Shhhh, I know it’s all kinds of wrong to bring up a baked good which appears for a very brief and very particular time of year but I have to tell you about these spiced fruit buns. They are in fact a hot cross bun without the cross which makes it an entirely justified recipe to discuss as we approach mid-June. What makes them a little bit more special is the addition of grated marzipan, using homemade mixed spice and whatever fruits you favour – dried cranberries and sultanas for me. And never underestimate the power of heating your dried fruit in the juice and zest of one sun kissed orange. Magic it is. Just look at the deep, rich orange hue the buns take on as they bake and the joins betwixt them pull apart.
I had every intention of making these in time for Easter but as it turned out, there were more than enough sweet and baked goods, not to mention chocolatey ones hanging around that I just could not make peace with my waist line and make these as well as all those other goodies. After I had chomped the last Mini Egg, it suddenly occurred to me – remove the cross and what you have is a sweet and spiced yeasted bun filled with dried fruits which is perfect breakfast fodder. Especially as the spice only intensifies on toasting and the fruit just becomes more jammy and juicy upon toasting, meaning you can enjoy them for two or three days if you split and toast them. Lashings of real butter whilst still hot are a must. Yes, there is nothing quite like simply ripping apart a freshly baked bun with the warm breath of the oven still kissing it and eating it, as it is, shortly after baking but toasting and buttering is hardly ever a let down.
The opportunity presented itself to bake these beauties when my folks came to visit for a long weekend. I know Step Mum loves them and whilst Daddums won’t budge from his porridge, banana and greek yogurt breakfast for any bun, he won’t turn one down even just the moment his breakfast has digested. They arrived just as the buns came out of the oven and the smell was just the most perfect aroma to welcome them back to the Apple Chapel. Yes there are glimpses of ginger cake, lemon drizzle friands, a rich rum soaked marzipan fruit cake and a landslide of simply the best British strawberries in the background of these pics but they were mostly packaged up for them to take home and share with their friends and some sweet toothed family members – my folks love to have friends over and operate an open house. I may be deluding myself to think that they will give away most of these, a selection of their favourite sweet treats but that’s quite a compliment as it stands! If you can’t celebrate breakfast when you have people you love over to stay, when can you?
If you are a bit worried about making what may appear at first glance to be a complicated pastry then please may your fears be allayed! These buns are made from a sweet, enriched bread dough – which means, a bread dough, with sugar, butter and eggs added. That’s not so hard, right? If you can make a simple white loaf, you can make these buns. You do do need to know the dried fruit and orange juice are so acidic they can retard the proving and must be added after the first prove or the dough may not rise at all. Speaks the voice of experience 😉 Milk can also retard the dough so all in alls, you need to set aside a few hours if you use ordinary rather than fast action yeast to allow sufficient time for the dough to rise. Once your dough is ready to shape the only other warning (such that it is) is to be wary of making the buns too large – they rise a lot on the final prove and in the oven grow further so if you aren’t careful you may have monster buns on your hands! I have fiddled and most importantly simplified a recipe from Annie Rigg in the Waitrose Magazine to make these buns. But really, once you get your head around making an enriched dough the sky is your limit in the sweet somethings you can create from it. A basic mix would be 500g bread flour, 10g yeast, 2tbsp sugar, 2 eggs, 50g soft butter, about 250ml milk or water/milk mix and 1/2 tsp salt. The rest is up to you.
If you want to make these for Easter and wish to adorn these with piped crosses, all you need to do is mix a couple of tablespoons of plain flour with enough cold water to produce an almost toothpaste like consistency then simply pipe lines across the buns with it. I use a piping bag with the end chopped off – about 3/4 of a cm for an opening will be perfect.
- 500g strong bread flour
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 10g fast action yeast
- 50g soft butter
- 1 rounded tbsp mixed spice
- 2 large eggs
- 200-225 mls milk (any you like)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 150g chilled then coarsely grated marzipan (an hour in the fridge should firm it up enough to grate easier)
- 225g in total of sultanas and dried cranberries (or substitute what you have in/like to eat best)
- The zest and juice of one orange
- First make your dough – it is easiest to make in a stand mixer as the dough is quite soft and a little sticky. It is possible to do by hand but be prepared to get messy!
- Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, mixed spice and salt together then add the butter and rub in well with your hands.
- Crack the eggs into the milk and beat to combine. Reserve 1-2 tbsp to glaze the buns with before baking (I put it in a small jar and refrigerate until needed). Pour the rest into the flour mixture very slowly, mixing with a spatula or the dough hook on your machine until you get a soft and sticky dough – it should not be sloppy so don’t add all the liquid unless you need to. Sometimes you may need to add a splash more milk – flour varies a lot and absorption of liquid will also be altered by the atmosphere so don’t worry if you need more or less than stated.
- Knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky, is springy to the touch and forms a ball nicely. Pop in a large greased bowl and cover with cling film or a towel, leaving in a warm spot to prove.
- Meanwhile, mix the dried fruits with the orange juice and zest and heat in a small saucepan until the fruits are plump and juicy. Two or three 30 second blasts in the microwave work too. However you do it, cover with cling once juicy and set aside until the dough has at least doubled in size.
- Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and deflate. Pat flat and top with the plump fruit and the grated marzipan – if there are any juices left from soaking the fruit I leave it up to you as to whether you add them too. You can work it into the dough but it makes for a messy affair! Fold the dough over and over and over again to distribute the fruit and marzipan as best you can. Roll up into a long sausage then portion into 16 balls – they will look small but they prove and cook up very big and puffy for the amount of dough per bun.
- Shape into small round balls, trying to ensure the fruit is kept within the dough as when it is on the outside, it can catch in the oven. Leave only a small gap between buns to encourage them to grow up not out. I use a nonstick baking tray.
- Cover again with foil and leave to prove one more time until doubled in size and puffy looking.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and glaze each bun gently with the reserved egg and milk mix.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are very well browned indeed with a delicate but dry crust. Leave to rest for 5-10 minutes in their tin on a baking rack then remove so their bottoms do not become soggy! Eat just warm as they are or split, toast and butter on subsequent days.