|Photos by Steve Shanahan|
These are the best Hot Cross Buns you will ever eat. Although a little preparation is involved, the results will be well worth the effort. You can prepare the dough the day before, leave overnight and have the dough buns ready to cook in the morning. These buns are best eaten on the day, but can be rewarmed in the oven to freshen up the following day.
5 tsp dry active yeast
1 cup warm milk
½ cup caster sugar
5½-6 cups flour
1½ tsp salt
6 eggs, beaten
400 grams unsalted butter, thinly sliced
1 punnet fresh or frozen raspberries
beaten egg to glaze
1.Stir the yeast into warm milk with 2 tsp caster sugar (extra) and set aside for about 10 minutes until very frothy. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and set aside.
2. Place 1½ cups of flour into a mixer bowl with the dough hook attached. Add the frothy yeast liquid and beat for about 2 minutes.
3. Gradually beat in the remaining 4 cups of flour with the eggs and remaining sugar. Do this in about 3 or 4 batches. Once all these ingredients are incorporated, continue to beat for 5 minutes. Gradually add the thin slices of butter. It should be at room temperature but not too soft. This process takes about 20 minutes as you want the butter to be kneaded in without melting. Once all the butter is added continue to beat for a further 5 minutes. By now the dough should be coming away from the sides of the bowl and riding around the dough hook. If it is still too soft, add an extra tablespoon of flour until this is achieved.
4. Turn the dough into a well-greased large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a warm tea towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 2 hours. I put mine in the oven and turned my oven onto the lowest setting, as I had no sunny place. Turn out onto a floured board, knock the dough down and return to a clean, greased bowl smooth side up. Cover with plastic wrap again and refrigerate overnight.
5. Next morning, remove the dough from the fridge and leave at room temperature for an hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and press down. Divide into 16 pieces and flatten a little. Arrange 4-5 raspberries on each piece, fold the edges in to the centre and mould the dough to make a smooth ball. Gently roll the dough around in a cupped hand on the board to make a tight ball with a smooth top. Make sure you enclose the berries in the middle, and roll to seal any cracks or gaps, as the juice will leak out otherwise.
6. Place the brioche dough balls on a well-greased or baking paper-lined tray about 1.5cm apart. Cover with a clean, light cloth and leave in a warm place for about 1½ hours. The dough will still be chilled from the refrigerator so the buns should not rise too much. You only want them to rise quickly when they go into the oven.
7. Brush the buns with beaten egg to glaze and pipe crosses on their tops with a slurry dough mixture of 3 tbsp of white flour mixed with water until you have a pasty consistency.
8. Bake at 200ºC in the centre of the oven for 15-18 minutes or until well risen and golden. Transfer to a cake rack and serve warm.
This recipe is rather involved and I get best results by using the dough hook attachment on an electric mixer. Alternatively, you can prepare the dough by hand but you will need to double the amount of kneading time to achieve a light texture and end up with a sore elbow.