As it gets closer to Easter I find myself more and more inclined to both eat and bake buns. In the UK, like many other places, we have hot cross buns at Easter: spiced buns with a pastry cross on top traditionally made with mixed spice, currants and mixed peel. I love them. These days there are all sorts of variations that include chocolate, ginger, cranberries, coffee and so on. Essentially they are flavoured buns with a cross on top. I am teaching an Easter baking course this week, how to make hot cross buns and traditional Easter biscuits, so I am using it as an excuse to make lots of buns. Last year I tried making cranberry and dark chocolate hot cross buns. While they were delicious, they just weren’t quite right with a cross. I wasn’t convinced then and I’m still not so these apricot and dark chocolate buns will be staying uncrossed in my house. Let me know what you choose to do with yours!
This is a very wet and sticky dough so if you have a mixer with a dough hook I would recommend using it, but you definitely don’t need to.
450g strong white flour
20g fresh yeast or 1½ teaspoons dried yeast
1 tablespoon mixed spice
125g dried apricots, chopped
50g dark chocolate chips
Put the milk and butter into a saucepan and heat very gently, until the butter has just melted. Leave to one side to cool.
Put the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer and either mix in the dried yeast or rub in the fresh yeast.
Add the sugar and the mixed spice and mix in.
Do not add the salt until you are ready to add the liquid and eggs.
When the milk is tepid, add the salt to the flour mixture and then add the milk and eggs.
Using a dough hook, knead the dough for around five minutes, until the mixture is smooth and silky. You can also do this by hand but it will take longer.
Put the dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm.
Leave until doubled in size.
When the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a clean surface and add the chopped apricots and chocolate chips.
Knead until they are evenly mixed in.
Put the dough back into the bowl and cover again with the clingfilm.
Leave again to prove.
When the dough has risen again, tip out onto a floured surface and knead very briefly.
Divide the dough into twelve equal amounts and shape each one into a round bun.
Place quite close together on an oiled baking tray in three rows of four and cover with a tea towel. Allow to rise again.
Set the oven to 220ᵒC (fan oven 200ᵒC).
If you want to turn these into hot cross buns, now is the time to add the cross. Mix around 100g plain flour with enough water to make a paste with the consistency of toothpaste. Using a piping bag with a small round nozzle, pipe a line across the middle of the buns across each row and then down each column as well to create crosses.
Bake for around 10-12 minutes, until well browned and they sound hollow when tapped on the base.
Remove from the oven and put onto a wire cooling rack.
Using a pastry brush, brush apricot jam over the top of the buns while they are still hot.
Delicious any time of the year.