It’s Good Friday, and there’s a very interesting story in our local paper today. I’ve eaten hot cross buns on and off all my life but learned a few new facts from Kevin Gordon’s piece in the Sussex Express. These sweet, fruity buns, with their cross-shape commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus were traditionally baked “in preparation for the end of Lent on Easter Saturday.” Okay, that I knew, despite how much crass British supermarkets might start promoting them pretty much straight after Christmas these days.
Gordon continues though: “It was often a tradition that one bun would be saved until the following Easter for good luck. A hot cross bun hung up in your home would protect if from fire until the following year. It was thought that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday would never go mouldy.”
Note – this is quite a sticky dough, something that can intimidate less experienced bakers. I recommend you read my tips for handling sticky doughs here.
140g strong white flour
18g fresh yeast (so about 9g ADY, 6g easy-blend yeast)
320g strong white flour
55g light soft brown sugar or light muscovado
55g butter, melted
1 egg, beaten [approx 58g beaten egg]
3 t mixed spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger. Whatever you like
85g currants, sultanas or raisins
For the crosses:
60g plain flour
10g veg oil
Pinch of baking powder
1. Combine the 140g flour, yeast and 150g of water to make a starter, sponge or pre-ferment. Leave to ferment overnight in a cool place or the fridge (but take it out in plenty of time the next morning). Alternatively, leave it in a warm place for a few hours.
2. When the sponge is nice and bubbly, get started on the rest. Mix flour together the flour and salt.
3. Melt the butter.
4. Warm the milk to about body temperature. You can infuse it with Earl Grey tea if you like. If you’re using tea bags, don’t forget to remove them!
5. Add the sponge to the flour and salt.
4. Mix together the melted butter, milk, sugar, beaten egg and spices then add this to the flour too.
5. Bring the mixture to a dough. Turn out the dough and knead for a few minutes. Once you’ve formed a ball, put it back in the bowl, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
6. Stretch out the ball, add the fruit, then fold over the dough, and knead it again to mix in. Form another ball, then cover and leave to rest for another 10 minutes.
7. Give the dough another brief knead. Rest for another 10 minutes then do a final knead.
8. Put in a clean bowl, covered, and leave to prove until doubled in size – perhaps two-three hours, depending on your room temperature.
9. When it’s proved, weigh it. It should be about 1100g. If it’s not, either I’ve cocked up or you have.
10. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, weighing about 70g each. Or go larger, 13 at about 85g (a baker’s dozen).
11. Form the pieces into neat, tight balls.
12. Place the balls on baking sheets lined with parchment then cover and leave for a final prove. Again, this will maybe take two hours, depending on ambient temperature.
13. Preheat the oven to 200C.
14. Mix the cross batter; you want a fairly thick gunk. When the buns are proved, pipe crosses onto them. Mine were a bit messy this time… Hey, it’s artisan, rustic…
15. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until nicely browned – this will depend on your oven.
16. Optional: while still warm, glaze with stock syrup – made from half/half water and caster sugar, about 50g each, heated to dissolve.
Enjoy for a Good Friday afternoon tea, or similar. The in-laws have arrived and we scoffed several for afternoon tea. Not sure if any will survive long enough to test the theory about them never going mouldy.
Note – the total flour is 460g, 140 in the sponge, 320 more in the dough, that is 30% and 70%.