Hot cross buns – one a penny, two a penny
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we are in the last week of Hot Cross Bun season — the final stretch.
Well, at least the Brits in the room are probably well aware. For Americans, well, it’s been a season of abominations. I’ve come across all kinds, including sweet dinner rolls studded with red and green fruit, others with lemon curd-like stuff where the dough cross should have been. The devil’s spawn in bread form.
It’s been enough to draw us into the kitchen. My husband has already made two batches of hot cross buns from a Delia Smith recipe (from her “Complete Cookery Course” cookbook) and it really has been a revelation. Is it easy? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But is it worth it? Oh yes!
Yes, these are the real McCoy and they were amazing right out of the oven. Here’s the recipe!
2 oz. caster sugar (50 g), plus 1 teaspoon
5 fl. oz. hand-hot water (150 ml)
1 level tablespoon dried yeast
1 lb. plain flour (450 g)
1 level teaspoon salt
1 rounded teaspoon ground mixed spice
3 oz. currants (75 g)
2 oz. cut mixed peel (50 g)
1 1/2-2 fl. oz. warmed milk (40-55 ml)
1 egg, beaten
For the dough crosses
40 g flour
10 g spreadable butter
For the glaze
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
First stir the teaspoon of caster sugar into the hand-hot water, then sprinkle in the dried yeast and leave it until a good frothy ‘beer’ head forms.
Meanwhile, sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into a mixing bowl and add the remaining 2 oz (50 g) of sugar, the currants and mixed peel. Then make a well in the center, pour in the yeast mixture plus 1 1/2 fl. oz (40 ml) of milk (again, hand-hot), the beaten egg and the melted butter. Now mix it to a dough, starting with a wooden spoon and finishing with your hands (add a spot more milk if it needs it.)
Then transfer the dough onto a clean surface and knead it until it feels smooth and elastic – about 6 minutes. Now pop it back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a lightly oiled plastic bag, and leave it in a warm place to rise – it will take about an hour to double its original size. Then turn it out and knead it again, back down to its original size.
Divide the mixture into twelve round portions (saving a little for the cross dough), arrange them on the greased baking sheet (allowing plenty of room for expansion).
Meanwhile, if you want to make dough crosses, put the flour into a bowl and rub in the spreadable butter. Add just enough cold water to form a dough then roll it out thinly on a lightly floured surface to an oblong about 12cm by 16cm then cut it into 24 strips. Make crosses. Leave them to rise once more, covering again with the oiled polythene bag for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Bake the buns for about 15 minutes. Then, while they’re cooking, melt the sugar and water for the glaze over a gentle heat, and brush the buns with it, as soon as they come out of the oven, to make them nice and sticky.