Hot cross buns are one of those things that I never really missed in Poland, until I realised that it was impossible to buy them here. And since Easter is just around the corner, I have been craving these traditional, sticky sweet treats like never before.
First, wrap your head around the fact that these babies will take roughly three hours of your life to complete. If you can deal with that, start hunting for the ingredients. British recipes always call for something called ‘mixed spice,’ and while that’s not available in Poland, it doesn’t take a genius to mix together some spices and get basically the same result. However, do note that ground allspice (ziele angielskie) is a pain to find, so you might have to wrap a few in a kitchen towel and bang away with your schabowy mallet (meat tenderiser) until you get as fine a powder as possible.
For the dried fruit, use whatever you like and can find (the standard is currants and candied peel). I use a mix of raisins and dried cranberries.
The sugary crosses in this recipe are yummy but mean you can’t pop these in the toaster later (plus they may be too sweet for some). I sometimes put crosses on half of the buns, and leave the rest plain for toasting later.
1 sachet (7g) dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
200ml warm milk
450g (approx 3 3/4 cups) flour
1 1/2 tsp spices (e.g. 3/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp nutmeg)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup dried fruit
60g (approx 4 tbsp) butter, melted
1 beaten egg
1 beaten egg
1 tbp milk
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tbsp milk
Photo: Mateusz Majewski
Mix the yeast, milk and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar together in a cup and allow the mix to sit for about 10 minutes so that it becomes frothy. In the meantime, mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg, yeasty milk, and melted butter. Slowly incorporate into the dry ingredients. Throw in the dried fruit. Once it’s all mixed together, transfer the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface and get to work kneading for at least five minutes. Once the dough is smooth and stretchy, transfer it into a large, greased (just rub a knob of butter along the inside walls) bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for an hour to an hour and a half. Once it has doubled in size, throw it back onto that floured surface and knead it back down to its original size. Divide the dough into 12 portions, rolling each between your hands to create a little ball. Place the balls onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and loosely cover once again with plastic wrap. Leave to rise for another half an hour and start heating your oven to 200ºC.
Once your buns have risen, brush them with a little egg wash (mix the beaten egg and milk together) with a fancy pastry brush or just using your fingers. Cut a shallow cross into each bun. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
It’s not over yet! While the buns are baking, mix together the powdered sugar, vanilla sugar and milk to make a paste. Put this in a piping bag (or just a clean plastic bag with the corner cut off) and pipe an X onto each bun once they are cool. Brew a nice cup of coffee, kick back, and enjoy your Easter treat!