Hot cross buns have been part of traditional Easter eating for centuries. They’ve stood the test of time and are still popular and synonymous with this time of year. We associate them with Christianity but evidence suggests they date back to Roman times. Archaeologists found carbonised loaves in the ruins of Pompeii marked with a cross. Later in the Middle Ages, Saxons baked similarly marked buns in honour of Eostre, goddess of the dawn.
Regardless of their origin they’re a delicious, fluffy and spicy bun that we still embrace. There are many variations on the original method with bakers serving up sourdough, chocolate, marmite and savoury cheese and onion versions among many others. As a purist I’m really not into these come day go day fads and prefer to stick to the original and in my view the best.
The buns are yeast based filled with plump sultanas, warm spices and a hint of citrus. Traditionally dried peel is added but for me, this is a pet hate and so for this recipe I’ve taken the liberty of adding orange and lemon zest instead. Each to their own. For my money it’s hard to beat eating them warm, straight from the oven, split and liberally doused with butter. If they last longer than a day, it works well to toast them first. Whether you add jam or even marmalade is entirely up to you.
Gingerbread is one of those sweet treats that transcends the seasons. It sits equally well at Christmas with mulled fruits as it would mid summer with tropical pineapple and a toot of rum. Because of its stickiness it keeps well. The inspiration for this recipe came with the discovery of a half used gingerbread in the bread bin. It was pepped up by adding slices to a caramel syrup and topped with roast pears and a white chocolate cream. Pears and white chocolate are a great match for ginger and here you get a triple whammy. The recipe for gingerbread is included here but feel free to buy some from a good bakery. It's a perfectly acceptable way to cut out one of the processes.
Whatever the time of year, you can't have enough spice in your life.
What you’ll need
625g strong bread flour
50g soft butter
2 and a half teaspoons dried yeast
75g castor sugar
300ml lukewarm milk
Zest of a lemon
Zest of an orange
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Rub the butter into the flour. Add the yeast and sugar. Mix in the milk and egg.
Add the remaining ingredients and either knead with a dough hook attachment or turn onto a floured surface and knead.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Leave for an hour then divide into 12 equal sized pieces and roll each into balls.
Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and rest for another half hour.
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 egg yolk
Mix the flour with enough water to make a paste that can be piped. Place in a piping bag and cut a small hole at the end. Brush the buns with egg yolk and then pipe crosses on top.
Bake in a 180oC oven for about 20 minutes and brush with honey when they come out.
What you’ll need
For the gingerbread
165g plain flour
90g dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
25g chopped preserved ginger
80ml vegetable oil
60g golden syrup
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk the egg with the oil, water, syrup and treacle and mix into the dry ingredients. Place in a parchment lined loaf tin and bake at 180oC for about 35 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
For the roast pears
50g soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Splash of brandy or water
Peel and quarter pears. Remove core and place in a roasting dish. Sprinkle over the sugar and dot over the butter. Add the maple and brandy and place in a 180oc oven. Roast for about 20 minutes , basting frequently.
For the white chocolate cream
150g chopped white chocolate
500ml double cream
Heat 200ml of the cream and add the white chocolate. Remove from heat and stir until melted. Cool for 5 minutes. Whip the remaining cream and fold in the chocolate mixture.
To caramelise the gingerbread
50g castor sugar
75 ml water
Heat the sugar in a frying pan until amber and then add the water. Cook to a syrup and then add thick slices of the gingerbread to coat.
Serve with the pears and a scoop or piping of the chocolate cream.