Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday: twelve buns for the twelve apostles (or Jesus and his apostles minus Judas, depending on whom you ask), decorated with the cross to symbolize the crucifixion. Folklore has it that buns baked on Good Friday will not spoil for an entire year but I see no reason to put this to the test. I'd much rather share and eat them, preferably straight from the oven, with a morsel of butter. And a nice, hot cup of tea.
This recipe is very sparing with sugar, the resulting buns have only a hint of sweetness - to my mind, that's perfect for the occasion but if you prefer your buns a little sweeter, increase the amount of sugar, and I won't hold it against you. Having tried several recipes over the past few years which failed to delight me, this year's adaptation of my previous attempts is good enough to be repeated in subsequent years.
Hot Cross Buns
30 g fresh yeast
500 g wheat flour (+ 2 tbsp + 1 1/2 tbsp)
2 tbsp sugar (+ 1 tbsp + 1/4 tsp)
40 g butter
1 tsp mixed spices (ginger, star aniseed, cloves, nutmeg)
1 tsp cinnamon
200 g raisins
optional: egg wash
Prepare a starter with the yeast, 125 ml lukewarm water, 2 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp sugar. Stir until well mixed, then leave for ten minutes to activate the yeast.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 500 g flour flour, 2 tbsp sugar and spices, then rub the butter into the mixture as for crumbles. Add the raisins and, finally, add the yeast mixture. Knead together until you have a smooth batter. Form into a ball, place in the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise for a good 30 minutes.
Knead again, divide the dough into four equal parts, then form three small buns out of each piece. Place on a lined baking tray close to each other (3 x 4) but not touching.
Cover again, and leave to rise for another 30 minutes. Towards the end of the resting period, prepare the paste for the crosses.
In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 tbsp flour and 1/4 tsp sugar (again, use more sugar, if you like), and add water by the tablespoon, until you have a thickish paste that resembles plasticine. You want to be able to handle this mass with your fingers. Indeed, this mixture nicely illustrates why it is possible to make play dough with a few ingredients from your kitchen cupboard!
Wet the buns with a little bit of water, then shape small pieces of dough with your hands, rolling them into small sausages. Place on top of the buns to form a cross.
If you like your buns glossy, apply egg wash. Bake in a hot oven (200 C) for ca. 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve straight away.
Have a Hot Cross Bun...