Monday, 28 March 2016

Retro recipe: hot cross buns

By: Mrs Robot

I love hot cross buns. Even though I'm not religious, they're part of the food culture I've grown up with, so I try to eat them only around Easter time. Things can become boring if you have them whenever you want. That's not to say you shouldn't have something if you really want it, just that it's a shame if everything becomes commonplace and there's nothing to look forward to.

Despite loving hot cross buns, I'd never actually made them until this weekend. I started trying yeast cookery in 2015, and this year felt brave enough to tackle the buns. Also, I have been extraordinarily annoyed by shops bringing out nonsense variations like 'double chocolate hot cross buns.'* The recipe I used was from Julie Duff's book Cakes Regional and Traditional. Oddly, the recipe she gave didn't include the piped-on cross, but the buns in the photo in the book had clearly had a flour/water mixture piped on to make the cross shape. Luckily I'd seen enough other people making them to know that the decoration needed piping on. (Kavey's Hot Multicultural Buns being the most recent example.**)

However, I'm getting ahead of myself. I first attempted the buns on Good Friday and misread the instructions on the yeast, so added a teaspoonful instead of a tablespoonful. Oh dear. After several hours waiting for it to rise, I realised my error and the dough went in the bin. On Easter Sunday I tried again with the correct amount of yeast and, appropriately, this time they rose.

A plate of home made hot cross buns
The buns turned out denser than the sort you get in the shops, though that could be because our house lacks sufficiently warm places to get a really good rise. They were also sweeter than shop-bought ones, possibly because of the sugar in the recipe, possibly because I overdid the glazing. I didn't mind that; they tasted fab and I think I will try to make baking hot cross buns something I do every Easter from now on.

** This I do not class as messing around with tradition as it is taking something traditional and sharing it with everyone, as opposed to taking something traditional and throwing that tradition out of the window for the sake of chocolate.


  1. They look delicious, heavy or not.

    A couple thoughts. If you notice within an hour the dough isn't rising, dilute a bit of yeast in warm water and sugar and knead it into the dough. Sometimes, you can save it. You'll need to start the rise over, but that shouldn't hurt it any.

    If you want to get fancy, do a super-slow rise dough. Eventually, it will rise on 1 teaspoon, but it might take overnight.

    For the initial rise in a bowl I like to cover it with cling film and a tea towel to ensure the bowl stays warm. Metal bowls stay cooler than glass bowls. It also helps, when cleaning the bowl before returning the dough to it, to run it under the hottest water you tap can give. Every bit helps to get the dough going. I do the second rise close to the oven as it preheats. These are lessons learned from living 12 years in a drafty old farmhouse. Now, I'm a bit spoiled with central heat/air conditioning.

    I do like the way the flour cross looks on the buns, but I'd have revolt if I tried skipping the icing sugar, which is traditional in the US.

  2. Oooh I am jealous! I am going to try to make some hot cross buns next Easter. I agree with you about not eating them all year round, it was such a treat to have two after the weekend. No more for 12 months!

    I like Goody's tip about the hot water in the bowl, never thought of that ...

    Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers x