Hot Cross Buns of Various Forms

hcb7 This week I seem to have gone off on a bit of an ‘Easter’ themed tangent and have taken it upon myself to re-design the hot cross bun. It is easy to play around with the flavours of the hot cross bun, which although traditionally made with sultanas, mixed peel, apple and cinnamon, can be jazzed up to include all sorts of things including dates, apricots, figs, earl grey tea, cardamon etc. etc. As long as they retain the characteristic squidge of a hot cross bun, slight stickiness of the glaze, and of course  feature the trademark cross, they will do the job nicely.
This blog post will include a basic bun recipe, as well as two flavour combinations that can be used in the buns. The first will be a traditional hot cross bun, the second will be cherry and marzipan flavoured. I use fresh cherries here because that’s what I prefer to eat, but I reckon glacé cherries will work just as well.

~ 10 buns
For the bun 
500g strong white bread flour
7g  (2 teaspoons) fast-action instant
1/2 teaspoon of salt
55g unsalted butter
325ml full-fat milk
1 egg
For the sultana, orange and apple buns
75g sultanas
1 apple
30g mixed peel
1 1/2 teaspoon of cinammon
zest of 1 orange
For the cherry and marzipan
60g sultanas
30g cherries (after de-stoning)
30g marzipan
zest of one orange
teaspoon of cinammon
For the cross
~50g plain flour
~ 1 and a half tablespoons of water
For the glaze
3 tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon of water

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1. Heat the milk in a pan until scalding hot. Measure out the butter and cut into small cubes. Add to the milk and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until roughly room temperature.
2. Measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other, then give a quick stir to incorporate.
3. Make a well in the centre of the dry mixture and add the now cooled milk and butter. Next beat an egg lightly in a separate bowl and add this the well in the centre of your mixing bowl.
4. Slowly mix, first with a spoon, then with your hand until a rough dough has formed. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until elastic and smooth.
5. Leave to prove in a lightly greased bowl for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.
6. During this time prep the filling. Whichever flavour of bun you are making, wash and thoroughly dry and fresh fruit being used.
-If making the traditional hot cross buns, peel and chop the apple into small cubes approximately 5mm x 5mm. Measure out the mixed peel, currants, cinnamon and zest into a bowl, add the apple cubes and wait til the end of the prove.
-If making the less traditional, cherry and marzipan buns, the first thing to do is cut the stones out of the cherries and chop them into tiny chunks. Leave to rest on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb some of the moisture from them. Also chop the marzipan into fine chunks, approximately 5mm x 5mm. Be careful all your marzipan doesn’t  clump together. Measure out the sultanas, orange zest and cinnamon and you are good to go.
7. Once the dough has finished proving, once again tip out onto a lightly floured surface and give a brief knead with your knuckles to knock some of the air out of it. Stretch out and begging to sprinkle whichever filling you have chosen over the dough. Knead to incorporate evenly throughout the dough, then stretch out again and repeat the process. Add as much filling as needed, until the dough is heavily laden.
8. Divide the dough into 10 roughly equal pieces. For the first time ever, I weighed my total dough and divided the figure by 10, and ended up with 10 roughly even sized buns. This is a first for me, and I was rather happy with the results. Roll each chunk of dough lightly under the palm of your hand to achieve a round shape.
9. Grease and line one or two baking sheets with baking parchment.
10. Lay your buns out on these, leaving space in between them for the buns to grow during the second prove and bake. Gently flatten each bun slightly with your hand, to give a more squat shape. Think the bum of a ‘couch potato’
11. Cover and leave to prove for a further hour. Towards the end of the prove time, preheat the oven to 200•C.
12. The crosses need to be piped onto the buns before they are baked. Mix the plain flour with the water to form a very thick, white paste. Note, the amounts used in the ingredients are only an approximation, and I actually added the water to the flour until a thick paste was formed. If anything, my paste could have done with being a little thicker to stand out more, so I repeat a VERY thick paste is needed. Fill a piping bag and pipe the crosses onto the buns.
13. Bake the buns for 30 minutes until golden brown in colour and they make a  hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
14. Whilst the buns are cooling, make the apricot glaze. Heat the apricot jam, with a little water, over a medium to high heat until a thin, watery texture. Paint over the buns on the top and bottom and wait to cool before eating.

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