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Traditional fruit hot cross buns

Making and eating traditional hot cross buns is a serious affair.

Mass-produced buns that are spice-starved, low in fruit, with soft crusts, wrapped in plastic and stacked in piles at the end of the supermarket isle, just doesn't cut it.

You want your buns to be soft, fruity and spicy, slightly sweet, with golden crusts that are crisp and wonderfully sticky. If you bake them early in the morning on Good Friday, you want the fragrance of your buns to wake the sleepyheads from their beds, to gather the whole family around the kitchen-table for their Easter breakfast.

These traditional fruit hot cross buns do just that. They are not only the real thing, they're also fairly easy to make. It does take a bit of time, but not too much, especially if you have a bread maker.

Traditionally, hot cross buns are eaten on Good Friday. Because the crosses marked on top are a symbol of the crucifixion, it is also traditional to eat fruit buns without crosses before Easter, and to add the crosses on Good Friday.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (125 ml / 70 gram) currants
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml / 42 gram) raisins (equivalent to the size of a small Sun Maid Raisin box)
  • 3 teaspoons (15 ml) Surebake Bread machine yeast
    or
    10 gram Instant Yeast packet (such as Anchor's in South Africa)
  • 450 gram flour (approximately 3 cups flour)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) demerara or white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) salt
  • 1 ½ to 3 teaspoons (7 to 15 ml) mixed spice, according to taste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • ¼ cup (50 gram) glazed mixed peel
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (210) ml milk
  • 50 gram butter

For the crosses:

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) white flour
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) cold water

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) caster sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) warm water

Method

Using a bread maker:

  1. Place the currants and sultanas in your bread maker's raisin dispenser. If your bread maker doesn't have a raisin dispenser, keep the currants and sultanas separate and knead it in by hand during step number 6.
  2. Place yeast, flour and other dry ingredients together in the bread maker's pan.
  3. Add butter, milk and egg.
  4. Select the "raisin dough" setting. The duration of our maker's cycle is 2 hours and 20 minutes.
  5. Leave covered to rise for about half an hour or longer.
  6. Remove from unit and knead down.

By hand:

  1. Mix all dry ingredients together, then use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour
  2. Add the Anchor Instant Yeast and mix.
  3. Add beaten egg and lukewarm / tepid / blood heat milk to form a soft dough. Mix well.
  4. Cover and leave to rise until dough is double it's original size.
  5. Add fruit and knead the dough well until smooth and elastic, for about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes using an electric mixer. The dough should form a soft ball which, when pressed lightly, resume it's shape. The dough should not be sticky.

Making the buns:

  1. Divide the dough into either 12, 15 or 16 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball.
  2. Place on a baking sheet or in a baking tin, either lined with baking paper or well greased.
  3. The balls of dough can be spaced close to each other, but if you want your buns to be round (as on the photo), space them at least 5cm (2 inches) apart.
  4. Leave covered until it doubled in size. This will take at least one hour or more in a warm environment (such as the hot water cylinder's cupboard), or overnight in a cold room or the fridge.
  5. To make the crosses, mix the flour and water until smooth and runny. Place mixture in a small zip-lock plastic bag and seal. Snip off a very small (2 mm) corner and pipe crosses on the tops of the buns.
  6. Bake 15 to 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 200°C until dark golden brown.
  7. To make the glazing, dissolve sugar into the water and boil for 1 minute.
  8. Brush glaze mixture twice over each bun.

Serve warm.