Hot cross buns are an Easter tradition that supermarkets try and convince us starts the second week of January. But don’t be fooled. Admittedly they make an easy lunch box filler from February onward, but come April the chances are you’ll be well over them. That’s where homemade hot cross buns come in. They are easy to make, taste better than the ones bought from the supermarket and, as a bonus, make a great cooking activity to do with the kids during the school holidays, which happens to coincide with the Easter break.
Hot cross buns are a doughy bun with added sultanas, or dried fruit. I confess that I usually ignore the ‘traditional’ element, and make a batch with chocolate chips as well. This started because, like with everything food and child related, one child didn’t like sultanas, and adapting to accommodate taste, happened along the way. I managed to justify this digression in the hot cross bun stakes by convincing myself they were better than choc chip muffins, and I had no hesitation baking them. Yeah right!
This recipe is from Delicious magazine back in April 2005, and it’s been used every year since then. Last week I was tempted by a photograph of a great looking batch of buns in a magazine and decided to ditch the tried and true with a new version. They were fine, but they were a whole lot more work, kneading, rising and kneading again. It took hours. They were delicious, but to go through that process for breakfast on Good Friday morning just isn’t going to happen.
And that’s why this hot cross bun recipe is the one I use. It’s simple. Make the dough, form it into balls, and leave them to rise in the tin for 45 minutes before adding some crosses and popping them in the oven for 15 minutes. The buns are individually kneaded and that’s where the kids come in. When there’s 4 of them, they get to make three each, and for a little personalisation, add your initial rather than a cross. A great way to begin the Easter long weekend.
Tips and tricks? There aren’t any really, except to say that the dough tends to be a little moist when it hits the bench. You’ll need a little flour to make it easy to handle. Also, dividing one lump of dough into 12 equal portions it a bit of an ask. The easiest way to do that is to have the kitchen scales handy and measure the balls of dough as you go. They each should weigh around 80 grams.
The making of hot cross buns is one of our Easter traditions. Do you have any? Enjoy!
- 200 ml milk, warmed
- 50 grams (1/4 cup) firmly packed light brown sugar, plus 1 extra teaspoon for yeast mixture
- 400 grams (2⅔ cups) strong (baker's) flour
- 7 gram sachet dried yeast
- 1½ teaspoons mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 175 grams sultanas
- 50 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons plain flour, for the crosses
- 3 tablespoons golden syrup, for the glaze
- butter, to serve
- Line a 12 hole muffin tin with squares of baking paper, or use paper cupcake cases.
- Mix warm milk with the extra teaspoon of brown sugar, 100 grams of the strong flour and all the yeast; stir and set aside for 15 minutes until frothy.
- Sift the remaining strong flour, salt and the spices into a bowl. Stir in the remaining sugar and dried fruit.
- Add the yeast mixture, butter and eggs, and stir to combine.
- Place dough on a slightly floured work surface and divide into 12 pieces (each piece should weigh approximately 80 grams).
- Use one hand to knead edges of dough into the centre and the other to keep turning as you knead. When smooth, after about 30 seconds, turn the ball of dough over so the rounded side in on top. Rotate the dough round and round until you have a perfectly round shape. Drop into the prepared tin, then repeat with remaining dough.
- Lightly cover and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes until well risen.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- For the crosses, mix the plain flour with enough cold water to for a smooth paste. Place in a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe crosses onto the buns.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
- Brush with golden syrup while still warm.
- Serve with chilled butter.