medium heat until milk is warm enough to melt the butter. Melt the butter in the warm milk.
2) Measure and mix all the dry ingredients (flour, breadmaker yeast (if using), sugar, spice, salt and dried fruits) together.
3) Add the warm milk mixture and the egg to the flour mix and mix until dough comes together. Use floured hands to finish mixing to form a soft dough.
4) Knead the dough for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. (At this stage, add more flour if the dough is too wet, or add more water if the dough is too dry.)
5) Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm, draught-free place (I put it in my oven) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.
6) After proofing, punch the dough down to expel the air, and divide into 12 even portions.
7) Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Shape each portion into a ball and place in the lined tray about 1cm apart. Set the tray aside in a draught-free place for 30minutes for its final rising.
8) In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200degC and make the flour paste by mixing the flour and water in a bowl until smooth. Add more water if paste is too thick. Spoon into a ziplock bag and snip off a corner of the bag. Pipe flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses.
9) Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25minutes until the buns are done. When they're ready, the buns will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
10) Make the sugar glaze by dissolving the sugar in hot water. Brush the tops of the buns with the glaze while the buns are still warm.
The buns are best when fresh out of the oven. You can freeze some for later.