Friday 18 April 2014

Hot Cross Buns

Well, it's that time of year again when everyone starts talking about my buns: "The best buns I've ever had!" "The finest buns I've tasted" and even "do you really have a couple buns in the oven??"

It is not, of course, my svelte physique they speak of, but my Hot Cross Buns. One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.  Hey...wait a minute...what kind of crazy price structure is that?

If there is one recipe I associate with Lent and Easter it is Hot Cross Buns. Our local supermarket where I grew up in Cleveland used to sell a fantastic sweet version each year, and we always cheered when we first saw them on the bakery table. The usual British hot cross bun is barely sweetened at all, and is more of a spiced bread roll, usually served toasted and buttered. This recipe is different - it is an adapted from a stollen recipe, omitting the almonds and adding in spices. It is an incredibly rich dough, resulting in a most wonderful treat which usually gets people to surround you asking for the recipe.

Just make sure you have a full day to play with before you tackle these babies - it is no quickie, and it gets very messy if you don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook.

I was dealing with a toddler, so I took some photos along the way, just not photos of every step.

So first, I blended some yeast with some warm milk plain flour, and sugar. This is to form a kind of sponge base for the dough. I let this sit out for a while in the Springtime sun.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl I got what I needed to add next ready: eggs, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest. Orange zest is nice too, but I usually just use lemon.

Also, soaking over on the side I had some sultanas that I covered with water and heated until they boiled. I then drained them and added some brandy and mixed candied peel.

And in yet ANOTHER bowl, I mixed up the bread flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom.

After an hour or so the dough had doubled and looked bubbly like a sponge, so I threw on the egg mixture.

Then stirred the gloopy mix for a while.

I then added the bread flour mixture.

And I kneaded the relatively sticky dough for 10 minutes or so. Normally I'd add a bit more flour at this stage to reduce stickiness, but I really tried to do that as little as possible here to ensure the dough remained moist enough. It meant a fair amount of use of my dough scraper and sticky hands for a while. It was worth it.

Oh, by the way, this is NOT a low fat recipe. I was doing a double batch, so on went the very soft butter. Here is where things get really messy and you wish you had a stand mixer with a dough hook.

After lots of mess and sticky kneading, my dough looked like this. You are aiming for a fairly uniform dough, but it is mighty sticky.

I then added in the fruit mixture until it was distributed throughout.

Then I put it in a bowl and let it rise.

Oh, it can rise dramatically during this time, by the way.

After punching it into submission, I put it in the fridge. Here you can put it in anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. I used to always do it overnight, but I noticed I get a better rise if I only do it for half an hour or so, as being in the fridge overnight chills the dough so much it takes forever to get it back to room temperature again the next day, and you will not have patience for that in the morning. Ideally you just want to chill it long enough so that it is easier to handle.I then shaped it into balls on a baking tray.

Then I let them rise and gave them and eggwash before putting them in the oven. Children are good at helping with this step too.

Oh, man, they may not look pretty, but trust me here, these will make you friends.

I then waited until they were cool, then mixed up a simple lemon butter icing glaze with lemon juice, icing sugar and a wee bit of butter and squirted it out through the corner of a ziplock bag to make the crosses. Sometimes I just use lemon juice and icing sugar, but I had some butter lying out anyway, so I used the butter just to give the icing a bit more structure.

Good Friday just got even better.

adapted from  Joy of Cooking

Hot Cross Buns
Place in a small saucepan with enough cold water to cover by 1cm: 160g raisins Bring the water to the boil, then drain well. Transfer the raisins to a medium bowl. Add: 50g mixed candied peel Sprinkle with: 3 Tablespoons dark rum or other spirits Cover and let the fruits soak for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days. Meanwhile, to prepare the sponge, combine in a large mixing bowl or the bowl for a heavy duty mixer: 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast 175ml whole milk, warmed to 40-46 degrees C Let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes
Add: 210g plain flour 45g sugar
Mix by hand or on low speed until the dough is smooth. Cover with clingfilm and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
Add to the sponge: 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract grated zest 1 lemon 1 tsp salt
Mix by hand or on low speed. Stir in: 210g bread flour 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cardamom
When the dough comes together, knead by hand for about 10 minutes or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.
Now things get messy:
Work in: 200g very soft butter
Vigorously knead in the butter until completely incorporated and the dough is once again smooth. Add the raisin mixture.
Knead just until all the fruits and nuts are incorporated. The dough should be soft and moist. Place the dough in a buttered large bowl. Cover with clingfilm and let rise until nearly doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and knead briefly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.
Punch the dough down and let rest 10 minutes. Form into buns on a greased baking sheet, cover loosely oiled clingfilm and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. The dough does not have to fully double in volume; a 3/4 rise is enough.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees
Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. When cooled, glaze a cross shape with a simple glaze of icing sugar and lemon juice.

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