Hot Cross Buns

Some might say I’m fairly traditional in my life; I like things when they’re not too radical or unpredictable. And I certainly don’t love change (I would say that’s slightly embarrassing to admit, but I’d be kidding myself if I thought it wasn’t self-evident anyway…). But I’m actually not terribly in love with tradition either. I think one key to wisdom is the ongoing and regular reflection on life: decisions, thoughts, feelings, themes, actions. And sometimes, traditions hinder this, or, not so much hinder as preoccupy our minds and our days so that reflection is not thought to be required or useful.

But I don’t think this applies to holidays. It might apply to the traditions we hold around these holidays, like the present-opening at Christmas and the Easter egg hunt at Easter, but I think these holidays themselves actually encourage reflection. Christmas and Easter encourage thankfulness and a season of decided gratefulness in which we are reminded of our many reasons for joy and our foolish willingness to take all these things for granted. And so, as the season of Lent comes to a close (and I realise again that it’s quietly slipped by without any effort to involve myself in it…), and we begin to look forward to Easter Sunday and the reminder of Jesus’ resurrection (and of course the chocolate too…), it’s easy to get caught up in everything else that’s going on (like the chocolate) and forget to keep reflecting.

Now’s the part where I tie this all together by saying something profound, yet simple, like “Hot Cross Buns are the key to Easter”. But who am I kidding? I could never say that, because it’s not true. But I think if we embrace the season of Lent as a reflective, self-denying period of gratefulness, we can begin to look to Easter eggs and hot cross buns not as “the fun part” of Easter, but as reminders that point back to why we were having a season of reflection in the first place! We eat Easter eggs as a reminder of the empty tomb (although, filled eggs don’t really carry the same imagery…), and we eat hot cross buns as a visual reminder of the cross, and a gustatory reminder of the fragrant herbs the women brought to Jesus’ tomb (albeit wrapped in sweetness and melting butter…). So eat chocolate eggs and hot cross buns, for Jesus died and rose again, and that is worth celebrating!

 

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 16 | 15 minutes to cook | Allow 2 hours or more in total

Ingredients

14g dried yeast

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 1/2 cups warm milk

300g strong bread flour

300g plain flour

1/4 cup milk powder (optional)

2 tsp bread improver (optional)

2 tsp mixed spice

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp salt

60g butter

2 eggs

1 cup sultanas/currants/raisins etc.

Method

  1. Combine yeast, sugar and milk in a small bowl and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes until the mixture is frothy.
  2. Beat butter in an electric mixer on high speed until pale and soft.
  3. Reduce the speed to low/medium and gradually add flour, milk powder, improver spices and salt until combined.
  4. Switch to using the dough hook in the electric mixer and add the yeast mixture and egg until fully combined.
  5. Mix on medium speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft, or knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes until smooth and soft.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 45 mins-1 hour until its doubled in size.
  7. Using the dough hook again, return bowl to mixer, add the fruit and mix on a low speed for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth again.
  8. Divide the dough into 16-18 pieces (depending on how large you want the finished buns to be) and roll them till they’re smooth.
  9. Place into 2 oiled pans so that the buns are close but not touching.
  10. Cover again and leave to stand for 10 minutes or until the buns have risen slightly.
  11. Pre-heat oven to 200C fan-forced and combine 1/4 cup plain flour with enough water to make a paste and pipe over the buns to make the cross shape.
  12. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through – you may want to break one open to check.
  13. If you’d like to use a glaze, I highly recommend this one: combine 1/4 cup water, 2 tbs caster or icing sugar and 1/4 tsp mixed spice in a small bowl until sugar is almost dissolved. Spread on cooked buns with a pastry brush – leave for a few minutes to set, as they get less sticky with time.

 

Happy Easter Baking!

 

Notes:

  • You can very easily make this in a bread maker!! It’s simple and so much less hassle – just place all the ingredients (melt the butter first!) in the basin of the bread maker and use the machine according to the instructions (which generally ends up being, use the bread maker on a “dough” setting so it kneads and raises the dough but doesn’t cook it!). After the dough is risen, remove it from the machine and divide into even balls and allow to rise again for 10 minutes. Then bake in oven as above.
  • I’ve marked milk powder and bread improver as optional as they’re not worth fussing over, but if you do have them on hand it’s worth popping them in as they do add a nice touch!
  • If you’re feeling like a change, feel free to add different fruits or even chocolate to the mix – eg. dried cranberries, frozen raspberries, mixed peel, fresh orange zest etc.
  • These keep for about a week in the pantry but are best eaten fresh. You can toast them if they’re a bit old.
  • These keep very well in the freezer and will reconstitute nicely.
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