The smell of freshly made hot cross buns heralds the arrival of Easter for me, and making your own spiced, sticky, fruit-laden buns is even more special. Yes, they take time – but there’s something therapeutic about bread making that forces you to be patient, to wait and let time and a little baking magic do the work. Perusing Easter makes on Pinterest (where else!) I came across this recipe, and the idea of an all-in-one loaf filled with a buttery, cinnamon swirl seemed really different and appealing. This loaf would be perfect for Easter brunch – you could make it the day before and serve toasted and slathered with butter on Easter morning.
To make it, you will need:
118 ml milk
30g caster sugar
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
272 g strong flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground mixed spice
pinch grated nutmeg
75g dried fruit – I used raisins and currants
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest.
1) Measure the milk, butter and sugar into a small pan.
Warm the mixture over a low heat, until the butter is melted and the mixture reaches approximately 43C.
Remove from the heat and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast and leave to stand until the mixture becomes foamy – approximately 10 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, combine the flour, spices and salt in a separate bowl.
Add this to the yeast mixture along with the egg, dried fruit and orange zest.
3) Knead the mixture in a stand mixer (using the dough hook) on a medium speed until it comes together into a dough and pulls away from the sides – around 6 – 8 minutes. It should be smooth and elastic, as below:
Remove from the mixer and shape the dough into a ball. Place in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel.
Leave to rise in a warm place for 1 – 1/2 hours, until doubled in size. The timing very much depends on the temperature of your kitchen, try to make sure it’s out of the way of any drafts!
4) Meanwhile, make the filling. You will need:
30g unsalted butter
56g light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg white, beaten with 1 tsp water, for the glaze.
In a small bowl, cream the butter, sugar and cinnamon until well combined.
5) On a lightly floured surface, knock back the risen dough, and roll out into an 8 1/2 inch square. Top evenly with the cinnamon butter filling.
Tuck in the top and bottom of the dough and then roll tightly from one side. Pinch the end to seal.
Place the loaf seam-down in an oiled loaf tin. Cover and leave in a warm place until the loaf has doubled in size – use your baker’s judgement. Mine took 2+ hours as it was a very cold day. Preheat the oven to 160C Fan (350F).
Uncover the risen loaf and brush its top with the egg wash.
Bake for 35 minutes until the loaf is a deep, golden brown. Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Drizzle the loaf with water icing, or you could pipe crosses on the top if you’re feeling more patient! I used 35g of icing sugar mixed with 1 tsp milk for mine.
Nothing tastes better than a homemade loaf, and what better seasonal centrepiece for your Easter table? It might not look shop-bought perfect (mine certainly doesn’t) but it will taste, and be appreciated, all the more for it.
Have you made hot crossed buns before? What are your baking plans for Easter weekend?
My “Easter Tree” was another DIY make! To make your own, collect some thin twigs and cut them to an even size. Then use pastel-hued emulsion paint to cover the branches before leaving them to dry for a couple of hours.
Place the painted twigs in a vase or jar – any receptacle that will prop them up so they spread out like the branches of a tree – then decorate your branches with miniature eggs or decorations. These cute wee wooden ones are from Tiger.
Other table notes: plates & teacups – all vintage; bud vase – Laura Ashley; pastel chicks/ duck – John Lewis (a lovely gift!); bunny garland – Gisela Graham; gypsophila – Rose & Ammi; ranunculus – Narcissus Flowers; pom-poms – DIY.