Did someone say Easter’s on the way? Pancake day is done and dusted, and I’m sure you’ve seen those chocolate eggs filling up the seasonal aisle in your local supermarket (Katie, I want the Mint Chocolate Lindor one please, if you hadn’t already guessed). Plus I’m basically living off those incredible Mini Egg yogurts that you can only get for three months of the year.
“Hey Google, add Mini Egg yogurts to the shopping list”.
Well, all of this Easter chocolate got me in the mood to bake something a little bit festive, and so my Hot Cross Bun Loaf was born.
What is a Hot Cross Bun?
Hot cross buns are an under-rated Easter bun of deliciousness. Traditionally they are a sweet little yeast bun made with dried fruit (usually raisins and currants), flavoured with spices, and topped with a flour paste cross. I’ve shared a recipe for hot cross buns on this blog before – check out my chocolate cherry hot cross buns recipe for a bit more of an idea as to what they’re supposed to look like (excuse the photos – they were taken yeaaaaaars ago).
Correct me if I’m wrong (and I probably am) but hot cross buns are usually eaten in the UK, as well as Australia and New Zealand, but haven’t really ever made it big across the pond in the States. Which is a travesty.
Oh, and check out this Australian bakery’s very smiley and not at all religious version – the Not Cross Bun. Adorable.
How to Make a Hot Cross Bun Loaf
Today’s recipe is a hot cross bun on steroids. Imagine a loaf of freshly baked white bread and a hot cross bun had an affair – this would be the resulting offspring.
It’s based on a standard white bread recipe, with a little less strong white flour and a little more all-purpose flour to keep things a bit lighter. Plus, all the standard ingredients you would expect to find in a hot cross bun – dried fruit, spices, orange and lemon zest, and that trademark flour cross on top.
The method below is for a bread maker, because I’m absolutely too lazy to make bread by hand now that I have my beloved Panasonic Bread Maker. If you haven’t already invested in a bread maker, then I seriously suggest you do because it will change your life, as well as saving your arms. It does all the mixing, rising, kneading, and even the baking for you! Just pop the ingredients in, set the program, and sit back and relax. Some models even come with a timer so you can pop the ingredients in before you go to sleep, and wake up to freshly baked bread in the morning.
Isn’t technology incredible?
Except there’s a catch. If you want to add the cute little flour crosses (or smiley faces, or whatever else you want to pipe on there) then you’re going to have to remove the dough from the bread maker before it gets to the baking stage, knead in the dried fruit, leave to rise in a loaf tin, pipe the flour decorations on, and then bake as you usually would in the oven.
If you’re not fussed about the crosses, then go ahead and bake the whole recipe in the bread maker. Mine has a handy little dispenser for adding fruit and nuts part way through the process, so if you’ve got this functionality on yours then definitely use it. And make sure to use a setting on your bread maker that allows for this.
I don’t have a bread maker
If you don’t have a bread maker, then that’s okay. The recipe below can be adapted to be made by hand. Just place the milk, butter, egg, flours, sugar, salt, spices, and zests into a large bowl (or in your stand mixer) and beat together until a dough forms. Knead on a floured surface for 10 mins or so, and then leave to rise for an hour in a bowl covered with a towel or clingfilm. Once doubled in size, add the dried fruit and peel by kneading in to the dough, and then shape into a loaf and place in a lined loaf pan. Leave to rise again for an hour, and then decorate and bake as per the recipe below.
Hot Cross Bun Loaf (Breadmaker Recipe)
For the bread
- 300 ml milk
- 75 g unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 250 g plain or all-purpose flour
- 250 g strong plain bread flour
- 50 g light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Zest of one large orange
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 teaspoons dried yeast suitable for breadmakers
- 175 g sultanas
- 175 g raisins
- 25 g mixed peel
For the decoration
- 2 tablespoons plain or all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam
- Place the milk, melted butter, and beaten egg into the bowl of your bread machine. Add the flour, sugar, salt, spices, and zest on top of the liquid. You will also need to add the yeast to the bowl, or to the yeast dispenser if your bread maker has one.
- Set the bread maker to a setting where it will mix and rise the dough, without baking it. Leave the bread maker to work until the dough is well risen. Whilst you are waiting, line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
- Remove the dough from the machine and place on a well floured surface. Knead the sultanas, raisins, and mixed peel into the dough. Place the dough into the pre-lined loaf tin and cover with a piece of lightly oiled clingfilm or plastic wrap. Leave somewhere warm to rise for one hour.
- About half an hour before the dough will be ready, preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F (180°C fan). To make the batter for the decoration, place the flour and milk into a small bowl and mix together well until you have a thick paste. Spoon this batter into a piping bag and set aside.
- Once the dough has almost doubled in size, remove the clingfilm or plastic wrap from the top of the loaf. Pipe a cross pattern on top of the loaf with the batter, and then place the loaf in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.
- Once the loaf has finished baking, remove from the tin fairly quickly and place on a wire rack. Heat the apricot jam in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, and then brush over the top of the warm loaf. Leave to cool completely.