Although I love cooking and baking, bread making is a skill I have not yet attempted to master. The only bread I have ever made at home is naan bread. And while it worked quite well, I’ve only made it once and that was probably seven years ago.

In an attempt to correct this omission, I have enrolled in a bread making class at Matters of Taste. However this class is still a few months away. So yesterday, given it was Good Friday, I decided it was time to make a start and give hot cross buns a try.

Most people probably think that hot cross buns, with the cross representing the crucifixion, are solely a Christian tradition. However, apparently (thank you google) the ancient Greeks marked buns with a cross. There may also be connections to the goddess Eostre (Easter – get it?), who is the namesake of the festival of Easter and is where the custom of bunnies (hares) and eggs is thought to have come from.

Anyway, I went looking for a recipe to try and really liked the sound of these hot cross buns (recipe by Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake Off) with the addition of orange zest and apple. I left out the citrus peel (I don’t candied peel) and added some mixed spice. Don’t be put off by how sticky the dough is to start with. A dusting of  flour and a few minutes of kneading and it all comes together. I have to say I was very proud of my first attempt at hot cross buns, although I now know I need to place them closer together next time, and I think baking them at home on Good Friday is an Easter tradition that I will continue.

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns

Makes 12

Ingredients

Buns

  • 300ml full cream milk
  • 500g strong white flour (and extra flour for dusting)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7g sachet dry yeast
  • 50g unsalted butter (cubed)
  • 1 egg (59g) – beaten
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g mixed peel (optional)
  • 1 apple – cored and chopped (doesn’t have to be peeled, although I did)
  • 1 orange – zest only
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (optional)
  • Vegetable oil for greasing the bowl

Cross

  • 75g plain flour
  • Water (approximately 5 tablespoons)

Glaze

  • 3 tablespoons apricot jam

Method

  1. Warm the milk until it is just warm (so you can touch it without it feeling either cold or hot). Too hot and it will kill the yeast, too cold and it won’t rise enough.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, salt (keep it away from the yeast when you add it), yeast, butter and egg in a bowl and then slowly add the warm milk a little at a time, mixing by hand as you go. You may not need all the milk. Add until a sticky dough forms.
  3. Add the sultanas, peel, apple and orange zest then tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. If too sticky, dust with a little more flour. You could also do this with the kneading attachment of a stand mixer.
  4. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, place in a large bowl that has been lightly oiled and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to rise for one hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface to make a smooth ball. Place the buns on a tray lined with baking paper. Leave a little space between them to allow for them to rise and expand (I didn’t place mine close enough). Cover loosely with cling film and set aside to rise for another hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C fan forced (220C).
  7. Make the cross mix by whisking together the flour and water. Add the water a little at a time, until you get a smooth thick mixture, slightly thicker than pouring cream. Place into a piping bag and either with a small nozzle, or by cutting the bag to create a small opening, pipe along each row of buns, finishing at the paper, then repeat in the other direction to create the crosses.
  8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (middle shelf) until golden brown.
  9. Just before removing the buns from the oven, heat the jam in a small saucepan with a small splash of water. If there are any chunks, sieve the jam once warm to remove them. While the jam and buns are still warm, brush the jam over the top of the buns.
  10. Leave to cool before serving.

 

Adapted from – BBC Food – Hot Cross Buns by Paul Hollywood (The Great British Bake Off)