Hot cross buns. A staple in the UK at the beginning of the year, all the way up until Easter. Best split in two, toasted, and smothered in butter; they go well with a cup of tea. Speaking of tea, my recipe uses chai soaked fruits to really capture the spices and intensify the flavour.
Hands-on Time 1 hour (plus overnight for soaking the fruit)
Proving Time +2 hours
Baking Time 12-15 minutes
325ml plus 2 tbsp Full-fat milk
2 Chai individual teabags
100g Raisins & currants
500g Strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
2 tsp Fast-action yeast
50g Caster sugar
1 tsp Fine sea salt
1 tsp Ground mixed spice
2 tsp Ground cardamom
70g Unsalted butter (softened)
1 Egg, medium (beaten)
40g Candied peel
Oil for greasing (I use olive oil. You may want to use flavourless e.g. sunflower or vegetable)
1 Egg yolk, medium
30g Plain flour
2 Mixing bowls
2 Baking sheets
Disposable piping bag
Pour 300ml of milk into the saucepan and place over a medium heat until nearly boiling.
Take off the heat, add both chai bags and leave to brew for 15 minutes.
Remove the bags, squeezing them to ensure you get as much chai flavouring into the milk as possible.
Put the raisins and currants into a mixing bowl, and pour over the chai milk (do bear with me on this).
Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.
The next day, strain the fruit over a measuring jug.
Press down with your hand, extracting as much of the milk as possible from the fruit without turning it all to mush.
Tip the fruit onto kitchen paper for use later.
Top up the milk to 300ml, if needed.
Add 500g of flour to a large bowl.
Place the yeast on one side, and the sugar, salt, mixed spice, and cardamom on the other.
Add the butter and beaten egg.
Start to combine using one hand, slowly adding the milk with the other, until you have formed a dough and all dry ingredients have been incorporated.
Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for approx. 10 minutes until smooth.
Use a dough scraper occasionally to gather the dough together if you find it sticking.
Don't add more flour.
When the dough is soft and smooth, leave to rest on the worktop whilst you wash and lightly oil the large bowl.
Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave for at least 1 hour until it has doubled in size.
Cover both baking sheets with parchment.
Discard the clingfilm.
Add the fruit and peel to the dough whilst it's in the bowl. Repeatedly fold the outsides of the dough inwards until all of the fruit has been incorporated and evenly distributed.
Tip the dough back out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces.
Take a piece of dough, lightly flour its bottom before turning flour-side up and placing on a clean area of worktop.
Lightly dust your hands with flour. Don't worry you won't need to perform any gymnastics.
Cup the dough, with the outside edge of your hands under the bottom edges of the dough. Keep your fingers slightly straightened.
Move one hand away from you, and bring the other towards. When you do this, you should turn the dough.
Release and move your hands back to where they started.
Repeat this several times.
You should find each time you cup the dough, you're pulling the outside of the dough downwards. When you turn the dough, you're tucking excess dough underneath. As you haven't floured the bottom of the dough the stickiness of it will help ensure it is smooth and there are no joins. Whilst the floured top will ensure it doesn't stick to your hands.
When the dough has formed a smooth ball, place onto the baking parchment.
Repeat so you have 6 pieces of dough per sheet. Make sure they're slightly spaced apart, I'd suggest about 3cm between each one (the width of 2 fingers).
Lightly oil two pieces of clingfilm and cover the dough.
Leave to prove for at least an hour until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 210°C/190°C(Fan)/410°F/Gas mark 7.
Mix the egg yolk with 2 tbsp of milk in the mixing bowl.
Remove the clingfilm and brush both batches of buns with the egg wash.
Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Mix the plain flour and water into a slightly thick paste using the spatula in a mixing bowl.
Spoon into the piping bag and snip off the very tip so there is a 5mm wide hole.
Pipe crosses over each bun. As there should still be gaps between the buns, I would avoid letting the paste fall between each one.
Place one tray on the middle shelf in the oven, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until a deep golden colour.
Remove and transfer the buns to the wire rack.
Repeat with the second batch, leaving the buns to cool.
If you fancy a twist on the classic recipe, try: