Rich Hot Cross Buns

Rich Hot Cross Buns

Rich Hot Cross Buns

These are rather special, even extra special Hot Cross Buns for Easter.  I do love Hot Cross Buns, yet so often they are stodgy, overly doughy and lacking actual flavour.  I guarantee these ones are fab.  Soaking the fruit in Marsala makes a huge difference, as does the butter.  The dough is very soft and pliable, like a brioche, and when you first knead in the butter it is very sticky and looks like it will never come together – don't fear, it will and when it does it is the softest fluffiest dough!

For a less indulgent version see Hot Cross Buns.

2 tablespoons yeastRich Hot Cross Buns
200mls warm milk
500 grams 00 bakers flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Generous pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons caster sugar (or honey if preferred)
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
130 grams butter, softened
100 grams raisins
120 grams sultanas
¼ cup Marsala
Zest of an orange, a little of the juice
1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil

For the Crosses:
4 tablespoons flour
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon orange juice

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C

Add the yeast with the sugar to the luke warm water.  Allow the yeast to bloom.

While the yeast is blooming, add the sultanas, raisins, orange zest and Marsala to a small bowl and combine well.  Sit the bowl on the top of the oven to warm gently while the dough is prepared.

In a very large mixing bowl, add the flour and salt and make a well in the centre.
Add the yeast mixture, then the eggs all at once and combine with the flour until a soft dough is formed.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead very well for about 10 minutes.  The dough should be soft and springy.

Add the softened butter, pressing it into the surface of the dough and kneading well until combined.  The dough will be wet and sticky at first – then all of a sudden it will come together as a soft and silky ball.  Resist the temptation to add extra flour!
Once the butter is combined well and the dough is very soft and silky return it to the mixing bowl.  Add a tiny amount of the sunflower oil to your hands and smooth it over the surface of the dough and around the edges of the mixing bowl.
Moisten a clean tea-towel and cover the dough.  Place the dough in a warm spot – on the top of the oven or near by – and leave the dough to rise until it doubles in size, about an hour and a half.

Once the dough has risen, add a little more of the sunflower oil to your hand, smear a little on your work bench and turn out the dough.  Add the sultana and raisin mix, reserving the liquid.
Knead the fruit into the dough until evenly combined.

Divide the dough in half, then in half again, then in half again until you have 16 evenly sized buns.
Place the buns on a baking sheet, leaving about 2 fingers space between each bun.  Cover with a damp tea-towel and leave to prove again until doubled in size, about an hour or so.

Rich Hot Cross BunsMix together the 'Cross' mixture, add the liquid reserved from the sultana mix and combine well into a thick paste.  Using either a piping bag or the edge of a knife, mark each risen bun with a cross.
Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, or until hollow sounding, golden brown and risen.

To glaze the buns and make them very shiny and pretty, dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in 2 tablespoons of warm milk.  Brush the glaze on the buns as soon as they come out of the oven.

Allow the buns to cool on a wire rack if you can, or eat them straight away with butter... even better with a drop of fig jam.