I wish I could say that the sun is shining and the birds are singing heralding the arrival of spring but sadly, although I live on a desert island where sunshine is rarely in short supply, this is not the case. For the past couple of weeks we’ve experienced varying degrees of ‘yuk’ when it comes to the weather, ranging from thunder and muddy rain to near zero visibility dust storms. In a region not famed for it’s adherence to road rules at the best of times, I’ll leave you to imagine the sheer anarchy that prevails under these conditions. Those living in the Middle East can no doubt relate!
Though far from ideal, there is one activity that this kind of weather lends itself to perfectly. Baking. I could barely believe it the other day when I spotted (and perhaps also purchased) a packet of hot cross buns at the supermarket. Wasn’t it Christmas last week?
Time seems to be passing by VERY quickly these days. Which reminds me, I owe you an apology for the longer than usual gap between this post and my last (don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook for daily doses of chatter between posts!) I have no proper excuse, except that I got so carried away working on improvements to the site, behind-the-scenes activities if you will, that I failed to share my latest culinary adventures with you!
So what behind-the-scenes activities I hear you say? Well, for starters, following a suggestion from one of my lovely readers I have added a photography portfolio to the site. If you’d like to have a peek you can view both my food and travel portfolios by selecting your choice from the drop down menu above. You can even view them in a slideshow if you so please. Fancy schmancy. Some of the images you may recognise from my blog posts but there are some new ones in there too and I will be adding more just as soon as I find the time to edit them! There is also now a small selection of my most recent photos in the sidebar on the right hand side of the page.
Further up the sidebar, you will find a selection of my latest pins on Pinterest and I have also updated the social media icons at the top of the page to include a link to my Pinterest boards and a gallery of my Instagram photos. See, I told you I’ve been busy!
Now, back to the buns. Not long after I got over the shock that a quarter of this year has already passed, what popped up on my Twitter feed but none other than this beautiful hot cross bun post from My Custard Pie. That sealed the deal and I decided to take on the challenge of baking my first ever batch of hot cross buns.
I’m not gona lie, it wasn’t pretty. Well, actually, they looked fine and the flavour was good but my dough didn’t prove properly so they were way too dense and once they had cooled, more like rock cakes than hot cross buns. Take two was much more successful. It seems the yeast I was using needed more time to do it’s thing than the recipe suggested.
These are definitely best enjoyed the same day, toasted with a touch of butter. They had already dried out quite a lot the next day despite being stored in an airtight container and though they were still nice toasted I am left wondering whether without the preservatives added to shop bought hot cross buns you can achieve the same soft result? I’m sure someone has found a way and if there are any hot cross bun aficionados out there I’d love your input.
Though there are a few more modern variations, the recipe for traditional hot cross buns doesn’t vary much at all. As I didn’t make any alterations other than using raisins instead of mixed dried fruit, and to avoid any copyright infringement, I will direct you to where you can find the recipe and leave you with the following notes with regards to the method.
- When proving the yeast at the beginning, leave it until it has about 1.5-2cm of foam at the top before adding it to the flour.
- If your egg is cold place it in a bowl of warm water to bring it to room temperature before adding it to the mixture.
- As stated in the recipe you may need to add extra milk depending on how much moisture your flour absorbs. I had to add about 15ml extra.
- I made the crosses as directed in the recipe and found that I had a lot of dough left over so you could comfortably reduce the amount of flour to 70g and the water to 35ml (you may need a little more water). You may also like to try an alternative method of piping the crosses onto the buns as done by Sally at My Custard Pie. In this case you would need to add more water to make your dough thinner. Your crosses will be more raised if you use the method specified in the recipe, it just depends what your preference is.
- For a sweeter alternative you could also use a mixture of icing sugar and water to pipe on the crosses after they have been baked. This video will show you how (about 14 and half minutes in).
- If you want your buns to be stuck together as often sold, you will need to place them closer together on the tray. They will spread again during the second prove so you will still need to leave a little bit of space but two or three centimeters is enough.
- Depending on the yeast you use it could take a lot longer for the dough to prove. Mine took about twice as long as the recipe suggested it would. A better gauge is just to keep an eye on it and once it has doubled in size it is ready. I found that covering the dough (and then the buns for the second prove) with cling film/glad wrap was more effective than covering with a damp tea towel. Spray it with cooking spray before covering so that it doesn’t stick to the buns
This post is part of the Fresh From the Oven challenge for April 2012 hosted by The Little Loaf. If you’d like to get involved you will find all the information you need over at Purely Food. If you’d like to follow other entries on Twitter you can follow hash tag #freshfromoven or visit Purely Food at the end of the month for a round up of all entries! Enjoy!