When I lived in the UK, one of the things I always looked forward to about Easter time was seeing, and in turn eating, hot cross buns. The slightly sweet bread, gently spiced and filled with dried fruit is such a comforting thing to eat as a snack or for breakfast. They’re so good lightly toasted with a little butter on top.
On moving to the US, I have seen them in the supermarket although not quite so prominently as in the UK. However I’ve been a little put off by the fact they have icing crosses on them, rather than the pastry ones I was more used to. I know it sounds a strange thing to reject a hot cross bun on looks, or more to the point, a drop of icing, but I often find bought baked goods too sweet here for my taste anyway. The swash of icing to me was a warning of more sugar overdose. I have since found out that’s just how they tend to be made here, but I’d already decided to make some of my own anyway. Homemade anything is, after all, often so much better anyway, and these certainly didn’t disappoint.
How they’re made
These are basically yeast-based bread rolls with lots of fruit and spice in them, so the process is similar to making bread. And as with bread, don’t be put off by the time it takes to make them as not all that much is actual active time. You leave the mixture to rise twice before baking, so you can go and get on with other things. Unless, of course, you have to protect them from a toddler eyeing them up asking if we can eat them yet. Boy was I glad they didn’t take too long to bake so I could give him one to try. And he loved them too.
One major change I made to the more traditional recipes is I used raisins and cranberries rather than raisins and dried mixed peel. This is partly as I can’t for the life of me find mixed peel anywhere and I wasn’t quite up for the chore of making it, but also cranberries have a similar slightly tart, citrus property so are a pretty good alternative. Plus, they are just plain good in lots of things so why not here, and they were indeed a good choice. My crosses didn’t work out quite as neat as I might have liked – my mixture ended up too thick to pipe in my piping tube and so I ended up stretching pieces to put on. But I think a little rustic charm can be good, right? Alternatively, you can make it a little thinner by adding more water, if you prefer.
Hot cross buns taste great just as they are when they are fresh out the oven, but can be a little heavy the next day or two. Instead, you’re better to split and toast them, then spread on a little butter. They will keep for a few days, given half a chance, if used like this. We are getting through them pretty quickly as my son is more than happy to have them for breakfast. Plus he’s been asking for them as a snack, and I have to admit I’m happily joining him in that. It won’t be long until we demolish the one or two left, I’m sure. Then all we need is to find an excuse to make another batch.
Hot cross buns
- 1 cup milk 240ml
- 1 lb all purpose flour 3 cups, 450g, this can be all all-purpose/plain or as I used, use 1//3 enriched
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp allspice
- 3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter 50g
- 1/4 oz fast-acting dried yeast 7g, 1 packet (highly active yeast)
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar 37g
- 1 lemon zest finely grated, from 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup raisins 70g
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries 65g
For the cross
- 4 tbsp flour all purpose/plain fine
- 2 tbsp water or a little more
For the sugar syrup glaze (optional)
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp water
- Gently warm the milk without boiling, to slightly warm/tepid.
- Mix together the flour, salt and spices then rub in the butter.
- Add the yeast, sugar and lemon zest and mix through.
- Beat the egg in to the milk and add to the flour mixture along with the raisins and cranberries.
- Mix well until fully combined the turn out on to a lightly floured surface.
- Knead for around 5 minutes, until the mixture is no longer sticky.
- Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in the bottom. Cover it with plastic wrap/cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for around an hour, until doubled in side.
- Tip out the dough, knock back (prod it a few times to take out the air), and divide the mixture into 12. Roll each piece into a small ball and place on a baking tray with some space between them.
- Cover the tray with plastic/cling and leave to double again, around 30-45mins.
- preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
- Mix the flour and water for the cross and pipe a cross shape over each roll. (Note - if mixture not wet enough, roll in your hands and pull gently across the roll to make the cross or add a little more water).
- Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until lightly brown. While baking, warm the water and sugar for the glaze together, if using, until sugar dissolved then set aside to cool. While hot cross buns are still warm, glaze with the sugar syrup, if desired.