I thought I’d better sneak this post in a day early than usual- who after all wants to even think about sweets and chocolate the day after Easter?! Of course, in the UK one can buy perfectly reasonable hot cross buns in most supermarkets but over here, alas you cannot. And in any case what I have failed to find to date are hot cross buns the way I like them- minus all the dried fruit and mixed peel. As one of her favourite treats, I can just hear my mother guffawing at my blasphemy. But I do not see the joy in raisins and currants in my hot cross buns, which is why I decided it best to take matters into my own hands. These delicately sweetened soft buns hit the spot- doughy balls with a touch of malted flavour that comes from using malted grain flour. These are unembelished hot cross buns, stripped of their offending fruits, perfect for toasting without the fear of a burnt raisin and then slathering in butter and honey with a wedge of cheese. If ever there is a day to indulge, it is Easter.
Hot cross buns
If you’re a traditionalist, go ahead and add currants and mixed peel, or if your like me, leave plain, slice in half warm from the oven and smother lavishly with salted butter and honey.
Makes: 20 small buns
Diet Facts: Lent is over, halleluiah!
1 sachet of yeast
55g/ 2oz caster sugar
200ml/7 fl oz milk
85g/3 oz butter
2 eggs, beaten
300g/10 oz strong white bread flour
150g/5 oz malted grain bread flour (or all white flour)
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp ground mixed spice (or 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger,1/2 tsp nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp cloves)
100ml/ 3 1/2 fl oz milk sweetened with a tablespoon of sugar, to glaze
Icing sugar, Optional
1/ Mix the yeast with 1 tsp of the sugar and 2 tbsp warm water. Let sit. Put the milk in a small saucepan and over a medium heat bring up to scalding point (when you see little bubbles appear around the sides of the pan).
2/ Add the butter to the milk and allow to melt. Mix two thirds of the milk with the eggs and the yeast mixture.
3/ In the bowl of a standing mixer, sift together the flour, salt, spices and sugar. Make a well in the cetnre and tipin the warm milk/egg mixture stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating all of the flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. If it is still dry add more liquid, if you added too much liquid then add a little more flour. Attach the dough hook to your mixer and let it knead the dough for 10 minutes or until smooth. Place into a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover with cling film. Let sit and reise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
4/ Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6. Punch out the dough and form into little balls (about 50g each), the size of golf balls. Place on a large baking tray, a couple of inches apart. Gently score the tops with a cross shape using a sharp knife and let prove (rise again), covered with a clean tea towel. You can also cover in cling film and put in the fridge over night at this point (they will take longer to prove at room temperature in the morning). You know that they are ready when they have puffed up and when gently proded with a finger the indent stays. Brush with the sweetened milk and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, brush again with sweet milk and let cool (or not).
5/ Optional- mix together icing sugar with a touch of water to make a thick paste. Place into a Ziplock bag or piping bag and pipe crosses over the tops of the buns.