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Classic hot cross buns
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Plump dried fruit, heady spices and a sticky glaze make these soft buns incredibly moreish.
Preparation time: 40 minutes, plus resting and proving
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes, plus resting and proving
75g mixed peel
300ml whole milk, plus
1 tsp extra for egg wash
75g unsalted butter, cubed
500g strong white bread
flour, plus extra for shaping if needed
75g light brown soft sugar
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp fine salt
2 heaped tsp easy bake yeast
2 eggs, 1 beaten
vegetable oil, for kneading and greasing
1 Put the currants and mixed peel in a small bowl and pour over enough just-boiled water to cover. Set aside to plump up. Gently warm the milk and butter in a small pan, stirring until the butter has just melted; take off the heat. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, mixed spice and salt. Make a well in the centre, add the yeast and pour in the warm milk mixture (test the temperature with a clean finger before adding: it should be warm, not hot). Lightly mix. Drain the currants and mixed peel, then mix in, with a beaten egg, to form a cohesive dough.
2 Knead vigorously for 20-30 seconds on a lightly floured surface, then set aside, covered, for 5-10 minutes; repeat the process twice until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel or oiled cling film, then leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (45 minutes-1 hour).
3 Divide the dough into 12 even portions (about 100g each). Working with one portion at a time, pinch the edges up and over to meet in the middle, working around the dough. Flip over so the smooth side is facing upwards, then create a cage with your hand over the dough ball, rolling it in a clockwise motion to create a perfectly smooth bun (you can use a small sprinkle of flour if it’s too sticky). Repeat to make 12 buns.
4 Arrange the buns in rows on a parchment-lined baking tray, 1-2cm apart. Cover loosely with a tea towel or oiled cling film; leave to rise again until doubled in size (30-45 minutes). Preheat the oven to 200˚C, gas mark 6.
5 Beat the remaining egg with 1 tsp milk until smooth, then brush all over the buns. For the crosses, mix the flour and sugar with 80ml water to make a thick paste. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a ½ cm plain nozzle (or cut a ½ cm opening in a disposable piping or sandwich bag). Carefully pipe continuous lines of the mixture across the buns, first horizontally then vertically, forming a cross on each one; go slowly so the line doesn’t break.
6 Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through, until the buns are a rich brown colour. Mix the glaze ingredients with 2 tbsp just-boiled water until dissolved, then brush ½ over the warm buns. Leave for a few minutes and repeat. Enjoy while still warm, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Split and toast before serving, slathered with plenty of butter, if liked.
Try a twist on the classic with these fruity, spicy and chocolatey ideas...
Cardamom apple buns
Peel, core and finely dice 2 medium cox apples, soak in cold water for 5-10 minutes, drain, then use in place of the currants and mixed peel. Grind the seeds from 20 cardamom pods with a pestle and mortar; use in place of the mixed spice. Reduce the milk to 200ml; add 100g essential bramley apple sauce to the dough with the egg.
Chocolate cherry buns
Substitute 100g roughly chopped dried cherries and 100g finely chopped dark chocolate for the currants. Swap the mixed spice for 1 tbsp ground cinnamon and add 30g cocoa powder with the flour. Increase the milk by 30ml. These will take between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes to rise again after shaping.
Scandi-style saffron buns
Swap 100ml of the milk for 100g Skyr (or Greek) yogurt. Replace the mixed peel with 75g extra currants. Instead of the mixed spice, grind ½ x 0.4g pack Cooks’ Ingredients saffron with a pestle and mortar; add to the milk mixture before mixing the dough. These take between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes to rise again after shaping.
Typical values per serving:
Per (unbuttered) classic bun