I have a confession to make. On my last visit back home to London, I stuffed three packages of hot cross buns into my backpack (yes, they survived) and now safely in the freezer waiting to be smothered with butter. Desperate, very much so...
When I was still living in London one of my favourite bakeries Gail's Bakery near Bedford Square, would start making hot cross buns right before Easter came along. They were soft, just sweet enough and wonderfully fragrant. Of course smothering them with some French butter and creamed honey was only the right thing to do. We couldn't leave them feeling all lonely, now could we? A few months ago I came across Julie Jones's book Soulful Baker , not only does every page include her art-like creations but I also felt that she really captured the British Baker. From the heavy use of rhubarb to the very traditional hot cross buns and crumpets, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through every recipe. I tried out her recipe for hot cross buns, with some minor changes and I was very pleased with the results. I can hardly wait to try her all her recipes once I can get my hands on some fresh strawberries and rhubarb!
You really can't go wrong with any dried fruit, dried cranberries, golden raisins... even black currants! I also assume that using whole wheat flour would give you similar results, maybe I should try a whole-wheat version next?
Hot Cross Buns with Cinnamon, All-Spice and Raisins
(Adapted from Julie Jones's Soulful Baker)
3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
350g or 2 1/2 cups strong white bread flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp liquid honey
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8.75-9g active dry yeast
1/2 cup water, lukewarm
1 egg, at room temperature
100g of raisins, Thompson or Golden
butter, for greasing
1/3 cup water
2 tsp sugar or honey
all spice ( just a pinch)
1/2 cup strong bread flour
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup water
pinch of salt
1. Melt butter either in a small pot or in the microwave, letting it cool just a bit.
2. Prepare baking tin by lightly greasing and lining with parchment paper. I used a 9x9 square baking tin but an 8-81/2 works just fine as well.
3. In a small bowl, add yeast, warm water and honey. Gently stir and leave aside to activate. Once activated, use a stand mixer and add all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, cinnamon and allspice).
4. Turn on the stand mixer on and set on "stir" or low if using a different model. Continue by adding the yeast mixture and egg and lastly the melted butter. Kneed until dough forms and it is smooth and not sticky (8-10 minutes). If your dough is not coming together and is too dry, add more water (one tbsp at a time). If your dough is too wet, add more flour (one tbsp at a time). If you are adding any extra water/flour, make sure to kneed for a few more minutes.
5. Once dough has formed with the desired consistency, add the raisins. and kneed again for a couple minutes.
6. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise and double in size for 1 1/2 - 2hrs in a warm place. Make sure to keep your dough away from any air draft as that can effect the rise.
7. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 9 equally sized pieces and form into balls. I used to scale to measure each dough ball individually, however you don't have to do this. Place dough balls in the baking tin (3 rows of 3 balls). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again for another hour.
8. To make the spice glaze, simply add everything to a small sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Take it off the heat and put it aside for later.
9. Preheat oven to 425F.
10. To make the crossing batter, put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until you have a thick paste-like consistency - make sure there are no lumps. You may need to add more or less flour so start off with 1/3 cup of flour and gauge the consistency. Transfer to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag.
11. Once the buns have risen, cut off the tip of the pastry bag and pipe on the crosses. Bake for 15 minutes, the buns should be nice and golden. Immediately brush the buns with the spice glaze while they are still hot. Enjoy warm with a slather of butter and a drizzle of honey!