February flew past and as a result, we skipped a month, but I do intend to bring you a monthly bread recipe after our start to the year with the easy wholemeal bread recipe I shared in January. Today I feel like we have jumped to the other end of the spectrum entirely as I took it upon myself this weekend to make Paul Hollywood’s hot cross buns (adapted from How to Bake) – what could be more suitable for a freezing weekend before Easter? I’m not going to re-post the recipe, because it is published here in full, instead, I’m going to tell you what I did and give you my tips.
First things first, this is not a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming and labour intensive. I never normally attempt recipes with this many stages but don’t be put off, it’s the perfect thing to do on a bank holiday weekend or when you’re stuck inside with this horrible winter weather. It’s also flexible – there are three ‘rises’ of at least an hour each, and I just ran local errands and did housework around them and found that the recipe was fine if they were left rising for longer than it called for.
The basic dough was easy enough to make but I found myself short of strong white bread flour and so instead used half wholemeal and half plain white flour. There’s a section at the front of the book saying you can ‘blend’ the two and mine turned out a little firmer with more structure and texture to the bun, but were still delicious and felt healthier.
Folding in the fruit was the hardest bit – it felt like they were never going to stick into the dough and I made my apple chunks too large – they need to be 0.5cms or less. I have taken a photo of the fruit dough before it’s allowed to rise and after (in the bowl,) to reassure you if you feel the same way!
Try and make sure your twelve buns on the tray are the same size and have been rolled smooth so they don’t split during the bake producing odd shapes. They will rise into each other so you can tear them apart just like shop bought ones!
The bit I was most nervous about was putting the crosses onto the buns. I’m not good when it comes to piping so I opted to make the flour and water paste then just drizzle it across the whole tray left to right, then top to bottom until they all has crosses on. It wasn’t the neatest method and I ended up with a few ‘mis-shapes’ but that’s all part of the fun of home-made right?
The Apricot glaze really finishes them off and gives them a beautiful shiny finish, enhancing the golden brown colour.
And the end result? All I can say is make them. It took me the best part of a whole day (although I did other things too, I’d say you need a whole afternoon,) but the end result looks so impressive and I have never been so proud of something I have produced. As for the taste, a shop bought hot cross bun is never going to be the same again. For me they really encapsulate the spirit of Easter feasting, special buns full of fruit, spice and flavour and because they won’t be something you can make every day, they will be all the more special. I can see myself making these every Easter for many a year to come.