Hot Cross Buns
Nowadays Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten in Ireland on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday.
This practice would have been frowned on in the past when these were blackfast days and the people would scarcely have had enough to eat, not to mention spicy fruit filled buns.
25g (1oz)fresh yeast
110g(4 oz/1/2 cup) castor sugar
450g(1 lb/generous 3 cups) bakers flour
75g (3 oz/3/4 stick) butter
1/4 tea spoon cinnamon
1/4 tea spoon nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons mixed spice, depending how fresh it is
1 level teaspoon of salt (important to add)
2 organic eggs
225-300ml(8-10 fl oz/1 – 1 1/4 cups) tepid milk
25g (1oz)candied peel, chopped
egg wash made with milk, sugar, 1 organic egg yolk, whisked together
shortcrust pastry (see recipe)
50g(2oz/scant 1/2 cup) white flour
1 tablespoon(1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) melted butter
4-5 tablespoons (5-6 American tablespoons) cold water
Put600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water and 450g (1 lb/2 cups) sugar into a pan and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven to give them a sweet, sticky glaze. This makes alarge quantity of bun wash but it keeps very well.
To Make the Hot Cross Buns.
Dissolve the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a little tepid milk.
Put the flour into a bowl, rub in the butter, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, a pinch of salt and the remainder of the sugar. Mix well.Whisk the eggs and add to the milk. Make a well in the centre of the flour, add the yeast and most of the liquid and mix to a soft dough,adding a little more milk if necessary.
Cover and leave to rest for 2 or 3 minutes then knead by hand or in a food processor until smooth. Add the currants, sultanas and mixed peel and continue to knead until the dough is shiny. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.
"Knockback", by kneading for 3 or 4 minutes, rest for a few minutes. Divide the mixture into 14 balls, each weighing about 50g (2oz).Knead each slightly and shape into buns. Place on a lightly floured tray. Egg wash and leave to rise.
If using shortcrust, arrange a cross of pastry on each one. Leave to rise until double in size. Then egg wash a second time carefully.
We tend to decorate with what we call a “liquid cross”. To make this, mix the flour, melted butter and water together to form a thick liquid. Fill into a paper piping bag and pipe a liquid cross on top of each bun.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas mark 6.
Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6 for a further 10 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Split in two and serve with butter.
Alternatively,brush each one with bun wash while still warm.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
Almost the most versatile of all the pastries and used in several recipes in this book. Use at least 1 part butter to 2 parts flour. The higher the proportion of butter, the more delicious the pastry, but the more dfficult it will be to handle.
Makesenough pastry to line a 23cm (9 inch) flan ring
175g(6oz/generous 1 cup) plain white flour
75g(3oz/3/4 stick) butter
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) of castor or icing sugar
1 large organic egg, whisked
Dice the butter and leave to soften at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Sift the flour onto a work surface and rub in the butter. Add the sugar. Make a well in the centre and break in the egg, adding a little water if necessary. Use your fingertips to rub in, pulling in more flour mixture from the outside as you work. Knead with the heel of your hand, making three turns. You should end up with a silky smooth ball of dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using. It will keep for a week in the fridge and also freezes well.