Spring Fruit Hot Cross Buns

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As February turns into March my mind starts to think of Easter bakes.  I have written a long article to go up later in the week about this but, for the meantime, I figured I would start this spring season with my take on Hot Cross Buns.

What originally stated life as Paul Hollywood’s very traditional recipe has now mutated into my own version which features a few twists to the classic.

I know some people are put off by Hot Cross Buns (and tea loaves, bread and butter pudding etc) because of the choice of dried fruits used.  Although tradition calls for Sultanas, Raisins & Orange zest I don’t see why we should confine ourselves to only these.

The local supermarkets offer such a wonderful range of alternative dried fruits nowadays that we can be a little more creative in our choices.  I have opted for a fantastically summery Blueberry, Strawberry, Lemon and Apricot version whilst keeping Hollywood’s top tip of adding a finely chopped apple to the mix to keep the dough moist.

As always when baking bread doughs, the longer the prove, the tastier the final loaf so I decided to spread the creation of these over two days.  Adding all the ingredients together from the start will result in an incredibly slow initial rise, then I knocked them back and proved them in the fridge overnight.

The final result comes out slightly sweet from the fruit with a wonderful depth of flavour from the mixed spices and long prove.

These are one of my favourite bakes of all time and, if you have the time to spare, you could do no wrong with knocking up a batch of these for Easter morning.

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HOT CROSS BUNS

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

10g salt

75g caster sugar

7g instant yeast

40g unsalted butter, softened

2 medium eggs, beaten

240ml warm full-fat milk

40g dried blueberries

40g dried strawberries – chopped in half

40g apricot chunks – chop any that are too large in half

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

1 dessert apple, cored and diced

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

For the crosses

100g plain flour

100ml water

For the glaze

75g apricot jam

2 tbsp cold water

Add all the dough ingredients, apart from the milk, into a large bowl. Preferably the bowl of a stand mixer like a kitchen aid or my own trusty Kenwood.  As always when making bread, make sure to keep your yeast and salt separate as so not to kill the yeast cultures.

Slowly add the milk to the dry ingredients whilst running your mixer at slow speed, or working the mix with your hands. The dough should come together into a slightly damp ball.  You may not need all the milk although the more you add, the softer your finished buns will be (but will make the mix a LOT harder to work with).

Knead your dough for 8 mins on low in the stand mixer or 10 mins by hand. Place into an oiled bowl then cover and leave to rise in a warm location until doubled in size. Because of all the extra, weighty, ingredients like the berries and butter, these will take a good long time to rise properly.  It took 5 hours in my house.  Don’t worry though as the longer the rise, the tastier the bread.

Once risen, pour the dough onto a well-floured surface then knead for a few seconds to knock the air out. Cut the dough into 50g segments before rolling into tight balls.  Place on to a lined baking sheet, covered with a piece of oiled cling-film, into the fridge to rise overnight.

The next morning, remove the buns from the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 180c.

Mix the flour and water for the crosses before placing into an icing bag and piping onto the buns.

Place in the oven for 25mins making sure to keep an eye on them after the 20min mark so they don’t burn.

Heat the apricot jam and & water in a saucepan over a medium heat until all melted together.

Remove the buns from the oven and immediately brush with the jam. Leave to cool for at least 15 mins before separating and enjoying.

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