Cranberry, Pear & Dark Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

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Okay- I’ll come clean. I don’t actually like hot cross buns. Well- hot cross buns in the “traditional” sense. Dried fruits of sultanas, currants and raisins do absolutely nothing for me and hot cross buns I place firmly in the same category as Christmas Cake. I’ll accept them to be civil, I’ll bake them to experiment and I’ll eat them under duress. So it only seems fitting that this Easter season I come up with something  a lot more palatable, even to the those of us prone to outbursts of “inyaphobia” (yes, it’s a thing I jest you not…Google it).

I can’t quite put a finger on where my malaise with dried fruit comes from. It probably has its roots, like all else culinary for me, in my childhood and my mother’s kitchen. Each festive season, whether it be Easter, Christmas or Halloween was heralded with a routine palette of sensory ticks…the flat clanging of baking trays on kitchen surfaces, the heady scent of dried fruit steeping in brandy, cold tea or whatever liquid was to hand, and the frequent blistering blasts of heat from oven. It’s the smell of the dried fruit steeping that sticks with me, permeating memory as much as clothing. Like anything in life familiarity breeds contempt, and boy did my mother like a fruit cake!

Hence my deviation from hot cross buns with their traditional sultana/mixed peel combination. Instead I give you an almost “regal” combination of cranberries and pear (yes, I’m aware they’re dried too but far more tolerable in my view) laced with dark chocolate chunks. Chocolate makes everything better. Except fish- that’s just wrong! So best you stick to making these hot cross buns instead.

*This recipe has been revised in April 2020 to include measurements/ quantities and ingredient names as suitable for Canada and the US. Throughout the recipe I still refer to the ingredients as they were originally drafted.

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Ingredients
500g/ 4 cups All Purpose/ Plain flour
85g/ 1/3 cup (caster) sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice powder (if you don’t have this you can use pumpkin spice mix)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
10g/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
14g/ 2 1/4 teaspoons fast-action dried yeast
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
40g/ 2 tablespoons butter
300ml/ 1 1/4 cups whole fat milk
1 egg, beaten
65g/ 1/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in

2 tablespoons orange juice
65g/ 1/3 cup dried pear, chopped into small pieces
65g/ 40z dark chocolate/ semi-sweet chocolate, chopped in small/ medium chunks

Cross marking
50g/ 1/2 cup All Purpose/ Plain flour
80ml/ 1/3 cup cold water

Glaze
2 tbspn golden syrup/ light corn syrup

Method

  1. Line a baking sheet/ tray with baking parchment and set aside for later
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Make sure the salt and yeast are on opposite sides of the bowl
  3. In a pan combine the milk, vanilla extract and butter. Heat over a medium/low heat until the butter has melted. Allow the mixture to cool until tepid
  4. Add 1/3 the tepid milk mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the beaten egg. and use your hands to bring the mixture together. Add in the second 1/3 of the milk mixture and continue forming a dough, taking any stray flour from the sides of the bowl
  5. Finally, slowly add the remaining milk until you form a soft pliable dough. Take note here as you may not need all of the milk
  6. Tip the dough out on to a lightly oiled work surface. Knead by hand for about 7-8 minutes. After this time add the fruit and chocolate chunks into the dough and continue to lightly knead for 3-4 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic dough and the fruit & chocolate has been incorporated (*If you are using a stand mixer please see the note below)
  7. Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it, covering with oiled cling film and leave to rest in a warm place until doubled in size (apx 1 hour)
  8. Tip the dough on to a lightly oiled surface and divide into 12 balls. (I usually do this by rolling it into a thick sausage shape, apx 40cms long. Divide into 2, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces and roll them into balls)
  9. Place the balls on the tray, placing them fairly close together and flattening them slightly
  10. Cover the baking tray with oiled cling film and leave for an hour until the balls have doubled in size
  11. Preheat the oven to 350F/170C degrees
  12. For the cross marking, combine the flour and water in a bowl. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into an icing bag
  13. When the buns have risen remove the tray from the bag, snip the end of the piping bag (making a hole about 3mm) and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking trays round halfway through

*If you are using a stand mixer for the dough, attach the dough hook and follow steps as follows

  • Combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Make sure the salt and yeast are on opposite sides of the mixer bowl
  • Follow Steps 4 & 5 above to combine the liquid
  • Continue to knead in the mixer for 5 minutes
  • After 5 minutes remove the dough from the mixer, add  the dried fruit & chocolate chunks and continue to lightly knead until you have a smooth, elastic dough and the fruit & chocolate has been incorporated (apx 3-4 minutes)
  • Proceed to Step 7 above and follow remainder of method as above

To finish

  1. Warm the golden syrup in a pan and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with a little syrup to glaze. Return to the wire rack and allow to cool.
  2. Serve with fresh butter. They can be lightly warmed in an oven for tasty seasonal breakfast treat. Enjoy!

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