“Hot Cross Buns. Hot Cross Buns. One a penny, two a penny. Hot Cross Buns………” My sisters and I used to sing this little ditty as we skipped our way to the bakers on Good Friday. We were, it has to be said, very happy children and very easily pleased. We lived in beautiful village in Hertfordshire (England) and were able to roam free all over the place, it was idyllic. But, back to the Hot Cross Buns! (Sorry about that, I just went off down memory lane for a while.)
Good Friday was, and still is, a Bank Holiday, but unlike today, all the shops were shut. Except for the bakers who were only open for a couple of hours so that the villagers could get their Hot Cross Buns. My Mum would send my sisters and I down to Ackroyd’s the bakers to buy them with words of warning, like “Don’t loiter on the way”, or “You’d better be quick or the shop will be shut”. And with these words ringing in our ears we would half skip, half run all the way there laughing and giggling and singing. Oh, happy days.
I can still remember the divine smell of baking bread and cakes that wafted over you when you entered the shop and every time I bake bread it takes me back to Ackroyds. There really was nothing as good as an Ackroyd Hot Cross Bun and believe me over the years I have a eaten a few Hot Cross Buns, but they have never quite matched up to my childhood memory. So, over the past few weeks I have been trying to recreate the Hot Cross Buns of my childhood and oh joy of joys, after three attempts I have finally done it! It took quite a few attempts and much experimenting with ingredients but and I finally cracked it and here is the recipe for you to enjoy too!
Makes 6 – 8 buns
1lb/226g Strong bread flour
1 Sachet Easy bake yeast
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp Mixed spice
½ tsp Cinnamon
1 oz/28g Butter, cubed
1½oz/156g Caster sugar
2 oz/56g Mixed dried fruit (You can use just currants if you prefer)
1 Medium egg, lightly beaten
100 mls Warm milk
Place the flour, yeast, salt spices and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl. Give them a good stir round so that the fruit gets well covered with the flour.
Warm the milk and add the cubed butter. The milk should be hand hot, not scalding.
Pour the milk and butter into the dry ingredients and stir in with a spatula.
Add the beaten egg. Give the mixture a good stir with a spatula.
Now comes the messy but, satisfying bit. Knead the mixture, with your hands until it forms a sticky mass. You do not want the dough to be too stiff, if it is you will get a very dry bun.
Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough until it smooth and elastic. This takes about 10 minutes.
Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a clingfilm or a damp cloth. Place the bowl in a warm place and leave the dough to rise until it is double it’s original size.
Once the dough has risen knock it back on lightly floured work surface and then divide into 6 – 8 pieces. If you want them to be all the same size then you can weigh the dough and then divided into pieces of equal weight. Or you can be like me and just just the sizes by eye.
Knead the dough pieces into smooth balls and flatten slightly.
Place the buns onto a lightly greased baking tray cover with a damp cloth or cling film and leave to rise again in a warm place. This takes about 30 minutes but can take longer so don’t panic if yours take a while to rise.
Meanwhile preheat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5
Making the Crosses
2 Tbls of flour
1 Tbls caster sugar
1-2 Tbls Water
Blend the flour and sugar with the water. Add the water 1 Tbls at a time. You want the paste to be stiff enough to pipe with. If you find it is too runny, then add a bit more flour to the mixture. If it is too stiff then add a bit more water.
When the buns have risen, pipe a cross on top of each of them.
Place the buns into the centre of a preheated oven and cook for 15 – 20 mins.
While the buns are cooking make the glaze.
2 Tbls Sugar
Place the sugar and water into a pan. Place the pan on the hob and stir the liquid to help dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil and let it boil for 10 seconds. I count to ten very, very slowly. Remove the pan from the heat
As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush them with the glaze. I brushed mine a couple of times to make them really glossy.
Now all you need to do is get the butter out of the fridge, cut the buns in half, put a bit of butter on and eat them! I do recommend that you eat them while they are still warm from the oven. It really is the best way to enjoy a Hot Cross Bun. They are equally good the next day toasted so you don’t have to eat them all at once. No, you really don’t. Put that bun back now! Oh no, they’re all gone.