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Hot Cross Buns – James Morton Inspired

 

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I made my first batch of hot cross buns yesterday, Friday 18 march 2016. I am still in search of that elusive “best ever” hot cross bun recipe. Last year I made two different Jamie Oliver recipes, a Paul Hollywood version and  a combination of  the best of all three! Confusing! They were all good in their own way, but still don’t think they satisfy my my elusive “best ever” bun…

So yesterday I turned to the best bread baker around in my opinion, James Morton, for his hot cross bun recipe and found a lovely recipe packed full of spices and fruit, and brandy added in too for that extra kick.

I have deviated in a few ways from his original recipe: I used plain instead of wholemeal flour for the additional 100g; I used Cointreau instead of apple brandy; I rather like the traditional dough crosses so I went with those instead of James’ icing crosses; I used an apricot jam glaze instead of a sugar glaze. Here is the link for James’ original recipe:

http://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/hot-cross-buns

I also made a change in the cooking method. James has a cinnamon bun recipe where he bakes the buns in a large cast iron casserole. This makes for beautiful soft buns.

So I decided to go with the casserole method of baking to achieve nice soft hot cross buns. By placing them inside the casserole, they join up after baking and become like pull-aparts. If you like more traditional, individually baked hot cross buns, then bake them on a baking tray. I  liked the result – soft pull-apart buns, moist and full of fruit and heady with spices, lovely straight out of the oven and great toasted the next day.

Ingredients

350g strong white flour

100g plain or wholemeal flour

2 x 7g sachets fast-action yeast

10g salt

100g mixed peel

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

½ tsp ground allspice

½ tsp ground ginger

½ nutmeg, finely grated

100g white sourdough starter (don’t worry if you don’t have this – you can make perfectly good buns without)

2 medium eggs

170g full-fat milk

40g honey

30g  brandy – Cointeau or Grand Marnier (James suggests apple brandy)

50g butter, softened

200g raisins

For the crosses:

2 tbls plain flour

Enough water to make a stiff paste

For the glaze:

2 tbls apricot jam

A little water

Method

In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, salt and spices. Rub the salt and spices into the dry mix on one side of the bowl, then the yeast on the other. Add the starter, eggs, milk, honey, brandy and butter and combine to form a dough. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Knead your dough for about 5 minutes, then add your raisins and continue to knead until the dough is holding together and passing the windowpane test, about another 5 minutes. Cover and leave to prove for 1–2 hours, or until at least doubled in size. You can do a retarded prove in the fridge for 10–14 hours – this improves the flavour, but as I wanted the buns made fairly quickly, I proved at room temperature.

Turn your dough out on to a lightly floured surface and separate into 12 roughly equal pieces. Roll each into a ball, and place in your cast iron casserole which has been lined with baking paper.

Leave to prove for a final 90 minutes or so at room temperature with the lid on the casserole.  About half an hour before you’re going to bake, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.

At this point you can make your crosses. Mix the flour and water to a stiff paste, and either pipe onto the buns or hand roll, rather rustically, as I did, and place on top of the buns.

Turn your oven down to 200 degrees C, place the casserole, with lid on, in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the buns are really brown. Meanwhile mix the apricot jam with a little warm water for the glaze.

When the buns are baked, take them out of the oven, and brush them with the apricot glaze, until they are shiny and sticky.

You will need to pull buns apart as they will have joined up in the oven. Serve with the best butter possible. I served mine with Pepe Saya, a lovely Australian butter made here in Sydney in the French style.

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