Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns, a traditional British Easter treat on sale at all the bakeries during the week before Easter, are fragrant fruit buns decorated with a cross, and eaten toasted and well-buttered.

16 oz. fresh yeast

2 oz. plus

½ teaspoon sugar

6 fl. oz. plus

2 tablespoons lukewarm milk

1 lb. plus

1 tablespoon flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground mixed spice or allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon eggs

2 oz. plus

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted 2 oz. raisins 2 oz. cup chopped mixed candied peel

1 tablespoon butter

1 oz. Hour

1 teaspoon cold water

2 tablespoons milk mixed with

1 teaspoon sugar

Crumble the yeast into a small bowl and mash in the ½ teaspoon of sugar with a kitchen fork. Add the 2 tablespoons of lukewarm milk and cream the milk and yeast together. Set the bowl aside in a warm draught-free place for 15 to 20 minutes or until the yeast mixture is puffed up and frothy.

Sift the 1 pound of flour, the remaining sugar, the salt, spice and cinnamon into a warmed, large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture, the remaining milk, the eggs and 2 ounces of the melted butter. Using your fingers or a spatula, gradually draw the flour mixture into the liquids. Continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured board or marble slab and knead it for 10 minutes, reflouring the surface if the dough becomes sticky. The dough should be elastic and smooth.

Rinse, thoroughly dry and lightly grease the large mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl.

Dust the top of the ball with the tablespoon of flour. Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and place it in a warm

draught-free place. Leave it for 1 hour or until the dough has risen and almost doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough and turn it out of the bowl on to a floured surface. Knead it lightly, working in the raisins and mixed candied peel.

Preheat the oven to very hot 450°F (Gas Mark 8, 230°C).

Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and shape the pieces into buns.

Grease two baking sheets with the tablespoon of butter. Arrange the buns 2 inches apart on the baking sheets and return them to a warm draught-free place for about 15 to 20 minutes until the buns have almost doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, make the dough for the crosses. In a small mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the cold water to make a firm dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle, ½ inch thick. Cut the dough into thin strips. Trim the strips and cut them into 2-inch lengths. Press the dough strips into crosses on the tops of the buns.

Brush the buns lightly with the milk and sugar glaze. Place the baking sheets in the centre of the oven and bake the buns for 15 minutes or until the tops of the buns are deep golden brown.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and transfer the buns to a wire rack to cool.