Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hot Cross Buns

I’m going to be right up front about this: I don’t really like Hot Cross Buns. Not until now anyway. I’m also a bit tepid on fruit cake and highly suspicious of mince pies at Xmas. But everyone else likes them, so that’s a good reason to cook them. Also, there’s been a raft of inspiration from Aussie food bloggers over the last week as they enthuse and commiserate over triumphs and, well, ‘interesting’ outcomes in the yeast cookery department.

Helen got in first with a pre-Easter smash hit, a combo effort between her and Veruca Salt. Alex, an expat writing out of Leeds, slayed the foaming beast to great effect and rounds of applause, while Cin from A Few of My Favourite Things had a false start with a Nigella Lawson recipe, but quickly recovered thanks to Auntie Delia Smith. Kylie, who is keeping the keyboard warm for Ed at Tomato, overcame renters’ kitchen and churned out some worthy examples of the genre. If you haven’t read their posts, hop on in and have a look. If I've missed anyone, leave a comment with your post link!

Simultaneously, I headed for La Lawson’s recipe, mainly because of the orange and cardamom content, and had better success than Cin.

So here’s the recipe, largely from Feast (which by the way has a whole section on Easter cooking) slightly mucked around with by me:

150 mls milk
50 g butter
Zest of one orange
1 clove
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Combine all the above ingredients in a pan and heat gently until the butter melts. Allow to infuse as the milk comes back down to blood temperature – ie the right temp to activate yeast.

400 g bread flour (or 400 g of plain flour with ½ tbsp of bread improver – see GYF in the comments section for the low down on this)
1 packet (8 grams) of easy blend or instant yeast (the kind you can mix straight into dry ingredients without activating it first)
100 grams mixed dried fruit
25 grams mixed peel
1 tsp of cinnamon
½ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 egg

Mix all the dry ingredients, spices, and fruit together in a large bowl. Remove the cardamom husks and the clove from the still-warm milk and whisk in the egg. Add the milk mix to the dry ingredients and combine, then knead the dough until it’s elastic. (I found this creates a very stiff dough that was quite a chore to knead in comparison to other yeast doughs I’ve made. Because of the stiffness it was quite slow to rise and was only really easy to knead once it had risen). Cover and leave to rise for 1 ½ hours in a warm place, punch it down, knead again, and form into small buns. I made about 14 little buns.

Line the buns up close but not touching and score the top with a knife or pastry scraper in the shape of a cross. Cover with a tea towel and prove again for 45 mins. Heat the oven to 200°C fan forced, 220°C normal.

Make up a stiff paste of 3 tbsp plain flour, ½ tbsp caster sugar and 2 tbsp milk and put it into a piping bag. Once proved the buns should have risen enough to almost meet. Brush them with an egg wash (egg and a little milk) then pipe on the crosses (see picture, left) and whack immediately into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on top and when they come out of the oven brush with a mixture of 1 part caster sugar to 1 part boiling water to make them glossy and shiny.

Best eaten immediately with butter, these buns tasted fantastic, the cardamom and orange scenting them way beyond any other HCB I’ve tried, giving them an exotic flavour. Next time I’d play with the dough quantities to lighten it up a bit and make it easier to knead and work with.


Blogger Ange said...

These look gorgeous as have everyone elses. So wish I had tried my own too, will make them for sure next Easter. By the way, isnt it slightly ridiculous that we feel we can only make them at Easter, I mean I could make them next week but some part of me just wont allow that so next year it is?

10:36 AM  
Blogger cin said...

Bravo! These look great and obviously Nigella likes you more :P
I definitely found the dough really stiff and difficult to knead.
I agree completely with you, Ange! I'm thinking of making these again (before next Easter) but just without the cross!

10:47 AM  
Blogger deborah said...

mmm these look delightful and so tempting. much much better than the way mine turned out. i made a second batch... but this time added currants only and tried to make mini hot x buns.... it didnt work at all. they were like rock cakes and i threw the whole batch out. such a shame, especially with all the lovely spices and orange zest.

hot cross buns are probably the only thing i like with dried fruit. i am a little suspicious about mince pies too.

11:29 AM  
Blogger deborah said...

p.s. ange, you can still make them for this coming weekend when as greek orthodox celebrate easter on the 23rd of april.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Yeah Ange, take Saffron's advice! Go Greek and do them this wekend!

I think La Lawson's recipes are sometimes hard to do. If you look at her TV shows she's never too keen on measuring - which is fine sometimes - but baking, as we all know, is a science and has to be exact.

Thanks for the comments!

1:38 PM  
Blogger Haalo said...

I highly recommend trying the Donna Hay version - I made them for easter and they turned out just great. They are really nice and light.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Thanks haalo - I'll make sure I check that out!

8:38 AM  

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