I have to confess hot cross buns are my weakness. I can’t wait each year for the Christmas decorations to disappear as it means hot cross buns will start popping up in the supermarket. I know these, often mass-produced versions, are not the best specimens, but they tide me over until Easter and act as a teaser until I can revel in delicious versions.
I also enjoy the excuse to dust off my bread baking skill and make my own. These, my latest version, are more like brioche dough than your usual hot cross buns and are perfect for those odd people out there who don’t like the spices in the traditional version as I have opted to include this in the butter I serve with them.
½ cup sugar
2½ tsp yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
3½ cups flour*
1 tsp salt
100g soft butter
1½ cups mixed dried fruit
⅓ cup rum
Soak the mixed fruit in the rum for a couple of hours or, even better, overnight.
Mix the sugar, yeast and water together in a large bowl and set aside in a warm spot for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom. When the yeast has bubbled up, add the flour, salt, eggs and butter and mix well. You’ll now need to get your hands in and bring the dough together, then tip it out onto the bench and knead for 10 minutes.
Clean your bowl and return the dough to it, cover with cling film or a damp tea towel. Place in a warm, draft-free spot and allow to double in size (approximately 2-3 hours).
Mix in the rum soaked dried fruit and then divide the dough into 12 equal portions. I find the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough into thirds and then each third into four. Shape each portion into a round bun before placing in a greased baking dish allowing enough room between each bun for them to expand.
Cover the baking dish and allow the buns to rise again, approximately 2 hours. Or at this stage you can place the buns in the fridge overnight to be pulled out in the morning, allowed to rise and then baked. As the buns come to room temperature, they will also rise, but it will take closer to 3 hours depending on how warm a spot they are in.
Bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes. When cool pipe crosses on with a simple icing of 2/3 cup icing sugar and 3 tbsp hot water mixed together and serve with my spiced butter.
*Temperature and humidity can change the density of your flour. For this reason you may need to add a little more than specified. Use your judgement; add a quarter of a cup more at a time until you are satisfied. But note this enriched bread dough is stickier than regular bread and kneading it will also help.
Cheat – use a bread machine, simply add all the ingredients (except the fruit) and set on the dough cycle. Or instead of kneading by hand, a stand mixer with a dough hook will do the trick while you enjoy a cuppa.
150g butter, soft
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp icing sugar
Mix the butter, spices and icing sugar together. Roll into a log then wrap in cling film or baking paper and chill.