Happy Easter everybody! Yesterday I made the traditional Easter treat: hot cross buns. I left the cross off. Secular Buns.
There is simply nothing more satisfying than making a tray of buns. I’m not so good at bread or cakes but buns, buns I can do. Straight out of the oven they are soft, spiced, covered with a sticky spicy glaze and in their neat little rows. Nothing quite like a bun. I’m about to have one (or two) for my breakfast…
This recipe is from Elizabeth David (the same book listed here with my post about Chelsea Buns). It’s lovely. I’m writing this quickly so you can all have a bash at them today or tomorrow… go on. You won’t regret it. Just remember to leave at least 4 hours. Both rising times are about 2 hours so if you want buns at tea time, start at 11ish… you’ve got an hour now to go and find the ingredients.
Hot Cross Buns
450-500g strong plain flour (I used the full amount. It will vary according to the flour you use, your local climate, just follow your fingers. I’ll describe how mine was as closely as I can)
30g fresh yeast (or dried equivalent)
1 tablespoon salt (since first publishing this post my trusty recipe testers have queried this large sounding amount… I used Maldon sea salt flakes, a flat tablespoons worth. If you are using finely milled salt you should reduce this by half to avoid a savoury bun)
280ml milk, warmed to blood heat (put about 30ml aside. You might not need it all)
60g soft light brown sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
25g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
First cream your yeast. Use a little of the warmed milk from the 25oml to activate the yeast. Just pour it over and wait for it to go creamy or if you’re using dried, foamy.
While the yeast is creaming combine (in a warm bowl if you can manage it) the 450g flour, sugar salt and spice. Mix it together with your hands and make a well in the centre. If you need the further 50g flour, you’ll add it later.
Add your butter to the warmed milk so it completely softens. Now add the 2 eggs, beaten (I didn’t do this and it was hard to properly break them up once they were added to the flour)
Pour the yeast into the flour and then add the milk, eggs and butter.
Bring the dough together with a wooden spoon. It will be very sticky! Make sure to combine all the ingredients. This is not a dough you can really lift or touch easily. I used a spoon the whole time as it was just to sticky to handle.
Now add the currants and fold them through the dough thoroughly.
I used the full quantity of flour at this point as my dough wasn’t coming together properly but rather sticking in strands to the spoon and the side of the bowl. You want it to hold together. Look at this picture to see what it was like in the end after the remainder of the flour was added:
It’s still sticky, but happily sits together.
Now it needs to prove. Cover your bowl in cling film and put it in a very warm place. Elizabeth David recommends steam to help it along (not sure where you’d find this) and Dan Lepard even suggests a very low oven to kick start the process. Spices make yeast lazy so it’s not quick. Mine took around 2 hours to double in a very warm room wrapped in a tea towel next to the radiator.
Prepare your bun tin. Grease a large baking sheet and then coat it with flour. Tap the edges of the tin to fully and evenly distribute the flour all over it. You don’t want your buns to stick… you want to get them out quick so you can stuff them in your mouth!
Once the dough is double it’s size very generously dust a surface and your hands with flour. Sprinkle more flour onto the dough as you pull it away from the edges of the bowl. It won’t really want to come out but show it who’s boss.
Drop the dough onto your floury surface, flour your hands again and knead it briefly to bring it together. It feels so lovely at this point and it smells delicious.
Now divide your dough into 16. Elizabeth David says it makes 24.. but I don’t know how. I use a very sharp knife (which I also coat in flour) to slice the dough into equal sized pieces.
Shape your pieces into rounds. I improvised at this point, you just want a tight little ball.
This is where you would normally make the cross cut in the top, which is the traditional way to treat these buns. If you do this, they will not rise high but spread. If your dough is too soft and sticky they may not do much of either. If you’d rather do a pastry cross use Dan Lepard’s recipe here. In fact, his whole recipe looks pretty nice, I might try it next time…
Line the buns up in your bun tin evenly spaced apart and now it’s time for prove number 2. Lightly oil some cling film and place it over the buns. Leave them in your warm place again and let them double again
When they have risen, pre heat the oven to gas 5/6 and cook for 15-20 minutes.
While they are cooking heat the glaze ingredients in a pan and boil until it becomes syrupy.
When you get the buns out of the oven brush them with the glaze and lift gently onto a cooling rack.
Some of them will have stuck together in satisfying little lines and you’ll have to prize them apart and get your fingers all sticky to split them open and spread them with butter. An absolutely wonderful indulgence. I highly recommend you take the time to make these as there really is nothing better than buns.
Phil, I made these buns for your birthday but now you are ill. Get well soon and I’ll make them for you another year!