I love this time of year in the kitchen. With the sun beaming through your windows the smells of the kitchen begin to turn from those dark and heavy winter aromas to light and summery flavours.
With this in mind, I have decided to make the most summery Hot Cross Buns I can possibly think of. Ones full of citrusy zest and juicy fruit that won’t weigh you down, even after eating more then you should.
I love all hot cross buns but sometimes find that they can be rather heavy affairs, missing the lightness that can be found in other sweet breads like Iced Buns and Brioches. After some experimentation, and a lot of patience in the kitchen I believe I have cracked the secret for the springiest bun yet!
Start by soaking your fruit the day before you want to make your buns. This may sound like a faff but not doing so will result in your buns being full of hard dried stones instead of plump, juicy currents.
I chose to add a dram of whisky to my fruit as it soaked as I find it helps the fruit juices penetrate the dried fruit. It’s not the strongest flavour in my recipe so, if you like your booze do feel free to up it a little.
Obviously, if you don’t like currants or raisins feel free to swap them out for other dried fruits. You can find a wonderful selection of strawberries, blueberries, apricots and the like at your local supermarket and they would all go beautifully in the recipe.
Patience is really the key when making bread, and even more so with sweet breads. The added weight of the fruit, butter, sugar and eggs will weigh the dough down when rising so make sure to wait until until it has doubled in size. This can take 2 to 3 hours for the initial rise if you have a cold kitchen. The wait will be worth it though!
The night before you want to bake, prepare the fruit.
250g dried fruit
1 lemon – zested & juiced
2 clementines – zested and juiced
25ml whisky – feel free to double or triple this if wanted
Add the dried fruit, zest, juice and whisky into a large bowl and stir to combine. Cover with clingfilm and leave at room temperature overnight.
300g strong white plain flour
30g unsalted butter
30g caster sugar
10g dried yeast
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/4tsp ground cloves
2 large free range eggs
100ml warm milk – blood temperature
Place the flour into a large bowl (of a stand mixer if you have one) then rub the butter in with your fingers, as if you were making pastry.
Place all the other dry ingredients into the bowl, making sure to keep the salt and yeast separate.
Add the eggs and either stir to combine. Slowly add the warm milk a little at a time until it has all been absorbed into the flour. Knead the dough for 10mins by hand, or 7mins at slow on a stand mixer.
Lightly oil the dough and a bowl before covering with cling film and leaving till doubled in size. This make take up to 2 hours (or longer) so do be patient.
Once risen, tip out onto a lightly oiled work surface then knead lightly to knock the air out. Flatten slightly before tipping the prepared fruit onto the dough and working in with your hands. This will be sticky and messy but will eventually come together.
Line a 12” square tin with baking paper before dividing the dough into 6, rolling into balls then placing into the prepared tin. Use a little flour to help if your buns are too sticky!
Cover the tin (but make sure you don’t directly touch the buns) then leave in a warm place to rise for another 45mins, or until doubled in size. Pre-heat your oven to 180c.
Once risen, mix 2tbsp white flour with a little water to form a sticky paste. Brush the buns lightly with milk before piping the paste over the buns into the familiar cross.
Bake the buns for 25mins, making sure to keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and leave to cool whist you make a glaze.
Heat 50g caster sugar with 100ml water over a medium heat until boiling, and all the sugar has dissolved. Immediately bush the still warm buns with the glaze and leave to cool before enjoying with a cup of tea!
As with all sweet breads, these are best enjoyed on the day they are made although they will keep for a couple of days if you store them in an airtight container. If they get a little dry after storing, stick them in your toaster and serve them with butter!