The shops are full of Hot Cross Buns at the moment, but there is nothing like the taste of one you have baked yourself. We like to split them in two, toast them under a grill and then slather them with salted Irish butter. Here is our favourite recipe for you to try out at home. We make them using our own honey produced by the two colonies of Native Irish Black Bees which live in Mary’s Organic Garden, but any Irish honey will do:
Makes 8 Hot Cross Buns.
For the buns:
4 tbsps Irish whiskey (or fresh orange juice)
3 tsps Irish honey (preferably local honey), plus extra to glaze the buns
40g golden caster sugar
7g sachet instant dried yeast
300g strong white flour (it must be strong white flour, not plain flour)
½ tsp salt
2 tsps ground cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp mixed spice
30g chopped mixed peel
Zest of 1 small orange
1 egg, beaten
35g butter, melted and cooled
For the crosses:
50g plain flour
3 tbsp water
1.Whisk the whiskey (or orange juice) and honey together in a bowl. Add the sultanas, cover and let them sit overnight to soak in the liquid. Alternatively, pop the bowl in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Allow to rest for a minute and then heat them on high for a further 30 seconds. Allow to cool.
2. Heat the milk until lukewarm. Add 2 tsp of the golden caster sugar to the milk, then sprinkle in the yeast and stir gently. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until froth forms on the top.
3. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and mix in the salt, the remaining sugar, the cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice. Add the sultanas and the remaining liquid to the bowl with the mixed peel and 1 tsp of the orange zest. Stir with a spoon until well mixed. Add the egg to the mixture along with the melted butter and the milk.
4. If kneading with an electric mixer, use a dough hook at low speed to knead for around 5 minutes. Once the dough starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the bowl it can be tipped onto a floured surface to be finished by hand. Knead for a couple of minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should have a smooth surface, and spring back if pressed with a finger.
5. Form the dough into a neat, round shape. Place it into a large, lightly oiled bowl then turn the dough over so that the light covering of oil on top stops it from drying out. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-1½ hours.
6. Lightly grease a baking sheet (or cover it with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat) .
7. When the dough has doubled in size, punch it to remove any air. Remove it from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface.
8. Divide the dough into eight and roll into smooth rounds. Evenly space the buns on the baking sheet, cover it with cling film and return to a warm place for another hour.
9. Preheat the oven to 200oC/390oF/Gas Mark 6.
10. Mix the flour and water into a smooth paste and spoon into a piping bag.
11. Pipe the paste to make a cross on the top of each bun.
12. Place in the oven and bake for 15 – 18 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack.
13. Brush the top of each bun with some honey and allow to cool.
Enjoy with a cuppa!