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Easter is fast approaching, although I’m not hosting the family Easter dinner this year, I am still in the mood for some of its festive delights to snack on at home. What better than Hot Cross Buns? I’ve made these many times before, sometimes they have worked and sometimes they have been like little rocks (not a good thing). I actually don’t much like fruit in cooking. And I really don’t like raisins. But I so badly wanted to sit back on the sofa, watching my partner clean and eat a warm toasted hot cross bun today. So I did just that…

Home baking never really turns out the way you want or like the shop bought cakes and buns. But for me that is a bonus. They taste much better, when you can appreciate what goes into them.

These little gems are slightly adapted for our tastes but still convey the true essence of Hot Cross Buns.

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HOT CROSS BUNS

  • 250 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 60 g unsalted butter, in cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 500 g strong white bread flour
  • 7 g fact action dried yeast (1 sachet)
  • 55 g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 75 g dark chocolate, buttons or bar, chopped finely
  • 75 g dried figs, chopped into small pieces

For the crosses:

  • 100 g plain flour
  • 7-8 tbsp water

To glaze:

  • 4 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water

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THE HOW

Make the dough first. Heat the milk in a pan until it just about to boil. Remove from the heat, and drop in the butter. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and whisk. Beat in the egg and vanilla. The liquid should still be warm.

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Mix the strong flour, yeast, 1 tsp salt, sugar and the cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl, then tip in the warm liquid and stir to make a soft dough. Flour the work surface and your hands, then knead the dough for 5-10 mins until smooth and elastic or use a stand mixer or processor if you like (much easier). Oil a large bowl, sit the dough inside it, then cover with cling film. Rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

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Turn the risen dough onto a floured surface and press it out to a large rectangle, about the size of a baking tray. Scatter it evenly with the chocolate and the figs. Roll the dough up around the filling, then knead it well for a few mins until the chocolate and figs are evenly spread.

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Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape into buns by pinching each ball of dough into a purse shape, concentrating on making the underneath of the ball nice a smooth. Put the buns, smooth-side up, onto the baking sheet, leaving room for rising. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and prove in a warm place for approx 45 mins.

Heat oven to 190C/170C fan. To make the paste for the crosses, gradually stir the water into the plain flour to make a smooth, thick paste, then put in a piping bag and snip off the end to about 5mm (or you can use a plastic sandwich bag). Pipe the crosses, then bake for 20-25 mins until the buns are risen and dark golden brown.

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Mix the water and sugar together in a saucepan and heat until dissolved. Brush over the warm buns.

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