Just a few days ago, Melinda of Melbourne Larder posted her recipe for hot cross buns and strongly encouraged her readers to try making their own. Never having tried it myself, and with a spare Sunday morning on hand, I decided to take the challenge. As Melinda notes, baking with yeast often puts people off: I inherited this attitude from my mum, who presented my teenage self with a decades-old box of dry yeast sachets when I first raised an interest. I raised no further questions about home-baked yeasty delights until a few years ago, when I finally got sick of inferior purchased pizza bases and resolved to make my own. My revised theory on yeast is that anyone who can carefully follow a recipe and spare some time for the dough to rise is capable of making some pretty good bread products - superior to anything you'll buy from a supermarket bakery. Beyond that it may take some research, experimentation and experience to produce some truly sublime eating. I'm far from reaching that point! By the time one batch of dough is in my stomach, I'm not at all interested in trying a refined recipe any time soon.
Thankfully, this recipe proved gratifying from the very first mouthful. I couldn't resist breaking off one still-warm bun and smearing it with soon-melting butter. Carbolicious bliss! As you can probably see, my crosses are a bit wonky. I think my paste could have been a bit more watery and flexible, but ultimately I need to work on my icing skills! Maybe with a bit of practice and a hundred more posts, I'll be able to mark the occasion more attractively...
... because this is our 200th post! (We got there in 225 days, which means we're getting faster.)
I'm reproducing the method I used here, because I made a couple of substitutions. I like peel, not sultanas, and my spice situation was looking a bit different. But this is essentially Melinda's recipe.
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast, with a minor spill that means you use ~12g as directed by Melinda
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
4 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, allspice and ginger
1 generous shake each of ground cloves, star anise and nutmeg
50g butter, melted
2 cups mixed citrus peel, finely chopped
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup water (I'll try using a bit more next time)
(This was a lot more glaze than I needed, so you could go down to 1/8 cup each)
1/4 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup water
shakes of ground cloves, star anise and nutmeg
Place the yeast, two teaspoons of the sugar and all of the milk in a bowl. Set it aside for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture foams.
Gently mix in the flour, spices, butter, egg, peel and remaining sugar until you have a sticky dough. Get it onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes or until it feels elastic (I definitely needed to knead in a bit more flour at this stage, because the dough was very sticky). Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl, covering it with a tea towel, and stand it in a warm place for an hour or until it has doubled in size.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll them into balls. Grease and line a 23cm square cake tin or baking dish with non-stick baking paper and place the dough balls into the tin. Cover the tray with a tea towel and set it aside for 30 minutes, or until the buns have risen.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Combine the flour and water for the paste and place in a piping bag (or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off) and pipe crosses on the buns. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until well browned and springy to touch. Remove from oven and brush on the warm glaze while the buns are still hot.
To make the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and then simmer for two minutes.