One a penny, two a penny . . . ahem . . . hello, it’s Tom here. With Easter just around the corner, there is a definite feeling of spring in the air. So today I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite Easter recipes… Sourdough Hot Cross Buns. These fragrant, spicy buns take a wee while to make, but if you have the time, they are definitely worth the wait. They have a long history in Britain and Ireland as a treat traditionally enjoyed at the conclusion of Lent, and have been marked with a cross for many centuries. The cross can be made simply by scoring the dough, or perhaps more familiarly by marking the top with a flour paste – which is the method I use in this recipe. The potent symbolism of the cross has meant that these tasty buns have been said to possess many curious properties—including medicinal cures, and, if travelling by sea, protection from shipwreck. But my favourite hot cross bun fable is that, if baked on Good Friday, they will keep for a year without going mouldy. I can’t say I’ve ever tried this myself (and don’t think I’d recommend it). In any case, my personal experience suggests that (in this house at least) such delicious buns won’t hang around for long before they are eagerly consumed. Sticky and sweet, they are best enjoyed fresh from the oven. But they will also keep for a couple of days in an airtight box, and are almost equally delicious split and toasted, with a generous knob of butter.
I use both sourdough and bakers yeast in this recipe. The sourdough gives a richer flavour and a great open texture. The bakers yeast helps speeds things along a little.
450g Strong white bread flour
120g sourdough starter (should be bubbly and active)
1 tsp dried active bakers yeast
60g golden caster sugar
50ml tepid water
2 tsp mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground all spice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp sea salt flakes
1 large egg
150-200ml whole milk
75g mixed candied peel
75g plain flour
2 tbsp golden syrup
- dissolve 1 tsp of the caster sugar in 50ml of tepid water. Add the dried active bakers yeast and mix thoroughly. After 5-10 mins it should start to froth on the top at which point it is ready to use.
- Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.
- Meanwhile add the strong bread flour, remaining caster sugar, spices, grated zest and salt to a large bowl and mix together.
- Add the sourdough and activated yeast to the bowl along with the lightly beaten egg and mix.
- Add the melted butter along with 150ml milk and slowly bring the mixture together. Add more milk, a little at a time, as necessary. The dough should be moist and sticky, but not wet.
Knead the dough for 10 mins incorporating the dried fruits and candied peel a handful at a time.
- Return the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm to prove for 2 hrs (or until approximately doubled in size). (The enriched dough rises slowly, and may not quite double in size.)
- Knock the dough back, kneading lightly for 5 mins, then return to the bowl, cover and leave for a second prove for 1 1/2 – 2 hrs. Again, we are looking for an approximate doubling in size.
- Turn the dough out and divide into 12 equal balls.
- Arrange the balls close to each other on baking trays lined with baking paper.
- Cover with a plastic bag, making a little tent to ensure the dough isn’t being squashed. Return to the warm proving place, to rise for 45-60 mins.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
- Make the paste for the cross by mixing equal parts (75g/75ml) plain flour and water. If it feels a little too stiff add a drop more water.
- Transfer the paste to a piping bag (or plastic food bag with the corner snipped off), then pipe a cross on top of each bun.
- Bake the buns in the middle of the pre-heated oven for 15-20 mins. They are ready when golden brown, plump and fragrant.
- While the buns are baking heat 2 tbsps of golden syrup in a pan over a low heat.
- As soon as you remove the baked buns from the oven generously glaze each bun with the hot syrup using a brush.
- Leave to cool (slightly!) on a wire rack then sample the delicious hot buns with cold butter, jam, cheese or whatever takes your fancy!
Enjoy your hot cross buns!