I know for most people, the sentiments of Easter lie more than just nibbling on the delicious hot cross buns. But for me, this was my first encounter with a true British baking delight when I first move to Britain from Singapore many years ago.
It was in a traditional Teashop down in Malvern that I came across these fruits-filled buns. I can still remember the excitement of spotting them in the glass cake cabinet. Along with the freshly baked scones, homemade jam and clotted cream, that was the best ever cream tea of my life. Or the fondest that I can remember.
Coincidently, this was also one of the first two traditional British cooking that I attempted. The other being the scones obviously, in that very week after my little road trip. The end results were not as good as those that I had in the Teashop but I was rather please with myself.
From then on, I have a little guilty fixation with these sweet little buns so what better way of celebrating this Easter than to bake some of these spongy buns. For my recipe, I have included some maple syrup, not the most traditional I know but I do find this give a lovely floral sweetness to the finished hot cross buns. And the best part in all these, cutting them into halves and spreading some butter and sweet damson jam. They do make some darn fine breakfast, don't you think?
Now before I sign off to start my prep for my Oriental spiced roast lamb supper, I shall wish you all a very Happy Easter!
Boink! Boink! Boink!
Ingredients (Makes 12)
250ml warm milk
1 tbsp fast action dried yeast or 25g crumbled fresh yeast
450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
50g caster sugar
100g currants or raisins
50g mixed peel, chopped
2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
50g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
For the piping paste for the cross:
4 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
For the sticky glaze:
4 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp water
In a large bowl, whisk together the warm milk and the yeast until the yeast has dissolved. Cover with a cling film and leave in a warm place for at least 2-3 hours, until the surface is thick and frothy, a clear sign of the yeast is active.
In a separate large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice. Then add the raisins or currants, mixed peel and mix. Make a well in the centre and pour in the maple syrup, melted butter, frothy yeast mixture and beaten egg, stir and mix everything together to form a sticky dough.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 10-12 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Put into a clean bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour until double in size. The damp tea towel will help with the proving/rising process.
Knock back the risen dough. Imagine the face of your worst enemy if that helps and give it a few ferocious punches until it is back to its original size. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead for a few seconds before dividing the dough into 12 equal pieces. Form each pieces into a neat balls and arrange them onto a pre-lined and greased baking tray. Cover once again with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for another 45minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in volume.
In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 220ºC.
To make the piping paste for the cross, mix the flour and caster sugar with the water to a smooth paste. If you have a piping bag, fill it with this paste or if not, use a clean squeegee sauce bottle. If not, a teaspoon will do the job.
Once the buns have risen, mark a cross a with the back of a small knife and pipe the paste in the indentation in each bun. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base.
While the buns are cooling, prepare the sticky glaze. Heat up the sugar and water in a small pan over low heat until the sugar are completely melted and you have a thick syrup. Brush these liberally over the buns and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.