A while back I lived for over 3 years in the UK…At that time I knew little about cooking or baking, as I was studying something completely different. But still, food and baking goods were an important part of my life. They provided the comfort for the emptiness I felt out there, far away from home, on my own for the first time. One of those “comfort foods” I was hooked on were these buns. I cannot remember how I got to try them, I don’t even think it was Easter (as they are traditional in Easter time), but from the moment I did, I became addicted! I loved eating them beginning by ripping out the crosses before biting into the torn soft crumb. But above all I loved the aroma (I have this terrible way of “sniffing” all my food before I try anything…Terrible, for those close enough to complain about it, that is;)) and the fruity spiced up flavour.
Back in Spain, I kept them in mind just as a fond memory. But it was not until 3 years ago, that I decided to have a go at them myself! Since then, I’ve tried various recipes, adjusting to my taste. I find these are the best so far and I cannot let another year pass without sharing it with you! It is adapted from Dan Lepard’s and Hamelman’s (from his book “Bread”). Also, I prefer to make the candied peel (confit orange, in my case) myself and since here I couldn’t find the mixed spice, I’ve played around to get a mix I like for this recipe. I hope you like these flavourful & nutricious buns as much as I do!Bon app’!
For those who missed it, here on “Madrid Tiene Miga”, a post (in spanish) on my favourite, so far, natural leaven loaf cooked inside a cocotte.
Hot cross buns (for 1 25x25cm square mould and 4 extra ones!)
For the confit orange (ideally make at least a day ahead):
1 large orange
250g granulated sugar
(optional: drizzle of lemon juice)For the buns:
300g flour (about W200, though you can use AP flour)*
100g of wholemeal flour
50g sugar+20g glucose or 60g of agave or golden syrup**
270g milk (boiled & cooled down. Boil a bit more as some will evaporate)***
50g egg (1 small one)
6-7g instant yeast or 18-20g fresh
8g salt (I tried with 4 & 6 g, but not half as tasty, it really makes a difference!)
150g raisins (or mixed with sultanas, though I prefer just raisins)
70g of the confit orange (or store-bought orange or mixed candied peel)****
zest of 1/2 orange or lemon, grated
5-6g mixed spice(I used 6g of a mix I liked after a few trials, see after the notes)
*I was getting a tougher crumb at the beginning and asked Dan Lepard on his blog about changing the strong flour to all-purpose, to which he replied that it does make the crumb softer, though the overall hydration of the formula should be decreased. So, if you use AP flour, go for 250g of milk maximum, even withholding some to see if it takes it all.
**Adding glucose, inverted sugar or some sort of syrup makes the crumb moister and adds keeping quality. Glucose is about half as sweet as sugar, so double must be used to compensate. On the other hand agave syrup, as honey are sweeter.
***Milk has an enzyme that unless boiled to denature it makes the crumb tougher, so it’s best to boil it & cool it for fermented dough recipes. About the amount, I used 280g for an overnight retardation of the dough (which was fairly sticky for these flours, that’s why I suggest 270g), if you skip it, as Dan recommends to use about 50g less milk.
****You could use less, but I wouldn’t use any less than 50g…it’s one of the keys that makes these buns so tasty!
For the mixed spice:
2g cinnamon + 1g nutmeg + 1,5g all spice + 1,5g ground ginger + 0,5g cloveFor the glaze:
50g sugar + 50g water + drizzle of lemon juice & some grated rind + pinch of mixed spiceFor the cross paste:
30g AP flour
2g icing or caster sugar (I process granulated sugar with the coffee grinder)
tiny pinch of salt
some grated lemon peel
aprox. 25g of water
Note: For both glaze & cross paste, you can simplify by just using the “main ingredients” skipping the spice & fruit rinds, though they improve the flavour.
Quite a few ingredients, right? If you feel it’s too much preparation, you can just buy the mixed spice & candied peel, and even skip piping the crosses for still some tasty buns!But if you decide to prep all yourself…let’s begin!
The candied orange, which I usually make to decorate Roscón de Reyes, rather than buy all that (to me) disgusting candied & coloured fruit, is cut into slices as thin as possible trying to keep them whole (after washing well, of course!). For this recipe, the looks don’t really matter, as it’s all chopped up, so I make double the recipe & keep the nicest looking ones that go just cut in half over the Roscón and the other more irregular ones for this.
Candied peel is as it’s name states just peel, if you prefer to candy just the peel, which is more bitter (though I prefer this which uses up the whole orange) place it in cold water and bring to a boil and strain. Refill with cool water and repeat up to 3 times. This removes excess bitterness.
Then, bring the sugar & water (with the drizzle of lemon juice for contrast- even here I hate overly sweet things) to the boil to melt the sugar and place the orange slices in to be covered with the syrup and place over low or medium heat to cook & confit them.
Like I said you want to keep the heat low to allow them to get translucent. If the syrup reduces too soon, add a bit more water to top up a bit and again let it reduce. You are aiming for it to look like this:
If you taste it, it shouldn’t be bitter, if it is, it needs reducing a bit more. By this time, the syrup will be fairly thick not runny. place on parchment paper, trying to remove excess syrup that may be attached. Let them dry up a bit on the exposed side, then turn over and again let that side dry a bit. Then, I keep in the fridge over cut up strips of parchment fitted one over the other in a tight seal tupperware. They keep for over a year! They just dry up a bit, but for this recipe, it’s even better that they dry up, so they are not so sticky. For the top of the Roscón, I just soak them for a few minutes to hydrate a bit…and back to what they were!
Look at the close up…aren’t they just gorgeous?
For the recipe, cut up the worse looking slices and mix with the raisins…
Now prep your spice mix…weigh your ingredients (I know they are very small weighs, I have a tiny weigh for this sort of things…otherwise, increase the recipe 3-fold or more and keep the mixed spice blend in a sealed jar for other uses!)
I’d like to note that one of the times I tried this, the resulting buns had an ackward taste, I had used 3x as much cinnamon as other spices, but still cinnamon doesn’t have that funny taste?! I think it might be cassia, which unfortunately is most of the time what they sell as cinnamon in powdered form.
Cassia has a stronger flavour and more numing feeling on the tongue. Whole it is easy to recognise, as it has a darker brown hue and looks more like a thick bark rather than a thin curled up layer. In fact in the top first picture, on the left you see cassia bark and the smaller one on it’s right is cinnamon.
Why I bother telling this? Because it’s obviously best to use the finer flavour of cinnamon, specially if you plan to use more proportion of cinnamon to the rest of spices in your mixed spice. So, be warned!;)
Finally, time to begin with the buns. Another type of preferment could be used, probably for improving keeping qualities, but for taste in these intensely flavoured buns, no need to really bother, a sponge works well.
First, mix the flours in a large bowl and on another smaller one prepare the sponge with about 20g of the flour mix, plus 50g of the boiled milk and all of the yeast. Since it’s fairly liquid, to make sure the yeast doesn’t stay in lumps, dissolve it with the milk first and then add the flour. Give it time to ferment until at least doubled in size, better to give it even a bit more until it’s 3X it’s original volume (it took mine around 30 minutes, though depends on room temp.). You’ll see how foamy it is and it feels it isn’t runny anymore, it holds together…
In his recipe Dan melts the butter with the spices and let’s it sizzle gently to infuse it with all that aroma and flavour! I though this was a great idea, as in cooking, it’s always best to heat somehow (dry roast, fry, etc.) dried spices, particularly if ground, to bring out their fullest potential. But on the other hand, I find adding butter at room temperature into the worked out dough, like for a brioche, gives it better texture so I do this with 30g of the butter, but keep the remaining 50g for adding later (it might just be me…so, if you prefer, it’s simpler to do this step with all the butter).
Ah, you’ll begin to imagine how these buns will taste & be encouraged to go on from the smell that takes up the house!Let it come to room temperature before using.
Now onto the dough, add the salt, orange or lemon zest, the spiced butter with the beaten egg added to it, the sponge, 200g of the milk (reserve the rest, in case you find it’s enough) and the sugar & glucose or the syrup ( I prefer to add half the sugar, develop the gluten a bit, and then add the remaining one, but no need to do that). If you find you need the extra milk, add it.
I used Bertinet’s technique to knead the dough, which came out really wet (I usually prefer wetter doughs, which I find result in tenderer crumbs) but giving it just a few folds and resting it for about 10 minutes in between as Dan suggests (it works wonders, better than constant kneading, without the mess).
Then, when the dough was sufficiently developed, smoother and that can be stretched without breaking, I added the remaining room-temperature butter. But like I said, you could just add all of it with the spices at the beginning…
At first it will look like it breaks apart the dough, but soon it comes together again into a softer, smoother, less sticky dough. Pity these night photos suck for details!
It’s time to add the raisins and orange giving it gentle fold to disperse them. If they are dry, they’ll seem to want to jump away from your dough. But again, give it a few folds with 10 minutes rests and they’ll become part of the dough!
Refrigerate overnight (or give it time to almost double)…
The next morning, bring the dough out and check it’s consistency. If it still feels tacky, I find it helps to shape them while still cool, so they are less sticky. Otherwise leave it about 30 minutes to warm a little. Then, divide into 80g balls. You could make them larger, 90-100g even, but I find for for the 25x25cm tray larger than that, they rise too much & they look too squared. I like that they stick together and give way to the tender crumb in between, but I still prefer a roundish shape. If you prefer shape them each & separate enough from each other to get just separate buns. Up to you!
Since these were a bit sticky, I had to use a bit of the wholemeal flour on top to shape properly. Line the pan with parchment and place 3x3.
I try when possible to keep the candied peel, but specially the raisins on the inside, that is, that they don’t stick out on top, as they burn easily and I don’t like their taste.
Also, once placed evenly apart I flatten them slightly so they are not like a ball!
Cover with some plastic and let proof until almost doubled. They shouldn’t overferment or else they will collapse when brushed before going in or in the oven. To tell, press lightly the risen buns, it should make a light indentation that recovers half-way slowly. If it bounces back, it still needs time, if the indentation stays, handle very carefully and place them straight into the oven!
While they are proofing, though you can do this ahead of time, if you like, make the cross paste. Just whisk the butter with the pinch of sugar, salt and peel and add the water. It should make a paste that when placed in a piping back does not come out unless pressed out. That is, soft, but not runny!
By the way, most cross recipes are plain flour and water, you could try that simpler version, though I prefer this richer one :)
When the buns are sufficiently proofed, decide if you will want to glaze them, which results in tastier, shinier, though slightly sticky buns, or just leave them as is. I sometimes just leave them without the glaze, so to give them a bit of shine, I brush them with egg wash (just beaten egg with a dash of milk or water). But, if you plan to make them with their traditional glaze, brush very lightly with some milk and pipe the crosses. First across one direction, then in the other direction.
Place in a preheated oven at 200ºC for about 15 minutes. My oven is fan-assisted and 200ºC was ok, but you may need to lower it to 180ºC. Trial and error for each oven! If the heat is uneven, turn halfway through baking and leave until golden brown.
For the glaze, which I almost forgot about, just bring all the ingredients to a boil. Do not reduce or the denser syrup will make the buns stickier.
And, ahhh, what a smell!Here are the buns before brushing the glaze and after it.
And the round ones with the egg wash. They are shiny too, though not as much.
Here’s the torn apart bun to show the tender, fruity & spicy crumb!
Delicious on their own or toasted with some extra butter :D
…which brings out their smell into the kitchen again!
So, do you think it’s worth a try? I assure you that unless you don’t like spices or the fruit…you won’t regret it!Enjoy!