Just in time for Easter, I thought I’d get Emma to write up a guest recipe for the blog. My friend and fellow Exeposé editor, her hot cross buns made me drool as I was scrolling through Instagram in bed this morning. Here’s what she had to say:
For the first nineteen years of my life, I was a self-declared hot cross bun loather. As far as I am concerned, candied peel and sultanas are public enemy number one. This year, I discovered the joy of almost fruit-free hot cross buns. These zesty, golden delights, bursting with crunchy cacao nibs, are well worth the four to five hours of your life necessary to tend to them. Now all I need is a recipe for a fruitless Christmas cake…This recipe makes 12 buns, approximately sized for those dwelling in rural Wiltshire. For the daintier appetite, perhaps more.
Orange and Cacao Hot Cross Buns (vegetarian; makes 12)
- 300ml milk (semi-skimmed or full fat – just definitely not skimmed)
- 50g unsalted butter
- 500g strong flour
- A pinch of salt
- 75g caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- Zest of 2 oranges
- A handful of cacao nibs
- 50g plain flour
- 1 tbsp marmalade, loosened with a splash of water
- Gently heat the milk and butter together in a saucepan until just bubbling away, then leave to cool until you can comfortably run a finger through it. It really must be neither piping hot nor room temperature when you get around to using it, or the yeast just won’t have fun and your buns won’t be prettily domed. Don’t be alarmed if the butter decides it wants to sit on top and not play nicely; it’s all going into the same dough and it’ll come together whether it wants to or not.
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl – preferably one attached to a mixer with a dough hook, as enriched dough is a sticky business. When the milk mix is sufficiently cooled, pour it in with the dry ingredients. Add your egg, and get your mixer (or yourself) to work. 10 minutes will be sufficient; your dough should be pliant and still just sticky enough to irritate you. For the first hour-long proofing cover the dough with a clean, damp tea towel in a spot that’s just-above-room-temperature.
- When your dough has doubled in size, pop in your cacao nibs and orange zest – add in a teaspoon of orange extract if you’re not the subtle type. Mix it once again, ensuring you have a nice, even distribution of cacao nibs and orange zest. Wrap it back up with its tea towel in that sunny spot, for another hour.
- Retrieve your dough. It should now be supple to the touch, relatively clean to handle and full of tiny, delicate pockets of air, so move and shape it with care. Tenderly split it into twelve little lumps of goodness and roll very lightly until one face is nicely domed, smooth and otherwise presentable, then arrange on a lined baking tray however you please – just bear in mind that straight lines make piping the crosses easier. A three by four pattern with half inch gaps between usually suits me. Cover with the tea towel and leave them to snooze for another hour. You really cannot rush a good hot cross bun.
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C, gas mark 7. Hot cross buns are relatively low maintenance during the actual baking process (compared to how high maintenance they are while proofing) so as long as it’s a tad hotter than you’d bake a sponge, it’ll do. Just watch them closely and bring them out a few minutes earlier/later if necessary.
- Slake your plain flour with a little tap water until it forms a thick, pipe-able paste. Pop it in a piping bag with a plain, round nozzle. If you haven’t got a piping bag, I always think that a sealed sandwich bag with a minute corner snipped away does the job just as well. Pipe the crosses onto the buns. This mixture isn’t the most pliant, so leave a little more than you think you need dangling over the edge of the end buns.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until they’re browned – it might be a bit of a flat and disappointing brown, rather than that often-promised “golden brown”, but that’s okay. We aren’t done yet.
- Whilst the buns are baking, melt down a little high-quality marmalade over the hob. I recommend loosening it with a little water – no more than a teaspoon. As soon as the baked goods are out of the oven, apply evenly with a silicone pastry brush. Leave your offerings to cool just a little before serving with a liberal smudge of good, salted butter.
Keep up with Emma’s culinary creations and editorial responsibilities on Instagram.