These days hot cross buns seem to be on sale in the shops almost the whole year round, but I’m a bit old fashioned I suppose and usually prefer to eat them at the traditional time of year. Some of the bought ones are really nice, but it’s worth making them at home too. Apart from anything else, they smell lovely when they’re baking!
This recipe is a dual purpose one. Originally it was my mother’s recipe for teacakes, but a few simple additions also turned it into a hot cross bun recipe. We would have eaten plenty of both as children and loved them. Nothing’s changed!
My preference would be to make these with fresh yeast, but as I now live out in the countryside this isn’t always easy to obtain. Dried yeast still gives a good result though. Large supermarkets with bakeries are usually happy to give you a couple of ounces of fresh yeast for free – just ask nicely at the bakery counter! I don’t think I’ve ever actually had to pay for fresh yeast.
The ingredients are simple:
- 450g plain flour
- 25g sugar, caster or granulated
- 1 rounded teaspoon of salt
- 2 heaped teaspoons of mixed spice
- 25g butter
- 1 sachet of dried yeast
- 50g dried fruit, such as currants or sultanas
- 25g mixed peel (optional)
- 5 fluid ounces of warm milk
- 5 fluid ounces of warm water
- measure the flour into a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour
- stir the sugar, salt and mixed spice into the flour, mixing them well together, then lastly stir in the dried yeast
- make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the milk and water
- using a wooden spoon, stir everything together well, then use your hands to bring the mixture together
- tip the mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the dried fruit onto the surface and gently knead it into the dough to mix it in
- knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, probably for about 5 – 10 minutes
- put the dough into a well greased mixing bowl, pressing it down firmly with your knuckles
- cover the dough either with a tea towel or buttered cling film, and leave it at room temperature to prove – usually about 50 minutes to an hour
- preheat the oven to 200°C and grease a large baking sheet
- when the dough has risen to roughly double it’s original size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface
- divide the dough into either 8 or 12 evenly sized pieces
- lightly knead each piece of dough and shape it into a ball
- place the hot cross buns onto the greased baking sheet, spacing them out evenly and pressing each one down with your hand
- cover the tray with a tea towel and leave the buns to rise until they are puffed up – about 20 to 30 minutes
- in the meantime, if you wish to pipe a cross on to the tops of the buns, prepare a paste to use for the crosses – mix about 100g of plain flour with enough tepid water to make a pipeable mixture
- when the buns have risen, if you wish, pipe the paste in a cross shape onto the top of each one
- bake the hot cross buns for about 20 minutes until they are well risen and golden brown
If you have the willpower, leave the hot cross buns on a rack to cool. Otherwise, as soon as they are out of the oven, split one across the middle, spread it lavishly with butter and sit back and enjoy the taste of Easter!