There are certain times of the year that I miss England more than usual – Easter is one of those times. I miss big hollow foil wrapped and commercially themed Easter eggs that only seem to exist in such abundance in England, the conversations about how many Cadbury’s creme eggs so-and-so can eat in one sitting, the double bank holiday and most of all hot cross buns.
Hot cross buns, made famous by the nursery rhyme, were traditionally associated with Good Friday, but they are far too good to be relegated to one day a year, and now it seems you can buy them for a very extended spring season. When I was a hungry rower we used to buy bags of hot cross buns fresh from the oven at Manuel’s bakery on Lower Richmond Road and wolf them down by the dozen.
One thing that has stopped me from making hot cross buns since I have been in the states, is that I hadn’t been able to find candied peel, and while opinions on the matter may vary, for me it is an essential ingredient. This year I found candied lemon peel on sale in the grocery store after christmas – apparently they only sell it in December for Christmas fruit cakes. While not quite the same as the English version, it would do.
The recipe I used was from Waitrose Food Illustrated, but when I make them again I will revert to the faithful Delia Smith. Having consulted my veteran bread baking father, I think her method of dissolving the yeast would yield better results. Mine didn’t rise as much as I would have liked. Cooking for Engineers have a step by step guide to Delia’s recipe. For the fruit she uses currants and mixed peel but you can really use any mix of raisins, currants, sultanas (yellow raisins) and candied peel. My local grocery store sells something they called hot cross buns, but these contained dried strawberries and that is just wrong and should not be condoned.
Another British ingredient in hot cross buns is ‘mixed spice‘. The components of this are variable but it generally contains cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. It can also contain mace, allspice, coriander or cassia. I made my own mix with some pumpkin pie spice and some additions from the cupboard. I used a mix of bread flour and Flying J whole wheat flour.
The Waitrose recipe does have a good method for making the crosses though. You make a paste of flour (4tbsp), oil (1tbsp) and water (3tbsp) and then pipe it on the buns. I think the rolled out crossed can be hard. I didn’t have a piping bag so I snipped the corner off a ziploc bag and it worked really well. They also used honey dissolved in water instead of sugar for the glaze.
April 14, 2009
They look really good. I should have put some sealed, mixed, candied peel in your luggage. If you ever run out of projects, you can candy your own peel. I did some many years ago. I think you need a sugar thermometer for best results.
April 14, 2009
In England hot cross buns are made only with strong white flour. The dough will rise faster and should produce a lighter bun. St Alban’s Abbey is suggesting that the traditional hot cross bun in St Albans contained saffron as the main spice.
April 15, 2009
I am sure that my collection of recipes includes some wholemeal flour buns. After all, some home bakers only use brown flour.
April 19, 2009
Having had the opportunity to sample these hot cross buns, I can say that they were well worth the effort. Very tasty!
April 23, 2009
Those look delicious! I am a huge fan of hot cross buns, and am rather sad that Columbus is so lacking in them (or makes such poor attempts – I am in total agreement about the strawberry thing.)