My three favourite ways to eat hot cross buns are as follows: 1) warm, straight from the oven, with butter. 2) pulled in half (not sliced, so you get the craggy edges) and toasted, with butter. 3) buttered and stuffed with aged cheddar or Gouda or whatever cheese you happen to be loving at the moment, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
It occurred to me yesterday, when I realized it was a week from Easter and spontaneously decided to make a batch of hot cross buns, that there aren’t a huge number of recipes out there for them – it doesn’t seem to be a staple in baking books, so I went back to my old standby. They’re fairly simple to mix together, as yeast doughs go-it’s a nice buttery one, flavoured with orange zest and studded with currants or raisins. If you like candied peel, and can find some good stuff, go for it-I tend to leave it out and rely on lots of cinnamon and orange zest or even a big spoonful of chunky orange marmalade in the dough (replace some of the sugar).
The dough is easy to mix – if they’re intended for breakfast, you can shape the buns, cover and refrigerate them overnight to slow the rise. A little beaten egg right before they go into the oven makes them glossy. And while some pipe icing crosses onto their baked, cooled buns, there are two reasons I like to add a flour-water paste before they go into the oven: I like that they bake right on, and don’t get sticky, and I like to eat these warm, which would mean the icing would melt and slide off unless I waited until they cooled completely. If you want to go the icing route, by all means skip the flour-water paste and pipe on whatever icing/drizzle you like.
I like baking these on a sheet, but if you line them up in a 9×13-inch pan, they’ll bake up against each other,