Saturday, 26 March 2016


Easter baking is the best, and this year I decided to try something new. Something I always said I'd leave to Mary Berry and Tesco Finest - hot cross buns.
Oh yes, this year I thought I'd make up something that normally I'd buy in a packet. And believe me when I say I genuinely cannot make bread. I've tried, I really have. I've attempted every Jamie Oliver recipe under the sun, and somehow I still can't get the darn dough to rise. So the fact that these look and taste like the real deal means that if I can do it, you can too.

Why are they 'cheat' buns? Because I took out as many of the fiddly steps as possible, and I've taken a shot of each and every little thing I did, because I find it's easier to keep up if there's photos. Give it a go and let me know how you get on!

*500g white flour (plus more for dusting)
*1tsp salt
*75g caster sugar
*1x sachet of dried yeast, mixed with 100ml lukewarm water
*50g unsalted butter
*250ml milk
*50g raisins
*1.5tbsp cinnamon powder
*4tbsp marmalade (with the peel pieces in)
*2-3tbsp apricot jam

Mix together the sachet of dried yeast with around 100ml of lukewarm water. You don't want the water to be too hot, or it'll kill the yeast before it has the chance to activate. I put it in a proving drawer, but if you don't have one of them, leave it to froth up somewhere warm, like the laundry room. You can see from the first to the second shot how quickly the yeast will rise (they were taken 5 minutes apart!).

While the yeast is busy activating, get your dry ingredients ready. Put the flour, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir together.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, ready to tip the wet ingredients into. In a microwave, heat the milk until warm, then melt the butter completely as well, and pour the two together into a jug. Leave to cool for a few minutes, because if you add it too hot then the egg will just scramble.

Pour the milk and butter mix into the well you made, then crack in the egg. Combine it all together with a large spoon until it becomes thick and sticky - then you'll need to do the rest by hand.

Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and start kneading it all together. This will take around 5 minutes, so be prepared to put in some work. If the mixture is seriously sticky and impossible to work with, don't worry, just add more flour. Try and use as little extra flour as possible, as this means the dough won't be quite so heavy.

Keep on kneading and pulling at the dough until it starts to feel smooth and elastic-y. It shouldn't stick to the surface, and it should have a nice sheen to it. Use your hands to shape it into a large ball.

Grease a large bowl with a drop of vegetable oil then cover with cling film (also rubbed down with a bit of oil - as when the bread rises, this will stop it sticking to it). Leave to rise for 1 hour in the proving drawer, or laundry room. Do make sure it's somewhere warm though or it won't rise.

After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size and feel light and airy. Take it out of the bowl and spread it out on the surface - no need to roll it, this is a cheat's guide, and we don't need to waste time on perfect dough thickness. Just pull it into a rough rectangle with your fingers, then sprinkle over the raisins, cinnamon and blobs of marmalade.
Other recipes tell you to use orange peel and zest, but marmalade has done it for you! Chopping time saved.

Combine it all together then roughly form it into a ball and put it back into the bowl, recovering it with greased cling film. Don't worry, the dough will feel wetter at this point because of the marmalade, but that's fine. Put it back somewhere warm for another hour.

Once the dough has risen again, take it out and sprinkle the work surface with some more flour. Use your fingers to create medium-sized balls, weighing something like 75g each. But cheat's guide, so, you know - shape 'em as big as you want, or as I did it - shape them to fit the only clean cooking dish I had.
If the balls are too sticky to shape into nice balls, roll them around in the flour and then shape them. Put each of them into a lightly greased baking dish, leaving a bit of room between each. I made 9 buns, but depending on how you sized them, you might make around 12.

Last time, I promise - cover with another sheet of cling film and leave to rise in the warmth for around 20 minutes. Turn your oven onto 200°C fan/220°C normal, in prep.


To make them official hot cross buns, you need the cross. To do this, just mix around 4tbsp of white flour with enough water to turn it into a thick paste. Don't make it too runny, because you're about to put it in a piping bag.

Don't have one? No probs, take a sandwich bag and make a tiny hole in one of the bottom corners, then fold down the sides and spoon in the paste. Use it to make crosses on each of the buns.

Put them into the heated oven for around 20 minutes, until golden. Mine are a little TOO golden because I have a freakishly hot oven, so just keep an eye on them after 15 or so minutes, and pull them out when the look done.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of apricot jam, then brush it over each of the buns. This makes them shine. Leave to cool, or don't. Eat them however you want. I like them with butter and some more jam.

The best part? Your family will be impressed at the giant tear and share buns, and all you really had to do was leave it while you watched three episodes of Pretty Little Liars.

I hope you all feel inspired to get baking yourselves. If you do, then share your snaps with me on my Insta: @zoes.101 - I'd love to see! Have a fab Easter, bunnies xx


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