The secret to melt-in-your-mouth hot cross buns? It's a twist on the unexpected
The scent of anything worth eating will be noticed long before clasping eyes upon it and hot cross buns straight from the oven in Cork’s Firehouse Bakery certainly fit into that category.
The enriched yeast buns, which are believed to ward away the devil and cement rocky friendships, are synonymous with Easter time and on, Heir Island, artisan baker Patrick Ryan is hard at work knocking up hundreds of seasonal treats before the rest of us even awaken.
“This morning was a bit manic with an order for 270 buns but it’s to be expected this time of year and it’s great to be so busy,” he said.
While turning a nose up at the toasted traditional hot cross bun slathered with butter would never be a recommendation, Firehouse’s offering this Spring is a twist on the expected.
“The traditional hot cross bun is laden with fruits and spices but we always use mince meat left over from Christmas," Patrick said.
“My Uncle Paul is a chef and we make sure to make a little bit more to carry us through to Easter for the buns. His recipe has a lot of brandy and rum which is always a good addition."
While Patrick’s recipe can be made with the dry alternative, fresh yeast is preferable to achieve a real Firehouse experience.
“If you ask any good baker they will be happy to give you 50g or 100g of fresh yeast, which will keep for three weeks in the fridge. Most of them are pretty cool and it’s always great to use it.
“Polish shops are also a great spot to seek out fresh yeast as Poland has a much bigger bread culture than we have here, although we are getting better,” said the baker.
Patrick Ryan with the Firehouse Bakery goods
Despite the popularity of the bakery’s artisan breads and this week’s cross-piped buns, the rules of traditional baking are made to be broken.
“The great thing about most recipes is that they are merely a guideline. Of course we think our hot cross buns are great, but there’s so many variations you could make.
“Hot cross buns are a great way to use up the items in the back of your cupboard. Cherries or apricots would be great. If you like more cinnamon, go for it or if you want less cloves just omit them. That’s what makes baking as exciting as it is.”
‘Half for you, half for me, between us two, goodwill shall be’, wishes the old rhyme and Patrick reckons that breaking buns with friends this Easter is the way to do it.
“There’s loads of stories and traditions surrounding hot cross buns but sharing your baking with others can be the best part of the experience. I recommend eating the buns straight from the oven or toasted with real butter. You can’t go wrong,” he chimed.
Firehouse Bakery’s Hot Cross Buns
(Makes 10 buns)
Hot Cross Buns
500g strong white flour
50g caster sugar
5g / 1 tsp salt
10g fresh yeast or 1 tsp of dried yeast
175g Spiced fruit ( We use our mince meat from Christmas which works great but feel free to create your own. A mix of sultanas, raisins and currents marinated in orange and lemon juice along with some cinnamon and clove works great. Allow to marinade at least overnight)
Hot Cross Paste
30g icing sugar
'Hot cross buns are a great way to use up the items in the back of your cupboard' - Patrick Ryan
*Mix together the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Rub in the softened butter with your fingertips and make a well in the flour.
*Crumble the yeast into the milk so that it dissolves and pour the milk along the egg into the well. Bring the dough together with your hands or with a spatula. This is quite a soft, supple dough. If it feels a little wet and sticky don't panic, just stay with it and be persistent.Avoid the temptation to add extra flour. A mixer with the dough hook attachment can be used if needed.
*Turn the dough out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes. Just as you reach the windowpane stage, add the mincemeat to the dough and gently knead for a few minutes to distribute the fruit. We simply want the fruit to be evenly distributed without having it all broken up. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove for about 90 minutes.
*Once the dough has doubled in size turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knock back.
Tip: Whilst warm, brush each bun with a simple sugar glaze (150Ml water, 150g caster sugar) to add a wonderful shine and finger licking stickiness to each.
*Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces for your buns, form into rolls and place on a non-stick baking tray or a tray lined with parchment leaving enough room between to allow each bun to prove and grow without touching . Leave to prove again for 60 to 80 minutes or until doubled in size.
*Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 then make up the paste for the crosses by mixing together the flour, sugar in a bowl. The paste needs to be of a piping consistency. Brush each bun with a beaten egg, spoon the paste into a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.
*Bake the buns at 190°C for 16 to 18 minutes, until rich golden in colour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Whilst warm, brush each bun with a simple sugar glaze (150Ml water, 150g caster sugar) to add a wonderful shine and finger licking stickiness to each.
See more on The Firehouse website