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  • Amy Minichiello

Hot Cross Buns

The magic that is in the process of making Hot Cross Buns comes from the slowing down. Its watching my hands dance with the dough creating something that brings so much joy in both the making, the eating and the sharing. The spices, the plump fruit. Watching it magically rise like an inflatable pillow and then hearing that "poof" sound as I gently knock back the dough. Ready to weigh each piece individually and really feeling the softness and the smoothness as my hands roll it into balls before placing them gently on flour-dusted trays to then rest yet again.

As the crosses are swiftly piped across the tops they are then popped into the oven to release the wonderful aroma that fills the house with those warming spices and baked bread-y goodness. Is there anything that makes your mouth water any more than the anticipation of still-warm from the oven hot cross buns? Awaiting a generous spread of butter that then melts away and drips down of the sides. To be devoured, slowly of course, savouring every delicious mouthful.

I have such a love for these spiced buns, not only because they are a pleasure to eat but they also bring back so many childhood memories. Good Friday was awaited with great anticipation. For this was when we were allowed our very first hot cross bun for Easter. They were put under the "gorilla" (griller) and watched ever so closely before being pulled out, passed from one hand to the other to save fingertips from being scorched. They were then tossed onto the plate, buttered up and devoured within seconds. If I close my eyes I feel as though I am right back there in that moment. Sitting at the kitchen table in our cosy dressing gowns, bed hair standing on end and smiles on our faces.

Already there have been new memories created with this particular batch, as in the process of making them little Beau bear sat up on the kitchen bench keeping a very curious eye on what I was doing. I am looking so forward to the day when he can help me. Getting his hands covered in dough, I am sure I will be finding flour in all manner of areas around the kitchen days after too!

During the life of the café I would create these gems every Easter, batches and batches of them. There would be dough filled bowls everywhere and the sticky cinnamon spiced glaze would splatter the stove top as it was brushed over the hot buns to give them a finishing touch that truly made them shine.

This is an adaptation of a Karen Martini recipe which I have made a few changes to over the years. Adding a bit of this and a touch of that to put my own little spin on them. I really hope they bring as much happiness to you as they bring to me. And, may they even remind you of some of your childhood memories.

I always make a double batch, as I love to give them to friends and family and they also freeze really well too. From memory you should get about 28-30, give or take. depending on how big or small you want to make them. I always weigh them out so that they are all roughly the same size (about 100-130g). Feel free to halve this recipe though if you don't want this many.

I Have also just recently made these with Singing Magpie produce Sun-dried Smyrna quince and Riverland apricots, which I can highly recommend. Simply change the golden raisin quantity to 150g and then 150g sun-dried quince. You can get as creative as you want with the dried fruits, just make sure you keep in with the measurements that are given.

100g currants

300g golden raisins

80g dried apricots, chopped

30g crystalised ginger, chopped

28g dried yeast

700ml warm milk

1 vanilla bean

160ml olive oil

180g caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

1.2kg plain flour (you may need a little more if the dough is stciky)

30g good quality cocoa powder (I use Callebaut)

2 tsp gingerbread spice (or mixed spice if you cant get your hands on this one)

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp ground ginger

10g salt

Firstly, place all of the dried fruit into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for about 30 minutes and then drain. Combine the yeast with the warm milk and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes until the yeast has dissolved. Make sure the milk is not too hot as this can "kill" the yeast!

Whisk the olive oil, sugar and eggs together until really well combined. Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer (you may want to do this in two batches at this stage, I did it in one but it sure gave "Kitty" the KitchenAid a workout!!) Add the fruit and with the dough hook attached give it a few stirs until its evenly combined.

Add the yeast mixture in with the Olive oil, sugar and egg mix and whisk well to combine. Pour this into the dried mix and mix with the dough hook for around 10 minutes, or until its lovely and smooth. If you do find that it is too wet still, with the mixer on continue adding a bit more flour until its reached the right consistency. The best way to do this is to feel it, if it sticks to your hands a little too much then keep adding a bit more.

Finally, tip it out onto a lightly floured bench and knead it for at least another few minutes. Pop your finger lightly into the middle of the dough and if it springs back then you have done your job! Place your lovely smooth dough ball into a large bowl that has been dusted with flour, cover with some cling film or a tea towel and pop into a warm place for about an hour or until it has doubled in size. Our house can get quite cold so I normally put the oven on and place it just on top of the stove. Or you could always pop it into the front seat of the car too, this works a treat!

Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back gently and then tip it once again onto your floured bench. Now the easiest way to cut it into portions is to halve it, then halve it again. working in smaller sections like this makes it a lot easier to handle. once you have cut them all up, weigh them out and then roll them into balls. If you place them in the cup of your hand and roll them in between your hands they will form a lovely even ball.

Place them on to a baking tray lined with baking paper and dust lightly with flour. Cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and place them in a warm spot for about 40 minutes or until they have risen. Whilst this is happening you can make the cross mixture. Whisk together 240g flour with about 200ml water, until it forms a smooth paste. If its too sticky add a little more flour and if too dry add a little more water until its the right consistency. Place it into a piping bag with a round tip. I find it easier to do this if you place the bag into a tall glass, turn down the top part of the bag so it folds over the glass and spoon the flour mix in. You can pop it into the fridge until you are ready to use it.

Once the buns have risen nicely, simply draw continuous lines down each line of buns and then go the other way to create the "crosses" Bake them in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce the oven to 190 degrees for another 10-15 minutes, or until lovely and golden. Remove them from the oven and let that aroma fill the house.

While you are waiting for them to come out of the oven, you can get the glaze ready. Add 120g caster sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon and 110 ml water into a saucepan and bring to the boil while stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Boil for 2 minutes. Then using a pastry brush, brush the buns generously with the glaze. Allow to cool and then place them onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Or, if you are anything like me you will not be able to wait any longer, so tear one off, open it up, generously spread that butter on and enjoy every single mouthful!

The best way to store them if you want to freeze them is in a container with baking paper separating the layers and make sure it has a tight fitting lid. Or wrap individually in cling wrap and then take them out as you need them.

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