Can I confess to a little secret? My favourite hot cross buns
are were from Marks and Spencer. I predominantly love the softness of them. I think this is mostly confined to hot cross buns, because I'm more than happy with my delicious homemade crusty bread, sometimes with a soft crumb, and sometimes a sourdough with a sturdier crumb. But when it comes to hot cross buns all I really want is a soft bun, and sometimes that's hard to achieve at home.
I think it's years since I actually bought hot cross buns, so at least I am trying to make my own! My hot cross buns from 2010 and 2009 were really excellent, and whilst they tasted lovely, they didn't quite achieve the desired softness that I'm seeking.
I decided to take the recipe from 2010 and tweak it a little more to try and achieve that elusive combination of utterly soft crumb with the excellent taste that comes from homemade breads. This is what I've come up with. I think it helps that this must be pretty much the easiest sweet dough I've ever made. These really are pretty much effortless - no kneading at the beginning and just the tiniest amount to gently remove some of the air before shaping the buns.
I think that in the past my efforts towards the perfect hot cross bun have been hampered by baking for too long, and at too high a temperature, worrying the crumb would be undercooked. This time I decided to cook lower and shorter. I also decided that whilst making this a milk based dough to add richness I would also add a little cornflour - a technique that contributes to the supersoft texture of these soft white baps.
Crossed and ready to bake
No-Knead Hot Cross Buns
150g extra strong flour (Canadian)
175g plain soft flour
2tsp mixed spice
generous tsp fast yeast
25g caster sugar
zest of one lemon
180ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
100ml water (see method below)
40g dried cranberries
- Soak the raisins and cranberries in some boiling water (just to cover) for about an hour. You can skip this step if you want, but it just makes the fruit soft and juicy in the final buns.
- Scald the milk (i.e. bring almost up to boiling point), add the butter, allow it to melt and the milk to cool until it is just warm (so as to not kill the yeast).
- Mix all flours, sugar, salt, yeast, mixed spice and lemon zest together in a large bowl.
- Add the milk/butter mixture, 100ml of water (I used the water that had had the raisins and cranberries soaking in it) and mix to a soft dough. The dough will be very sticky - don't worry, you don't need to knead it!
After mixing, before rising
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave the dough for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I left mine about 2 hours while I went out to do some shopping).
- The dough will have grown significantly.
After rising, before shaping
- Tip onto an oiled surface and knead very briefly and gently to remove the air.
- Divide the dough into buns of your chosen size. I made 10 buns of 40g and 8 of 50g, but you could obviously make them bigger if you want.
- Space them on a baking tray - close together to maximise the soft edges (batch effect) or further apart for separate buns. A no-brainer for me - close together for maximum softness!
- Allow to proof for around 45-60 minutes until they have grown together. During this time preheat the oven to Gas 6/200C.
- Make a paste from a little flour and water, transfer to a plastic food bag and snip off a tiny (and it really does need to be tiny, especially for mini hot cross buns such as these) corner to form a piping bag. Pipe crosses over your buns.
Piped and ready to go into the oven
- Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. I used steam in the oven for these. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool.
- To glaze, warm the golden syrup in a small pan and brush over the buns.
- Split, butter and enjoy! Or toast if you prefer.
Fabulous hot cross buns. I'm so,so happy with this dough and the way they turned out. I think this will definitely be my go-to recipe now. I can see it being very happy to accept all sorts of variations - different spices, different dried fruits (apple, pineapple, cherry, whatever you care to use) and perhaps even fresh apple too. I meant to add candied peel this time round and forgot - I'm not usually much of a candied peel lover (in fact the pre-cut stuff is revolting, only the stuff you chop yourself is nice) but I think it'd definitely be a good addition here, and if you like another tsp of spice these buns would take it.
Soft, spiced buns spread generously with butter, with a sticky glazed top - an utterly amazing way to start the day! I don't think I can sufficiently express how good, and easy these are. Give them a go, it doesn't really matter that Good Friday has been and gone, you won't regret making these.