Crusty on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and delicious! The addition of apples to the dough enhances the taste and lends a lovely, moist texture that tops anything you will find in the shops.
I’m posting this recipe in time for Good Friday as superstition has it that sharing a hot cross bun baked on this day with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time. On top of this, if taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. While I’m not into hanging bits of bread around for an entire year and have no ocean explorations planned, it’s a very nice thought but superstition aside, your house will be filled with Easter spice aromas …and buns!
These are fantastic eaten slightly warm and fresh from the oven or toasted after a couple of days. You can freeze any excess buns and defrost at a later date for an indulgent teatime treat.
Tip: You may not need all of the milk and butter mix in the recipe as bread flours can vary so do not add all the liquid at once.
For the buns:
- 300ml full-fat milk
- 50g butter
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 75g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
- 7g sachet fast-action yeast
- 1 egg, beaten
- 100g sultanas
- 75g mixed peel
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
For the cross:
- 75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
For the glaze:
- 3 tbsp apricot jam
- Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well to bring everything together until you have a sticky dough.
- Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the palm of the other hand then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.
- With the dough still in the bowl, tip in the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple, cinnamon and mixed spice. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed.
- Divide the dough into 16 even pieces. I find it easiest to cut the dough in half, roll each half into a log and divide each log into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the buns on one or two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean, damp tea towel, then set aside to prove for 60-90 minutes more.
- Heat oven to 220C/200C fan. Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make the paste for the cross – add the water 1 tbsp at a time, so you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag and snip the end off. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses. Bake for 15-20 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.
- Microwave the apricot jam for a few seconds to melt. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and then leave to cool.
Why not try soaking the dried fruit and peel in a couple of tablespoons of brandy before adding to the dough? This will make the fruit plump and luxurious. Or add some dried cranberries or cherries or even chocolate chips. Happy Easter!