Makes 12

This may be a crazy recipe to give you today as in our Covid-19 times it is very hard to buy flour. This is because exceptional consumer demand means the mills cannot keep up with bagging the 1.5kg packs as most flour is sold in commercial quantities. That said, I am lucky enough to have flour from our village shop and I always make Hot Cross Buns on Maundy Thursday. So here’s my recipe – and I hope you have the ingredients.

Print the recipe here.

400g strong plain flour

100g beremeal or wholewheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

50g caster sugar

1/2 nutmeg, freshly grated

1tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

75g butter

250g active sourdough starter

225-250ml milk

1 large egg

75g sultanas

50g currants

50g chopped mixed peel

Paste:

50g softened butter

150g ordinary plain flour

100ml warm water

Glaze:

3 tbsp caster sugar

3 tbsp milk

3 tbsp water

1 Mix together the flours, salt, sugar and spices in a large bowl and add the butter, cut into small pieces. Rub the butter in with your fingertips until it is combined and looks like crumbs.

2 Beat the egg into the milk and gently combine with the sourdough starter in a large bowl. Add the flour etc and start mixing it together then add the dried fruits and combine everything into a manageable dough. If it is too dry it is best to add extra warm water on your hands, not by pouring it into the bowl which makes the dough too sticky.

3 Knead the dough in the bowl by pulling it from the sides into the middle and pushing it down, rotating the bowl as you do this action 12 times. Cover the bowl with a clean damp tea-towel and leave it for 10 minutes. Repeat the kneading and standing process 4 times then leave the dough, covered, for 1 hour.

4 Lightly butter a Swiss roll tin. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently. Divide it into 12 evenly-sized pieces and shape them into round buns, again pulling the dough from the sides into the middle so that the top is smooth. Place them on the baking sheet, cover again with a damp tea-towel or loose cling-film. An oiled plastic bag works well too, but you need a very large one to take the baking sheet and allow space for the buns to grow without sticking to it.

5 Leave until almost doubled in size – this might take 2-4 hours depending on the temperature of your room.

6 Mix the ingredients for the paste together, beating until smooth. Spoon into a large piping bag fitted with a 4mm pipe. Cut crosses with a sharp knife into the tops of the risen buns then pipe the paste into crosses, cutting it off with a sharp knife when necessary.

7 Set the buns in a cold oven, set the temperature to gas mark 6, 200C and bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

8 Prepare the glaze when the buns are almost baked. Heat everything together gently in a small pan until the sugar has melted then boil for 2-3 minutes to a thick syrup. Brush over the buns as soon as they come out of the oven then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

9 I think the buns are best split and toasted, with butter and marmalade.

Top Tips:

  • Hot Cross Buns are not the easiest things to make and sourdough takes some practice. To make the buns this way you need to activate your sourdough starter the night before making your buns.
  • You can make these by using fresh or dried yeast but you will need to add more liquid to make the dough – probably a further 150-200ml.
  • I must remember to buy a piping bag! I did my crosses – yet again – with a bag made from baking parchment and I just snipped the end to pipe the mixture.
  • Putting the buns – or any bread that you make – into a cold oven just helps with the final rising. Aga cooks – you just need to be patient until the buns are properly risen.
  • This time last year I think I was making a batch of buns a day! We were having a new kitchen and the workmen were very enthusiastic tasters for me!
  • I started mixing my buns at 07.30 this morning and they were baked by 15.30. Just so you know. Mind you, we are in Orkney and, although it is a sunny day, it is not as warm as elsewhere in the UK so the proving process may be quicker for you.
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