We are very lucky with our food shops in Ludlow. As well as having 3 independent and thriving butchers in Ludlow, we have 2 wonderful Bakers. Swifts is an artisan bakers based on Clee Hill, with several shops around the south of the county, whilst the fabulous SC Price is in Ludlow itself on Market Square.
Prices do a perfect hot cross bun, probably the best in the county, ( as well as huge variety of breads, rolls & cakes ) and, if I ran a B&B in the town, I would enjoy the daily ritual of walking to them first thing to get my bread. However we're a 20 minute trip from Ludlow so I find it easier to make my own bread.
I spend some time every year looking for the perfect hot cross bun recipe ready for guests over Easter. Next year I will save myself some time just by coming back to this blog!
I like my hot cross buns spicy, a bit sweet and with a lovely soft texture. Unfortunately I've had had too many attempts over the years that have resulted in tasty but rock hard buns!
After playing around with a few recipes this year I think I managed to come up with a bun with that lovely soft texture & the right amount of sweetness, fruit & spice.
I use a Panasonic bread machine to make the dough and do the first rise. If you're going to do this by hand, or using a mixer, use easy blend dried yeast, melted butter & warm milk.
1.5 tsp of fast action dried yeast
1lb strong white bread flour
1.5 tsp salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons of mixed spice
3oz caster sugar
2oz mixed fruit
1 egg, beaten
For the glaze
One egg beaten with a tablespoon of milk
Put the yeast into the bread machine, then the flour, then the rest of the ingredients except the dried fruit. I have a fruit & nut dispenser on the bread machine, so put the fruit in there if you have one. Otherwise you add it in according to the instructions on my machine. I set mine to the raisin dough cycle.
If doing by hand Mix all the dry ingredients together including the fruit, add the butter, egg & enough milk to get a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface & knead till dough soft & elastic. Put in an oiled bowl topped with oiled clingfilm or a clean tea towel and leave to rise somewhere warm till doubled in size.
Knock down the dough and split into 12 equal sized balls. I arrange them on a large oiled baking sheet. I put them quite close together so you get that lovely batch baking effect of soft sides when you pull them apart.
If I'm doing these for breakfast I'll put them in the fridge overnight covered with clingfilm. I then take them out the fridge in the morning and allow to rise somewhere warm until doubled in size ( about 30-45 mins )
If you don't want to cook all 12 buns in a go. You can freeze the uncooked buns. Put on a baking tray. Freeze and then pop into bags in the freezer. The night before, take out as many buns as you want next day, then put them on a tray in the fridge covered in cling film. Or if you have a couple of hours to spare you can do this in the morning.
Brush with the egg & milk glaze, this gives a lovely golden sheen to the buns. Then pipe on the cross.
You can make a cross using a flour & water paste. Mix 50g plain flour with 60ml water to get a thick paste. Pipe onto the buns once they are risen and about to go in the oven. If you don't have a piping bag you can put in a plastic bag and just cut off the corner
I cook them for 15 minutes at 180 degrees in the fan oven. Just keep an eye on them to ensure they don't get too brown.
We also prefer our buns non sticky. The easiest way to get a sticky bun is to melt some local honey and brush it over the buns when they're just out of the oven. Or you can use apricot jam, warm it gently & sieve out the bits.