A bit of disclosure: I am not a great baker.
I started off writing this blog post after searching the web for a tasty Hot Cross Buns recipe, following the instructions exactly and making some pretty scrummy buns.
“I am amazing! Baking isn’t THAT hard! I can follow a recipe, hah!”
The first round were inhaled, so, following the same recipe, I made a second batch. LOL. Congrats girl, you just baked weapons of mass destruction and nearly sent the whole family to the dentist. They were rocks. Pretty little rocks. Inedible, pretty little rocks. So, wtf. I couldn’t very well share a “no fail baking recipe, even for those of us shite at following a recipe, recipe”… could I? Nup. But I am stubborn. WHY BAKING GODS, WHY. Why, after following the recipe exactly the same way, did the second batch fail so miserably?
This is why cooks stick to cooking. I clearly can’t follow instructions even when trying, and I’m time machine-d back to the mid 90’s when I tried to make brownies and used a cup of salt instead of a cup of sugar. Face palm.
I spoke to my baking goddess friend Sam, who runs the blog: PlanetBakeLife and asked her what I did wrong. The ingredients were all the same. Everything was measured out. I painstakingly kneaded the dough for ten minutes even though I don’t think it needed ten minutes and four would have probably been just fine and not given me carpal tunnel. But then she said one thing: “When you activated the yeast, maybe the water/milk was too hot or cold”.
Like, when the milk started boiling in the pan, and I took it off the heat, and poured the yeast straight into it. Killing the poor little yeasty babies immediately. Could it possibly have been that? And then I went on like a dummy, doing all that bloody kneading. FOR NOTHING. For pretty little rocks, which I am saving for the next “long lost friend” who messages me on Facebook inviting me to take part in a pyramid scheme.
So here’s the thing. I don’t think this recipe is particularly hard, but you have to show restraint and do EXACTLY what it says. No free stylin’ here, boys and girls. I’ve included the recipe below which is courtesy of Jamie Oliver who pretty much makes everything look easy so god damn you Jamie, this could have come with a warning. This seems sort of misleading to me mister.
Heed my advice: Try these babies. Show me photos. I hope for successes but if not, we all need a paperweight, right?
Here is the recipe that I made FOUR times. Twice, delicious. Once I killed the yeast and I also tried not activating the yeast by just mixing it though as this is what the nonna’s do in Italy, but this didn’t work either. But, science! I’ve added italics to get my advice in, because after reading above, surely you’ll want to listen to me.
Jamie Oliver’s Hot Cross Buns Recipe
- 200 ml semi-skimmed milk
- 55 g unsalted butter
- 2 x 7 g sachet dried yeast
- 455 g strong bread flour , plus extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ whole nutmeg
- 55 g caster sugar
- 2 pieces stem ginger
- 1 large free range egg
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 55 g sultanas or raisins
- 30 g dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons mixed peel
- runny honey , to glaze
NOTE: Some of these ingredients may look a little foreign but if you’re Auckland based, Bulk Food Savings at 217 Dominion Road carries ALL of it for cheap. Easy.
- Add the milk and 50ml water to a small pan and place over a low heat for a few minutes, or until slightly warm – you should be able to dip your finger in without scalding it. REMEMBER THIS STEP IS KEY. LUKEWARM. LIKE YOU ARE FEEDING A SMALL CHILD OR SICK BABY DEER.
- Meanwhile, add the butter to a separate pan and place over a low heat for a few minutes, or until melted, then set aside.
- Transfer the warmed milk mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the yeast. Set aside. Is it warm. Only warm? Just lukewarm will be fine, I swear if you boil it this is all for naught.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the salt, spices, a few good scrapings of nutmeg and the sugar. Finely chop the stem ginger and stir it into the mix. I sifted once and just chucked it in all the other times. It didn’t seem to make a difference.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in the melted butter, followed by the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add it to the bowl. This is like pasta dough! I got this!
- Using a fork, mix well until you have a rough dough, then transfer to a clean flour dusted work surface and knead for around 10 minutes, or until soft and springy. Ten minutes is a very long time.
- Return the dough to a flour dusted bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size. You will see if you’ve failed at this point because the dough will not have changed at all when you should be a fluffy big ball.
- Transfer the dough to a clean flour dusted work surface. Knock the air out by bashing it with your fist, then sprinkle over the dried fruit and mixed peel and knead into the dough for 1 to 2 minutes. If you’ve already failed, continue on to this step because, bashing.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. Grease and line a large baking tray. I put mine on fan 190c because it didn’t seem to cook them on just normal bake.
- Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll each into balls. Evenly space them out on a lined baking tray as you go. I set mine too far apart the first good time and too close together the second good time. Some sort of happy medium is probably best.
- Cover with the tea towel and leave in a warm place for a further 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, place the plain flour and 2 tablespoons water into a small bowl and mix to a thick paste. This is the only part that I went off course as the first time I made these they were delicious but the crosses seemed to sink into the buns. Basically if you want real sticky out-y crosses the flour to water ratio needs to be 2:1
- Gently pat down the risen buns then use the batter to carefully trace a cross over the top with a piping bag or spoon. I used a sandwich bag with a small hole cut in the corner and it worked perfectly.
- Place the buns into the preheated oven for 15- 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Took 25 to get them golden for me.
- Transfer to a wire cooling rack, brush over a little honey and leave to cool. I didn’t let them cool.
- Slice open the sticky hot cross buns, spread with a little butter and serve – delicious. Lewis Rd Creamery Butter yasssssss. Even if yours are hard little rocks they will probably still be edible until they cool down and solidify, so I would suggest downing the hatch.
If you have any suggestions or hacks for Hot Cross Buns, please let me know!
Hey! I’m a much better cook than baker – but I do have a few legit sweet dishes that are impossible to mess up. If you’d like to learn how to cook, in your own home with tailor made recipes just for you – check out my CLASSES page here: The Enthusiastic Cooking Classes I specialise in pasta making, Italian, Indonesian, eating in season, kids classes, basics 101!