When my Tea Time Treat buddy, the lovely Karen, from Lavender and Lovage announced this month's theme, sweet pastries and breads, I wondered whether it may be just a little too early to bake Hot Cross Buns.
While I loved making them last Easter, and even though the shops have had all manner of Easter treats on display since Boxing Day, it is still only January and I'm still finding the odd squashed Christmas Quality Street down the back of the sofa.
Yet these gloomy, dark afternoons are just crying out for a sweet toasted bun: juicy sultanas and raisins jostling for space, warming spices and slathered in melting butter.
So I made them without the traditional cross. Which means I can eat them all year round. Hurrah!
Not hot, not cross, just buns
(adapted from Nigel Slater and Felicity Cloake)
450g plain flour
7g dried yeast
50g soft brown sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
60g mixed peel
2 large eggs
For the glaze:
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1. Sift the flour in a large bowl
2. Add the sugar, yeast, spice and half a teaspoon of salt
3. Stir in the dried fruit and peel
4. Beat 1 egg and pour into the flour
5. Warm the butter and milk (don't boil), and when warm add to the flour and initially bring together with a knife before using your hand to bring the dough together
6. Tip the dough onto a well-floured surface. It will be pretty sticky at this time.
7. Knead for 7-10 minutes until the dough feels all nice and soft and elastic
8. Pop in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel
9. Allow to rise for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size. Grease a 23cm square tin
10. Turn the dough back out onto a floured surface and divide into twelve pieces
11. Roll each piece roughly into a ball and arrange, side by side in the tin.
12. Cover the buns with a tea-towel and allow to plump up for 30 minutes
13. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas Mark 8.
14. Beat the remaining egg and using as a wash to gently brush over the buns
15. Place the buns in the oven for 18-20 minutes
17. Make the glaze by mixing the sugar with 4 tbsps of kettled boiled water. Brush gently on top of your buns as soon as they come out of the oven
- The great thing about these buns is the maa-husive range of flavour combinations. While I've stuck firmly with tradition, how about apple and cinnamon? Orange and Cranberry? Chocolate? Toffee? Seeded? A handful of nuts?
- And should you have any left over (eh?) that may be going a little stale, they'll make a delicious base for a bread and butter pudding.