When Alex from East Coast Kitchens posted about Hot Cross Scones the other day I was reminded of how there are quite a few traditions that I have come to love about the UK that you don't get on the Continent, hot cross buns are one of them, Pimm's and lemonade is another one :), Christmas Pudding definitely isn't.
Since it's Good Friday I thought we could make some hot cross buns together.
The problem I have these days, though, is that I cook too much for one person (it doesn't matter how much I loved the lasagne I made on Saturday, by the time I was staring at it for the third time for dinner on Monday I was contemplating going vegan just so I wouldn't have to eat lasagne again...).
So...what's a girl to do if she wants to bake hot cross buns but doesn't want to eat stale leftovers for the next week? I came up with two ideas a) rather than make a full 12 or 16 bun batch I only made 8 (keep that in mind if you're planning on feeding your entire extended family) and b) I decided to take them to work yesterday and exploit everyone there as recipe testers.
That left me with a few other problems - how do you make fresh hot cross buns in the morning and still make it to work at a decent time? That one is actually not that much of a problem, you just have to do some of the work the night before. Yeast works best around 27 degrees and when it gets either too hot or too cold it slows down and even goes into hibernation if things get too extreme. You could think of yeast as a crocodile on a nature show. If it's cold, it moves really slow. But if it's nice and toasty after lying in the sun all day it's super quick (not quite sure what the gazelle that gets eaten by the crocodile would be in our scenario...or whether a crocodile can get too hot, would it slow down again or would it become super fast like Road Runner?)
Also, I don't like how the raisins can dry out the buns, so I decided to soak them in some port - a suggestion I found in Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters. That said, if you don't like port or like your hot cross buns all dry then just leave out the soaking part.
Anyhow, let's finally get to the recipe, right? This version is based on Felicity Cloake's perfect hot cross buns after a previous attempt using the Peyton & Byrne version and sticking it into the fridge failed miserably - that recipe would have been called 'hot cross hockey pucks' but the current version is just plain lovely.
Hot Cross Buns
200g Spelt Flour
100g Rye Flour
120ml warm Milk
10g fresh Yeast (i.e. 1/4 pack), broken into small pieces (if it looks a bit old go for 15)
25g Sugar plus a tablespoon for later
1/2 tsp ground Cardamom
2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground Allspice
1/8 tsp ground Cloves
1/8 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp fresh Ginger, grated
1/4 tsp Salt
50g Butter, diced
100g Currants and/or Raisins (I ran out of currants so I topped things up with some raisins)
Some Port (enough to cover the currants)
Zest of 1/2 Orange
2 tbsp Flour
Combine the currants and port in a plastic container and refrigerate until needed.
In a bowl combine the flours, ground spices, sugar, and ginger. Make a well in the middle of the flour stir the yeast and warm milk until you have a more-or-less smooth paste. Temperature-wise you want the milk to feel warm but not excessively so - go for about the same temperature you'd go for when running a warm (not scalding hot!) bath.
Clean up your kitchen while the yeast bubbles away for 15 minutes or so (if your kitchen looks like mine this is just the thing to do while waiting for those 15 minutes...otherwise...feel smug and read a book).
Add one of the eggs and the butter and mix everything together.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, you'll know it's ready when it starts feeling silky and becomes somewhat less sticky. If you're either stuck with a dry lump or a sticky mess after 10 minutes, add some more flour or water (but don't overdo it either way).
Put the dough back into the bowl and cover it with either a damp towel or some cling film.
Leave the dough sitting on the counter for an hour or so.
When you come back you have a few options - if you want to use the dough the same day, continue straight with the next step.
If you like getting up early in the morning, knock back the dough, then stick the bowl with the dough into the fridge and go to bed.
If you want to bake the buns tomorrow morning but you want to sleep in, continue with the next few steps and stick everything into the fridge after forming the buns.
Whatever you have decided to do, once you are ready to continue (whether that is right after reading the last few lines or while sipping your early-morning coffee), allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size (the cold dough will have a head-start but will take some time to warm up).
Add the currants (without the port - that will make a nice drizzle for yoghurt) and the orange zest and knead everything together until the currants are evenly distributed within the dough.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces and lay them out on a lined baking sheet and score a cross into the top of each of them.
Cover everything with cling film.
If you decided to go for option number 3, shift everything around in your fridge so you can fit the baking sheet in there with all the other stuff and go to bed now :),
otherwise pour yourself another cup of coffee and watch the buns puff up and double in size (I always find that hard to judge so I tend to poke the dough but then what I want them to feel like is quite hard to put in words...the closes thing I can think of is the resistance you get from a memory foam mattress - I know, super descriptive, but give them about 15-30 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen).
Preheat your oven to 200˚C.
If you decided to stick the buns into the fridge overnight, good morning :) take them out now and drink some coffee while the dough comes up to room-temperature.
Whisk up the second egg with some milk and brush the buns with the egg-wash.
Now mix the two tablespoons of flour with some water until you have a thick paste.
Pipe or drizzle the paste onto the buns forming a cross using either a piping bag or a teaspoon - I used a teaspoon and my paste was too thin - the next time I'll be using the piping bag that is currently sitting in my parents' car somewhere between Stuttgart and Berlin (I get my final load of things today :) ok, and it's going to be super nice to spend Easter with my family in my new apartment, but all I can think about right now is how I'll get a whole load of bowls and said piping bag and teapots and milk jugs and whatnot I can't wait to see again).
Now, where was I - you should now have a pasty white cross on each of the buns.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the buns are a fairly dark golden brown.
Just before the buns are ready to come out of the oven, combine the extra teaspoon of sugar with some water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved in the water.
When the buns are ready, take them out of the oven and immediately brush them with the syrup you just made.
Transfer the buns onto a wire rack and let them cool slightly before you smother them in butter and realise that you probably shouldn't have yet another cup of coffee :)
I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend!