FOR THE CROSS
Hot cross buns have more chew than a simple bread roll, and are sweeter too, but their methods are not too dissimilar. Adding a few ingredients can turn breakfast into something more like teatime. The sticky marmalade is an extra – it goes well with spices and orange zest, but is not altogether necessary. Use no-bits marmalade if you like, or opt for apricot jam, honey or a little sugar syrup, made by simmering equal parts sugar and water until clear, uncoloured and sticky. If you’re keen on bitter citrus, though, try adding a little marmalade to the dough too.
1. Mix the yeast in a bowl with the sugar and lukewarm milk and leave for 10 minutes to froth. Sift the flour and spice into a large bowl, sprinkling the salt to one side. Lightly beat together the egg, orange zest, honey and currants until combined. Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast mix and the egg mixture. Fold in the flour with your hands to make a soft dough. If it’s too wet and sticky to manage, add a little more flour; if too dry, add a drop more lukewarm milk.
2. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, then knead, briefly, on a lightly oiled surface, pulling the dough away from you and pushing it with the heel of your hand and your knuckles. Sit the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a floured tea towel and lightly oiled clingfilm, and place in a warm, humid, cosy spot for 1 hour to prove, or overnight in the fridge.
3. Cut the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces, roll them into balls, and lay them in lines on a large, floured baking sheet, leaving a three-finger-sized gap between. Leave to prove for 20–30 minutes, covered with a floured tea towel or lightly oiled clingfilm, until almost doubled in size and almost touching.
4. Preheat the oven to 230°C/fan 210°C/gas 8. To make the cross, mix together the flour, oil and water. Spoon the dough into a disposable piping bag (you can buy these from cook shops and online – always handy …) with a small round nozzle and squeeze 2 thin lines over the buns to make a cross. It should stretch easily over the buns. Alternatively, drape the mixture over the buns with a spoon. Slide the buns into the oven to bake for 15–20 minutes, until puffed, golden and hollow-sounding when knocked. The inner temperature should reach about 85–88°C.
5. Remove to a wire rack and glaze with plenty of marmalade while still warm. Cut in half, toast under the grill and smother with softened butter.