1 1/2 lb bread flour
1 1/2 lb whole meal flour
(up to 1 additional cup of flour)
2 envelopes dry yeast
3 tblspns honey
4 cups warm water
1 tblspn ascorbic acid powder (vitamin c)
3 tblspns malted milk powder (optional)
3 tblspns vegetable oil
1 cup currants
1 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup mixed peel or 4 slices glaceed / glazed orange slices
2 tblspns mixed spice / pumpkin pie spice
2 tblspns cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground cardamom (optional)
1 tspn salt
1 egg white
3 tblspns flour
1 tblspn sugar
5 tblspns water
the sugar glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
time: 30 minutes active
rising time: 1 hr, plus 25 mins (depending upon temperature)
baking: 30 mins
you will need:
hot cross buns
I'll admit two things;
1.Hot Cross Buns are a fetish with me.
2. I like my buns to be very spicy and very fruity.
As to whether I like the tops or the bottoms, well that just depends upon how well they've been toasted!
Hot Cross Buns were the only thing that we were allowed to eat on Good Friday. My mother would not buy them any earlier or later and we were fed them on the most solemn day of the Catholic calender. A feast on a day of fast. A spicy indulgence on a sorrowful occasion. Naughty / Nice written all over them! It doesn't take Freud to work out why I love these buns so much!
I'll also admit that my home-made efforts have, at best, been the foundations of a rather fragrant rock garden.
Until now! My friend, Audrey, gave me some insightful tips on the art of handling yeast and I've incorporated them into this recipe:
Start by proving your yeast:
Heat 1 cup of water in the microwave for about 30 seconds (just above body warmth)
Mix the dry yeast with the honey in a small bowl and pour the water over the mix. Sit the bowl aside whilst you get on with the rest.
In a large mixing bowl, mix both flours, ascorbic acid powder,the malted milk powder, the dried fruit, the spices and the mixed peel. My sister never cared for peel and as such, I am constantly aware of how much I add (because it is proportionate to how much she is going to sit and pick out of whatever it is baked into!). But I love using glazed orange slices instead because you get the soft flesh as well as the hard, bitter peel. Stir everything to combine it. Put the bowl in the microwave and give it about 3 x 30 second bursts (please tell me you're using a non-metal bowl!)
If the yeast mix has foamed up then it means you are good to go. Make a well in the flour mix and pour the yeast into the mixing bowl. Heat another 1 cup of water for 30 seconds in the microwave and add it to the flour. Give everything a half-hearted stir. Heat another 1 cup of water (another 30 seconds...) and add it to the flour. Another bit of a stir. Add a final (4th) cup of warmed water . Add the vegetable oil to this cup, pour it into the flour and stir to combine it.
Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of flour onto your working surface. This dough is pretty sticky. Sprinkle some more flour on top and start to knead the dough. When it is all pretty uniform in texture, sprinkle the salt over the dough and then knead it for a minute or two to work the salt through the dough.
Spray a shopping bag with some non-stick oil and throw the dough in the bag, tie it very loosely and sit it in a large skillet or bowl. Sit it somewhere warm and draught free for about 1 hour. It is ready when it is doubled in size.
I am an impatient man and usually close the windows, crank up the heat, turn on the oven and leave the door ajar...anything to heat the house up and get the dough moving along. Of course, the house gets so hot that I am frequently stripped down to my underpants by my efforts to get a rise out of the dough!
Once it has doubled, tip it out of the bag onto a floured surface, knock it down with the palm of your hand and try to shape it into an oblong.
Use a chef's knife to halve the dough, then halve each half and so forth until you have either 18 pieces (for large buns) or 24 (for medium buns). Nobody likes small buns, as it is a sign of mean spiritedness, so I won't give you any further quantities!
Place these buns on a sheet of baking parchment on a baking sheet. Using kitchen scissors, snip a cross into the top of each bun. Set them aside, covered with a kitchen towel and let them sit for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 400f.
When the buns have risen again, you have 2 choices: leave them on the baking sheet and they will bake into lovely, crusty domes. Or you can oil 2 x 9 inch springform pans and fit 9 buns in each pan. They will bake into a pull-apart...this gives you higher, rounder buns with less crust. Clearly, it is a very personal and intimate choice!
Brush the buns with a little beaten egg white.
Mix the flour, sugar and water into a paste and, unless you have an icing pipe, put this paste into a small ziploc bag, snip a tiny corner off it and squeeze it to force the paste out of the bottom. Run this paste over your buns to make the cross marks.
Bake for around 30 minutes.
Make the glaze by heating the water and sugar to boiling point and stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Brush the buns with the syrup as soon as you take them out of the oven.
Serve hot from the oven or toast them. Either way, they deserve lashing of (salted) butter!!
*From years of failed recipes, I am cautious of any recipe which does not ask you to 'prove' your yeast before mixing it into the flour.
*Yeast is likes the tropics; warm and wet gets it doing what it does best. It also has a sweet tooth. The combination of warm water and honey gets those grains of yeast flirting and fizzing in no time.
* I happen to think that any bread needs a little salt. But it can inhibit the yeast, so that's why I add it after I have started kneading the dough