Easter recipe: Cranberry, Chocolate and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by the lovely folks at Hartley Jam (via the equally lovely folk at Havas) to take part in their hot cross bun challenge.

With a little bit of time on my hands, I decided to take part. However, I’m not a big fan of dried fruit so hot cross buns don’t often feature in the things I love about Easter. Honestly, when there’s so much chocolate doing the rounds, why would anyone go “oooh, I really fancy a delicious fruity bun instead of a chunk of an Easter egg?” Not me, that’s for shizz.

I received in the post a beautifully wrapped basket filled with ingredients with which to make my buns, which gave me flashbacks to my baby PR days where you’d be expected to be some sort of wrapping whizz to give media gifts or invitations that ‘wow’ factor. You’ve heard of kerbside appeal, this is desk appeal. It’s like that bit in Bridesmaids, where the invitation to the bridal shower included live butterflies. This one didn’t, thankfully, I’m not sure how I would have incorporated live butterflies into my final dish.

The beautifully wrapped basket
The beautifully wrapped basket
And the basket contents
And the basket contents

The basket contained flour, sugar, yeast, mixed spice, a bottle of Hartley’s Jam and a supermarket gift voucher to spend on the additional ingredients needed. Given that I hadn’t been sent dried fruit, I decided that I’d create something that didn’t include raisins or currants. So that’s what I’ve done. Recipe below, with pictures because it looked so pretty. Today is the day to traditionally eat Hot Cross Buns so that’s what I’ve done. Just three so far. I think I need a nap.

And the final bake

Cardamom, lemon, cranberry and chocolate hot cross buns

  • 200ml milk
  • 4 cardamom pods (broken slightly)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 sachet (7g) of easy fast action yeast
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 450g bread flour (I was sent plain flour but had bread flour in my cupboard)
  • 100g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5tsp ground ginger
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Put the milk, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, cardamom pods and saffron into a small pan and bring to the boil gently. Once this happens, take it off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 30 mins. Once it’s cooled to hand temperature, strain it into a bowl and add one tablespoon of the sugar and the yeast and stir. Take two of the eggs and beat them.

Put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the rest of the sugar, the salt and the ginger and give it a good mix. Create a well in the centre, then pour in the beaten eggs and the milk. Bring the dough together and tip onto a very lightly floured board and knead. Knead like your life depends on it, it takes a good 10 minutes. It’s quite therapeutic.

Once it’s smooth and elastic, put it into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and put somewhere warm till it’s at least doubled in size – this took about 1.5 hours on top of a radiator on low.

Before the rise

And after

Whilst it’s rising, zest the lemon and mix with the chocolate chips and cranberries and put to one side.

Once risen, drop the dough onto a lightly greased board and give it a quick knead, then stretch it a little. Sprinkle the chocolate/cranberry/lemon mix over the top then give the dough another knead to incorporate.

The dough with sprinkled topping All incorporated

Divide the dough into twelve equal sized balls (I was a massive geek and weighed, then worked out how much each ball should weigh, so I weighed those too) and put on a lined baking sheet. Cut a small cross in the top of each of them.

Before the second rise

Leave these to double in size again – this only took about 45 minutes. In the meantime, heat the oven to gas mark 6/200c

Beat the remaining egg and make the paste for your crosses. This was about 5 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons of water but was probably a little thin (as you’ll see from the less than perfect crosses) so maybe thicken it up a little till it feels like it’ll hold its shape.

Crosses. Bad crosses.

Once the buns are doubled, brush with the egg and pipe the cross onto the top. Bake for about 20 mins, till the top is golden. Once they come out of the oven, brush the top with a little sugar syrup. It just makes them look pretty. It’s not essential.

Obviously, I enjoyed these with a light spreading of Hartley’s Strawberry Jam and bloody good it was too. Someone somewhere suggested them with cheddar cheese, which I think sounds amazing and basically dinner so that’s what I’ll be eating tonight.

Thanks Hartley's

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