Traditionally served on Good Friday but these classic Easter buns can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
This recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage handbook on bread makes sweet, springy, fruity bread buns with a lovely hint of mixed spice and orange zest.
Serve them freshly baked or toasted with lashings of butter and a nice cup of tea; then put your feet up, relax and enjoy.
HOT CROSS BUNS
250 g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
250 g plain white flour
125 ml warm water
125 ml warm milk
5 g powdered dried yeast
10 g salt
50 g caster sugar
1 medium egg
50 g butter
100 g raisins, currants or sultanas (or a mixture)
Finely grated zest of ½ orange
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
For the crosses
50 g plain white flour
approx 50 ml water
1 tablespoon apricot (or other) jam, sieved
1 tablespoon water
If you have a food mixer, combine the flours, water, milk, yeast, salt and sugar in the bowl and fit the dough hook. Add the egg and butter and mix to a sticky dough.
Now add the dried fruit, orange zest and spice and knead on low speed until silky and smooth. (You can do this by hand, but it will be sticky to handle.)
Cover the dough and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size.
Knock back the risen dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into rounds and dust with flour. Place on a floured board, cover with plastic or linen and leave to prove for about half an hour until roughly doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
To make the crosses, mix the flour with the water in small bowl, adding the water one tablespoon at a time, so that you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses. (or use a plastic food bag with a corner snipped off, as I do).
Transfer the risen buns to a baking tray and pipe a cross on top of each one, then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the jam with the water in a pan. Brush over the buns to glaze as you take them from the oven.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm, cold or toasted