On a recent trip to New Zealand, Tina and I noticed that hot cross buns were sold everywhere - even two months prior to Good Friday (the traditional time for eating hot cross buns). A couple weeks ago, a British friend at church mentioned baking hot cross buns, and I asked her for her recipe. She used Delia Smith's recipe that can be found at Delia Online. With Good Friday approaching, I thought I'd try my hand at Delia's hot cross buns.
I started by gathering all my supplies according to the recipe: 50 mL warmed milk and 150 mL warmed water, 50 g sugar, 50 g melted butter, 450 g all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon table salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 large egg (beaten), 75 g dried currants, 50 g candied citron peel, and 1 tablespoon instant yeast (about two envelopes).
I mixed the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, salt, spices, currants, peel, and instant yeast) until everything was evenly distributed.
As per Delia's instructions, I made a well in the dry ingredients and poured in all the wet. (I've often been suspicious of the "well" - as soon as you start to mix, everything gets wet, so why bother with the well?)
I mixed it into a dough with a wooden spoon.
Then I kneaded it with my hands until smooth and elastic. I put it back into a large bowl and covered with plastic to rise.
While the dough was rising I fashioned the (optional) material for the cross. Delia's website simply says, "If you want to make more distinctive crosses, use a flour-and-water paste made with 4 oz (110 g) plain flour and approximately 3 tablespoons water. Roll out thinly and divide into small strips, dampening them to seal." So, I measured out 110 g all-purpose flour and 3 Tbs. water.
I mixed the flour and water together and worked it until the water was evenly distributed and dough that I could roll out was formed.
I rolled out the dough to a 1/8-in. thickness.
I trimmed off the edges to form a rectangle of dough.
Using a sharp knife, I cut the dough into thin strips. These strips will be used in pairs to form a cross on top of the bun. In the United States, a milk and sugar frosting is often used instead - but I wanted to stick with a more British recipe. I covered the strips with a piece of plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.
After an hour, the dough for the hot cross buns had doubled in volume - a good sign.
I kneaded the dough to deflate it and then cut it into twelve pieces.
I the rolled the pieces into balls and evenly spaced them on a half sheet pan. I cut crosses into the top of each bun and covered them with plastic wrap to allow them to rise again.
I started preheating the oven to 425°F (220°C). After about thirty minutes, they had risen again.
I then laid the strips over the deep furrows in the buns and trimmed the ends with shears.
At this point, I started wondering about the recipe a little. These strips of flour and water didn't seem too appetizing. Maybe if they contained butter or shortening like pastry dough. . . but in their current state, wouldn't it bake up dense and hard? Also, the picture on Delia's website showed a nice dark brown bun with a golden cross on top. How was it possible to produce that brown without glazing the buns with milk, egg wash, or a sugar glaze? I plunged along - following the recipe. No glaze, no wash, just slipped it into the oven.
Fifteen minutes later, I pulled them out of the oven and got this.
The crosses were as hard as twigs and the color of the buns was, as I expected, not at all similar to the picture on the website.
I decided to pull off the crosses (they are optional after all) so Tina wouldn't break a tooth while tasting the buns. I then dissolved 2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar into 2 tablespoons (30 mL) hot water to form a sticky, simple syrup glaze.
The final buns were a bit (actually, quite) dense, slightly sweet, and quite flavorful. Not quite what I expected (and, I'm pretty sure, not the texture of what a hot cross bun ought to have), but not bad. I'll probably have to try again, but at least these are tasty enough for me not to have to worry about them not being all eaten up.
The recipe actually called for mixed peel which isn't avaialbel everywhere. Asking for candied citrus peel at my local markets yielded nothing except from Cosentino's which had candied citron peel in the back (not on display - had to ask for it). If other candied peels are available, you can use those or a mix.
If you can't get candied peels you can make them yourself by cutting up oranges, lemons, and other citrus and simmering it in a simple syrup for half an hour and then letting it soak overnight. Then remove the peel from the remaining fruit and let dry on a wire rack. Alternatively, use golden raisins...
Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 4:24 am Post subject: Yeast treatment
I suspect your density problem had to do with the type of yeast you used and the prep of it. I read through Delilah's recipe and it is I suspect a very important step. as for the crosses, I'd opt out of them too. Are you planning on a re-do?
Love the site!
Joined: 10 May 2005 Posts: 1648 Location: Austin, TX (USA)
Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 6:36 am Post subject: Re: Yeast
Your conversion in yeast amount is different from what is normally written in the package. Usually 1 envelope weighs 1/4 ounce or 7 grams which equals 2 1/4 teaspoons. And 1 TB equals to 3 tea spoons.
Ah, but here's the rub - I measured the yeast by using a tablespoon and leveling it - just as Delia specifies. (I didn't use the envelopes for this recipe, instead I scooped instant yeast out and leveled with a straight edge.) I then poured the yeast into a container set on my digital scale where I confirmed it was 12 g. 12 g is the mass of dry yeast according to the USDA Standards and was what I got when I measured my ingredients for this recipe. (I suppose this is an insight into how crazy it is for me to test a recipe... I mass everything and take notes on it - it didn't used to be like this, but somehow this website has taken over my life...)
I just opened up a couple more yeast packets and measured and weighed them. It seems like each packet contains about 2-1/8 teaspoon yeast and it weighs in around 7.75 g (average of five measurements). Because of the error in my scale, I pooled several packets, measured, and divided.
I then measured 4 Tbs. of dry yeast, measured, and divided to yield a value closer to 11 g than to 12 g. So, in my kitchen, using Fleishmann's Active Dry Yeast, 1 Tbs. is 11 g and one packet is almost 8 g (2-1/8 teaspoons).
Two packets of yeast would be a bit much - about 15-16 g instead of 11 g.
Could the amount of yeast be the problem with the recipe? Maybe... in the end I used the method prescribed in the recipe, but did Delia's recipe documenter use the tablespoon scoop and level method or did she use a conversion table?
Will I be doing a redo? Almost undoubtedly. Will it be before this Good Friday? I don't know. I do want to go and watch someone make this recipe and see if I'm over kneading or missing something.
Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 7:26 am Post subject: The Well...
I suspect "the well" has more relevance if you are mixing the ingredients on a board and need to stop the liquid running away (using the dry ingredients to form a wall and then working them in). In a bowl, as you suggest, it is all going to get mixed together pretty soon.
Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 12:59 pm Post subject: The Well...
The well probably cam from back in the day when teh wet ingredients would have been mixed in a large tub of flour and the ammount of flour used in the recipe determined by how much liquid was added. That is how my grandmother remembered doing all of her baking. Now it is probably a mute point unless you choose to mix in a tub of flour or on a board.
Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 3:27 pm Post subject: british vs american tablespoon measurements
Not sure if this helps, but you should note that British, Australian and New Zealand tablespoons are 20mL or 4 teaspoons, not 15mL or 3 teaspoons like an American table spoon.
Just for completeness, an Australian/British/New Zealand cup is also 250mL not 236mL like an American.
Incidentally, for edible crosses try this:
Combine 75 g plain/cake flour and a 4 teaspoons of white sugar in a small bowl, gradually mix in 1/3 cup water with a teaspoon, and stir untill smooth. You'll get a relatively liquid paste. Either make a homemade baking/greaseproof paper bag and fill it with the paste or fit it to a piping bag with a very small nozzle. Pipe the white lines over the buns just before putting in the oven.
Posted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:29 am Post subject: Better buns!
For the dense texture, increase rising time and increase the yeast a little, also if you can find it, use fresh yeast, it will result in a better rise.
For the candied citrus peel, use candied orange peel and raisins (or sultanas)
And for the crosses, use a little more water, you want a paste that you can bag onto the bun (cutting strips sucks) and try not to cut such deep crosses into the buns, you really want something more rounded, like using the back of the knife to press crosses into the bun instead of cutting them.
also adding spices to the bun mixture, I use what ever is available and would taste nice in it, cinnamon is good, along with nutmeg.
Joined: 30 Jun 2006 Posts: 2 Location: Centralia, IL
Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 2:30 am Post subject: A more foolproof recipe
Perhaps you are determined for this recipe to work...but I have made the one listed in King Arthur Flour's 20th Anniversary Cookbook with great success -- and very authentic except for the strange white paste crosses...
These are made with both white and whole wheat flour, spices, and even a little brown sugar.
If you would like me to post the recipe, I will. Otherwise see the cookbook listed above. (I honestly don't like their cookbook nearly as much as their flour, but this is an exception.)
Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 12:39 pm Post subject: Well and Yeast and Time - Concur
I really like this article because it didn't all work out. It accurately reflects what many of us face when trying a new recipe. It's a journey into unchartered waters (often times). This article helps to support the fact that we everyone has to get back up on the horse and not be afraid of failure.
I think the "well" was covered earlier. My grandmother (magnificent southern cook) also added the liquid to a general amount of ingredients.
My recipes for Hot-Crossed Buns have the second rise being an hour. The buns will be dense-ish (I like to cut them in half and butter them).
Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 6:19 am Post subject: Original Recipe?
I have made these buns for many years, using the recipe as originally published in "Delia Smith's Book of Cakes" (1977). The recipe above is close to the original, with two significant differences:
- the original includes a sugar and water glaze;
- and it doesn't have the nasty pastry crosses.
There is also one debatable difference. The original makes rather dense buns, it is true (which I prefer). However, Delia dictates "dried yeast", which is rather different from the "instant yeast" sachets above - this is the old school brown stuff that required activation. This may not make any difference; but it might.
The other differences are minor, like the substitution of citron peel for mixed peel, and giving a mix of spices rather than using "mixed spice".
The original name was "Spicy Hot Cross Buns", which is a fair description. A hot cross bun would usually be a little less tasty than this.
I don't often refer to Delia Online, but when I have, I have noticed a couple of typo errors. I suspect that the missing glaze is the result of sloppy copy editing.