For as long as I can remember, Easter has always been celebrated with some Hot Cross Buns in my family. Well, growing up in a bakery meant that each holiday was always associated with baked goods of some sort, but I have always held a soft spot for Hot Cross Buns. This sentiment only amplified when I moved to Switzerland and discovered that these spiced buns were not as universal as the religious festival.
Hot Cross Buns are small, spiced yeast buns and which are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. In Australia, bakeries start selling these buns almost as soon as the Christmas items have been removed from the shelves. In my family’s bakery, three varieties of Hot Cross Buns were always on offer – plain, with fruit or with chocolate chips. Of course, chocolate Hot Cross Buns are not traditional but gosh they are good!
As has been the story of my journey in the kitchen, my craving for foods not available in my adopted home country has meant lots of opportunities to cook and bake things that I would not otherwise. And so began my foray into the world of breads and yeast and endless experiments with different recipes for these Easter treats.
The recipe below is a culmination of those experiments, gathered from scribbles on post-it notes containing amendments to recipes in cookbooks and cross-referencing other cookbooks, ultimately becoming, I suppose, my own recipe.
Being a personal recipe, it responds to my expectations of a Hot Cross Bun, using a method which I find easiest for me. The spices have been amplified for more punch, the dried fruit content has been reduced to just raisins (and not too much, at that), and the method is in keeping with how I make most breads.
I hope you will enjoy this recipe
If you do not have strong white bread flour, plain (all-purpose) flour also works well in this recipe. The texture will be a little softer and less bread-like, but the difference is otherwise not very noticeable.
You can also play around with the dried fruit content, or omit it completely for just a plain spiced bun.
The advantages of using easy blend yeast is that you can add it directly to the flour mixture without having to activate it first. If you do not have easy blend yeast, I would suggest using the same amount of dried yeast. In which case, omit the milk from the first step, and instead warm it separately until it is blood temperature (about 37°C or 98°F). Add the dried yeast to the warm milk and set it aside for about 5 minutes until it is frothy. Add this yeast mixture in step four when you are also mixing in the butter mixture and eggs. As a guide, please refer to my recipe for Fruit Loaf to see the steps involved in using dried yeast.