Hot Cross Buns
I used to be intimidated by the thought of making my own Hot Cross Buns, but they’re actually not too difficult! Once you try your own homemade hot cross buns warm from the oven and coated in butter, you won’t go back to store-bought.
I used to be scared and intimidated by the thought of making homemade Hot Cross Buns. There was just something about adding yeast and the rising process that put me off for years. That, plus a terrible first attempt many many years ago where they turned out like rocks. I blame Melbourne’s cold weather for that one.
But my love of Hot Cross Buns plus my absolute hatred of orange peel led me to try customising my own buns without that aforementioned gross ingredient.
The key to good homemade hot cross buns is to knead the dough properly. Consider it a good 10 minutes of cardio workout and arm strengthening. The constant folding and stretching that happens when you knead dough are essential to building a strong network of gluten. Well developed gluten strands are what give your baked bread its fluffy crumb. So definitely don’t take shortcuts on the kneading.
Bread dough can also be a bit fussy depending on the mood of the kitchen gods. It’s totally normal to need a little extra flour one day if the dough is too sticky, and a little extra milk in the dough another day if it’s too dry. You’ll get the feel of the right consistency with practice but just aim for to the point at which the dough doesn’t stick to your hands.
The second key to good homemade hot cross buns is to be patient and let the dough rise properly. Ideally in a warm place until it doubles in volume. Depending on your room, this can take up to 2 hours. It needs to go in a large bowl with extra space to accommodate the expanding dough too. When ready, the dough should be spongy.
When the hot cross buns are in the oven they’ll go lovely and golden brown on top. But how do you know if they’re ready inside? Unlike a cake, there’s no skewer test to check the insides. And you don’t want to waste a bun in your dozen by pulling it open to check for doneness.
A hot cross bun is cooked when you hear a hollow sound when you tap or knock on the bottom of the bun. Pick one up with an oven mitt and give it a firm tap.
Homemade hot cross buns are best when they’re fresh and warm. Aim to eat them within 24 hours (as if eating them all is a challenge). Because they have no preservatives in them, they will start to go stale quicker than store-bought buns. If they just pass the point of being a little stale, a quick microwave to heat them will bring them back to life.
Happy baking, and let me know if you experiment with your hot cross buns flavours.