Friday, April 6, 2012

The Best Homemade Easter Hot Cross Buns



Just brought these little bites of joy out of the oven a couple of hours ago. The glaze was quickly brushed over the top, the buns pulled apart and a generous swipe of butter applied while the steam continued to escape. I hurriedly took a couple of snaps before sinking my teeth into what is an amazingly satisfying hot cross bun. Once that was devoured I made up another for myself, this time a chocolate variation. Both were delicious with a warm, soft centre and a slightly crunchy outer. My personal pick of the two however will have to go to my version of the traditional Easter hot cross bun.


I have made a few Easter buns over the years, and bought too many to count. I like to enjoy them either fresh or if a day or two old they are equally delicious toasted and always served with butter. Breakfast, lunch, morning tea, afternoon tea or dessert - the only meal I haven't eaten one being dinner. This is adapted from a recipe found on taste.com.au, and with more than 60 reviews giving an overwhelmingly positive result, I had to try it (with some of my own changes of course). This recipe produces lovely soft buns, the result of using bakers flour with a higher protein and gluten content. I do believe these are the best homemade hot cross buns I have ever made or eaten, with an affirmative from my partner in crime who could be heard groaning whilst eating his first bite before declaring them the best he's ever eaten.


I made one batch and during the second kneading halved the dough and added 1 cup of sultanas to one half and approximately 1 cup of white and milk chocolate chips into the other. Once I had divided up the dough into 16 buns, I popped half of them onto a tray wrapped in a freezer bag and froze them so I can thaw them out Easter Sunday morning and eat freshly baked buns a second time. I'll let you know if they turn out exactly the same or not.



The Best Homemade Easter Hot Cross Buns

adapted from Taste.com.au
allow 2-3 hours including rising time

1½ cups (375ml) lukewarm milk (not hot!)
2 tsp (7g/1sachet) dried yeast
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
60g butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 cups (600g) plain 00 bakers flour
6g bread improver (not essential)
1 tsp salt
1½ Tbsp mixed spice (I know it's a lot, but trust me it makes them oh so tasty)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups sultanas
White Crosses
75g plain flour
⅓ cup (80ml) cold water
Glaze
apricot jam

1.   Combine the milk, yeast and 1 Tbsp of sugar in a small bowl. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 10 minutes or until frothy.

2.   Add the melted butter and lightly beaten egg to the milk mixture and whisk to combine. Combine the flour, bread improver (optional) salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and remaining sugar in a large bowl. Add the sultanas and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the milk mixture and use a wooden spoon to stir until just combined, then use your hands to bring the dough together.

3.   Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes or until smooth and elastic (alternately if you own a mixer with a dough hook, combine the ingredients and knead the dough in the mixer for 10 minutes using the dough hook, then knead by hand for a couple of minutes). Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.

4.   Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease a 25cm square or 20x30cm rectangular dish. Punch the dough down with your fist. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Divide dough into 16 even pieces and shape each portion into a ball. Arrange dough portions, side by side, in the prepared dish (buns should be just touching but not squished in). Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until dough has risen 2cm.

5.   Meanwhile, mix the white crosses flour and water together in a small bowl until a smooth paste forms. Place in a small plastic bag and snip off the end. Pipe a continuous line down the centre of each row of buns, lengthways and widthways, to form crosses. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 180°C and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden and cooked through (buns are ready when they sound hollow when tapped).

6.   Turn onto a wire rack. Melt the jam in a saucepan over the stove or a dish in the microwave and brush over the buns to glaze. Serve warm with butter, or toasted.

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns: this variation can be made by replacing the sultanas with 1½-2 cups of whatever mix of white, milk or dark chocolate chips you like. Do not add the chocolate until the second kneading, otherwise the chocolate will soften and melt into the dough during the first kneading.

Bakers flour, strong flour, 00 flour (available in most supermarkets) has a higher protein and gluten content which is the key to these soft buns. Regular flour may be used as a substitute, but will result in a slightly different texture.

Next time I bake these, the only change I will make is to omit the glaze as I found it too sticky and its main purpose for looks. Please keep in mind homemade buns contain no preservatives and as such are best eaten fresh on the day of baking or enjoyed warmed in the microwave or toasted within 3 days. I cannot wait to bake the frozen buns on Easter Sunday to eat hot from the oven.

                                      Happy Easter and Enjoy!


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