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eat warm with butter

These days hot cross buns seem to be sold for about half the year.  They appear in the shops after Christmas, and by Easter we’re sick of them, the shop ones that is.  But, whether you’ve been eating buns since January, or avoiding them and waiting patiently until Easter, you should still give these hot cross buns a try.

leave dough to rise

The recipe is courtesy of the amazing Elizabeth David and is a classic version (certainly no choc chips!).  I’m always amazed that even in 1977 when her English Bread and Yeast Cookery was first published, she was noting people’s complaints about hot cross buns being baked in January and frozen for selling at Easter.  Now it seems they just sell them in January and don’t worry about the freezing!

divide into even pieces

When I make them the crosses are a bit wonky I confess, and the sizing a bit uneven; but the dough rises into a beautiful delicate crumb, flavoured with freshly ground spices and juicy currants, and eaten warm with butter they are sublime.

mix paste for crosses

If you really want to keep it simple, both the crosses and glaze are optional – Ms David suggests simply slashing a cross in the top once they have risen, and the glaze certainly adds to the appearance but doesn’t really change the flavour.  Without the crosses they make a classic spice bun you can eat any time of year!

form into balls and place in dish

As I’ve explained below, I think the freshly ground spice blend is an important part of the taste, but if you don’t have the whole spices then by all means use a mix of ground spices (just make sure they’re fresh).  The buns will still be warm and delicious!

cool on rack

Hot cross buns

Bun recipe adapted slightly from Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery

  • 500g plain flour
  • 125g currants
  • 60g mixed peel
  • 200g lukewarm milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp flaky salt
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 60g room temperature butter
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 2 (60g) eggs
  • 2 tsp mixed spice*

Combine milk, butter, eggs, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add yeast, flour and spices and mix well until a sticky dough.  Add currants and peel, and mix gently until the currants are evenly distributed.

Cover bowl and allow to rise for a couple of hours until about doubled in volume.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into approximately 15 portions – I find it easier to cut into sections then weigh to check they are roughly even – in this case about 60g each.

Form into balls with the fruit folded to the inside as much as possible so it doesn’t burn.  Line a baking dish with baking paper and place the balls so they nearly touch.  Cover and allow to rise again for about 45 min until almost doubled.  Preheat oven to 200C while they rise.

Pipe crosses on the risen buns – I do all the horizontal lines, then go back across to do the vertical.  Bake for about 20-25 min until well browned.  Remove from the oven and  brush quickly with the glaze.  Allow to cool slightly before eating.

For the crosses

  • 50g flour
  • 1 Tbs caster sugar
  • 50g (or ml) water

Combine flour, sugar and water to a thick paste in a zip lock bag inside a cup or glass (see above).  Push air out of bag and seal.  When ready to pipe, cut a small corner off the bag.

For the glaze (optional)

  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 Tbs boiling water

Combine gelatin and sugar in a small bowl.  Whisk in boiling water until gelatine is dissolved.

*As recommended by Ms David, I use a mixture of freshly ground nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves and ginger in the proportions 2:2:1:1:1 by weight.  The easiest method is to make a few tablespoons worth and use in anything that requires a mixture of spices, I just whizz them up in a coffee grinder, though you can also us a mortar and pestle.

If you don’t have extremely accurate scales to weigh out the spices (and I don’t), a reasonable quantity to make would involve 1 whole nutmeg, about 3 tsp whole allspice berries, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 tsp (about 40) cloves and 3 tsp ground ginger.  This will season about 6 batches of buns, fruit loaves etc.