Two days into my time back in England and the English spring time hasn’t let me down at all. The skies are blue, the sun is warm. Everywhere is just so green. So many shades of green I haven’t seen for a long time. Beautiful bright greens, fresh buds swollen and ready to burst with delicate leaves, translucent in the sunlight like stained glass windows. I’d forgot just how beautiful blossom is, exploding pink and white over trees, petals littering the ground like confetti. A few yellow daffodils still nod their trumpet heads in the breeze.
Today I even saw little baby lambs gambolling around a field, could you get anymore Eastery than that?! Later I filled the kitchen with the wonderful spiced smell of Hot Cross Buns. My perfect dream of springtime is complete!
Easter isn’t Easter without a Hot Cross Bun or two. Much like Mince Pies at Christmas, they’re something I have to get my fill of in the run up to Easter every year, finishing off with one warm, toasted and running with yellow melted butter on Good Friday morning.
Theres something very special about seeing a tray of these, still warm from the oven, criss crossed with their white lines, gleaming and tempting from the apricot glaze.
This recipe produces beautifully light, fluffy Hot Cross Buns. The triple rise takes some time, but it’s worth the wait. The key is that first rise without the fruits and spices as both can impede the rise. They’re far better than ones bought in a shop and, I must admit, better than the ones I made last year. Although I loved them dearly they were rather on the heavy side.
I’ve tweaked the flavours a little for this year’s buns, adding in fragrant cardamom and chunks of dried apricot. I’ve made them with the original spice combination too, they’re delicious both ways.
I do love the cardamom though, it adds a wonderfully aromatic spice to the buns, lifting and freshening them. The taste is subtle, rather than over powering. It’s more of a hint than an in-your-face whack, but its a really delicious hint. Dried apricots make a lovely addition to the dried fruit.
Have some ready to toast on Good Friday, spilt open and covered in lashings of butter.
Apricot and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns
(adapted from Paul Hollywood)
for the buns
300ml full fat milk
500g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
75g caster sugar
7g sachet of instant dried yeast
100g dried apricots, chopped
6 cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon all spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
zest 1/2 an orange
for the cross
75g plain flour
for the glaze
3 tablespoons apricot jam
In a small pan, heat the milk until boiling. Take off the heat and add the butter, let it melt in the heat of the milk. Leave the milk to cool until it reaches hand temperature.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the milk and then the egg.
Using a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place in a well oiled boil, cover with oiled cling film and allow to rise for about an hour until doubled in size.
While the dough rises, chop the dried apricots into small pieces about the same size as the sultanas.
Spilt open the cardamom pods and scrap out the seeds. Discard the pods.
While the dough is still in the bowl, add the apricots, sultanas, cardamom seeds, all spice, cinnamon and orange zest. Knead into the dough until evenly distributed. Cover again and leave to rise for another hour.
Once doubled in size, divide the dough into 16 pieces. I weighed each one to about 75g for evenly sized buns. Roll them into balls on a lightly floured surface.
Arrange on a baking tray lined with grease proof paper, allowing space for the buns to rise.
Lay cling film lightly over the top of the buns and leave to rise for another hour.
Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C.
While the oven heats, make the paste for the crosses.
Mix the flour with about 5 tablespoons of water, adding the water in slowly, until you have a thick paste.
Put it in a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle, and carefully pipe lines across the rows of cakes. Pipe the other way to make the crosses.
Bake for about 20 minutes in the centre of the oven until golden brown.
Heat up the apricot jam. Spread over the buns while they are still warm.
Leave to cool completely.