Giant white chocolate & cranberry hot cross buns
I love Easter. Not least because of the prospect of four days away from the day job and the prospect of spring. But also because of time spent with family and all the good food that comes with a get together.
After months of trying to shift the Christmas and New Year weight, it’s the first bank holiday blow out of the year, an excuse to reward yourself for all that hard work.
One of my favourite Easter treats has to be the hot cross bun.
There’s something I can’t resist about the combination of dried fruit, soft bun and the unmistakable infusion of a range of spices that evoke memories of Christmas.
And it has to be absolutely smothered with butter, real butter that is, not spread or marg.
Thanks to the likes of Marks & Spencer, our hot cross bun tastes have changed markedly in the last few years.
Flavours like Belgian chocolate and fudge and honey and ginger have become all the rage at Easter time.
Never one to miss a fashion to follow, I began to think of flavours I’d like to see in a seasonal bun.
I’m obsessed with dried cranberries at the moment, adding them to pretty much every meal I eat – my porridge, salads – I love the sweetness and the texture.
And with chocolate somewhat en vogue at this time of year, white chocolate seemed like a natural bedfellow for the dried fruit and the more traditional spices.
How to make it...
Makes 12 extra, extra large buns
FOR THE BUNS
300ml whole milk
100g butter, cubed
2 medium eggs (plus one extra for glazing)
150ml warm water
7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp of orange extract
1 tsp of vanilla extract
175g dried mixed fruit and peel
150g chopped cranberries
75g chopped white chocolate
3 tsp mixed spice
Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan on a medium heat.
Add the cubed butter to a large mixing bowl. Take the milk off the heat and pour into the bowl over the butter.
Leave the milk and butter to stand for five minutes or so until the butter has melted and the milk has cooled a little.
Add the honey, water, yeast, orange and vanilla extracts and, finally, two of the eggs. Beat the mixture until well mixed.
Add the dried fruit, cranberries, chocolate, spices, salt and cornflour to the bowl and mix again.
Add the flour and use your hands to bring the mix together into a wet, sticky dough.
Tip the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for a few minutes.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with cling film and a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for around 90 minutes, kneading briefly round halfway through.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knock it back before dividing into 12 (or more if you want smaller buns).
Roll each bun into a ball and place on a baking paper-lined tray, flattening each bun slightly. The buns should be fairly close together but not touching as they will expand during the second prove.
Cover and leave to prove for another hour.
Meanwhile, create a thick but pipeable paste for the crosses from the water and flour and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan.
Beat the third egg with a little water and salt and brush onto the top of each bun.
Take your cross paste, fill a piping bag with it and pipe a cross on each bun.
Bake in the centre of your preheated oven for around 25 minutes to half an hour or until golden brown.
Take the buns from the oven and gently heat your apricot glaze in a saucepan until warm and runny.
Brush each bun with the glaze and allow to cool.
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
1tbsp of cornflour
A pinch of salt
800g strong white flour
FOR THE CROSSES
150g strong white flour
A jar of apricot glaze to finish
That said, this is not an overwhelming chocolate hit. By all means, add more to this recipe if that’s the sort of flavour you’re looking for, but the amount I put in adds more of a sweet, vanilla undertone to the bun.
I confess that I find the traditional flour paste cross a little hard to get right – mine look a little rustic - but for me, that only adds to the charm of making your own.