Hot Cross Buns, made with love!

IMG_5908This year’s Hot Cross Buns were declared the best yet! I didn’t do anything different from last time except we all had a hand in some part of the making. Don’t they say, cooking with love provides food for the soul! I strongly believe that if you cook with love…it shows! This year’s hot cross buns were definitely made with love, so that must be the secret ingredient that made them end up tasting so good 🙂

Firstly my parents were in town visiting. My dad is a beautiful cook – not your ‘meat and three veg’ everyday chef kind, but the kind who was Executive Chef at all the dinner parties our parents hosted when we were younger. The sort of person who will labour all day over an something like an Emperors Rice Pudding dessert just for the love of it …. and to serve to us for Sunday dinner.  He loves cooking, and most of all cooking for others, teaching us cooking from his Hungarian heritage and sharing food with loved ones. While mum and dad were visiting it seemed like our kitchen was bursting at the seams most of the time with all of us in there, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Darling husband got the Hot Cross Buns off to a good start with a cracker ferment starter. He then had to leave, so Poppy pitched in to grate the lemon zest and mixed the dough while I attended to the electricians who decided to arrive at exactly that moment. In the meantime, my little Chefling was hovering for her favourite part – kneading! And Granny was on hand to source butter for the dough bowl while Poppy washed it ready for the dough to rise. So it was definitely a team effort and made with love.

It is already Easter Sunday and too late for some to start baking Hot Cross Buns, but we secretly sometimes bake these at other times of the year. They are so tasty and make a delicious breakfast with butter melting on top of the toasted goodness. Our opinion is that these buns should be a permanent fixture and shouldn’t be saved just for a one time of the year. They freeze well (just slice them before freezing so you can pop them straight in the toaster) and if your house is anything like ours – they won’t last long enough to make it to the freezer anyway!

How can you involve the kids? I just read this great post about Kitchen Tasks from 3 to 5 years by Simple Bites. Mine fit right into this age category of 3-5 years and I’m so happy that when I have my little helpers in the kitchen, that the whirlwind of two little people stirring, whisking, cracking eggs, kneading, rolling, washing, chopping, measuring, fetching and seeking ingredients is a pleasure, although sometimes the thought of cleaning up afterwards is a little daunting!

Hot Cross Buns

  • Servings: 12 large buns or 16-20 small buns
  • Time: Over 2hrs
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

For the ferment starter

  • 1 large free-range egg, beaten
  • 215ml warm water
  • 15g fresh yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 55g strong white flour

For the dough

  • 450g strong white four, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed ground spice (I used 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice + 1 tsp of ground cinnamon)
  • 85g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
  • 80g sugar
  • Zest only of 1 lemon
  • 170g mixed dried fruit

For the topping

  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • a little water – approx 2 teaspoons
  • 1 tablespoon of warm golden syrup (or I used a mixture of molasses and honey), for glazing

Method

  • For the ferment starter, mix the beaten egg with enough warm water to make up approximately 290ml / 1/2 pint of liquid. Be careful the water isn’t too warm or the egg will poach! Whisk quickly once together.
  • Whisk in the yeast, sugar and flour until the mixture is smooth and well combined, then cover and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  • For the dough, sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spices/cinnamon into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using the fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the sugar and lemon zest to the well and pour in the ferment starter.
  • With your hands, gradually draw the flour at the edges of the bowl into the well in the centre, mixing well with the ferment starter, until the mixture comes together as a dough.
  • Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly until smooth and elastic.
  • Carefully work the mixed dried into the dough until well combined. I find it easiest to flatten out the dough and cover with the mixed dried fruit then roll up so the fruit is on the inside then start kneading. Some of the fruit will try to escape but just keep poking it back in!
  • Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl in a warm place for one hour to prove.
  • Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape it into a ball again and return it to the bowl, then cover again and set aide for a further 30 minutes to rise.
  • Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palm of your hands. Place on baking tray lined with baking parchment. You want them near each other kind of close together but not touching as they will expand as they rise some more and as they bake. Cover the buns with a tea towel and let rest 5-10 minutes.
  • Cut a cross in the top of each bun going down about half way though the bun.
  • Place a piece of baking parchment loosely on top of the buns, then place in a large plastic bag (large enough to seal the end or two bags end to end taped shut) and tie or tape the bag shut so no air can get in. This is an important step to keep the moisture/humidity in and that makes the all the difference to the softness of the buns at the end. Leave to rise in a warm place for a further 40 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 240C /425F/Gas 8.
  • Meanwhile for the topping to make the crosses, mix the plain flour with enough water to make a smooth paste. Smooth enough to be able to pipe it, but thick enough it won’t slide off or loose it’s shape. Once smooth, place in the bottom corner of a small plastic bag or zip lock bag. You can use a piping bag if you choose, it’s just messy and sticky to clean up.
  • When the buns have risen, remove the large plastic bag and the top layer of greaseproof paper. Cut a small corner off the plastic bag containing the topping and pipe a cross over each bun.
  • Bake the buns in the oven for 8-12 minutes, or until risen and pale golden-brown. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the hot golden syrup mixture and set aside on a wire rack to cool.

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