Update This recipe includes a mixture of spices that resembles the Mixed Spice that we used in the UK but don’t find here in Canada. An alternative is to use 3½ teaspoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice.
Tastier than store-bought, we enjoy these traditional hot cross buns at Easter and all year round! I have to thank Paul Hollywood of The Great British Bakeoff for the idea of adding an apple to the recipe. It adds to the flavour and gives them a softer, more moist, texture.
I use a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook but you can knead by hand if you prefer.
If you store your yeast in the fridge, take it out first and allow it to warm to room temperature. Chop the mixed peel and the apple into small cubes, grate the zest of an orange into the mixture, and put to one side.
Weigh out the salt, sugar, and yeast, and add to the flour in the mixer bowl, putting the yeast and the salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Then add the sultanas and the fruit that you chopped up, as well as the spices. Mix all these dry ingredients together. (This allows the flour to coat the fruit and prevent it sticking together.)
Soften the butter, warm the milk to about 100°F (40°C), and then add the butter and a whisked egg to the milk, and stir. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix on speed 1 until it is all evenly mixed. This only takes about a minute. Then mix on speed 2 for another 8 minutes. While this is kneading, lightly oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.
The dough should now be smooth, the sides of the bowl should be clean, and the dough should come off the dough hook without sticking. Tip it out onto a lightly floured (or oiled) surface and shape it into a ball. Put it into the oiled bowl, make sure there's a coating of oil over the whole dough, and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
Leave it to rise until it's at least doubled in size.* At room temperature, this should take a minimum of an hour but it's fine to leave it for 2–3 hours. The longer the better – it improves the flavour.
While waiting, prepare a large baking tray – line with baking parchment.
Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by folding it in on itself a few times. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll each portion into a smooth ball. (To do this, flatten the dough with your hand flat, then moving your hand in a circular motion, gradually lift the palm while leaving the finger tips on the work surface, forming a cage around the dough. Do this quite quickly.)
Place the dough balls on the baking tray, laid out four by three, about an inch apart. This will give them room to grow so that they’re almost touching after proving. (You want them to join up when baking so that you have to tear them apart when finished.) Cover with a tea towel, or place inside a clean plastic bag, and leave to prove for about an hour. You can tell when they're ready when they've doubled in size again and the dough springs back readily if you poke it gently with your finger.
Before the end of the hour, preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5
For the crosses
Mix the flour and water into a paste and add to a piping bag with a fine nozzle. Make one half of the crosses by piping across each row of buns in one sweep, starting on the tray and finishing each sweep on the tray at the other side. When all the buns are piped in one direction, turn the tray and repeat, forming the crosses.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
For the glaze
Warm the apricot jam with a teaspoon of boiling water and brush over the tops of the buns while they’re still warm.
Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Unless you can't wait, freeze the buns and defrost when needed.
It's not easy to accurately divide the dough into 12 equal portions. I weigh the bowl with the risen dough in it, turn out the dough and then weigh the bowl again. The difference is the weight of the dough. Divide that by 12 and then weigh each portion as you cut it, adding or subtracting bits of dough until they're approximately right. With this recipe they worked out to be about 103g (3⅔ oz) each
* Doubled in size means doubled in volume. This means that if the dough is in the shape of a ball, the diameter increases by about 25%.
100g (3½ oz) good dark chocolate (minimum of 50% cocoa solids), finely chopped*
55g (2 oz) butter (¼ cup, or ½ stick)
For the decoration
14g (½ oz) good dark chocolate*
14g (½ oz) milk chocolate*
14g (½ oz) white chocolate*
a few gold foil or coloured chocolate mini eggs
*I love to use Lindt
A 20.5cm (8 inch) round cake tin, buttered and lined with parchment around the sides and on the bottom
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (gas mark 4)
Gently melt the butter in a pan, then set to one side to cool slightly.
Measure the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk using an electric hand mixer or food mixer at high speed until the mixture is pale, mousse-like and thick enough to leave a trail when the whisk is lifted from the mixture.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder together in a separate bowl.
Stir the vanilla essence. into the cooled butter.
Carefully fold half the flour into the egg mixture, then gently pour half the cooled butter around the edge of the mixture and fold in. Repeat with the remaining flour and butter. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 40 minutes until well risen and the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and cool on a wire rack.
For the filling
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Remove the bowl and leave to cool for 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl beat the cream cheese until it is really soft. Then add the butter and beat until well combined and creamy. A food mixer does this really well. Beat in the icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cooled chocolate. Don’t over beat the mixture at this stage or it will become stiff. It should be a fudgy consistency.
Cut the cake in half horizontally and sandwich together with the filling. Return the cake to the wire rack.
For the icing
Melt the butter and half the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir gently until combined. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining chocolate. Stir gently until it has melted and the icing is smooth. Leave to cool.
Put a plate under the cake on the wire rack and pour the icing over the cake, letting it run down the sides. Completely cover the sides by spooning a little chocolate round the top rim of the cake so it runs down the sides to fill in any gaps. Any chocolate that has dripped onto the plate below the rack can be reused for this.
Leave for at least 30 minutes to set.
For the decoration
To make the chocolate swirls, grate the dark chocolate onto a saucer using a swivel potato peeler. If the chocolate is hard, soften it a little by putting it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds. Repeat with the milk and white chocolate on separate saucers.
Sprinkle all three types of chocolate swirls over the top of the icing to decorate.
To finish, carefully place a few chocolate eggs on the top.