I love Easter for many reasons. Not only does it give me an excuse to overdose on hot cross buns and easter eggs, but it also tells me that spring (and the sun) is just around the corner. I had great plans for this Easter weekend, which included making mini chocolate easter eggs, jellies in eggshells (which my aunt used to make and I found so cool) and hot cross buns. Alas, my plans were not to be as I was rather unfortunately working over Easter – which I was highly upset about, naturally!
I did, however, manage to find some time to bake some hot cross buns. A few years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of baking hot cross buns, especially when there are such amazing ones available at Marks & Spencer (especially the luxury ones, oh my) and Waitrose. Of course, this was when I thought baking bread was too difficult and required too much work. But as I become more obsessed with food *cough* I do feel the need to recreate the food I like in my own kitchen.
I used this recipe from Wild Yeast for these hot cross buns. What I liked about this recipe was that it uses a mix of plain and wholemeal/wholewheat flour, which adds that “healthier” edge to the buns. Do be forewarned though – I commonly throw in one healthy ingredient into my meals and declare it good for myself, even when it’s so blatantly not the case. Another thing I found interesting was how it used a sponge dough method – I previously made some buns (Rotiboy buns for you Malaysians out there who know what these are) with this method, and they turned out to be the softest, fluffiest buns I had ever made.
And these buns didn’t disappoint. They were best eaten warm, fresh out of the oven, and were really soft and light. I cut down on the amount on sugar used, and also only used raisins (as I didn’t have anything else to hand) so these were not as sweet as the hot cross buns you normally get in stores. I did feel that my hot cross buns lacked some dried fruit though – the next time I make them, I will use a mixture of sultanas, raisins and currants. And I will use a LOT of it! (p.s. I don’t use orange peel as I’m not a huge fan of orange in bread)
I must admit to having a mini-disaster when trying to pipe the crosses onto the buns. I didn’t have a suitable tip for piping them, which I rather helpfully discovered only after I was left with ridiculously thick crosses onto the buns. This was unacceptable to the OCD in me, so I scraped that off and started pacing the kitchen (whilst eating some chocolate to stimulate my brain) for an alternative way to pipe these crosses. I considered using a spoon to drizzle it on, but that would result in uneven crosses. And finally I had another idea – to use my squeeze ketchup bottle. And it worked perfectly (thankfully!). Anyway, the moral of the story is: always ensure you have everything you need before trying to cook or bake anything.
And because there were quite a few leftover hot cross buns, R suggested that I try making a hot cross bun bread and butter pudding. I believe it was something he saw Jamie Oliver make on the food channel (the food channel is the source of a lot of inspiration I must admit). As always, we decided on this on a whim, which also meant we didn’t have a lot of ingredients to hand. So, I guiltily admit to using a “sort of” custard for the base of this pudding – made from milk, vanilla bean paste and… custard powder. I know, I know. Terrible. Rest assured that it tastes nothing like the real thing, but it still made for a pretty good pudding. I think it would have tasted amazingly good if I had used proper custard though…
For the sponge dough:
- 40g bread flour
- 190g warm milk
- 10g caster sugar
- 8g instant yeast
For the final dough:
- 170g bread flour
- 170g wholemeal bread flour
- 60g butter, softened
- 55g sugar
- 1 egg
- 3g salt
- 1 tbsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tbsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp water
- 120g raisins
For the piping paste:
- 80g plain flour
- 10g oil
- 45g water
For the glaze:
- 3 tbsp hot water
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
1. For the sponge, combine milk and yeast in a medium bowl. Whisk in flour and sugar. The mixture will be very liquid. Cover and let rest until it is about 3 times its original volume, 30–40 minutes. (I left it for a good 2 hours as I decided to err… nap.)
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle, mix final dough flour, whole wheat flour, and softened butter until the butter is evenly distributed through the flour.
3. Add egg, sugar, spices, and salt. Continue to mix until combined. The mixture will be quite dry at this point.
4. Replace the mixer paddle with the dough hook. Add the sponge and start mixing in low speed. Add water as needed to make a very soft dough and mix until well combined, about 3 minutes. It is almost more like a cookie dough at this point, and will not come together yet.
5. Mix in medium speed, occasionally scraping the dough down the sides of the bowl. Continue to mix until the dough starts to leave the sides and come together around the dough hook. This may take about 8 minutes, but will varies depending on the mixer.
6. Add the currants and orange and lemon peels. Mix in low speed just until they are evenly distributed through the dough.
7. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, covered container. Ferment in a warm place for 1 hour.
8. Turn the dough onto an unfloured counter and divide it into 12 pieces (about 70g each).
9. Lightly punch each piece of dough and tuck the edges under to form a loose ball. To tighten the ball, place it on the counter with your cupped hand loosely around it, and move your hand in a tight circle several times.
10. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press them lightly with your palm to flatten them a bit.
12. Cover and proof in a warm place for about an hour.
13. While the buns proof, make the glaze. Combine the sugar, hot water and honey. Mix well.
14. Now make the piping paste. Sift the flour and combine it with the vegetable oil. Slowly add water, stirring well after each addition, until the mixture reaches the consistency of very thick glue. Don’t make it so thin that it runs, but if it is too thick it will be difficult to pipe.
15. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
16. When the buns are finished proofing, pipe the crosses onto them using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch round tip. (Or in my case, by using a squeeze ketchup bottle)
17. Bake the buns until the tops of the buns brown (this took about 10 minutes in my oven). To check that the buns are cooked, tap the bottom of the buns – they should sound hollow.
18. Brush a light coating of glaze on the hot buns, and serve.
As I mentioned earlier, I did not use a proper recipe for the hot cross bun bread and butter pudding. I made some (instant) custard, added some vanilla bean paste, soaked the (buttered) buns in this mixture, and baked for about 20 mins at 180°C. For a better, more coherent recipe, do check out this recipe from Jamie Oliver, which I will be using in the future.