Sunday, 8 April 2012

Baking challenge #7: Mary Berry's hot cross buns

Mary Berry's hot cross buns, as made by EJ

Mary Berry's hot cross bun recipe is a fairly straightforward traditional take on hot cross buns, full of cinnamon, currents and mixed peel. These are great to make when you have an afternoon to spare, as you need to leave the dough to rise for two hours in total, shaping into buns after 90 minutes and then leaving to rise in bun form for another 30 mins.

Although MB includes the pastry cross as an optional extra, choosing to indent the buns with the slice of a knife as a first instance, I chose to add the pastry crosses. Somehow a hot cross bun just isn't a hot cross bun without a proper cross!

As with Berry's other recipes, this one is very easy to follow. The great thing about baking with yeast which needs to rise is that you have plenty of time to wash up as you go along - so you aren't left with a super messy kitchen at the end.

When it came to dividing the dough into twelve buns, I wanted to try to make them as easy in size as possible. I've always found that the best way to start is to divide the dough into two balls, then break these into a further two (so you have four), then to shape each of the four dough balls into sausages, cutting each into three pieces and then you are left with twelve fairly even pieces of dough to shape into buns.

Don't be lazy when it comes to shaping the dough into smooth round bun shapes- last year, I made hot cross buns from a Sainsburys recipe, they tasted great, but my first batch looked like the quasimodos of the hot cross bun world. I had assumed that the shapes would smooth out when I left them to rise for the second time, but instead the tiny imprefections and breaks just became exaggerated, they looked lumpy- and as great as they tasted, they really did look gross.

Be careful when glazing the buns, as they're fresh out of the oven the pastry crosses will be fragile- so be gentle with the brush to avoid breaking them. Use all of the glazing mixture - I managed to get about three coats on each of the buns, it gives them a shiny finish and a sticky sugary coating which softens the dough beneath improving the texture.

Overall I'm really pleased with Mary Berry's hot cross buns, they are damned tasty and great for breakfast, toasted with plenty of butter. One thing I would change next time round is the crosses on top, MB suggests making a basic shortcrust pastry and laying crosses on top of each bun before baking, in the Sainsbury's hot cross bun recipe a liquid pastry cross is piped onto the top of each bun just before they are baked - the result is a much smoother finish. Looking at the crosses on MB's hot cross buns, I can't help but feel that they look a little stuck on - kind of like an afterthought - so if I made them again I would definitely pipe the crosses instead.

 Close-up of Mary Berry's hot cross buns with shortcrust pastry crosses
Hot cross buns from Easter 2011 (the Sainsbury's recipe)
- with piped pastry crosses

Have you made hot cross buns this Easter.... how did yours turn out?


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