Due to a little Georgette Heyer decline, yesterday's recipe turned into today's.
I decided to try Nigella's Hot Cross Bun recipe. The dough proves in the refrigerator overnight which I think is a bonus. Make the dough at your leisure and then bake the next day. I found a few issues with the recipe. There was no sugar and I am pretty sure yeast needs some sugar to 'work'. I googled but couldn't find any errata so I searched for a similar recipe and added the amount they specified. I added salt too. The butter was unsalted and I added half a teaspoon of salt. The buns don't really seem to rise very much and this might be because it's Autumn here and not Spring. I eventually put them in a slightly warm oven for 5 minutes and that seemed to do the trick. Nigella says she makes 16 little buns, I made 12, and they weren't that big.
On the plus side, the buns were very tasty, nice and spicy and full of fruit. They weren't doughy or heavy at all. I found the proper strong plain flour in the supermarket. It is twice the price of ordinary plain flour, but I think it made a difference. The buns aren't as light and fluffy as the ones in the bakery or shops, but The GardyGardeners and the next-door neighbours all declared them delicious!!
It is also important to remember that the UK and USA use a 15ml tablespon while here in Australia we use 20ml, which I think is much more sensible. It's easier to halve for a start!! I have converted the measurements to Australian tablespoons. The recipe does look to have lots of steps, but they are not very arduous and there's plenty of time between each stage to rest and eat Easter Eggs!!
Hot Cross Buns makes 12 or 16 small
- 150ml milk
- 50g butter
- zest of an orange (I used a lemon)
- 1 clove
- 2 cardamom pods
- 400g strong plain flour (bread flour)
- 60g caster sugar
- 1/2 tspn salt
- 7g dried yeast, usually 1 sachet
- 125g dried fruit of your choosing (raisins and currants eg)
- 1 tspn cinnamon
- 1/2 tspn nutmeg
- 1/4 tspn ginger - optional I think
- 1 egg
- 2 tbspn plain flour
- 1 1/2 tspn caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tbspn water
- 1 tbspn boiling water
- 1 tbspn caster sugar
Put the milk, zest, cardamon, clove and butter in a saucepan over a very low heat. Once the butter has melted, leave to infuse and cool to blood temperature. This means that when you dip your very clean finger into the milk, it feels neither hot nor cold.
Put the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, fruit and spices into a bowl. Remove the cardamom pods and clove from the milk mixture and whisk in the egg.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry. At this point, before you start kneading, warm a little extra milk in case the dough, like mine, is too dry.
Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, adding a little warmed milk or flour as needed, and then continue to knead by hand or with a machine until it is smooth and elastic. This means that the dough doesn't break and has a sheen. I knead by hand, I fold the dough back onto itself and then push forward with the heel of my hand and then give a quarter turn.
Here's a link to a video that shows what to do. It takes 5-10 minutes to knead by hand.
Make the dough into a ball and place in a buttered bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, take the dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Knead a little more until it is smooth again. Divide the dough into 12 (or 16) equal pieces, mine were all 75g, and shape into smooth bun shapes. Grease and line a tray and then arrange the buns so that they are almost touching. mark crosses on top with a knife, cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes. Heat the oven to 220*C while they are proving again.
Mix the egg and milk to make the egg wash and brush it over the bus.
Combine the sugar, flour and water to make the paste for the crosses. I put the paste into a zip-lock bag and snipped off the end to make a piping bag. Pipe crosses onto the tops of the buns and then bake for 15-20 minutes. Mine took 20 minutes.
While the are baking make the glaze by stirring the caster sugar into the boiling water until it dissolves. When the buns come out of the oven (!!) brush or spoon the glaze over the hot cross buns and then halve, slather with butter and enjoy.
Being afraid of yeast, I was very happy indeed that the hot cross buns turned out so well. Next time I wuld form better bun shapes and take a little more care with my crosses. Left over hot cross buns, if there are any, are delicious toasted or grilled, and also make a nice change in a bread and butter pudding/custard. I do think these are best eaten on the day they are baked.