Similar to its Easter-sweet-treat colleague, the Creme Egg, Hot Cross Buns are now available all year round in a myriad of different (and posh) flavours. It's easy to throw in the basket a pack or two during a weekly food shop or at the local bakers. But I promise shop-bought ones are incomparable to the reward of producing a tray of freshly baked homemade Hot Cross Buns, enjoyed warm with a cuppa over the long Easter weekend.
Yes, the bun dough is super sticky and requires the patience of Mary Berry when sifting through the hundreds of thousands of hopeful applications for the next series of The Great British Bake Off, determined to find the next Frances, John, Joanne or Edd.
Also, I appreciate baking the buns take up most of a morning with all the various stages but just like the building of Rome etc, these beautiful buns aren't to be rushed. And anyway, in between all the rising and plumping, you could be "rehearsing" for Easter by seeing how many mini chocolate bunnies you can eat in one sitting*.
And I know decorating the bun with the glutinous, unyielding flour cross is a bit of faff. You could try Jamie Oliver's suggestion of using a strip of readymade shortcrust pastry as the cross but, while it may look neat and precise, it is cheating. See also piping a white chocolate cross.
I'm not sure I'm selling them very well. But, hey, you've a few weeks to practice...
Date and Orange Hot Cross Buns:
450g plain flour
7g dried yeast
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
50g soft, pitted dates
50g mixed peel
Zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
50g Stork margarine
For the crosses:
3 tbsps plain flour
1 tsp olive oil
For the glaze:
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1. Sift the flour in a large bowl. Add the sugar, yeast, spice and half a teaspoon of salt
2. Stir in the dates, currants, mixed peel and zest. Beat 1 egg and pour into the mixture
3. Warm the Stork margarine and milk in a small pan over a gentle heat (don't allow to boil) and add to the flour mixture. Initially bring together with a knife before using your hands to bring the dough together
4. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface. It will be pretty sticky at this time. Knead for 7-10 minutes until the dough feels all nice, soft and elastic
5. Pop in a clean bowl and cover with cling film or a tea towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size
6. Turn the dough back out and divide into 12-16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and pop onto two nonstick baking sheet, spacing each bun well apart
7. Cover the buns with a tea-towel and allow to plump up for 30 minutes
8. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas Mark 8. Cut a cross into the top of each bun. Beat the remaining egg and using as a wash to gently brush over the buns
9. Mix the flour and oil with a small amount of water to make a paste and pipe onto the top of the buns in the shape of a cross. Bake the buns for 18-20 minutes
10. Make the glaze by mixing the sugar with 4 tbsps of boiling water. Brush gently on top of your buns as soon as they come out of the oven
11. Allow to cool slightly before slathering with butter and tucking in with gusto!
- As warned above, this dough is super sticky. Keep going with the kneading though, avoiding if possible adding more flour and it will become nicely soft and elastic. I promise.
- Prefer a more traditional bun? Omit the dates and use currants instead
- Pipe the crosses using either a standard piping bag or a plastic food bag with a small hole cut into the bottom corner
- *Fourteen bunnies
I'm submitting this recipe to the Stork Hot Cross Bun Easter Challenge. My secret to better Easter baking with Stork is giving Hot Cross Buns a modern twist by including juicy, sweet dates inspired by one of the most enduring of current food trends: Middle Eastern cooking. Considered one of the 'fruits of paradise' in Islamic tradition, dates may have had a bit of a fusty, antiquated image here in the UK. Leftover, unwanted festive gifts wrapped in sticky clingfilm spring to mind. But with the likes of Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi and the team behind Honey & Co championing Middle Eastern flavours, times are changing for humble ingredients such as the date.
Please note Stork provided the basic ingredients to bake these scones.