I know full well that in Britain, it is possible to buy Hot Cross Buns all year round. However in keeping with my personal philosophy of only eating most foods when in season, I only eat these at Easter time, and as I no longer live in Britain, but in Italy, that makes it easier to do. Italians do not know what hot cross buns are. So at Easter I make hot cross buns, because we like them, and because they are relatively easy to make, and the few Italian friends who have tried them, like them very much. Who wouldn’t? What is not to like?
This recipe calls for strong bread flour, and I have made these buns with white and wholemeal, both with good results. You could (I have) make this with plain flour, but you would need to add powdered gluten, to enable it to rise. If you choose this route you would need to add 1 tablespoon of gluten per 500 gm/1 lb flour. Finding somewhere that sells powdered gluten, however is another thing altogether.
The most difficult part of this recipe is achieving the right piping consistency for the cross. It really has to be quite thick if it is not to disappear during the baking.
Makes 16. Preparation about 75 minutes. Cooking 15 minutes
Ingredients for the Buns
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup milk
75 gm/2 1/2 oz/ 1/3 cup sugar
90 gm/3 oz melted butter
2 sachets of instant yeast
500 gm/ 1 lb strong bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
250 gm/ 1/2 lb sultanas, lightly chopped
Ingredients for the Cross
3 tablespoons of plain white flour
2 teaspoons white sugar
water to mix
Ingredients for the Glaze
65 ml/2 fl oz/ 1/4 cup water
65 gm/2 fl oz sugar
In a small pan, gently warm the milk to about hand hot temperature and no hotter.
Cube the butter and add to the milk to melt it.
Add the sugar and 2 sachets of yeast, stir thoroughly to dissolve all ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, put in all the dry ingredients and then put in the milk and yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon stir the mixture to bring it all together, then using your hands knead thoroughly for 5 or 10 minutes or until the dough is silky smooth. Cover with a tea cloth and leave in a warm place for 1 hour.
If you have a bread machine put all the dry ingredients for the buns into the mixing bowl, add the milk and yeast mixture and put the machine on to a dough cycle.
After 1 hour turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide equally into 16 balls and arrange them in a greased baking dish of approximately 23 x 30 cm/12 x 15 inches, cover with the tea cloth and leave for 15 to 20 minutes in a warm place.
Meanwhile make the cross batter by combining the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add water in small increments until you arrive at a thick consistency that can still be piped. A very thick cream like consistency is what you want to achieve.
Pipe the crosses on each bun and then put the buns into a hot oven set at 230 C/ 450 F/Gas 8/ Very Hot, and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until they are golden brown. They should also grow in size while they are baking.
Meanwhile make the glaze by combining the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and put over a low heat. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves and simmer for 5 minutes.
Use a brush to glaze the buns while they are fresh from the oven and piping hot, brushing them at least 2 times to get a good glaze.
My preferred way to eat these is to cut them in half, when they are cold, and toast them on the cut side. Then slather them in butter. Eat immediately while they are still hot.
These are eaten at any time of the day, hot or cold, with or without butter, jam or cheese.