I never knew what the fuss was about. It always starts a few weeks beforehand with every bakery, supermarket and home cook scrambling to bake enough buns for the onslaught that is Easter. I have looked on as both kids and adults alike get giddy with excitement to devour their first of many hot cross buns for the holidays. Every year I try them too, only to be disappointed once again and wondering what it is that I’m missing? So this year I decided to try and change that and baked my own buns on Good Friday.
Before I took to the kitchen I thought a good start would be to try and find out where the tradition of the humble sweet bun came from. Surely this would give me an insight into their popularity. Like much of food history their exact origin is a bit hazy. In historical Christian countries they are traditionally baked for lent and especially enjoyed on Easter Friday with the cross said to symbolise the crucifixion of Christ.
Others claim that they date back to the pagan Saxans who would bake cross buns to celebrate the beginning of spring in honour of the goddess Eostre (after whom Easter was named). Some even go as far to claim that buns baked on Good Friday couldn’t go mouldy with the belief that they will bring good luck if you hang them in the house every year.
These all seem like pretty good reasons to love the bun. All I needed now was the perfect recipe. So I took some inspiration from the buns of both Jamie Oliver and Paul Hollywood and came up with a winner! I am not a fan of raisins so I opted for some orange juice soaked cranberries and finished them off with a good slather of apricot jam. Fresh out of the oven with a generous smear of homemade butter these tasted like heaven!
Hot Cross Buns with Cranberries and Apricot Jam
Preparation Time: 25 minutes plus extra for rising
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 8 big buns
55 g butter
1 tablespoon dried yeast (or 2 x 7g sachets)
455 gram strong bread flour plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ whole nutmeg
55 g caster sugar
1 large free range egg
2 tablespoons plain flour
60 g dried cranberries
100ml orange juice
smooth apricot jam, to glaze
- Add the milk to the pan and place over low heat for a few minutes until slightly warm but not boiling.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter to a pan over low heat or microwave until melted and set aside.
- Transfer the warmed milk to a bowl and add the yeast. Cover and set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the butter and milk and yeast mixture. Beat the egg in a separate bowl and add to the bowl.
- Using a fork mix well until it starts to resemble a rough dough, then tip out onto a floured surface and knead for for about 10 minutes or until the dough feels soft and springy. Add more a sprinkling of flour if the dough becomes too sticky while kneading.
- Return the dough to a floured bowl, cover with a cling film and leave to rise in the warm place in your kitchen for about an hour. The dough should have doubled in size.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and bash it a few times to knock out the air. Then scoop the cranberries out of the orange juice and sprinkle over the dough and knead again for 5 minutes to distribute the fruit evenly.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/ Gas 5. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces and then cut each of these in 2 until you have 8 equal pieces. Roll them into balls and space them out onto the baking tray as you go.
- Cover with cling film or a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile place the plain flour and plain water into a bowl and mix into a thick paste.
- Transfer the paste into a sandwich bag and cut off one corner (or use a piping bag) of the bag and start piping a cross onto each bun.
- Please the buns into a the heated oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
- Transfer to a wire cooling rack and brush with the apricot jam and leave to cool slightly.
- Serve with a generous smear of butter.
I am glad to proclaim that there will be buns baked in my house on Good Friday from this day forward!