For weeks now, bakeries and stores have been seducing us with various versions of hot cross buns. The really yummy boutique bakery ones can be expensive, but actually they're very easy to make at home and baking them is a lovely way to engage with the traditions of Easter.
It doesn’t matter if your home-made hot cross buns aren't perfect – having the house filled with the spicy smell of them cooking is what everyone will remember and want you to repeat every year. And baking them yourself means you get to make them exactly how you like them – with your favourite spices, with sultanas or raisins, with mixed peel or without...
I usually play around with different flavour combinations each year, but they always have a nugget of chocolate inside each bun – a little surprise treat that you discover as you reach the centre. There are heaps of great recipes around, but the Sticky Bun dough from my book Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook is a fantastic base. Just add spices and dried fruit – and chocolate if you dare.
Here's my latest version, which I whipped up for afternoon tea yesterday. I used fettuccine strips to make the crosses – they're just flour and water paste so they're perfect for the job!
Hot Cross Buns
Makes about 30
2 cups milk, at room temp
3 tsp dry yeast granules
3/4 cup sugar
6 cups high-grade flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp mixed spice
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups sultanas, raisins or mixed peel
1/2 cup chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
handful fresh fettuccine
Place the butter in a small pot and heat gently until melted. Remove from the heat and add the milk. The mixture should be at blood temperature before you sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the top. Stir until the yeast is dissolved.
Mix flour, salt, cinnamon, mixed spice, lemon zest, dried fruit and optional chocolate chips together in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture and stir until just combined. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and silky – about 60–100 kneading strokes. Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until it has almost doubled in size – about 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, cut fresh fettuccine into 60 strips about 5cm long. Place in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 5 minutes, stirring a little so the pasta does not stick together. Drain. Grease two large cake tins and line with baking paper.
When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and divide into aabout 30 balls. If using chocolate chunks, bury one in the centre of each bun. Place buns close together in the cake tins and press two strips of softened fettuccine into the top of each to form a cross. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 200ºC (fanbake function). Bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden.
While the buns are baking, make a glaze by heating 1/4 cup sugar and 3 tbsp water in a small pot, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove the buns from the oven after 20 minutes and brush with hot syrup. Return to the oven for 5 minutes or until golden brown, then remove from the oven and glaze again while still warm.