When I was growing up we always had hot cross buns on Good Friday and that is still when I make them every year. I read once that the cross could also symbolise the four seasons or perhaps the lunar phases. I’m not sure if it’s true but I like that idea. This recipe makes quite spicy buns that have a lovely zesty flavour from the orange, without the big pieces of peel that so many people seem to dislike. You can make them more or less spicy to taste. I’ve given instructions for making the dough in a mixer because it is a bit sticky but it can also be made by hand.
I have been known to get up very early to have these ready in time for breakfast but I think it’s better if everyone else just sleeps in.
Hot Cross Buns
500g (4 cups) strong flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons caster sugar
4 teaspoons mixed spice
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
4 teaspoons fresh yeast (or 2 teaspoons instant dried yeast)
1/2 cup thick, well-cooked porridge, cooled (see note)
1/2 cup orange puree (see note)
200 ml (3/4 cup) tepid milk or water, plus extra
50g (2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups dried fruit (I use sultanas and currants but you can really use anything you like)
1 cup plain flour
1/8 cup vegetable oil
150ml (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) water
orange marmalade to glaze – optional
note: I just use leftover porridge from breakfast, but you can make this quantity by mixing 1/3 cup rolled oats with 2/3 cup water and cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the oats are soft and the porridge is thick. The orange puree is made by cutting up a washed and dried orange, removing the pips and pureeing in a blender or food processor until smooth. 1 small orange makes about 1/2 cup. If you make extra, you can freeze it for the next batch.
For dough, combine flour, salt, sugar and spices in mixer bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix yeast with a little of the milk/water and add to flour with porridge, orange puree, fresh ginger and remaining liquid. Mix together thoroughly on low speed and then gradually add the butter. The dough should be quite soft and sticky. If it feels to dry add some extra liquid. Knead on low speed for ten to fifteen minutes, until the dough is shiny and elastic.
Add dried fruit and mix through by hand. Make sure the fruit is evenly distributed through the dough. Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea-towel to prove until about doubled in size. This will take about 2 hours.
When dough has doubled in size, knock it back by gently pushing the air out with your knuckles. You will find it has become less sticky and more manageable. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and use a sharp knife to divide into 12-16 pieces (depending on how big you want your buns, I like mine on the smaller side). Line one or two trays with baking parchment. To shape a bun, take a piece of dough and flatten it slightly, then bring the outside edges in towards the middle, pushing out any air as you go. this will create an even, round shape.
Turn the bun over and with the dough in contact with the work surface, make a claw out of your hand and twist the bun a few times. Place in the baking tray and repeat with remaining dough pieces.
Cover again and allow to double in size. This will take slightly less time than the first proofing. While the buns rise, preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and mix together cross ingredients until smooth, then set aside. When buns have doubled in size, place cross mixture in a piping bag (I use a snap-lock bag with a tiny bit cut off at one corner). Pipe on crosses in continuous lines.
Place buns in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Depending on your oven and how many trays you have, you may need to turn the trays around or swap them halfway through baking. When cooked, remove from oven and place on a metal cooling rack. Immediately brush with marmalade to glaze, if using, then allow to cool. These buns will keep well and are yummy toasted, but ours never seem to last long…