Sugar Free Hot Cross Buns
I love a fluffy bun at Easter time but I just really don’t like sultanas and so many have these in them! Also dried fruit does still contain sugar from fructose – I found this amazing product called Crasins (from our local Pak ‘n’ Save) which have 50% less sugar that normal dried fruit has – total winner (plus I love cranberries). So this recipe is free of refined sugar and uses spices and dried fruit for sweetness.
My disclaimer with this recipe is that it is very much a labour of love! The process involved in proving the dough is very time consuming and takes some understanding (especially for a busy mum with children who just cannot wait for their hot cross buns) so please file this one under ‘advanced’. Also, because they don't contain the preservatives of the store brought ones they are best eaten straight out of the oven or the very next day.
I personally love the methodical process of kneading and proving dough but I know when I had a newborn this would have just been too hard – so for those that look at this and go it’s in the too hard basket don’t worry check out my next blog on how to have a healthy Easter...chocolate included!
Prep time – 5-10 minutes, total cooking time (including proving time) 4 hours.
4 cups of high-grade flour
1 x 7g packet of yeast or 1 heaped tsp of easy yeast blend
Pinch of salt
1 Cup of Full milk
2-3 tsp of cinnamon
2-3 tsp of nutmeg
½ cup of crasins
½ cup of raisins
Olive oil (for the bowl)
Splash of milk
3 Tb flour
Water (to form paste)
1.To create a warm place I find it easiest to use the oven on its lowest temp (unless you have a window sill in hot sun). So just turn the oven to bake on about 40-60 degrees
2.In a large bowl add the flour, salt and yeast. Beat the egg in a separate bowl and set aside.
3.Heat the milk in a pot on the stove to blood temperature (should be able to put your finger in). Meanwhile melt the butter in the microwave. If you get distracted and the milk gets a bit hot (I had to change a nappy during this process). Just take the milk off the heat and into another container to cool down before adding to the dry mixture.
4.Make a well in the centre of the dry mixture. Add the butter to the milk and then add the milk mixture to the bowl. Pour in the egg.
Mix well with a spoon, then bring everything together with your hands until you have a sticky dough. On a lightly floured surface tip the dough and knead for at least 5 minutes - by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heal of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat this until smooth and elastic.
Note – the kneading is really important. If you find your buns at the end are really dense this is the process which creates the gluten and makes them fluffy. You may also experience little monkey's helping like I did which will interrupt the process - it’s ok that’s half the fun!
Lightly oil a bowl (to stop the dough sticking) and place in the kneaded dough. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in your oven/warm place for 1 hr or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent. You may want to turn the oven off at this point – it will be warm enough without the temperature on.
After the hour, keep the dough still in the bowl and tip in the dried fruit and spices. Gently knead into the dough. Cover with the cling film again and leave to rise for 1 hr more, or until doubled in size, The glad wrap stops the dough getting a crust.
When the dough is ready place it on a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into even pieces. I find it easy to shape the dough into a large rectangle and cut length-ways and then cut off rough squares (like a scone recipe). Roll each piece into a smooth ball in your hands and arrange onto a baking tray lined with non-stick paper. Make sure you leave enough space for the dough to expand. Score the crosses with a knife (this will be really helpful later). Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean tea towel, then set aside on the bench to prove for 1 hr more.
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Meanwhile break the egg into a small bowl and add a splash of milk mixing with a fork to make the glaze. Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make the paste for the cross – add the water 1 tbsp at a time, so you add just enough for a thick paste. When the buns have risen (or doubled in size) and a nearly touching brush with the glaze and then paint the crosses – you can do this using a piping bag or small teaspoon. I find a kids spoon which quite good for this!
Bake the buns for 20 mins on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.
Hint – check on them at about 10mins and you can quickly take them out and re-glaze/and re-cross to make them standout.
Enjoy warm and fresh with a decent amount of butter! Happy Easter.
xxx Dr Julie Bhosale