Friday, 18 April 2014

Hot Cross Buns

Today is Good Friday which is a day observed mainly by Christians and is said to represent the day of the Crucifixion and the death of Christ at Calvary. Hot cross buns are sweet and spicy yeasted buns, traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They contain dried fruits, most often raisins or currants but I have come across quite a few versions which actually use up some of the store of mincemeat left over after Christmas.

Given that I made quite a large amount last Christmas and still had a couple of jars remaining at the back of the kitchen cupboard, I decided to make these hot cross buns using mincemeat. I was delighted with the results which I think made for a far juicier bun. The dough was a little softer than the results I usually get for other bread buns that I make, but if I’m being completely honest, I have sometimes found that they can be a little heavier than I might wish. This was not the case with these hot cross buns. They were surprisingly light and not at all doughy. I really loved them.

I kneaded and worked the dough by hand on a lightly floured work-surface, but I could as easily have used the dough attachment on my mixer. I have always preferred to make yeast risen breads by hand as I like to feel more connected to the dough and find it easier to gauge when it has been sufficiently kneaded; when using the mixer, there is more of a risk that the bread dough will be over-worked. I also find that if the dough contains other ingredients such as nuts or dried fruit, these can get broken down slightly – these are all issues that I don’t have to worry about if I work the dough by hand. Persevere with this dough, even if it seems a bit soft initially, and you will be rewarded with the lightest, softest, most delicious buns.

 
Traditional recipes make the cross on top of the bun using strips of shortcrust pastry, but I made a paste out of flour, milk and icing sugar which I piped on to the buns after the second proving and just prior to baking in the oven.

The buns were delicious served fresh, still slightly warm from the oven liberally spread with some butter. We also ate them the following day, lightly toasted - be careful to keep an eye on them when they are toasting as due to the sugar in the glaze and in the buns themselves, they can quickly burn.

Ingredients:

500g strong white flour
½tsp mixed spice
1tsp salt
75g butter, slightly softened
1 x 7g sachet of fast action yeast
50g caster sugar
250ml milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
150g mincemeat
A little extra beaten egg to brush on the buns
Paste for the crosses:
75g flour
25g icing sugar
60ml milk
Glaze:
100g sugar
100ml water
 

Method:

1. Place the flour, mixed spice and salt into a large mixing bowl and using your fingertips, rub in the softened butter. Once the butter has been rubbed in, sprinkle in the yeast and make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Pour in the milk and the lightly beaten egg. Bring everything together to make a fairly soft but not sticky dough.
2. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work-surface and knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be elastic and spring back when prodded. Start working in the mincemeat. The dough will become sticky, but persevere and everything will come together again. Knead for a couple of further minutes. Place into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove in a warm place (a warm kitchen is perfect) for about an hour and a half until doubled in size.
3. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work-surface and knock back. Cur the dough into 10 equal pieces and form into round buns. Place the buns on a large baking tray lined with baking parchment. Leave to prove again for about an hour, covered with cling film until they have doubled in size. Brush the buns with a little beaten egg using a pastry brush.
4. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan Oven 170C/Gas Mark 5.
Make the paste for the crosses:
5. Mix all the ingredients together and place the resulting paste into a disposable piping bag. Snip off the tip of the bag and pipe crosses on top of each of the buns. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes until well they are a rich golden colour. Remove from the oven.
Glaze:
6. Whilst the buns are baking bring the sugar and water to the boil in a small saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and set aside. Bush each of the buns, when removed from the oven (but still warm) with a little of the sugar glaze.

Makes 10.