Ok, I know baking hot cross buns at Easter is pretty obvious, but as this is my first year of blogging I reserve the right to do the obvious thing. Next year it will be incumbant upon me to be a bit more imaginative, but this year I will cook hot cross buns at Easter, mince pies at Christmas and pumpkin pie at Halloween. However, I will at least promise to try to do the unobvious with the obvious… so for my Easter cliché I thought I would try a variation on Dan Lepard’s (of The Guardian) stout and tea hot cross buns.
Sven has been away on a stag do this Easter weekend… Easter weekend! Who on earth plans a stag do over Easter, eh? Totally inconsiderate of those left behind. However, instead of facing an Easter alone, I tempted my little sister down for a girly weekend of cooking and corny films. There were a number of things on the menu… we baked these hot cross buns, made our own chilli chutney, gnocchi and we’ve just gorged on a finale of roast chicken and rhubarb crumble. Each evening we have settled down with a bottle of wine and a girly movie. It has been one of the nicest weekends in recent history. Right now, we’re basking like fat cats in the sun streaming through the window, full of chicken and crumble with Pride & Prejudice (the BBC version of course) in the background. What could be better?
Hannah arrived early on Friday morning from London and we got straight down to the hot cross buns. I had looked all over for a good recipe and eventually stumbled across this one from Dan Lepard. I really liked the fact that it pushed the Englishness to the very limits. Already a very traditional English treat, the addition of stout and tea seemed almost absurd. However, I can report that these additions are not just gimmicks, the resulting buns are rich, spiced and delicious.
For some of you the approach to kneading the bread will be quite controversial, but Dan Lepard believes that the need for kneading (sorry!) is a fallacy. He favours dough kneaded briefly and intermittently on a slightly oiled surface. This way you don’t disturb the overall moisture content of the dough by adding more flour and the oil stops the dough sticking to your hands. So with his recipes, you first mix the ingredients together in the bowl, then leave it covered for 10 minutes. This allows the flour time to absorb moisture and activate the proteins and other chemicals found in it. Then you pour a small tablespoon of oil on to the work surface and rub it out to cover an area about 30cm in diameter. Rub a little oil on your hands and over the top of the dough, then scoop it out of the bowl and on to the work surface. Now lightly fold the dough in by half towards you, press it down with the heel of your hand, lift and rotate the dough an eighth of a turn and repeat the folding and turning.
Do this very quickly, about eight to 10 times, and take no more than 8-10 seconds in total. Then pick the dough up and flip it back into the bowl, cover it and leave it for 10 minutes. Repeat kneading twice more at 10-minute intervals, then follow the rest of the recipe.
Toasted and smothered in butter these hot cross buns are perfect both for breakfast and afternoon tea (and even a midnight movie snack). Easter clichés they might be, but there is nothing obvious about these buns. I can highly recommend them (I’ve had about 10 in the last couple of days, so I should know!)
- 325ml tin stout, preferably Mackeson
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground mace
- 1½ tsp dry instant yeast
- 875g strong white flour
- 325g raisins
- 175g chopped dried apricots
- 250ml hot black earl grey tea
- 1 large egg
- 50g melted butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1½ tsp salt
- A little bit of maple syrup
The night before, mix the stout, spices, yeast and 325g flour in a deep bowl. Put the raisins, apricot and earl grey tea in another bowl and put both bowls aside for the night. The next day, mix the egg and butter with the fruit, then stir into the beer and spice batter.
Mix in the remaining 550g flour, the sugar and salt, and leave for 10 minutes. Lightly oil your hands and a 30cm patch of worktop. Then knead the dough as described above for 10 seconds, leave for 10 minutes, repeat twice more at 10-minute intervals, then leave for an hour.
Divide the dough into 100g pieces, shape into balls and place, touching, on a tray lined with non-stick paper. Leave for 90 minutes to rise. Mix a little flour with water to a paste, and pipe crosses on each ball of dough.