For several years, I searched for a good hot cross bun recipe. Then I found a Paul Hollywood recipe shared with the public on BBC, but when following it myself I found it didn't work the way his did. Several attempts to make his recipe work just... failed. Yes, they failed. I ended up modifying the recipe quite a bit.
This recipe is in my own quantities, yields 2 dozen large sticky buns, does not stale quickly, and I think is quite straightforward. I hope you enjoy!
Hot Cross Buns
prep: 10 mins, plus 2 hrs rising
bake: 340 F for 40 mins
yield: 1 baking tray, or 2 dozen buns
6 cups strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
4 oz unsalted butter
2/3 c white granulated sugar
4 tsp fast acting dried yeast
2 cups warm milk + 2 tsp vanilla essence (not hot - body temperature is ideal)
18 oz raisins
finely chopped colored rind of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
2 finely diced apples
optional 20 drops each of lemon and sweet orange essential oils
Measure flour + salt + butter + sugar + eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer. Toss them together.
Add the dried yeast on top, and from a height pour the warmed milk over the yeast. The height of pouring will mix up the yeast a little, so that it doesn't merely float on top, without you having to do anything more. Leave to sit for 3 minutes or so. The yeast will become slightly frothy in this time.
Use the dough hook to quickly mix everything together, scooping the dry from the bottom of the bowl into the wet. Attach the dough hook. Turn on the stand mixer. Mix on low for a few minutes until the ingredients look somewhat incorporated.
Add the fruit while the mixer is going. Still on low, knead the dough for 5 minutes. Dough should be sticky, wetter to touch than sandwich loaf bread dough, which is why I prefer to use the stand mixer for this recipe. If the dough looks a little dry or a little wet, add flour or milk accordingly, just 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach desired consistency. Usually I don't need to adjust but other climates may need to do so. Remember that it is better to have a wetter than a dryer dough.
If you are working by hand, work the dough in a bowl with a rubber spatula for as long as you can until it forms a ball. Try to avoid adding flour if you can. Wetter is better. Once you transfer the dough to a flat surface for more thorough kneading, fruit will come off it as you go. Don't worry, just keep adding it back in as you knead.
IF you use essential oils in this recipe, be sure to use the purest, highest quality oils. Don't poison everybody with yucky synthetic fillers.
Cover sealed (use clingfilm, or a plate, or the lid of a pot) and leave somewhere warmish and draft-free to rise for 1 hour.
After proofing, your dough will be less wet and more malleable. Once again, use the dough hook and stand mixer to conveniently deflate and knead the dough for 3 minutes.
Divide the dough into half, then half again, then half yet again, and then divide each part into three. You should now have 24 evenly divided lumps of dough. Roll these quickly into round balls, space on a greased and floured (or covered with something non-stick, like parchment) baking sheet about 1 or 1 1/2 inches apart, and leave somewhere warmish and draft-free to rise for 1 more hour.
If you want the traditional cross on your buns, this is where you do it. Make a thick but not stiff paste with 1 cup flour and water. It should spread like glue. Pour this into a piping bag and simply stripe the crosses over the rows of buns directly before baking.
When the dough balls have doubled in size and are touching one another at the edges, pop the tray into a 340 F oven and bake for 40 minutes.
After removing, they should be soft, squishy, but fully baked. No doughy parts. Leave them on the hot tray to cool.
Mix up 1 cup powdered sugar and a little milk to make a thick, gluey icing paste, and drizzle this back and forth over the buns. You can eat them hot from the oven if you prefer, and they are delicious freshly hot, but the sticky icing will melt right off unless you wait for them to properly cool.