It might be April Fool's Day, but I don't joke about hot cross buns. I love hot cross buns. To my shame though I love the cheap, not quite baked properly, juicy fruited ones that you get in the supermarket. Fancy ones aren't for me. And home made ones even less so. They're normally quite dry, and not quite sweet enough, and I don't like the way the currants cook to little sour bullets.
But the other day I came across this recipe and thought that something calling itself the Perfect Hot Cross Bun was worth investigating. And now I take it all back. These are AMAZING!
They take a while to make, but they're well worth the effort and the wait. Especially straight out of the oven and spread with lots of butter.
Perfect Hot Cross Buns
Felicity Cloake for The Guardian (you can see how she got to her perfect recipe here)
200ml milk (plus extra to glaze)
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
7g dried yeast
50g golden caster sugar (plus extra to glaze)
450g strong white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
50g mixed peel
5 tbsp plain flour
Gently heat the milk in a pan with the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and saffron until just boiling. Then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for an hour. Strain it, then bring it up to blood temperature and mix with the yeast and 1tsp sugar.
Rub the flour and butter together until fine. Then add the sugar, salt and ginger. In a separate bowl, beat two eggs, then make a well in the middle of the flour, and tip them in with most of the milk mixture. Using your hands, mix it together until you've got a soft dough. You might not need all of the milk, so just keep adding it until it feels soft - it shouldn't be dry or tough.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes, until it's smooth and elastic. Put it back into the bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until it's doubled in size (this will take at least a couple of hours.)
When it's risen, tip the dough back onto your work surface and knead it again for a couple of minutes. Flatten it out and add the currants and peel. You may have to do this in several stages, but just keep kneading until all of the fruit is incorporated into the dough. Then divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and roll them into bun shapes. Place them onto a lined baking tray, then cover and put into a warm place until they have doubled in size again (it can take another hour).
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Beat together one egg with a little milk to make an egg wash, then in a separate bowl, mix the plain flour with a pinch of salt and just enough cold water to form a thick paste.
Paint the top of each bun with the egg wash, then using a piping bag or teaspoon, draw a thick cross on top of each. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes until golden. They should sound hollow if you gently tap them on the bottom.
While they're baking, mix 1tbsp caster sugar with 1 tbsp boiling water. When the buns come out of the over, brush them generously with the sugar glaze before transferring to a rack to cool.
Try not to eat them all.