I relented with my third batch of Easter buns and added the traditional crosses piped in flour, sugar and water paste*. The final batch came out better than the first two and the crosses were an attractive feature. As with most activities, practice makes perfect. And of course I can never leave the recipe alone entirely. I tried a number of different hand-made approaches after failing to get a successful result from dough made in my bread maker last year.
Makes two dozen.
Four teaspoons active yeast (Edmonds with the yellow top, not Surebake with the red top)
80g caster sugar
250ml warm milk (blood temperature)
600g strong (bread) flour
Two teaspoons mixed spice
Two teaspoons ground cinnamon
Half a teaspoon salt
80g butter, melted
Quarter of a cup of chopped mixed peel or a dozen dried apricots, finely chopped
Two large eggs at room temperature, beaten
Sprinkle the yeast into the warm milk with one tablespoon of the sugar. Stir well and leave for about half an hour in a warm place until frothy – a ‘sponge’. If you’ve just switched off the oven from making something else, put it in there with the door ajar. Sift the flour, spices and salt in to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the remaining sugar, fruit, eggs and melted butter. Add the yeast sponge. Mix well with a spatula until the mixture comes together into a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and put back in the open, cooling oven for about an hour. The dough should have risen well up the sides of the bowl. Tip the dough onto a floured surface, knead for about ten minutes until it becomes silky and elastic. Divide into 24 portions, kneading each well and turning the sides under to make a round bun. Line a roasting tray with baking paper or a silicone mat. Place the buns, close together and allow to rise again for about an hour. Bake at 200 degrees C for 20 minutes. Whilst still warm, brush with a glaze made from two tablespoons of caster sugar dissolved in a little boiling water.
* Blend a quarter cup of flour with a tablespoon of caster sugar and enough cold water to make a smooth, thick paste. Pour into a small plastic bag. Snip off a tiny corner to make a piping bag. Pipe onto the risen buns just before they go into the oven.