- Food & Drink
Sometimes you do things in the kitchen that you realise afterwards were utterly stupid, like adding whisky to a hot pan and creating a brief but terrifying column of fire (sorry about your kitchen Leonard).
For a long time, every yeasted bun and loaf I made came out of the oven dry. Practically pre-toasted. I couldn’t understand it. I was following the recipes to the letter and yet I was baking bread that could dehydrate a human in half a slice.
It was a Gary Rhodes recipe for hot cross buns that enlightened me. In an introductory paragraph he explained the importance of not dusting your work surface with too much flour when you’re kneading the dough. You’ll knead this extra flour into the dough and the buns will end up dry and crunchy.
Well, obviously. I’d been dusting my kitchen counter with more and more flour, trying to get my dough smooth and shiny, like what you see on the TV, totally forgetting the effect all this flour would have on the finished product. Since that revelatory moment, I’ve embraced sticky dough. I knead it on very lightly dusted surfaces and if it sticks to the counter, I just scrape it off. It rises the same and the final result doesn’t need soaking to be edible.
This hot cross bun recipe is an evolved version of that Gary Rhodes original. The buns are best eaten warm from the oven. If you want to toast them, don’t glaze them. The sugar glaze will melt and slide off under the heat of the grill and make a mess / set your toaster on fire.
Hot cross buns
450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
7g sachet fast action, easy blend yeast
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
50g caster sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
75g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
1 egg, beaten
125ml whole milk
FOR THE CROSSES
40g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
FOR THE GLAZE
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the yeast, mixed spice, ginger, sugar, raisins, orange zest and a pinch of salt. Add 60g melted butter and the egg.
2 Top the milk up with 100ml water and heat in a pan on the hob or in the microwave until hand hot. Slowly add to the flour, stirring the dough together with one hand, until you have a sticky dough.
3 Wash your hands and then dust your work surface with about 30g plain flour. Scrape out the dough and knead for 5–10 minutes until it has taken up all the flour and the dough is fairly smooth. If it’s still very, very sticky, you can add another 20g but no more than that. If it doesn’t become smooth, don’t worry. Sticky is better than very dry.
4 Grease a large bowl with the remaining melted butter and place the dough, patted into a round, in it. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm for about an hour or until doubled in size.
5 Tip the dough out, punch down and knead for 1–2 minutes until smooth. Divide the mixture into 12 and shape into rounds. Grease 2 large baking trays with butter and place the buns on them. Cover with tea towels and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/220°C/fan oven 200°C.
5 Make the cross mixture by mixing the flour and sugar with 3–4 tbsp water until smooth. Slice a cross into the top of each bun with a knife and spoon some paste into the marks with a teaspoon. Bake for 15–20 minutes until golden and the buns sound hollow when the bases are tapped. Transfer the buns to a wire rack.
6 Place the sugar in a small pan with 1 tbsp water and gently heat until melted. Brush over the buns to glaze. Serve warm with butter.