Friday, April 11, 2014

Hot Cross Buns

For many years I was scared to make bread. I have crafted many "bricks" ... both hand made and even with a bread machine! So I gave up,  I stopped trying, for a long time. Then, inspired by bread (among many other things) -making foodie friends, and a huge book called "Bread Machine" I started trying again. After some reasonable, even edible, attempts, I decided to give away my bread machine (it always undermixed and overbaked my breads, no matter the settings) and only make hand-made. I am learning, experimenting really, how to adapt bread machine recipes to hand-made (that book is full of so many amazing recipes!) and this recipe is my first real success.

Hot Cross Buns
I love fruit bread ... pretty much any fruit bread, though it has to have real fruit in it, not that candied 'fruit stuff.' My faves include raisins, dried cranberries, currants, orange peel, lemon peel, lime peel ... mmm. Oh, and (for me at least) the cross needs to be baked on, not frosted.

In Australia we always got Hot Cross Buns at Easter time ... I think I looked forward to them more than the Easter eggs. It was the only time of year we got them and it was a real treat ... toasted ... with butter ...

Flicking through the pages of "Bread Machine" the first recipe that jumped from the pages was Hot Cross Buns, with the cross baked in/on! I made them using the bread machine (as a mixer) a couple times, following the recipe to the letter — they were a little tough. So during one attempt I timed the cycles on the bread machine and then soon after, I boldly pulled out my stand mixer and — after a few more attempts and some minor adjustments — I think I have it nailed ... though is any recipe ever really final?

So here it is:

4 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp apple pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup soft butter
1 1/2 tsp rapid rise active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tbsp grated lemon/lime or orange peel (optional)

1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp sugar

Put all the dry ingredients (except the fruit) in a stand mixer bowl. Lightly beat the egg and add to mixture with 1 cup of the milk ... mix at low speed with a dough hook until ingredients are incorporated. Add the rest of the milk as needed to bind to a nice soft dough. Mix for 10 minutes on low speed.

Stop mixer and add dried fruit and peel. Turn oven on warm (<200­°F). Mix on low speed for another 5 minutes until fruit is well distributed. Turn oven off. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Place in oven (you may need to cover the plastic wrap with a tea towel so it doesn't melt!) and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs, until dough doubles in size.

Remove dough and lightly knead for one minute by hand. Use a sharp knife to divide dough into 12 equal size pieces. Tuck dough into balls and place in a 9"x11" baking dish — they might touch. Cover again and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. About 10 mins prior to end of second rise, preheat oven to 400°F.

While oven is preheating, make the pastry for the crosses. Mix the flour & butter (I use a small chopper/blender) to a fine crumbly mixture. Add enough water to bind together into a pastry that you can pipe. (In a pinch you can use a small zipper plastic bag with the corner cut out.) Pipe a cross onto each bun, then bake for 15-18 mins until light golden brown.

While they are baking, mix milk and sugar and heat (in microwave or small saucepan) until the sugar is dissolved. When you remove the buns from the oven, turn them onto a rack or tea towel and immediately brush the glaze over them while they are still piping hot.

Serve hot, warm or cool. They toast beautifully (cut in half, in a toaster oven) the next day or two — if there are any left!