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Sourdough Hybrid Hot Cross Buns

I love Easter and all the baking opportunities it provides. There are so many traditional recipes with strong cultural or religious origins, and I’m as fascinated with the history of the recipes as much as with the delicious pastries and bakes themselves.

But hot cross buns are my favourite. As a bread baker I guess this is to be expected! I always make them at Easter, having a go at a different recipe each year. But in 2021 I decided to develop my own version. I have had so much experience baking with sourdough recently that I thought I could use some of that know how in a hot cross bun recipe. So this recipe is a hybrid – it uses both dry yeast and some sourdough starter. The result are well risen, light and flavourful buns.

The recipe makes 16 – but if you only want to bake 12, I have included the quantities to bake a dozen – see below.

For the observant readers who have counted 15 buns in the photos, I actually managed to get 17 buns from the dough! So I decided to bake two buns on another tray.

Ingredients

Buns

250g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

625g strong flour

7g dried yeast

12g salt

125g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

50g brown sugar

30g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

60g unsalted butter, in small pieces

200g full fat milk at room temperature

150g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Method

Soak the raisins and sultanas in the Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat for up to 3 hours to plump up the fruit.

Starting with the flour, add all the other ingredients (except dried fruit and candied orange peel) to a large bowl. Just make sure the yeast is on one side of the bowl and salt on the other.

Mix everything roughly together using a wooden spoon, just to amalgamate the ingredients. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Using the dough hook of an electric mixer, knead on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is soft, shiny and passes the windowpane test. This dough is initially quite wet, so it will take 10 minutes kneading to bring it to that lovely elastic consistency you are looking for.

Add the sultanas, raisins and any residual alcohol that hasn’t soaked into the fruit, and the candied orange peel. Mix for about a minute on low to distribute the fruit evenly through the dough.

Remove the bowl from the machine and cover with a plastic bag or tea towel. Leave to prove in a warm place for 2 hours.

The dough should have doubled in size. Carefully remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on a board or bench top which has been lightly floured. Putting a little more flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking, flatten the dough to a rough rectangle, and fold in half lengthways. Cut in two and roll each half into a sausage.

You should get 16 hot cross buns from the mixture. Take one sausage and divide into two, then divide each into 4 pieces.

To shape your buns, take one piece and roll into a ball, and with your cupped hand over the top of the ball, keep rolling on the board or bench top till you feel the dough tightening and developing a nice ball shape.

Repeat with remaining balls. Do the same thing with the other sausage.

Place the 16 balls – now buns – onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper.

Cover with a large plastic bag or a tea towel and leave to prove again. I prove this second time in the fridge overnight. You can also prove at room temperature for an hour or more until the buns have grown a little in size. (They don’t get huge – this happens in the oven.)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced or 190 degrees C non fan for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crosses by mixing the flour, water and sugar in small bowl. Use a bit of judgement here – you want a paste that is not too runny, but not so stiff that it can’t be piped. So add/subtract flour and water to get the right consistency. Fill a piping bag or a zip lock bag that you can cut the corner off with the cross mixture, and pipe lines across each row of buns, then pipe another set of lines at right angles to the first set to make the crosses.

If you’re in any doubt how to do this, YouTube has how-to videos!

Put the tray into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the buns are a dark golden brown.

As you can see from the colour of the buns in the photos, my buns are a deep burnished colour. But they are soft and moist inside!

While the buns are baking, make the glaze. Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and water into a small saucepan and heat gently on the stovetop stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes until the glaze has thickened slightly.

Once the buns are cooked, remove from the oven. Brush the warm syrup over the warm buns, making sure you brush the sides as well.

When the buns have cooled slightly, eat with lashings of good quality butter. The next day, split and toast and serve with, of course, more butter!

Hot cross buns freeze well too, so make a pile that you can store in the freezer and reheat as necessary.

NB Reheat in the oven, the buns don’t do well in the microwave.

Quantities for 12 hot cross buns

(Some quantities stay the same as it doesn’t make a huge difference to alter these quantities).

200g mix of sultanas and raisins

40mls Pedro Ximinez or port or muscat

450g strong flour

7g dried yeast

10g salt

100g sourdough starter

Zest of 1/2 an orange

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

I teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger and cloves

40g brown sugar

20g golden syrup

2 medium free-range eggs, well beaten

50g unsalted butter, in small pieces

150g full fat milk at room temperature

100g apple juice

50g candied orange peel

Cross

75g flour

75g water

3 teaspoons caster sugar

Glaze

50g caster sugar

50g golden syrup

100g water

Boozy Buns with Raisins and Sultanas

 


I’m a huge fan of buns, rolls or scrolls, any kind of bread with a sweet filling. I usually make cinnamon scrolls, which are always delicious. This time I wanted to make some sweet buns using boozy fruit from the jar in my store cupboard.

I keep a jar permanently in the cupboard with raisins and sultanas soaking in alcohol. I top up the jar with rum or brandy or even whisky, whatever I have on hand. Stick in a vanilla pod, give the mixture a stir and leave the fruit to macerate. The boozy fruit makes a delicious dessert served over ice cream or with cream or yoghurt, or as a filling for cakes or pastries.

These yeasted buns are full of luscious fruit and almond frangipane, rolled like a scroll, and finished with a golden syrup glaze while still warm. They are pretty easy to make, particularly if you use a mixer with a dough hook. You will need to use a bit of elbow grease if you knead by hand!

Start the buns the day before you want to bake them, and leave in the fridge overnight for the second prove. Then bake them first thing in the morning and eat them warm from the oven for breakfast if you can’t resist the smell of freshly baked sticky buns!

Ingredients 

For the Dough

500g strong flour

7g instant yeast

10g salt

50g caster sugar

250g milk

2 large free range eggs, beaten

50g butter

For the Frangipane

50g butter

50g sugar

60g ground almonds

1 large free range egg

1/2 teaspoon almond essence

Filling + Glaze

300g boozy raisins and sultanas (If you don’t have a jar of prepared fruit, simply put the fruit in a bowl and cover with 1/2 cup of rum, brandy or whisky. Leave to soak for 1/2-1 hour)

100g golden syrup

Icing

100g icing sugar with a little water to make a paste

Method

Put the strong flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook or into a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand. Add the instant yeast and salt, making sure the yeast and salt are on opposite sides of the bowl, and the caster sugar. Add the milk which you have warmed to tepid (microwaving is easy) and the beaten eggs. Mix by hand into a rough dough, even if you’re going to use the dough hook in the next stage.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or my favourite, a plastic shower cap, and rest for 20 minutes. Then move the bowl to the mixer and knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and starting to develop some elasticity, about 5 minutes. Add the butter in small pieces, then knead again for about 5 minutes, using the mixer until the butter is thoroughly incorporated, the dough is smooth and you can achieve the “windowpane” effect. That is, you can pull  some of the dough off the dough hook, between two fingers, stretching it so that it’s translucent.

If you are kneading by hand, you will knead to work the dough really well, in both stages, to get it to the desired silky, elastic stage.

Cover the bowl again and leave in a warm place to prove for about an hour, until the dough is doubled in size. You ideally need a temperature of about 25 degrees C. In winter in Sydney it can be hard to get that temperature, so I usually resort to leaving the bowl near the heating source, and even giving it an extra 30 minutes plus if the dough hasn’t doubled in size.

Make the frangipane while the dough is proving. Put all the ingredients into a food processor and mix. Or you can beat the ingredients together by hand. Either way you want to end up with a smooth paste.

Once the dough is risen, take the dough out of the bowl onto the bench top or ideally a large wooden board. Flour the bench top or board liberally with flour. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle, as large as you can go, with the dough ending up about 1/2 cm thick. My dough rectangle is usually about 30cm in width by 40-50cm in length.

Smear the frangipane over the entire rectangle of dough. It will look like you haven’t got quite enough, but keep on spreading and you will cover the rectangle.

Drain your boozy raisins and sultanas, and scatter them over the dough. Now carefully roll up the dough along the long side. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough. You should get about 12 slices, give or take.

Line a large baking tin or tray with baking paper. Carefully place each slice, cut side up, into the tin or tray, fitting them snugly together.

Place the tin or tray into a large plastic bag. You will need to make sure you have enough room in your fridge, as you are going to prove the buns in there overnight. Put the tin or tray into the fridge, and leave for 8-12 hours overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced, or 200 degrees C non fan forced. Place a baking tray, or ideally a cast iron pan, in the bottom of the oven, with some water in it, to create steam for your baking.

Remove the plastic bag from the tin/tray and put the buns straight from the fridge into the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the buns are risen and a deep golden brown.

Remove the buns from the oven. Warm the golden syrup to make it spreadable – 30 seconds in the microwave on low, or gently heat in a saucepan.

While the buns are still still warm, brush all over with the golden syrup. Be generous! You want the buns to be really sticky!

Pull the buns apart, and eat while warm – they are truly delicious and moreish. Or wait till they are cool, and drizzle over some icing. Make the icing by adding water, a teaspoon at a time, to the icing sugar, until you have a paste that you can drizzle over the buns – not too thick but not too runny.

An easy way to drizzle is to put the icing in a zip lock bag and snip the corner off. You can squeeze the icing out of your makeshift piping bag.

Or even easier – dip a fork in the icing and drizzle straight over the buns!

Whether you eat warm or at room temperature, ice or not, these buns are super yummy. They keep for a couple of days, and also freeze well.

But best eaten on the day!

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