A chilled Easter this year. It has seemed so quiet not having my family around me so I didn’t do much baking but I did make some ‘Hot Cross Buns’ which tasted delicious. I really should have renamed them ‘Rock Cross Buns’ as I had run out of strong white bread flour so resorted to self-raising to make them. This, of course, gave them a scone-like consistency. BUT I am finding myself running out of a few ingredients, our local shop has mostly sparse shelves, so it’s a case of ‘doing-your-best-with-what-you’ve-got’ and today that even involved serving tinned peas at Sunday dinner! But hey if these are the worst of my problems then I am a very lucky woman.
I’ve used the recipe below several times using strong white bread flour so I can really recommend it. Warm water and caster sugar can be mixed together for the final glaze but warmed golden syrup is a lovely alternative.
There are many stories about the origins of ‘Hot Cross Buns’ that go back several hundred years. Infact, possible origins as far back as the Anglo-Saxons where bread loaves were decorated with dried fruit in honour of Eastre, goddess of spring. As Christianity developed it is said that the small fruit loaves/buns were marked with a cross by 12th-century monks to commemorate Good Friday. We know that ‘Hot Cross Buns’ and the recipe we see variations of today was first noted in the 18th century
QUOTE: The first definite record of hot cross buns comes from a London street cry: “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross buns”, which appeared in Poor Robin’s Almanac for 1733. Food historian Ivan Day states, “The buns were made in London during the 18th century. But when you start looking for records or recipes earlier than that, you hit nothing.”
- 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
- 85g/3oz caster sugar
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Finely grated zest of an orange or lemon (if available)
- 2 large pinches of salt
- 2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
- 40g/1½oz butter or margarine
- 300ml/10fl oz milk (warmed)
- 1 free-range egg, beaten
- 225g/8oz mixed dried fruit (that has peel in it or add extra candied peel)
For the top
- 85g/3oz plain flour
- 2 tbsp golden syrup for glazing
Put the flour, sugar, spices and zest into a large bowl and mix together. Then add the salt and yeast.
Melt the butter and warm the milk separately. Add the melted butter and half the warm milk to the dry ingredients. Add the egg and use your hands to bring the mixture together, incorporating the flour from the edges of the bowl as you go. Gradually add the remaining milk, to form a soft pliable dough (you may not need all of the milk).
Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand incorporating the dried fruit/mixed peel into the dough. Lightly knead for 5 minutes until silky and elastic and forming a smooth ball.
Divide into 12 balls. Line 1-2 baking or roasting trays with paper and place the balls on the tray, placing them fairly close together and flattening them very slightly.
Cover roasting trays with oiled cling film (or put in a poly-bag if a flat baking tray) until the buns have doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
For the topping, add the flour to a bowl with 100ml/3½fl oz water. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into an icing bag or just a polythene bag and cut the corner.
When the buns have risen remove the polythene bags and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake for 20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking trays round halfway through if necessary.
Melt the golden syrup (ping in microwave for 10 seconds) and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with a little syrup to give a nice shine, before setting aside to cool on a wire rack.
Makes 12 large buns