AS German pastry chef Ralph Gottschalk prepares to share his traditional hot cross bun recipe, he remembers his apprentice years in his country of origin where, on a typical Saturday, he would be required to roll out as many as 5000 buns for baking.
Thankfully the batch for my lesson this week would only yield 20 and Ralph was considerate enough to share with me his “under two-hour” recipe and not his “more proper” four-hour recipe.
Most people, including me, have never dreamed of making hot cross buns from scratch. But it’s easier than you think and the end result is more than worth it.
Shop-bought buns seem positively horrid after you’ve tasted Ralph’s home-made ones; these babies are big, fluffy, rich in fruit and spice and free of preservatives.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to start a new Easter tradition with your family this year? Rope in the kids, and hubby too, and get them all to help bake a batch of glistening beauties.
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, though you could enjoy yours all weekend long, as I intend doing!
HOT CROSS BUNS: THE RECIPE
Makes 20 buns
FOR THE DOUGH
5 tsp instant yeast
7 cups cake flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch ground clove
1 ½ cup sultanas
4 Tbsp soft butter, unsalted
200ml full-cream milk
FOR THE CROSSES
1 cup cake flour
4 tsp caster sugar
FOR THE GLAZE
6 Tbsp caster sugar
3 tsp gelatine powder
1. Dissolve the yeast together with a little of the sugar in a bowl with the water and milk. Let it stand for 5 min. If it’s a cold day, you can heat the water/milk mixture ever so slightly so the yeast can get properly activated.
2. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl and add the other dough ingredients; mix by hand or use a machine until a soft and slightly sticky dough is formed. Flour does differ from batch to batch (Ralph uses stone-ground) so if you feel the consistency is too soft, then add a bit of flour.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is elastic (don’t over-knead it; if you have mixed it using a machine it won’t need all that much kneading either).
4. Divide the dough into 20 pieces (each should weigh around 110g) and roll these into smooth balls. Place the balls onto paper-lined baking sheets, leaving enough space between each roll – about 5cm.
5. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
6. While the buns are rising, make the mixture for the crosses. Mix flour, water and sugar to a soft, smooth paste. Using a piping bag (or ziplock bag snipped on one corner) pipe crosses onto each bun just before baking. Don’t do it until you’re ready to bake as the crosses will run.
7. Bake the buns at 180C for 30 min or until golden brown.
8. Make the glaze when the buns are almost ready to come out of the oven. Combine the glaze ingredients in a microwave-safe jug and microwave on medium for 1 to 2 min. Brush the buns gently while hot.
9. Let the buns cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
Ralph does regular cooking classes for all ages, and has launched a nationally accredited chef’s academy which will operate from his Fernglen premises. For cooking classes visit www.thepastryworks.co.za and for chef’s academy details call 082-693-0578.