Hot cross buns are traditionally served on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent. A spiced sweet bun made with currants or sultanas, they are traditionally marked with a cross on the top to represent the crucifixion of Jesus. Spices are used in the buns to signify the spices used to embalm Jesus at his burial.
This is not a recipe if you are in a hurry. Hot cross buns like saffron buns, take some time and love to prepare but are well worth the effort. They can be frozen once cooked and just need a little warm up in the oven once defrosted.
Granny Spear has been using this recipe for over 70 years so it’s well tested!
1 ½ lbs Strong plain flour (we use strong white bread flour)
4oz Granulated sugar
3oz Block margarine
3oz Block lard
1oz Fresh yeast (or alternatively, 14g of Allinsons Easy Bake dried yeast (in a small tin) or, 2 x sachets of Co-op Fast Action dried yeast – if using any other dried yeast, ensure it is fast action and can be added straight to the dry ingredients and does not need to be added to liquid and allowed to rise first).
½ Pint of tepid water (blood temperature)
1 Heaped tsp mixed spice
1 Egg (beaten)
2 tbsp Granulated sugar
2 tbsp Water
In a large bowl, rub together the flour, sugar, fats and mixed spice until it resembles breadcrumbs and there are no large lumps of fat left.
Make a well in the middle of the flour. Using a little of the tepid water, make a paste with the yeast and then add the remaining water. Pour this into the well along with the beaten egg.
**If using dried yeast, add the yeast to the flour along with the spice and sugar and then rub in the fats. Add the tepid water and knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with a tea-towel and leave to rise for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size – Then, skip to the step below where you add in the fruit**
With a fork, mix a little of the flour from the sides with the liquid and then, cover the liquid in the well completly with some of the flour from the sides (flicking it from the sides on top of the liquid).
Cover with a tea-towel and place in a warm place. After about 20 minutes, the yeast mixture should begin to erupt through the flour.
Remove the tea-towel and add the fruit and draw all of the mixture together in the bowl until well mixed. Turn the mixture out onto an oiled or floured cool surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. Place the mixture back into the bowl, cover with a tea-towel and place back in a warm place for approximately 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. If making your own pastry crosses (see below), prepare the pastry whilst the dough is rising.
Turn the mixture out again and knead it again for approximately 5/10 minutes drawing it back to its original size.
Divide the dough into individual round portions of the same size (around 60g). You can weigh each ball of dough to ensure you get even sized buns (around 60g per ball). Using the palm of your hand, roll each portion into a ball on your work surface. Remember not to add any flour to the work surface at this stage to ensure the balls grip the surface and are easier to roll.
Place the balls onto a greased and floured or, lined baking sheet (if lining, use baking parchment and not greaseproof paper) leaving a little gap between each ball to allow for expansion.
At this stage you can either score the top of the buns with a sharp knife in the shape of a cross or, as we prefer, you can put a shortcrust pastry cross on top of each bun.
(Easy shortcrust pastry recipe for crosses. Rub 10g cold butter or block marg into 40g of strong plain or bread flour. Add just enough tepid water to form a dough. Roll out thinly into an oblong shape on a floured surface, around 12cm by 15cm and cut into around 24 thin strips. Brush the strips with a little water before placing onto the buns in the shape of a cross trimming off any excess at the ends)
Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise one more time in a warm place for approximately 20 minutes.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180o fan for approximately 20 minutes.
Whilst the buns are cooking prepare the glaze. Melt the sugar and the water together in a non-stick saucepan over a gentle heat. Bring to a simmer and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Brush over the top of the buns as soon as they come out of the oven using a pastry brush to make them nice and sticky and give them the traditional glaze.
Makes around 1/12 doz to 2 doz depending on what size you make the buns.