I'm not a religious person, but I am a traditionalist and grew up eating Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday. So a brief blog today just to share a great recipe for Hot Cross Buns from Margaret Costa's Four Seasons cookbook.
It's not a difficult process - there's just a lot of time spent waiting for dough to prove and buns to rise. This morning I hastened several of these processes by placing bowls in a larger bowl of very hot tap water (ie not boiling water). It worked a treat, cutting times by half. You'll see I took the lazy way out with the crosses and took a small leftover piece of dough, rolled it flat and cut thin strips - I really like the effect. I also just used a scone cutter to cut out the rounds rather than forming each into an individual bun - that also worked a treat. Recipe is below the photos: I left out peel because I have a pathological aversion to it and most dried fruits products using it. I added cranberries with the currants just because I love cranberries. (Note: Starring role in today's blog for my cat Fred, whose interest lay in the butter, not the buns! Fred is 15 and much loved - but he does sometime think he's human and should sit at the table with us.)
Spicy Hot Cross Buns (from Margaret Costa's Four Seasons Cookbook, 1970)
1lb plain flour, 2 oz caster sugar
1 oz fresh yeast, 3 oz currants
Pinch of sugar, 1-2 oz chopped candied peel
½ pint milk-and-water, 2 oz melted butter
1 tsp each cinnamon & nutmeg, 1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
Sift half the flour into a bowl. Blend the yeast with a pinch of sugar and a little of the lukewarm milk-and-water; when it is frothy add the rest of the liquid. Pour it into a well in the sifted flour and mix well. Cover with a folded cloth and leave in a warm place for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile sift the rest of the flour with the spices and salt, and stir in the caster sugar, fruit and peel. When the first mixture has proved (nearly doubled in size), add this to it, then pour in the butter and egg. Mix really well with your hand, knead until smooth and leave to prove again, this time for about an hour.
Now turn the dough on to a floured board, roll or pat it out and divide it into about 16 pieces. Shape them into rounds and place, not too close together, on a greased and floured baking tray. Mark each round firmly with a cross, using a sharp knife, or criss-cross the buns with narrow strips of pastry or marzipan. (Bakers’ crosses are made with rice paper; one couple in South London makes them, by hand, all year round and supplies almost the whole industry.) Leave in a warm place for 15 minutes or so until the buns are well-risen, and bake in the centre of a hot oven, Mark 7, 425F, for about 15 minutes.
As soon as you take them out of the oven, brush them with a sugar and water glaze – 2 TBS sugar dissolved in 2 TBS water. Bake these on Good Friday to have them a their best. You can do all the mixing and proving the day before – cover the tray with polythene (glad wrap) and leave it overnight in the refrigerator. (BR NOTE: If you do this, leave the buns to reach room temperature before baking, last year I made my dough the night as Costa describes and baked them the next morning and the buns were much smaller and not as light as this year's batch which I made fresh in the morning)