Friday, 29 March 2013

Guest Post - Chris Bakes Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns,
Hot cross buns,
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns.

If you have no daughters, 
Give them to your sons,
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot cross buns.

Happy Hot Cross Bun Day!

My house smells amazing, Chris was in the kitchen all morning baking Hot Cross Buns and Greek Easter bread!

As Chris has made them I am handing my blog reigns over to him today so that he can share his recipe with you!

Here he is!

I love baking, especially anything yeast leavened. Easter gives me a good excuse to bake some sweet breads and buns. My hot cross bun recipe is based on the one in the Elizabeth David book English Bread and Yeast Cookery. I like this recipe as it doesn't have the nasty white stripes on them. I know they look good but I think they taste horrible. These buns just have a cross cut in them. The cross doesn't always show but it's the thought that counts.

There's not much I'll bake without adding some of my sourdough starter. It's been with us for about a year now. I'd encourage you to have a go, it's easy and fun, there's loads of geek bread sites with instructions. Even if you don't make sourdough bread you can add it to all sorts of things (it's really good in pancakes) to get that sour taste. That's what I'm using it for here and I've used quick action yeast to get the rise. If you have the time try giving it a go without the yeast.

At Elizabeth Davids suggestion I've added a little cumin to my mixed spice. I also popped in a pinch of mahlab. Mahlab is a spice used in greek and middle eastern food. It is the ground stone of a small wild cherry. It has an intense flavour, slightly aniseed and a lovely almondy smell. One of my sisters got this for me as she lives in Crete but you should be able to find it online. If you can't get any don't worry.

Finally I've used a little wholemeal flour. I love the darker colour and texture you get from using it. Infinity Foods in Brighton used to have a big hot cross bun Easter display in the window and their bakery makes the most delicious wholemeal buns. All wholemeal is a bit worthy for me but adding a little gives you a nuttier bun with a good texture.

Anyway here's the recipe...

Hot (and Sour) Crossed Buns


The Buns
100g wholemeal strong (bread) flour
300g white strong (bread) flour
100g sourdough starter
1 tsp of fast acting yeast
1 tsp salt
125 g dried fruit (I used currants and a little candied peel)
60g butter (softened and cubed)
60g golden caster sugar (white would be fine as well)
230 ml milk (warmed slightly)
2 eggs beaten
2 tsp mixed spice
a small pinch of ground cumin
a small pinch of mahlab
a couple of scratches of nutmeg
Rind of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 an orange (grated)

For the Bun Glaze

2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of milk


Rub the butter into the flour so that there are no big buttery lumps (you'll not quite get 'breadcrumbs' as there's not much fat).

Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir to mix.

Add the sourdough starter, the beaten eggs and the milk.

Mix until a soft (and rather sticky dough) forms.

Turn onto a floured or oiled surface and knead. You'll end up in a sticky mess but keep on, it should start to form a slightly more elastic dough.

After ten minutes kneading place it back in a large clean bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film or a shower cap if you've got one and pop it somewhere warm to rise for an hour or so.

Once the dough has doubled in size it's time to make the buns.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and give it a quick knead.

Cut the dough into 12 equal sized portions.

Roll each bun into a round.

Place the buns onto a greased baking sheet (I like to give the greased tin a light dusting of corn meal as well) place the buns quite close together so that when they rise you'll get a nice kiss crust.

Cover with oiled cling film and place somewhere nice and warm again for a second rise. This will take about 30 minutes or maybe an hour. Once the buns have doubled in size again they are ready to go.

Gently brush the buns with milk.

Make the cross by cutting across the top of each bun fairly deeply with a sharp knife. It's easier if you wet the blade before each cut.

Place the buns in the centre of a fairly hot oven at about 200c and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Near the end of the baking you'll want to start the bun glaze.

Boil the milk and sugar together until a syrup forms.

Brush the glaze on to the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. 

Leave to cool, then enjoy. 

I like mine split and toasted with butter and a cup of tea. 
How do you eat yours?

I bake bread for the week most weekends. Today has been extra busy with all of the Easter treats. With a little help from Ruby and Jacob I baked 2 wholemeal cobs, a dozen hot cross buns and some Tsoureki bread. Tsoureki is a greek easter bread, sweet like brioche and scented with orange and mahlab. Emma and I used to live near Green Lanes in North London when we were at university. It's a big Greek, Cypriot and Turkish area and at easter the bakers shops were full of the plaited loaves with red eggs embedded in them. The red eggs represent the blood of Christ. Unfortunately we didn't have any red colouring so it seemed a good excuse to have a go at a rainbow coloured loaf. There are loads of recipes online. I based mine on Paul Hollywoods but added some fennel seeds to get little pops of aniseed.

We'll be serving these tomorrow for an Easter tea along with the Simnel cake and Easter nests that Emma and Ruby have already made. I can't wait!

Do you eat anything special at Easter?

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