This one really doesn’t need too much introducing; hot cross buns for Easter Sunday. Or any time of year really. They’re made from an enriched dough, meaning that butter, sugar and milk are added to your basic bread dough so they need a longer time to prove as the yeast has more weight to fight against in order to rise. Throw in all that fruit, and the total proving time is about four hours.
But they really are worth making yourself (the shop-bought ones aren’t a patch on homemade) and, although they take a long time to make them from start to finish, the process is very simple. This recipe comes from my go-to bread book, Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake, and are packed with sultanas and apple, though I’ve left out the citrus peel from the original recipe because I hate the stuff.
500g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
40g unsalted butter
2 medium eggs
120ml warm milk
120ml cold water
80g mixed peel (optional)
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1 bramley apple, cored and diced into half cm pieces
2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the crosses:
75g plain flour
Apricot jam, to glaze
Put the flour in the base of your standalone mixer (or in a large bowl, you can knead this one by hand). Add the sugar and salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.
Lightly beat the eggs and milk together and add to the bowl, followed by the butter and about half the water. Begin to mix so the mixture comes together to form a rough dough, adding more water where needed to bring the mixture away from the sides of the bowl. You may need all the water, or you may only need a splash – what you’re looking for is a dough that is sticky and soft but not wet.
Next, knead your dough for 5-10 minutes, whether with a dough hook or by hand, until it’s soft and stretchy and has developed a slightly matte skin. Then tip into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size.
Once it’s risen, add the cinnamon, orange zest, sultanas, apple and citrus peel (if using) to the dough and knead it through. Then return to the bowl, cover and leave to rise again for an hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it with your knuckles to knock the air out; this is called ‘knocking back’. Then divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a rough ball; don’t worry about doing this too exactly, it’s all part of the charm.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and then place the balls of dough on the sheet so they are just touching. Once they’re baked you pull them apart like a tear-and-share, giving them that characteristic exposed dough bits on the side.
Cover with a plastic bag and leave to rise for an hour until the dough springs back quickly when gently prodded. You’ll be glad to hear that that’s the final prove.
Once the time is up, preheat your oven to 220°C. Mix the flour and water together to make a smooth paste and spoon into a piping bag. Snip the end off to give you about a 5mm opening and then pipe in lines across the buns to create the crosses. And that solves the mystery of those.
Bake for 20 minutes on the top shelf of the oven until they’re beautifully golden brown, turning if necessary to get an even bake. Once they’re done, melt a little apricot jam in the microwave or over the hob and use a pastry brush to brush it over the top.
Leave to cool for just along enough that they won’t completely burn your mouth, and then tuck in.
There in the ground His body lay, light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day, up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine – bought with the precious blood of Christ.