Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns

By
From
The Tivoli Road Baker
Makes
12
Photographer
Bonnie Savage and Alan Benson

Easter is our crazy time at the bakery and by far the busiest week of the year. People travel from all over Melbourne to stand in line for our hot cross buns, and have even asked us to post them interstate! We bake around the clock from the Thursday before Good Friday until Easter Sunday, and it’s still not enough – Pippa and I usually end up having a hot cross bun-free Easter, as there are never any to spare.

This recipe is precise as we like the exact ratio of spices, but feel free to adjust them to your taste.

Brown sugar glaze

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
100g soft brown sugar
100g water
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
5 cloves

Method

  1. To make the brown sugar glaze, combine the sugar, water and spices in a small saucepan over a low heat. Bring it slowly to the boil, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes to infuse the spices. It will reduce slightly, making a fragrant sticky glaze. Pour the glaze into a container and store it at room temperature.

Dough

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
200g full-cream milk
1 orange
500 g + 50 g bakers flour
40g soft brown sugar
10g salt
6g ground cinnamon
1g ground allspice
3g nutmeg, freshly grated
1g ground clove
1 egg, at room temperature
35g fresh yeast
50g butter, ideally cultured, softened
130g Basic sourdough, dough only (optional)
85g currants, soaked in water overnight
85g sultanas, soaked in water overnight
85g raisins, soaked in water overnight
70g see method for ingredients

Method

  1. To start the bun dough, slowly bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan over a medium heat, being careful not to let it boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Place the orange in a medium sized saucepan and cover well with water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat slightly and continue to boil for about 1 hour, until a knife goes through it easily. Drain, and when cool enough to handle, quarter the orange and remove any pips. Place it in a blender and blend for a minute or two, until you have a smooth puree, then set aside to cool.
  3. Combine 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) bakers flour with the sugar, salt and spices in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the milk, orange puree, egg and yeast, and add to the dry ingredients. Mix for five minutes on a medium speed. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and base of the bowl with a spatula to ensure that all of the dry mix is incorporated and that the mixture is forming one large ball of dough. Mix for another five minutes until the dough is smooth and strong, and comes away easily from the sides of the bowl.
  4. With the mixer still running, incorporate the butter and sourdough dough, if using, a little at a time. Make sure they are being incorporated into the dough and not just coating the sides of the bowl – you may need to stop and scrape down the sides once or twice. Mix for 2–3 minutes, until the dough is firm and shiny, not sticky or wet. Use the windowpane test to check the dough. Take a small ball of dough and gently stretch it between your hands – you should be able to stretch it very thin without it breaking. If you find that it breaks easily, mix for a few more minutes to continue working the gluten in the flour, then test it again. If you are mixing by hand, this step will take a good 15 minutes of folding.
  5. Drain the fruit and sprinkle the remaining 50 g (1¾ oz) of bakers flour over it. Add the fruit and the mixed peel to the dough in three batches, then mix for 2–3 minutes, until the fruit is evenly dispersed.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench, and knead it for about a minute, then place it in a lightly greased bowl and fold it by lifting it up and over itself a few times, turning the bowl 90 degrees between each fold. Leave the dough to rest in the bowl, covered with a damp tea towel, for an hour. If you want to spread the workload over a couple of days, the dough will be fine if left in the fridge overnight at this point.
  7. Knead the dough in the bowl for about 1 minute, then fold the dough by lifting it up and over onto itself a few times, turning the bowl 90 degrees between each fold. Leave it to rest, covered with the damp tea towel for up to 2 hours, or until risen by half. Gently press the dough; it’s ready if your finger leaves a dent in the surface. If the dough springs all the way, leave it longer, and then test again.
  8. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and cut it into 12 equal pieces. Take each piece and gently flatten the dough, then bring the edges together in the middle so it forms a rough ball. Turn it over so the seam is at the bottom, then cup your hand over the dough and roll it on the bench using firm pressure until it forms a nice tight round ball with a smooth, even surface. Cover the buns again with the damp tea towel, and leave them to rest for 15–20 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Line two trays with baking paper. On a lightly floured bench, take each bun and knock it flat, fold the edges into the middle, and then turn it over so the seam is at the bottom. Using firm pressure, roll it in your hand on the bench again. Putting pressure on the bun strengthens the dough; you want a round, firm ball that sits up on the bench rather than a saggy form.
  10. Place the buns on the lined trays, evenly spaced out to allow for the eventual rise (if you prefer the look of clustered hot cross buns, place them side by side). Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for around 2 hours, until risen by half (the timing will depend on the weather). Test the buns again by gently pressing the surface – if your finger leaves a dent, you’re ready to bake; if the dough springs back it still needs more time.

Cross

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
50g plain fl
25g self-raising
pinch salt
pinch sugar
65g water
15g oil

Method

  1. To prepare the cross mix, combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and whisk until it forms a smooth paste. Put this into a piping (icing) bag with a plain nozzle and set aside.

Egg wash

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 egg
splash full-cream milk
pinch salt

Method

  1. Make the egg wash by lightly whisking the egg, milk and salt in a small mixing bowl, then brush it evenly over the buns. Pipe a cross onto each bun.
  2. Put the trays in the oven, reduce the temperature to 180°C (360°F) and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the tray and bake for a further 3–5 minutes, until golden brown. While the buns are baking, warm the brown sugar glaze in a small saucepan. Once they are baked, use a pastry brush to coat the buns lightly in syrup. Cool slightly on a wire rack, but not for too long. They are best eaten when still warm, though they’re also excellent the next day, toasted, with lashings of butter.

Bakery notes

  • There are several factors in making a great bun, starting as always with the ingredients. We always freshly grate the nutmeg, as we find it improves the final flavour. Already ground is fine for the other spices, just try to buy them from a shop with a high turnover to ensure they haven’t been sitting around for years.

    You need to use strong bakers flour with high protein content for this dough, so it will hold its structure when mixing.

    If you can’t find mixed peel and don’t have time to make it, just use the zest of one lemon and one orange. The flavour lacks the bite of the mixed peel, but it’s still good.

    At the bakery we add 130 g (4½ oz) of sourdough dough to strengthen the dough and enhance the flavour. If you don’t have any sourdough dough you can just leave it out – these will still be very delicious hot cross buns.

    You will need to start a day ahead to soak the fruit; if it isn’t soaked, the fruit has a tendency to burn on the crust. If you want to make these over two days, just refrigerate the dough overnight after the first fold and finish off the buns the following day. You can also make the glaze ahead of time.
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