Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

This post is late.  But then, my large thesis proposal is finished, and my tummy is full.  You can't win them all.

Still, given that here in the Antipodes it's the beginning of the colder season, I don't much care that Easter is behind us.  I plan to keep making spicy, fruity buns for the next little while.  Like most bread making, this kind of baking is far less work than most people suppose.  The flip-side, however, is you need to be pretty housebound to keep track of the rises and the kneading - you need to start these puppies the night before and they need about 24 hours in total.  Do you have a thesis or some other large manuscript to write too? Snap. Let's bake!

I hadn't made hot cross buns before, but through Leith's brother Ian, I was given the Thomas Family Recipe.  Now the Thomas family are formidable bakers, so it was with great confidence that I knuckled down to these buns.  I did, with some trepidation, alter the recipe slightly (by adding MOAR SPICE AND FRUIT because as you all know by now, I like spice) and while I don't know what the original would have been like, I can tell you that these were scrumptious.

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 cup sultanas
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup mixed peel
  • 1/2 cup extra flour and 4 tablespoons water for crosses
  • Golden syrup or treacle and chilli powder to glaze

Before you go to bed, mix 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast in 1 cup of warm water.  Leave for 10 minutes until it starts to look good and foamy. 

In the meantime, mix 2 cups of the flour with the remaining dry ingredients and fruit in a bowl, and leave a well in the centre.  Add the yeast mixture with the oil to your dry ingredients and stir all together with a wooden spoon.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave out overnight.

The next day, the mixture should have more or less doubled in size.  As Ian most wisely suggested, the longer you leave it the tastier it will become.  At about 2pm my yearning for buns got the better of me and I came back to it.

Mix the remaining 2 teaspoons of yeast with the 1/4 cup warm water, and leave for 10 minutes.  Then add this liquid to the mixture, and the 2 remaining cups of flour to the mixture.  At this point you'll need to tip the whole lot onto a clean surface and knead the mixture thoroughly to incorporate all the flour.  Keep going until the dough is smooth and forms a lovely large ball.  This took me about 20 minutes or a little more.  It is a stiff dough and the kneading is hard work, but this is the only really hard part about the whole process.  Also, this kind of thing can lead to Linda Hamilton arms. So there's an upside.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and lightly dust with flour a low, rectangular baking tray (like a lamington tray).  Divide your dough into 12 equal parts and roll into balls with your hands.  Place them side by side in the tray.  You want them to nestle up against each other a little, so that when they rise they'll push each other up rather than spreading out.  Cover and leave on top of the heating oven for another 45 minute rise.

When they're ready, mix the extra flour and water to a thick paste and using a piping bag with a narrow nose (or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off), draw your crosses (or customised initials if you happen to know an awesome 6 year old, which I do).

Bake for 20 minutes. 

While they are cooling in the tray, mix a big spoon of golden syrup with a shake of chilli powder (or skip the chilli if you're so inclined) and a little hot water.  Using a brush, generously glaze the tops of the buns while they're still hot. 

Serve the buns with lashings of good butter and cup of tea.  With the tree leaves turning golden and the mornings increasingly crisp, they also make the breakfast of champions.  Mmmmm.  Spending the long weekend studying doesn't have to be quite such a bummer after all.

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