Having now moved to the East End from Soho, it’s going to be out of the question for me to wake up on Good Friday morning, saunter down to Princi and buy some of the tastiest hot cross buns in town. Come to think of it, I don’t think there will be anywhere for me to saunter to in search of these Easter treats, unless the Stepney brotherhood of Halal Fried Chicken shops is all of a sudden going to go all Christian and stock the things. So I’m making them myself this year, as I ought to have been doing in the first place.
This recipe is adapted from that in the Great British Book of Baking – which needed substantial modification in my opinion. There is nowhere near enough fruit called for – plus I’ve added in some chocolate chips; untraditional but that’s part of what made the ones at Princi so great.
For the buns:
350g strong white bread flour
100g strong wholemeal bread flour
50g caster sugar
1tsp sea salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
50g unsalted butter
250g dried mixed fruit
60g dark chocolate chips (or just cut it up yourself)
200mL lukewarm milk
2 eggs (room temperature) lightly beaten
For the crosses:
Strong white bread flour and water
For the glaze
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons caster sugar
- Mix the flour, sugar, salt, spices, nutmeg and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub in to the flour mixture until it has the texture of breadcrumbs – or you can pulse it in a food processor to achieve the same result. Add the dried fruit and chocolate.
- Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and milk. With your hands, gradually draw the flour into the liquid and combine to form a very soft and sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead well for about 10 minutes. It is best if you start by washing your hands and flouring them, then handling the dough lightly and fast, to stop it sticking to either you or your worktop. This will minimise the amount of extra flour dusting that you might otherwise be tempted to do. If absolutely necessary, do dust the dough (or your hands) from time to time with extra flour but really do try to keep this to a minimum.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour.
- When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface, and punch it down to deflate it (but don’t overhandle the dough). Divide the dough into 12 separate pieces and place them evenly spaced on a well greased baking tray. Bear in mind that they will double in size again, but don’t fret about having to leave too much room because it is OK if they expand to touch each other.
- At this stage the recipe in the book requires you to perform some ridiculous bakery alchemy and instructs you to “slip the tray into a large plastic bag, slightly inflated so the buns don’t come into contact with the plastic”. Rubbish. That only works on television. However there is another way – which dear Joseph tells me he saw in the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It. Simply place a toothpick in the centre of each bun and then drape cling film over it and tuck it in under the sides of the tray, creating a sort of see-through tent. Again, leave in a warm place for about 45 minutes to double in size.
- Mix a few tablespoons of flour and water together to create a paste about the consistency of toothpaste: a ratio of about 4:3 does it for me but you may be well served in practising (I found the recipe’s 2:1 ratio way out). Spoon into a piping bag (or a small freezer/sandwich bag, then snip off the corner). Pipe into crosses over the buns. This is actually trickier than it sounds – it might take you 11 buns to get it right. You can omit this step if you like. I’ve always thought the cross tastes terrible anyway.
- Bake in an oven preheated to 200C (or 180C fan forced) for 15 minutes.
- While baking, mix the milk and sugar together, heat, and boil for one minute.
- When the buns come out of the oven, brush with the glaze immediately.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Cut the buns in two, toast, and eat with butter and a cup of tea.