Monday, 30 March 2020

Beatrix hot cross buns

Honestly, I thought I might be done with this blog. But then all of a sudden, the world turned upside down and all I can do to stay calm is cook. On Saturday I made hot cross buns. I left some outside the apartment of my 85 year old neighbour, tossed a ziplock bag containing four to a friend across our authorised divide of 1.5m on an exercise walk, and continued on to deposit another care package on the doorstep of someone dear to me who's self-isolating  on the other side of the park. I can't do much in the face of a global pandemic, but I can do that. 

I firmly believe there's no such thing as a bad hot cross bun. Squidgy or fluffy, sparsely fruited or dense with sultanas, I don't care, I like them all*. There may be, however, a superlative sort of hot cross bun and this is it. I'll say upfront I'm very partial to anything orange-flavoured - in colour and taste it's just so bright and friendly. These buns have not just a sweet citrussy glaze on top, but are made with a dough containing one whole puréed orange. The recipe comes from my favourite bakery, Beatrix, in Melbourne. As luck would have it, they just published a cookbook and it arrived in my letterbox as a gift on my birthday two weeks ago, back when everything was still sort of normal. I'm always nervous about anything involving yeast, but this worked out beautifully. Right now there's something soothing about a baking project that takes time: waiting for the first prove, and the second, then the immediate gratification of the buns freshly out of the oven. And the great pleasure that comes from sharing them, even when you can't do it in person.

If you're lucky enough to live in Melbourne, Beatrix is currently doing takeaway cake (as well as delicious sandwiches) so you might like to support them by ordering online and picking up, or popping in to see what's available. Check their Instagram for their latest offerings. 

* Actually, not true! I have no time for chocolate chips in hot cross buns. I know the sultana-averse are fond of them but I guess I'm a purist.

Beatrix hot cross buns
Adapted from a recipe in Beatrix Bakes by Natalie Paull

Natalie recommends tangelos as an alternative to oranges so if you spy them, snap them up. If you don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you could absolutely do all of this by hand. And if you don't have cooking oil spray, just use a little bit of vegetable oil on your hands to coat both proving dough/buns and baking tray.

the dough
2 large oranges
100g mixed currants and sultanas (or whatever combination of dried fruit you fancy, just chop up so it's a similar size to sultanas for even distribution)
520g flour
60g caster (superfine) sugar
175g/ml full-cream milk, boiled briefly, then cooled to room temperature
3 heaped tsp mixed spice
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 heaped tsp dried yeast (or 2 tsp heaped and firmly packed fresh yeast)
75g soft unsalted butter
cooking oil spray

the glaze
100g/ml water
100g caster (superfine) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one orange (reserved from 1 orange, above)

the cross
60g flour
1 tsp icing sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp vegetable oil
50g/ml water, room temperature

For the dough, begin by finely grating the zest and then juicing one of the oranges. Put the zest aside for the glaze and plump the dried fruit in 20g/ml of the juice. Trim the bottom of the second orange and chop into chunks, removing any seeds you see. Put them in a food processor and whiz up til you've got a pulpy purée. Weigh this - you'll need 250g, so make up any shortfall with the leftover juice from the first orange.

Mix the flour, sugar, spice and salt together in a bowl. Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle over the yeast and stir to dissolve. Tip the dry ingredients on top, then add the orange purée and softened butter.  Using the dough hook, mix on the second-lowest speed for about 10 minutes, til the dough has come together. Then with the mixer still going, add the dried fruit and their soaking juice and continue for another 5 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, mist the top of the dough with cooking oil spray and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a warm place (the top of the fridge is a good one) for an hour or so til it's double in size. This is the first prove.

Meanwhile, make the glaze by putting water, sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan and bringing to the boil. After 30 seconds, remove from the heat, let cool to room temperature, then add the orange zest. Set aside.

Lightly spray a heavy baking tray with cooking oil and line with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 190 deg C (375 deg F).

When your dough has proved and is soft and fluffy, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly press to knock it back (ie: deflate the gas). Divide into 12 roughly 95g pieces. Form each into balls and place in a 3 x 4 formation. Lightly mist with cooking oil spray, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for the second proof. This should take 30-50 minutes. 

While you're waiting, make your cross paste: measure flour, icing sugar, salt, oil and water in a bowl and mix til it's a gloopy consistency. Adjust as needs with extra flour or water. Scrape the paste into a medium-size ziplock bag and snip the end off one of the bottom corners to create a home-made piping bag.

Check on your buns: if you poke them with a lightly greased finger and an indent remains, they are ready. So to create the crosses, hold the ziplock bag like a piping bag, and position it close to the buns. Squeezing it, fashion long lines of paste following the rise and fall of the buns' shape. Repeat until all twelve are crossed.

Bake for 15-20 minutes - check after 10 just to make sure they're not cooking too fast. Then remove from oven and immediately brush with glaze. They'll turn a nice burnished bronze on application so don't panic if they look a little blond still after the requisite cooking time. 

Allow to cool just a bit before serving split and slathered with butter.



  1. Hello,
    Loved your post about the hot cross buns. I actually made a batch today , and I am not sure whether I added enough dry yeast. My buns ended up not being rounded but more squat. Could have been the size of the baking tray or not enough yeast. I did enjoy one warm from the oven with lots of butter though.
    How did your buns bake up? And what size tray did you use.
    Thank you for the post....always love seeing one arrive in my inbox.
    Happy Easter,
    Regards Angela from Brisbane.

    1. Hi Angela. So glad you made the buns! The tray I used measured 25 x 35cm. Next time I make them I might try using more dried yeast too. The original recipe called for 2 heaped teaspoons of fresh yeast and my research revealed half the amount of dried was appropriate. I think maybe the heaviness of the whole orange in the dough makes these buns less fluffy than others but I think the flavour more than makes up for it.