It drives me mental that hot cross buns are in the shops just after Christmas and I refuse to eat them until Good Friday. It's not that I have any religious affiliation, it's just that I don't like to have them before it's actually Easter.
For the last 12 years or so, I've been making my own hot cross buns, using various recipes. Some years they have been light and fluffy, other years as dense and hard as rocks! The recipe I'm currently using I came across about five years ago and have been really happy with it. Now that I have my gorgeous red Kitchenaid mixer with a dough hook, it's much easier to knead for the required length of time. Using my arms was too much hard work. If you don't have a mixer, you can easily make this recipe by hand, but it just needs a bit more elbow grease.
The key to light buns, is not just in the kneading, but also in the rising. You really need a nice warm place for the dough to rise and double in size. If they don't rise properly, they are likely to turn out like rocks and not be very nice at all.
Luckily for me, yesterday was a beautiful sunny autumn day, so I could leave them to rise outside in the sun. If the weather is not so good, place near a window with the sun coming through or put the heater on low.
This year I thought I'd try something different with my buns, and rather than doing the traditional sultana and currant variety, I thought I'd try dried cranberries and toasted macadamias. They were delicious! My husband doesn't normally like hot cross buns, but took some to work this morning and said that they were "the best ever!" That's a pretty good recommendation.
If you prefer the traditional variety, substitute the cranberries and macadamias for 1 1/2 cups of mixed currants and sultanas and add the finely grated rind of one orange. For something different, you could use chopped dates and dried apricots or any other dried fruit and nut combination.
Enjoy your buns straight out of the oven or cut in half and toasted with lots of butter and a nice cup of tea or coffee!
Hot Cross Buns
700g plain flour + 50g extra for crosses
1/4 cup caster sugar
3 tsp (14g) dried yeast
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup macadamias, toasted and chopped
100g butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 cup water
Combine flour, sugar, yeast, spices, salt, cranberries and nuts in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat until the butter melts and the mixture is luke warm.
Add lightly beaten egg and whisk to combine.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture.
Mix on low speed until mixture is combined, then increase to medium speed for another 10 minutes.
The dough should have formed into a smooth ball with no loose ingredients.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for about 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough by punching it to remove some air and then cut into 20 equal pieces.
Lightly knead each piece on a lightly floured surface into a ball.
Place all the balls onto a lightly greased oven tray so that they are just touching.
Cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel and stand in a warm place for another 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees.
Combine 50g flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir to form a smooth paste.
Spoon into a piping bag or a ziplock bag and cut the corner off. Pipe lines onto the buns to form crosses.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. You want the buns to be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, so watch the time carefully.
While the buns are cooking, make the glaze.
Combine the sugar, mixed spice and water in a small saucepan and heat gently, while stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Remove the buns from the oven and slide onto a rack.
Brush the glaze over the buns and allow to cool.