Did you know that Easter is early this year? Those who celebrate will be enjoying a wonderful meal with friends and family on Sunday, April 9. I have to confess that my favorite part of Easter is the Hot Cross Bun. Growing up in South Africa, I looked forward to the arrival of six packs of these fragrant buns starting in January. Sensibly, these days, hot cross buns are available all year round in Woolworths, South Africa's Marks and Spence inspired store.
Last year, it occurred to me that just because hot cross buns aren't readily available here on Whidbey Island, that doesn't mean that I have to go without. I also realized that I live with someone who has an active sourdough starter so I put two and two together and got home-baked hot cross buns right in my kitchen. They are simply delicious.
You can make them too and if you decide to pace yourself on the eating front, be sure to store them in one of our cotton and muslin bread bags.
What you will need for the fruit
80 g raisins, sultanas, currants or a mixture
40 g mixed peel
1 orange zest & juice
What you will need for the Dough:
450 g strong bread flour
55 g light brown sugar
2½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
220 ml milk
1 medium egg
150 g active sourdough starter
60 g butter cut into thin slivers
What you need for the Crosses:
45 g plain flour
20 ml water
What you need for the glaze:
1 tbsp apricot jam (Note 7)
2 tsp water
How to make them
Day 1: Evening
Last thing just before going to bed, feed your starter in the ratio of 1 part starter: 2 parts flour : 2 parts water. Leave it semi-covered at room temperature overnight (8-12 hours) until it doubles in volume.
At the same time as you feed your starter, place all your dried fruit, orange zest and juice in a bowl, cover and leave to soak.
When your starter is at its peak, place all the dough ingredients (except for butter) in a bowl of your stand mixer and mix for a couple of minutes to bring all the ingredients together. One sliver at a time, start adding butter. Using a dough hook attachment knead for 10-12 minutes on medium speed until the butter is incorporated, and the dough is soft and elastic.
Tip the dough onto a work surface and shape a tight bowl. Then place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let it proof at room temperature for approx. 4-5 hours.
Drain the fruit and squeeze any excess moisture out.
Tip the dough onto a clean kitchen surface and stretch it out into a rough rectangle. Roll the dough and fold it over a couple of times to incorporate the fruit (see more details on the method above).
Divide the dough into 12 even sized pieces. Shape each piece into a tight ball, tucking in the bottom to create a smooth top.
Place the balls, seam side down on a baking parchment-lined baking tray (ideally with high rims, so you can cover the dish without touching the tops of the balls). Cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave in a warm spot to rise for approx 5-6 hours. They don't need to double in size, as they will continue proving overnight.
Place the tray in the fridge overnight (8-10 hours).
Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan.
Mix together the flour with enough water to make a thick paste, then add it to a small piping/icing bag with a thin nozzle. Pipe crosses over the buns.
Place the hot cross buns in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until they are a deep brown color.
Meanwhile, place jam and water in a bowl, microwave for 30 seconds. Mix to combine.
Remove buns from oven and lift onto a cooling rack.
Brush with jam mixture while warm. Allow to cool to warm before serving.