Thursday, March 20th, 2008...1:48 am
One A Penny, Two A Penny
For the past year, there’s been one thing in particular that my bunny has been begging me to make. Ever since last Easter, she’s been pleading with me indefatigably to make her hot cross buns.
All of us have one of those dishes – something that transports you back to your childhood; which reminds you of those times you’d spend curled up with your mom (or [insert significant relative here]), sneaking off to buy these treats which the two of you shared in secret, lest your dad find out and scold the both of you again for wasting money. That’s what hot cross buns are to bunny, and since last year I didn’t manage to make them for her, I made up my mind to get it done by hook or by crook this week.
Now, that’s really easier said than done. You see, the last time I ate a hot cross bun was at least 10 years ago. Maybe even 15! I have no idea what they taste like anymore – apart from them being mildly sweet and being filled with dried fruit (which I don’t particularly like). All I really remember of them is that tune, and – even then – I often confuse it with the “Three Blind Mice” tune. Not a good start, I know. And although I’m more comfortable cooking savoury dishes, even when it comes to baking and desserts, I tend to prefer choosing recipes whose flavours and steps I can sort of envision as I read through them. None of the hot cross bun recipes I found really did that for me, so I ended up sorta winging it – taking a little from a Donna Hay book that I got last year, another from an issue of Waitrose Food Illustrated, and filling in the gaps in between with other recipes online, and then taking some creative leaps of faith.
Baking them, too, was not altogether uneventful. Because of the mixture of recipes, I ended up not really having a guide to follow. I realise now that I probably should have tried one recipe in its entirety first before having taken some creative license, but hey, at least it turned out pretty well.
Hot Cross Buns
(based mostly on a recipe from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups milk at about 35C
4 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine salt
50g unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sultanas, mixed peel, candied cherries, or whatever else you can get your hands on
1/2 cup extra flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil (use something mild tasting)
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp water
2 tsp powdered gelatine
Gently stir the yeast into the milk with 2 tbsp of the sugar. Set it aside for about 5-10 minutes until it begins to froth, so you know that the yeast is active. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, and salt.
Add the egg and melted butter into the yeast mixture, stir in the remaining sugar, then – using a small spatula – stir in the remaining dry ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, then knead until an elastic, springy dough forms (about 10 minutes). I re-dusted the surface with 2-3 tbsp more flour during this period. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, then cover with a damp dishcloth and set aside in a warm, draught-free place to rise until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour).
Preheat your oven to 190C, and grease a 9″ square cake tin, then line with non-stick greaseproof paper. (I don’t have a 9″ square tin, so I used a couple of smaller ones.) When the dough has risen, scrape it back out of the bowl, and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a tight ball, then place into your prepared baking tin. Leave to rise for another 30 minutes, or until the balls of dough have expanded such that they are very snugly sitting next to each other in the tins. Mix the extra flour, oil and water together, then pipe crosses onto the buns. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until well browned and springy but firm to the touch.
While the buns are in the oven, make the glaze. Place the sugar and 1/4 cup water into a small, heavy-based saucepan on high heat until it dissolves. You may need to remove sugar crystals from the sides of the pan using a pastry brush dipped in water. Sprinkle the gelatine over the remaining 1 tbsp water, then add this to the pan once the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.
When the buns are done, remove them from their pans onto a rack to cool. Drizzle or brush the glaze over, then cool completely on the rack. Eat them toasted with plenty of butter. :)
Yield: Makes 12 buns
Note: Okay wow, I just youtubed the Hot Cross Buns nursery rhyme, and it’s not at all like how I remember. It’s actually rather awful. I know some of you are on your way to youtubing it now, so here you go. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.