You can really tell it's Spring; the garden is under a blanket of snow and the temperature hasn't risen above -1C all day! Unbelievably, we change the clocks to Summertime next week...
There's only one thing to do – make Hot Cross Buns! Baking is not my forte, to be honest I’m not sure I even have a forte, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
As it happens it was even more simple than usual since I threw the ingredients in the bread machine for the mixing and first proving, although it's not rocket science even if you choose to do it by hand. The warm spicy aroma while they were cooking was absolutely tantalising – so much so, we were forced into sampling one of the buns while they were still warm; purely in the interests of quality control, you understand….ahem.
I got halfway through measuring out the ingredients only to find the mixed dried fruit I was sure was in the pantry, wasn’t. Don't ask... Half a bag of cranberries and a handful of raisins had to suffice and made a very good substitute, happily.
½ a sachet of yeast
250g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
75g mixed dried fruit
25g mixed peel
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
If you have a bread machine put the dough ingredients into the bread tin in the order given and set the machine going on the ‘Basic: dough: raisin’ setting, putting the fruit either in the dispenser or adding it when the machine beeps. When the machine stops follow the steps ** below.
If you’re making by hand, put the dry ingredients (except the fruit) and the egg into a large bowl, heat the butter and milk together until barely warm then add to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a dough then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and silky; put the dough back in the bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm; leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in size then knead in the fruit and follow ** below.
**Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and, with lightly oiled hands, form into slightly flattened rounds. Put onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper, cover loosely with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size.
Turn the oven on to 200C.
Mix the plain flour with two tablespoons of water to make a thick paste. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag, squeeze the paste into one corner and twist the bag tightly so it doesn't escape. Cut a tiny corner off the bag and you now have yourself a disposable piping bag.
Once the buns have doubled in size pipe crosses onto them and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.
Boil 25g sugar with 2 tbsp water for 5 minutes to make a syrup then brush the buns with syrup whilst they’re still hot. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve with butter and jam.