Hot Cross Buns

This year, I couldn’t stock up on my Hot Cross Buns from La Tartine. I missed the markets just prior to Easter.

HCB - tadah!

Thems mah buns.

Fortuitously, two recipes appeared in the paper for making the HCB. One from St Honoroe sourdough bakery that used fresh yeast; and just as I was converting the recipe to halve the amount and substitute dry yeast, I got one from the Blue Ribbon set of recipes that have won prizes at the Sydney Royal Agricultural show.

The changes that I have made I have indicated with an asterix (*).This took me about five hours to make, from starting with the yeast to cleaning up. Whilst I was waiting for the yeast to activate or the dough to raise, I was preparing for, or eating dinner.

HCB Ingredients
Makes 12
1 tsp dried yeast (1 packet 7g)*
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice*
1 tsp cinnamon*
[3 teaspoons ‘spice’ mix for this amount of flour is minimum]
60g butter
1 egg
1/2 cup sultanas (200g or 2 cups)*

Ingredients for the cross
1/2 cup plain flour, extra
1/3 cup water

Glaze Ingredients
1 tbsp sugar, extra
1 tbsp hot water
1 tsp gelatine

You need a tin that will allow your buns to pull each other up by their bootstraps; that is, it is small enough so that when the buns rise, they touch each other. I used a 20cm x 20cm square cake pan, so could only bake four buns at a time.

1. Lightly grease your tin.

2. Mix yeast with 1 teaspoon each of the sugar and flour, add lukewarm milk and mix well. Cover and stand in warm place 10 to 15 minutes or until mixture is frothy.

3. Meanwhile, sift sugar, flour, salt and spices, rub in butter, add egg, fruit and yeast mixture, and knead lightly to ensure ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

4. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and clean cloth and stand in a warm place 40 minutes or until dough doubles in bulk.

5. Punch dough down, turn out onto floured surface and knead well until smooth and elastic. It will be really sticky, so sprinkles of flour help.

6. Cut into 3 equal pieces then cut each piece into 5 (4 for me), making 15 (Me: 12) buns in all. Knead each into a round shape. Preheat oven to 220C. Put buns on tin and stand in warm place 10 to 15 minutes or until they reach top edge of tin.

Making the cross
7. Make paste by mixing 1/2 cup extra plain flour and 1/3 cup water, fill piping bag and pipe lines across the rows of buns, forming a cross.

8. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately brush with glaze made from heating extra sugar, hot water and gelatine in a saucepan and simmering for 1 minute.

Cool buns on a wire rack.

So here we go!

HCB - the beginning

I microwaved the milk for 30 seconds, and confirmed that was cool/warm enough for a finger. Then I added the yeast/flour/sugar combo. For the yeast mixture, I let the mixture stand and activate for at least 30 minutes. It had formed a nice bubbly crust on top whilst I was putting the dry ingredients together.

I didn’t bother sifting my flour. I never have, the sifter takes up too much space in my cupboards! For the spice mixture, I used powdered ginger, all spice and a tiny bit of chinese five spice powder. I didn’t knead at this stage, I just used my mixing spoon. This was covered with some oiled cling film, and then a tea towel, atop the stove with the underneath grill turned alternately on/off.

HCB - just mixed

For the fruit mixture I used 50g mixed peel (1/2 cup), 50g cranberries, 100g sultanas. Some of the cranberries and sultanas I soaked with hot water to make them plumper.

Once the dough had risen (approximately one hour – time to cook and eat dinner), I kneaded the dough. This was made much easier by dusting my hands with flour first. It didn’t take long for the dough to feel good.

HCB - risin'

I had to cook three batches because of my small square pan. I made 4 buns per batch. I rested the two thirds dough covered in cling wrap and a tea towel whilst the preparing the first third.

HCB - boot filling

Each ‘bun’ I placed in the pan, and then waited until they rose enough to join and help each other rise. This took much longer than the 10-15 minutes as suggested, and did not reach the top edge of the tin.

I made my own piping bag by putting it in a zip lock bag and squeezing.

This worked very well until Pop!, the seam broke. The remainder giant crosses were made using the back of a spoon handle dipped in batter. The hole I cut in the bag was also a little too small.

HCB - bake ready

Next time?

Use more spice! I used the 1/2 teaspoon per spice as recommended in the recipe, but my bun wasn’t flavourful enough. I have doubled the quantities, but not yet proved this.

Next time, I would form the buns from each of the other waiting thirds of batter, and leave these to rest under cling film whilst I was cooking and preparing the first batch. The less manhandling the better, as I found that me manipulating them made them deflate. Perhaps form them on a sheet of baking paper so I could slip them straight into the pan without waiting for them to rise again?

Post-post notes

1. Spice: I have remade the recipe, and fed it to unsuspecting colleagues. Use at least 3 teaspoons of ‘spice’ for the quantity of flour. I am tempted to use more.

2. Proving:
Don’t refrigerate your dough overnight! I made a batch, and then was worried about the little gremlins growing in the batter. I then put it in the fridge, and had
~~~~~~~HCB NIGHTMARES.~~~~~~~
Don’t do it! The dough was never the same again, but ended up proving for 24 hours, part-refrigerated, part-benchtop. Well, unless it is quite a warm night, you may be excused.

3. The taste test:

I ate half of a commercial HCB this morning and compared it to my one, HCB 2.5.

Commercial: Very sweet. It had ‘grainy’/bark-like bits in it, which came from the cassia, and ended up being unpleasant and bitter.

Mine: Quite yeasty in flavour (well it had been proving for close to 24 hours). Similar level of cinnamon/allspice “speckling” to the commercial bun. Very soft. But still not quite the amount of ‘spice’ flavouring I wanted! (Almost 5 teaspoons worth).

Happy Easter everyone.


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] head was so inflated with my initial success for the HCBs, I decided to branch out further and go for the […]


  2. […] This time last year I was baking up a storm, making pagan fruit buns. This year I haven’t yet had a chance to do so, but I have been buying up a storm: […]


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