It’s a slippery-slope that first hot cross bun of the season. A steep descent towards carbohydrate-induced haze, but one I happily slide (earlier, and earlier) each year.
My mum makes the best hot cross buns (I’m sure I’m biased, but they really are good). She uses an old Nursing Mother’s Association recipe which works every time. This is my version of that recipe – using a combination of lovely tart apricots, sultanas and plenty of cinnamon
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
250ml brewed tea, strong and hot (I use earl grey)
500g plain flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
80g caster sugar
10g instant dried yeast
250ml full-cream milk, warm
1 egg, lightly beaten
80g unsalted butter, melted
For the crosses:
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp gelatine powder
Place apricots, sultanas and currants in a medium bowl and pour over hot tea. Cover and allow to stand for at least 30mins. Whilst you are waiting, measure out all the other ingredients and grease a 30cm round or 20 x 30cm deep baking dish with a little extra butter.
Place flour, salt, cinnamon, mixed spice, caster sugar and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix to combine.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the warm milk, egg, and melted butter. Mix on low until combined. Increase speed slightly on the mixer and mix for 5 minutes or so, or until dough is starting to come away from the sides of the bowl. Drain dried fruit really well, reserving soaking liquid for the glaze, then add fruit to the dough. Continue to knead for another 8-10 minutes until fruit is evenly distributed and dough is pulling away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.
Transfer dough to a well-greased bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and place somewhere warm until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 180°C fan-forced. Knock dough down and divide into 16 evenly sized balls. Roll each slightly to shape and place in greased baking dish. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap and allow to rest again until buns are light and risen – about 45 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix ingredients for the crosses together to form a smooth paste. Place into a small piping bag with a plain nozzle, or use a small zip lock bag and snip a small hole in the end. Pipe crosses on the risen buns (or any other pattern that takes your fancy!).
Place hot cross buns in the oven and cook for 15 minutes before lowering oven temperature to 170°C and cooking for a further 10-15 or until golden brown and cooked through.
Whilst the buns are cooking, place all the ingredients for the glaze into a small saucepan, adding 60ml of the reserved tea. When buns have 5 minutes left on the timer, heat the glaze over low heat, stirring until sugar and gelatine have dissolved. Let the glaze mixture simmer on a very low heat until buns are cooked (watch it carefully as it has a tendency to boil over).
When the hot cross buns are cooked, remove from the oven and brush liberally with hot glaze. Let the glaze soak in slightly before giving them another coat for glistening good-measure!
Eat buns warm from the oven with a good slather of butter, or split and toast the following day and serve with butter.