Hot Cross Bread

Hot Cross Bread

Tomorrow I launch my first recipe ebook, The Isolated Kitchen. Self-publishing a recipe book containing 20+ recipes in less than three weeks is not how I planned on doing my first book, but as I found myself without work due to COVID-19 related issues and on a 21-day lockdown in South Africa, I had to act quickly and make a plan to financially support myself over the next few months. It’s a very scary time for everyone, especially freelancers like me who rely on contract work which disappeared within a week once the local lockdown plans were announced.

In times of stress and crisis, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Cooking and baking are therapeutic for me, so The Isolated Kitchen isn’t just about recipes which make use of the pantry items and groceries I had on hand. As a sneak-peek into The Isolated Kitchen, and the fact that it’s Good Friday tomorrow, I decided to release a preview recipe ahead of the planned launch.

Hot Cross Bread

I absolutely love hot cross buns, especially when they're toasted and slathered with salty butter, white cheddar and honey. Decadent, I know, but I reserve this kind of savagery for Easter time. Cooked raisins are also not my favourite, so if I can get all of the above without them, even better! If you absolutely must have raisins, currants or any other kind of dried fruit, see the notes below. I won't judge you, promise - just give the white cheddar and honey thing a go.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp all-spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cups lukewarm milk
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs
  • 80g butter, cubed and at room temperature


Paste for crosses

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. Sunflower oil
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp smooth apricot jam

METHOD

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, salt and spices. Whisk to remove any lumps.
  2. Place the lukewarm milk in a small bowl and sprinkle over the dried yeast. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes, until it begins to foam slightly.
  3. Whisk the eggs into the milk and yeast mixture. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the milk mixture into it. Using a wooden spoon, combine until it forms a rough dough. Tip the mixture out on to a clean surface.
  4. Add the butter cubes and knead the dough with your hands for about 10 minutes, until it’s lovely and smooth.
  5. Form dough into a ball and place back in the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and allow to prove in a warm place for 1.5-2 hours, until doubled in size.
  6. While the dough is proving, grease and flour a loaf tin and set aside.
  7. Once the dough has finished proving, knock it back by gently punching it in the centre and bring it back into a ball. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape into short sausages.
  8. Place each of the sausages upright and next to one another in the tin, two by two. Cover the tin with the tea towel and allow to prove for another 45-60 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  10. While the loaf is proving, make the paste for the top of it by combining the 1/4 cup of flour, oil and cold water until you have a smooth paste. Pour into a small piping bag.
  11. Once the bread has finished proving, pipe two long lines across the top of the domes, and then cross each of them with four shorter lines. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden.
  12. While the bread is still hot, warm apricot jam and whisk until it's smooth and runny-ish, then glaze the top of the bread with the back of a spoon or basting brush.
  13. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

NOTES

If you think I'm a total heathen for excluding dried fruit or candied peel in this recipe, fear not, I've included the option for you. You can add up to 150-200g of the stuff to the dough after the first prove - just flatten the dough out, sprinkle whatever you want to add to it over the top and gently fold and knead it all into the dough. Continue with shaping into sausages as per the above method.
Dark chocolate bits and chopped nuts would also be absolutely delicious instead of dried fruit.
If you're able to find any citrus fruit like oranges or grapefruit, which I wasn't, you can also add the zest of one or two along with the dried fruit if you'd like.
Besides slicing and toasting (and eating with cheese + honey), this bread will make excellent french toast and bread & butter pudding.

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