If you’ve stopped by in the hopes of finding the standard Easter spring flowers and bunny rabbits and church bonnets and pretty, pretty candy covered chocolate eggs – you’re at the wrong place. If you’ve been here before you won’t be surprised that there’s not a pastel argyle jumper in sight.
But Easter is just a few days away so it’s only logical that I share an Easter recipe. Now I could claim that I’m being all ‘lets plan ahead like a proper food blogger and make something for a holiday before it happens rather than after it’s passed‘… or I could be realistic and admit that this is just an excuse to make Hot Cross Buns – ha!
It is coming into autumn in Sydney and although the weather these past few weeks has been decidedly more summer-esque than summer was, winter is just hiding in the wings, sticking its tongue out and giving everyone the stink-eye after the sun goes down each evening.
Fortunately this means I’ve been baking. And as much as I bemoan the over-commercialisation of grocery stores – stocking X-mas in October and Easter from mid-January – I’m a firm believer that Hot Cross Buns should be available year round. Now while I do appreciate a good traditional sultana and cinnamon version, I of course couldn’t make something quite that standard.
These started with a craving for Sour Cherries. However, can someone please tell me why a package labeled ‘tart cherries’ have added sugar, therefore rendering them sweet and not tart as promised? Oh well. I next went for orange. This morphed from juice to zest to just using the whole peel – packaged ‘mixed peel’ freaks me out a bit, wayyyy to much crap in it – rant-y today aren’t I?
Earl Grey was a last minute stroke of brilliance brought on by a new box of tea. Rant-y annnd modest, we’ve got it all covered here. FYI, there’s no modesty when it comes to cake, these are close enough to fall in that category. I’ve done a handy little how to if you want to know how to get the peel off an orange in one piece and create a lovely dice… looks like my long-ago-and-far-far-away lemon twist making, bartending days of old have served me well.
I had an idea of what I was going for in a dough and created a bit of a recipe inspiration mash-up using my own Whole Wheat Bread, Smitten Kitchen’s Challah and a Traditional Hot Cross Bun recipe. I am so chuffed with how these came out. The good news is I can now have Hot Cross Buns year round – the even better news is I have 12 [um, or 8 at last count] to enjoy immediately. Now to start making a list of what other flavours to experiment with! There are a few basic options below but tell me, do you have any to-die-for recommendations?!
Cherry, Orange and Earl Grey Hot Cross Buns
1 c boiling water plus extra water as needed
1 earl grey tea bag
1 packet dried yeast [7g or 2 1/4 tsp]
2 c organic unbleached white flour plus 1/4 c extra
2 c organic stone ground whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cardamom [or 1 tsp each cardamom and cinnamon]
1/4 c neutral oil, such as grapeseed oil
1/2 c dried sour/tart cherries, diced or quartered
1/2 c orange peel from 1 large orange, diced
1/4 c unbleached white flour
2-3 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp apricot jam
- Steep tea bag in water. Soak cherries in hot tea. Drain cherry pieces, reserving liquid and topping up to 1 c with extra water.
- Dissolve and proof yeast in tepid tea liquid.
- Mix 2 c flour with yeast liquid and beat 20 strokes. Mix in salt, spices, egg and oil. Mix in remaining 2 cups of flour and set aside for 2 mins. Dough is very sticky.
- Knead using dough throwing and resting in 2 min intervals for three rounds – don’t add extra flour.
- Toss cherries and peel with extra 1/4 c white flour. Knead into dough on round four and rest 2 minutes. Throw a final time and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with baking [parchment] paper and a tea towel, and let rise 1 hour.
- Punch down dough, turn over in bowl, cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours. Punch down again and knead once or twice in the bowl.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured bench-top. Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls.
- Lightly oil sides of a roasting pan / rectangle baking pan and line base with baking [parchment paper] Place dough balls in pan, cover and let rise 45 minutes before turning on oven to pre-heat: 200 C [400 F].
- Stir flour and water for crosses to a smooth paste and pipe on in a grid pattern. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes. Prepare the glaze by gently heating the jam, straining if you wish.
- Cool 10 mins in pan, turn out onto rack, brush still-warm buns with the jam glaze and leave to cool completely.
- Makes 12 full-size, ten-thousand times better than the bakery, Hot Cross Buns.
In a medium jug, steep earl grey teabag in boiling water for 4 mins. Remove teabag and add diced cherry pieces, allow to soak and plump for about 15 mins until liquid is warm-ish room temp. Remove cherry pieces from liquid and gently squeeze out excess liquid. Top up liquid with tepid water to make 1 cup.
Sprinkle yeast over tepid tea soaking liquid and stir to dissolve. Let sit for 5 minutes until foamy so you know the yeast is alive. Mix 2 c flour with yeast liquid and beat 20 strokes with a dough scraper or large wooden spoon. Mix in salt, spices, egg and oil and beat again. Mix in remaining 2 cups of flour and set aside to rest for 2 mins. You may need to get your hands in the bowl to get the last bit of flour incorporated.
This dough is very sticky but will hold shape – it is supposed to be that way. Knead using dough throwing [see here for explanation] and resting in 2 min intervals for three rounds – don’t add more flour or it will make the bread too dense. I used a scraper to pick-up the dough for each throw and it made it much easier.
Toss cherries and peel with extra 1/4 c white flour and knead into dough on round four. To get the fruit in you kind of press and cut and mash it around gently with a more traditional kneading style. If you add it at the beginning it makes the dough harder to knead – and the cherries would be mush by the end. Once incorporated, rest 2 minutes. Knead a final time – back to the throwing on this one – and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with baking [parchment] paper and a tea towel, and let rise 1 hour until doubled in size.
Punch down dough, turn over in bowl and let rise 1 1/2 hours. Punch down again and knead once or twice in the bowl to remove the air. Lightly oil sides of a roasting pan or rectangle baking pan and line base with baking [parchment paper].
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured bench-top. Divide into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Evenly space dough balls in pan. Cover with paper and towel and let rise 45 minutes before turning on oven to pre-heat: 200 C [400 F]. Stir flour and water for crosses to a smooth paste and pipe on in a grid pattern to create crosses. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes. Prepare the glaze by gently heating the jam, straining if you wish.
Cool buns 10 mins in pan and turn out onto rack – you may need to run a knife around the edge to loosen a bit if the cross paste has stuck to the side. Brush still-warm buns with the jam glaze and leave to cool completely.
Serve with copious lashings of salted butter and a big cup of tea, declare you are never buying them from a store ever again. Makes 12 full-size Hot Cross Buns.
- Cherries: If you do find proper tart cherries without added sugar, add 1 Tbsp of honey to the tea water before dissolving the yeast.
- 12 pieces: I find that the easiest way to divide dough is to press into a disk and cut like a pizza into wedges. Simply roll wedges into balls. Each piece for me was about 85 g.
- Rising: If pressed for time you could skip the second rise and let the first one go for 1 1/2 hrs, but the flavour and texture really benefit from a second round before forming the rolls.
- Cinnamon & Sultanas: Swap cardamom for cinnamon and replace cherries and orange peel with sultanas. Use traditional black tea or just hot water to soak the sultanas.
- Ginger & Apricots: Replace cardamom with ginger and replace cherries with diced dried apricots. Keep orange peel and use green tea or hot water to soak apricots.
- White Choc & Cranberry: Use cloves instead of cardamom and reduce to 1 tsp. Replace cherries and orange peel with dried cranberries and white choc chips. Soak cranberries in white tea with rose.
So there’s still no bunnies or chocolate eggs but I couldn’t let you out of here without a few autumn flowers – Happy Easter!