Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns were a childhood favorite of mine. These don't quite match the softness of the ones I used to get at the supermarket, but they're a good deal tastier! The recipe comes from Feast by Nigella Lawson, and it differs slightly from the traditional variety, as it calls for cardamom and ginger. The spices add a nice touch of warmth and spiciness, I think. If you don't have ground ginger on hand, a problem that I ran into, just cut a few slices off a ginger root and steep that in milk with the cardamom pods.

Hot Cross Buns

For the dough:
2/3 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
zest of 1 orange
1 clove
2 cardamom pods
3 cups bread flour
1 package active dry yeast (1/4 oz)
3/4 cup mixed dried fruits
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 egg

For the egg wash:
1 egg, beaten with a little milk

For the crosses on the buns:
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp superfine sugar
2 tablespoons water

For the sugar glaze:
1 tbsp superfine sugar
1 tbsp boiling water

Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove and cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then leave to infuse.

Measure the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a bowl and add the spices. When the infused milk has reached blood temperature take out the clove and cardamom pods, and beat in the egg. Pour this into the bowl of dry ingredients.

Knead the dough until silky and elastic -- if needed, add a little more warm milk or water. Form into a ball and place in a buttered bowl covered with plastic wrap. Leave to rise overnight in the fridge, or on the counter for about two hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth and elastic. Divide into 16 balls and shape into smooth round buns.

Sit the buns on a parchment paper or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Make sure they are quite snug together but not touching. Using the back of an ordinary eating knife, score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to prove again for about 45 minutes -- they should have risen and almost joined up.

Brush the buns with the egg wash, and then mix the flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick paste. Using a teaspoon, dribble two lines over the buns in the indent of the cross, and then bake in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes. (I found the easiest way of doing this was to pick up a little paste along the side of the teaspoon, and drizzle that into the indent by sliding the side of the spoon along the dough. You'll get rather undigified globs if you load a lot of paste on the spoon)

When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, mix the sugar and boiling water together for the glaze, and brush each hot bun to make them sweet and shiny.

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