Apple & Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

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It’s not Easter without some gorgeous Hot Cross Buns!

The first time I baked Hot Cross Buns was with a very close friend of mine two years ago and we followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Even though they weren’t perfect, it was so much fun so I decided to use my time this weekend to have another go myself. No doubt inspired by other Kings and Queens of bread baking, this recipe of mine has incorporated a few different ideas and techniques. I loved Mary Berry’s idea of using golden syrup to glaze her buns; Paul Hollywood’s incorporation of fresh fruit in his; and Jamie Oliver’s fun use of spices. Instead of the commonly used white bread flour I used wholemeal bread flour instead to add little more fibre. So with this all in mind, I aimed to create some fun, flavoursome and delicious Hot Cross Buns.

Unbeknown to me it would be an all-night pursuit (haha)…

My first batch went quite smoothly (or so I thought), up until the proving process. After leaving it to prove for an hour I thought my dough didn’t look quite right but my naivety to bread-baking meant I continued with the process. Eventually, I put them in the oven and in 20 minutes of cooking they hadn’t done a thing! They came out hard, dense and slightly gooey – you could’ve knocked your ex out with them that’s for sure (haha). I was so confused! So who do I turn to for help but Paul Hollywood – he has a great video tutorial on what can go wrong with bread and has some bread-making techniques on his website too. Both of which taught me a lot and helped me understand what could have gone wrong with my dough. After following Jamie Oliver’s recipe (maybe incorrectly), I think I killed my yeast when adding it to very warm milk right at the beginning, so I set myself up for a failure; and it was because of this that my dough didn’t rise properly. On the second batch of dough, I ensured I followed Paul’s technique by adding the yeast to the flour and I didn’t bother warming the milk this time. I left this dough to prove over-night in the fridge as it was really late and I needed sleep. In the morning however, my dough had begun to form a slight skin and had collapsed onto itself a little, probably because it had been a little over-proved or too much air had got to it – trial and error. It might have been ok and me being a little weary, but just to be safe, I decided to start again, for a THIRD time. I did handle it a little and leave it to one side, after which I noticed it began to rise. So it may have been ok after all but I had already started making my third batch. I just put that in the oven to make a bread loaf instead. So third time lucky, I ensured I followed Paul’s bread-making techniques and proved my dough for just over an hour! Safe to say it worked and all this effort was worthwhile because the results were absolutely scrumptious!

Just think, whilst you lot were all out enjoying yourselves Saturday night, I was ‘livin la vida broka’ in my kitchen (stereotypically) having a nightmare cooking Hot Cross Buns!

If you haven’t made bread dough before, don’t throw yourself in the deep end like I did. Watch this video of Paul Hollywood’s and read this article to get an idea of what results you are looking for when making bread dough.

Most importantly, I hope you enjoy these Hot Cross Buns as much as I did and have a fantastic Easter!

 

Prep Time: 3.5 hours | Cooking Time: 30 mins | Serves: 16

Ingredients final

For the dough:

450g Wholemeal strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting

50g Caster sugar

2 x 7g yeast sachets

1 teaspoon of salt

50g unsalted butter, melted

100ml milk

160g water

1 large egg, whisked

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of mixed spice

1 teaspoon of minced ginger

½ a whole nutmeg, finely grated

1 Dessert apple or 2 Braeburn apples, peeled and finely sliced

100g dried cranberries

50g Waitrose Mixed vine fruit (or you can use standard sultanas)

The zest of 1 orange

For the Crosses:

2 tablespoons of plain flour

Water

2 pinches of caster sugar

For the Glaze:

Dessert golden syrup

Water

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Method final

  1. Clean your hands as this is a very hands-on recipe.
  2. Put the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and mix together using your hands.
  3. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other side. Mix the salt into the mix on one side; then do the same on the other side for the yeast. Then mix it all in together.
  4. Melt your butter in a small pan using a medium-high heat, keeping an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  5. Meanwhile, measure your milk and water into a measuring jug and put to one side.
  6. Check your butter, take it off the heat once it’s all melted, and leave to one side for a few minutes to cool.
  7. Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients.
  8. Pour the cooled melted butter into the well.
  9. Then gradually pour in your milk and water mixing it in as you go using either with your hands or a wooden spoon, until a dough forms. Note, it will be quite sticky at first, but dust your hands a little with flour to help with handling it.
  10. You then want to knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. If you find the dough is a bit sticky just dust the surface and your hands with more flour and keep kneading.
  11. Here, you can also drizzle the surface with a tiny bit of olive oil.
  12. Knead the dough which should take roughly 5-10 minutes. You’re aiming for a soft, smooth, lively appearance.
  13. Half way through kneading you want to pause and prepare your spices. In a small bowl mix together your cinnamon, mixed spices, nutmeg and minced ginger with a little water until it forms a thick paste.
  14. Spread this spice mix over the top of your dough and proceed to knead and fold this into the dough until it’s evenly incorporated.
  15. Once your dough denotes the above description of soft, smooth and lively, place it back into the bowl you originally mixed it in (saves washing up) and cover with cling film or a slightly damp tea towel. Leave the dough in a cool place to rise for at least an hour until it has doubled in size. You can watch this video of Paul Hollywood’s which gives you a good idea of what your dough should look like after each stage of proving.
  16. Tip your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten out a little. Scatter over your apple, cranberries, orange zest and mixed vine fruits. Knead this evenly into the dough. You’ll begin to hear a squelching sound which will be the moisture from the fruit being released. This is inevitable but isn’t good for the dough’s structure so you need to combat this but using a little flour as you knead the fruit into the dough. Again, you can’t use too much flour as this may also alter the structure of the dough so ensure you use only enough to counteract the fruit’s moisture. Then cover and leave to rise for another hour. The longer you prove your dough, the more flavour it will have – not only from the fruits but from the natural fermentation of the yeast.
  17. Roll out the dough ensuring you knock out the air and divide into 16 equal rolls. To do this, keep halving the dough until you have 16 equal pieces.  Place on a baking tray together but not touching, and leave to prove for a further hour.
  18. Meanwhile, clean up any mess and make your cross mix. Gradually mix the plain flour and sugar with some water until it forms a paste – a consistency which will easily move through a piping bag. You don’t want it too runny.
  19. Once the rolls have proved, you’ll notice they’ve become soft, grown bigger and close together.
  20. Pipe the buns with a cross. Alternatively, you can drizzle over the cross mix neatly with a spoon.
  21. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes on 180°C, until golden brown.
  22. Glaze the buns with some dessert golden syrup mixed with a little hot water. Alternatively, you can use honey or fruit conserve. All of which will give the buns a nice shiny finish.
  23. Serve fresh out the oven with a little butter. Enjoy!