I say, I say, I say, what do you get if you pour boiling water down a rabbit hole?
Hot cross bunnies! Boom, boom! I thank you!
Well it made my nieces laugh - when they were about three.
As I hinted on Wednesday, today's recipe is for hot cross buns. (On Good Friday? Where does he get his ideas from?) The word bun comes from the French bugne, which means swelling. Though we may have lost sight of it today, a bun, properly so called, is a yeast roll. In a sense this shows the antiquity of the recipe, predating the invention of baking powder in the mid 19th century. What we have is really an enriched bread.
Just how enriched is the question. I searched around for a recipe. The Glasgow Cookery Book is the Bible for many a Scottish baker. The latest edition dates from 1975, though it was first published, under the auspices of the then Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science, in 1910. Their only excitement was a little mixed spice - and they call for margarine. The ever reliable Delia is a little more generous, but forms her cross simply by a cut in the dough. No. My version is pretty close to a Paul Hollywood recipe, though he adds an apple to his, and, bizarrrely, adds an extra prove.
Before you start on this do be aware that you're embarking on bread making, with not two but three proves (if you follow Paul; two if you follow Delia or me), plus piping bag work to form the cross. This is not a one hour recipe. (If you happen to be making shortcrust pastry at the same time, you can use strips of that for your crosses.)
For the buns
500g white bread flour; 300ml whole milk; 50g butter; 1 tsp salt; 75g caster sugar; 1 tbsp veg oil; 7g fast action yeast; 1 egg, beaten; 50g mixed peel; 75g sultanas or currants; zest of 1 orange (optional); 1 tsp mixed spice (don't confuse with allspice); 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
For the crosses
75g plain flour; water.
For the glaze
2 tbsp granulated sugar; 2 tbsp water
3tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
Bring the milk to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Leave to cool to hand-warm. In a baking bowl, add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. It's better to keep the yeast and salt separate, though I'm not sure how long it would need for the salt to harm the yeast. Mix the ingredients thoroughly then form a well in the centre. Pour in the milk and melted butter, then add the beaten egg. Mix together with a wooden spoon then get your hands in to form a sticky dough. You have been warned - it will be sticky.
Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead, as for bread, for about 5 minutes until your dough is smooth. Put it into an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove for at least an hour till it has doubled in size. Then tip it back onto your surface, knock the dough down, as for bread, and knead for another couple of minutes. For the mixing of ingredients it's probably easier if you return it to the bowl. Add the mixed spice, cinnamon, mixed peel, sultanas/currants and orange zest if using. Using your hands, mix well, making sure everything is thoroughly and evenly incorporated.
Cover again and leave for another hour. (This part of Paul's recipe surprised me. I would be shaping the buns at this stage as Delia does.) Then tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and form into individual balls of about 75g as you would for rolls. Hollywood's recipe says you'll get 15. l got 14.
Put these on a well floured baking tray or, better, one covered with a silicon mat. Leave room for expansion. Cover and allow to prove for another 30 minutes or so. For the crosses, mix together the flour with the water, a little at a time, to form a thick paste. Put into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Form a cross on the top of each bun. Preheat the oven to 220˚C/Mark 7. When the buns have risen, bake for about 18 minutes until golden brown.
While the buns are in the oven, make the glaze. Either melt the sugar in the water over a gentle heat, or warm the jam then sieve to get rid of any lumpy bits. As soon as the buns are out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack and brush with the glaze for a nice sticky surface.