Hot Cross Buns - Slow Bake
Slow bake means to make sure you give yourself time. Specifically the proving. There are 3 proves in this recipe and being a dough with spice and fruits, it will take a little longer to rise than normal bread or bun dough. This recipe is helped out by a light starter. It will aid the proving and the keeps the buns light and fluffy. Its good to get the starter working and the fruits soaking before the dough even becomes a dough. Hence, slow bake.
Tip: On the colder days, I use my oven as a prover for yeast based doughs. Just turn the oven on to 100C, leave on for 10-15 minutes. Then turn it off and place your covered dough in there for as long as it needs
1 cup strong flour
3 tbsp white sugar
1 cup milk
4 tsp dried yeast
Place the flour and sugar in a bowl. Place the milk in a pan and warm until it reaches 37C - or blood temperature. Add the yeast to the warmed milk and leave for a minute or two to soften and start to activate. Pour the milk into the flour in a 3 parts, so it is easier to incorporate and mix well. Cover with clingflim and a tea towel. Place in a warm place (or the oven prover trick) until it has doubled in size.
While the starter is coming to life, weigh out the other ingredients. Get the fruit soaking. Grind the spices if you want to use fresh. Weigh the drys out for the dough. Get the tray ready. That sort of thing
1 cup sultanas
1/4 cup currants
2 oranges, zest and juice
Place the fruit in a bowl. Add the juice and zest and leave to soak.
3 cups strong flour, plus flour for dusting
4 tbsp soft brown sugar
3 tbsp mixed spice
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp cloves, ground (I freshly grind these and sieve out the chunky bits)
1/2 nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tsp salt
60g butter, diced
In another bowl, weigh everything out. Once the starter is beautiful and bubbly and big, add that into the dry ingredients and mix until it comes together. Turn it out on a lightly floured bench and knead until the dough is soft and elastic. Keep adding light dustings of flour to keep it from sticking.
Lightly grease a bigger bowl with oil spray and place the soft, smooth dough in. Drain the fruit well and add to the dough. Push and fold this into the dough until it is fully incorporated. Be vigorous at this stage so that the fruits are all combined. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and a tea towel and place back in a warm place or the prover set up in the oven. Leave to prove for a couple of hours, until doubled in size.
Once risen and beautiful, turn out again onto a lightly floured bench and divide into 18 pieces. Gently roll these pieces into loose rounds. Place them about 1cm apart, on a tray large enough to house them and big enough to put in the oven. If needs be, divide them over 2 trays. Grease the clingfilm, cover the buns and let them prove for the final time.
Time to make the crosses.
1/3 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
Mix everything together to form a paste. Give it a good mixing to ensure that it is smooth. Place in a piping bag, ready for when the buns have reached their full proving potential.
Once ready, remove the clingfilm cover from the buns, cut a small tip in the piping bag and pipe the crosses over the buns. Aim to do it in continuous lines, like a grid. They will come out smoother. Place in the oven, preheated to 180C. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown and you can start to smell their delicious spiciness. Towards the end of their bake time, make the glaze. Its good to have the glaze hot to put over the hot buns.
Take 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water and some vanilla essence (I use the one with the seeds), place in a pan and bring to a boil. Once the buns have come out of the oven, give them a good and generous glazing by brushing it over. Leave the buns to cool.
I love to serve these buns lightly toasted with lots of butter melting all over it and a pinch of sea salt.