The inspiration for this recipe comes in two parts.
Meeta had told me about the hot cross buns she made a couple of days ago, on chat, and she enticed me with a gorgeous photo (that's not a surprise anyway) of the same. At that point, I just thought, 'wow' with no intention of making them whatsoever. Then, Saturday morning, I decided to bake some good bread to take to friends we were visiting later that evening. I thought Foccasia would be a good idea. Although I've made a Potato Rosemary Foccasia earlier on, I wanted to try something new, which took me to Haalo's blog. I clearly remembered that she had blogged about a beautiful foccasia bread quite a while ago, the pictures i'd seen then were clearly embedded in my mind.
One thing lead to another, and I was looking at some utterly cute hot cross buns This made me change my mind and go for the buns instead. Also, Good Friday being round the corner, it felt like a good idea.
Since I was making these for the first time, I decided to read up on some other blogger notes, about making them. Most recipes pointed to the recipe on the BBC Food website or the Delia Smith recipe, and the former clearly being the more popular one. I managed to combine Haalo's recipe with some techniques in the BBC recipe, replacing the eggs with flaxseed meal, to make vegetarian hot cross buns.
It was fun to do this project - listening to music and reading one of my current favourite authors on the side. A perfectly relaxed Saturday morning, with hubby at work and me smelling the yeast and cinnamon in the house - better than visiting a spa!
Recipe for Eggless Hot Cross Buns
Category : Yeast breads
Time taken : 40 minutes active time and at least 3 hours inactive time
1 tbsp instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 tbsp ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp water | Egg replacer
50 grams melted butter
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus some more for dusting
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp Chinese all spice powder
1/2 cup black raisins
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp all purpose flour + 2 tbsp cold water - For piping the crosses
3 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp water - For sugar glaze
Step One - Preparing flaxseed puree
Mix the flaxseed meal* and 3 tbsp water in a small saucepan, whisk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and transfer into a large mixing bowl.
*Take a cup of flax seeds in the mixer and dry grind to a fine powder. You can buy flax seeds from Fabindia organics if your local grocer does not stock it.
Step Two - Activating the yeast
To the mixing bowl, add the yeast, all of the milk, 2 tsp sugar. Whisk well and keep covered in a warm place for around 10 minutes, till it has frothed up like beer.
Step Three - Preparing the dough and proving
Add the melted butter, remaining sugar, spices into the yeast mixture. Sift the flour into the bowl along with the salt. Add the raisins. Knead all the above into a dough, which will be sticky at this stage. Remove the dough to a dusted clean surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place this in a well oiled bowl, cover this with a cling wrap. Wrap the bowl in a large tea towel and keep in a warm place ( I place it inside the microwave oven) for around an hour to let the dough double in volume.
Step Four - First knock-down
This part is adapted from the BBC recipe where the dough is allowed to rise three times, in total. The risen dough is punched down, removing all the air by folding it on itself several times and then pressing down with knuckles. Shape again into a ball and place in an oiled bowl for a second rise. Cover and rest the bowl for 40 minutes or so, till dough is double in volume.
Step Five - Second knock down and shaping
Knock down the dough as explained above and shape into 12 equal balls. Line a rectangular 9 X 12 inch baking tin [I used one 9X9 and baked a second batch of 3 in a loaf tin, as I have a small counter top oven] and place the balls side by side.
Cover and let this rise for 15-20 minutes. They will puff up and invading on the neighbouring bun's territory, filling up the tray beautifully.
Step Six - Crossing the buns and baking
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240 Celsius and prepare Pour this into a piping bag fitted with a very small nozzle. I used a plastic milk bag and made a small diagonal nick one of the corners. Pipe a cross in the center of each bun and bake for 10 minutes or so, until the buns are golden brown on the top and well puffed up.
Step Seven - Glazing
While the buns are baking, prepare the sugar glaze. Dissolve 3 tbsp sugar in 2 tbsp water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and keep it simmering until the solution has thickened.
Once the buns are out of the oven, brush them with glaze while still hot and let them cool off before removing from pan.
OK, I must confess that since I was making them for the first time, I was very eager to try out if they came anywhere close to the yummy hot cross buns I'd eaten at Gaylord's - a cafe in Churchgate that also sells amazingly fresh baked goodies - hot cross buns and chocolate easter eggs sell like 'hot cakes' at this time of the year. I did not wait until they cooled completely, and i felt that although the buns had risen very very well, felt incredibly soft and the colour was perfect, it could have been a bit drier on the inside. Also this could be due to my inexperience in baking with all purpose flour. But taste wise, they were wonderful - just the right sweetness and very cinnamony!
After a quick chat with Meeta, I decided to leave them out and not dare to bake them a second time - but toasting them before eating for a better texture. I did manage to take these to our friends' place later in the evening and I was glad to hear words of praise from our friend who is a very well known caterer specialising in Parsi food.
I would love to make these again, for friends - as I am not a big fan of all purpose flour. I will reduce the quantity of milk by 1/4th cup as the dough became quite difficult to shape and handle towards the end, and I could not slash the cross on them either - had to be satisfied with the piped crosses. Our chef friend also pointed out that the buns would have turned out drier inside, had I used egg. So next time, I will use the one egg after all.
Update: My dear friend Meeta has posted her version too, with absolutely inspiring pictures. She made them before I did, but i beat her to posting it :)
These buns go to Bread Baking Day # 8 hosted by Susan of the Wild Yeast Blog.