In addition to a four day weekend, the Easter break offers the opportunity to tuck into some delicious food. Spring lamb, fruity Simnel cake with layers of marzipan and lightly toasted hot cross buns with lashings of butter are just a few on our list. Bistro on the Square can provide the lamb (our Spring menu features Moroccan spiced rump of Welsh spring lamb with almond purée and warm baby aubergine salad) but if you are looking for hot cross buns that are slightly out of the ordinary, we suggest you put an apron on, get your hands dirty and make them from scratch.
For the recipe, who better to turn to than the Queen of cooking, Nigella Lawson. The recipe on her website (which we have outlined below) has been lauded as one of the best. She warns in her notes, ‘One thing I must be strict about: you do need to use proper bread flour here, not the usual plain.’
For the Dough:
- 150ml milk
- 50g butter
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 clove 2 cardamom pods
- 400g bread flour
- 1 packet easy-blend yeast (7g)
- 125g mixed dried fruit
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 egg
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg, beaten with a little milk
For the Cross on the Buns:
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- ½ tablespoon caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
For the Sugar Glaze:
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove and cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then leave to infuse. I have gone rather cardamom mad recently, but this short aromatic infusion gives a heavenly scent to the little fruited buns later.
- Measure the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a bowl and add the spices. When the infused milk has reached blood temperature take out the clove and cardamom pods, and beat in the egg. Pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients.
- Knead the bowl either by hand or with a machine with a dough hook; if it is too dry add a little more warm milk or water. Keep kneading until you have silky, elastic dough, but bear in mind that the dried fruit will stop this from being exactly satin smooth.
- Form into a ball and place in a buttered bowl covered with clingfilm, and leave to prove overnight in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/220C. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
- Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth and elastic. Divide into 16 balls and shape into smooth round buns. I wouldn’t start worrying unduly about their size: just halve the dough, and keep halving it until it’s in eight pieces, and use that piece to make two buns. Or just keep the dough as it is, and pinch off pieces slightly larger than a ping pong ball and hope you end up with 16 or thereabouts. Not that it matters.
- Sit the buns on a baking parchment or Bake-O-Glide-lined baking sheet. Make sure they are quite snug together but not touching. Using the back of an ordinary eating knife, score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross. Cover with a teatowel and leave to prove again for about 45 minutes – they should have risen and almost joined up.
- Brush the buns with an egg wash, and then mix the flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick paste. Using a teaspoon, dribble two lines over the buns in the indent of the cross, and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
- When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, mix the sugar and boiling water together for the glaze, and brush each hot bun to make them sweet and shiny.