It’s not that I’m homesick, I just miss home. Right now that means missing stuffing my face full of Easter chocolates, my favourite of which is Haigh’s Bilby and hot cross buns, my favourite of which is just the average supermarket variety – traditional of course. None of this chocolate chip nonsense, if I wanted chocolate in a pastry I’d just eat a pain au chocolat which is surely one of the most delicious things that you can still pass off as breakfast food. I must admit that I see no real reason to bake these if you can get them easily at supermarkets of bakeries. I’ve always been partial to a fluffy supermarket-variety bun rather than their fancier sourdough types, so that was the recipe that I was looking for. After testing a few, including Dan Lepard’s I’ve settled on Donna Hay’s – slightly chewy, yet fluffy in an almost cake-like way. I tested all these with plain flour because that’s pretty much all I could get my hands on here – though this blog says it’s well worth getting your hands on some bread flour.
People seem to get upset that these appear as early as December, but really, they’re basically just raisin toast in bun form, right?
Back in the day Queen Elizabeth I decreed that any spice cakes, buns, biscuits, or other spice bread could no longer be sold on any day except for Good Friday, Christmas or for burials. They were simply too special to be eaten on just any day. To get around this, people baked the buns in their own kitchens – although if they were caught they had to give up all of the illegal buns on their premises to the poor. -Foodtimeline
That sounds like a much worse predicament to be in, to be honest.
I’ve made some small tweaks – adding a bit of wholemeal flour to give it a slightly darker colour and bit more chewiness, a bit of milk powder in the hopes that it might boost the protein content of the flout slightly and a bit more spice because I’ve now made three batches and none of them have had enough spice in them for my liking. Dan Lepard cautions that spice can retard yeast development, so don’t go too crazy with the spices.
- 1 tbsp dry yeast
- 100g sugar
- 1½ cups lukewarm milk
- 600g cups plain flour (or bread flour if you can get it)
- 50g wholemeal flour (or atta flour)
- 2 tbsp milk powder (optional)
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 50g melted butter
- 1 egg
- 150g sultanas, raisins and/or currants
- 20g finely diced crystallised ginger
- 6 tbsp flour
- 5 tbsp water
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp water
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 100C.
- Place the yeast, 2 tsp of the caster sugar and all of the milk in a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes to allow the yeast to activate (bubbles will appear on the surface as the yeast does it's thing - if the mixture isn't bubbly, then abort the recipe here as the yeast could be dead). Turn off the oven.
- Combine the remaining sugar, flours, milk powder, mixed spice, cinnamon and ginger. Add this to the yeast mixture along with the butter, egg and sultanas and diced ginger – using the dough hook of the mixer and a low speed, mix until a dough forms - about 7 minutes, you will see the dough pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a smooth, slightly sticky dough. If you don't have a stand mixer, just knead on the bench until the dough is smooth.
- Cover with a damp tea towel and place into the warmed (but off!) oven to rise.
- When doubled in size, about an hour, place the dough onto the bench and divide into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place in a high sided rectangular ovenproof tray lined with baking paper.
- Loosely cover with a towel and put back in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes to an hour. Once risen you can pipe the crosses over the top.
- Preheat oven to 200C. Mix flour and water together to form a thick paste. Pipe on buns.
- Bake piped buns for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and well risen.
- I personally thought it was a bit too sweet with glaze, so you could cut down the sugar or skip the glaze altogether. While baking, make the glaze by melting sugar and water in a small pan and cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid thickens. It has a tendency to crystallise and form a while crust over the bun so make sure to brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Brush this hot syrup generously over the tops of the hot buns as soon as they have been removed from the oven.
- I think the best way to eat these is sliced in half, toasted til golden brown and slathered with butter.