Thursday, 13 April 2017

Sugar Free Hot Cross Buns

I used to be so cynical about the times of celebration and festivity that occur throughout the year, but as I have matured (or maybe that should be immatured ;-)) I've come to not only embrace such occasions as Christmas and Easter, but downright love them! They are such a welcome departure from the stresses, strains and routine of daily life and an excellent excuse (not that I ever need one) to indulge in a naughty treat or two.

Saying that, these hot cross buns are not actually as naughty as they could be, a consequence of me trying to cut down on those refined sugars that are so very bad (and not in the good way). I've sweetened the dough instead with a dash of agave syrup, as well as glazed the top with a lick of the same. Worry not though, for they are still buttery and rich and most importantly, yummy!

Prep time: 15 Minutes to prepare the dough, plus a few hours proving and rising.
Baking time: 20-30 Mins
7g Fresh Yeast
100ml Tepid Water
250g Very Strong White Bread Flour
1/2tsp Salt 
1/2tsp Mixed Spice
25g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
1 Egg Yolk (From a Large Egg)
2tbsp Agave Syrup (Plus an extra tablespoon to glaze)
125g Mixed Dried Fruit and Peel

For the crosses
1tbsp Plain Flour
1tbsp of Water

Making bread dough is such fun, so let's get started. Crumble the fresh yeast into a jug, pour in the tepid water and mix to dissolve the yeast.

Add the flour, salt and spice to a large mixing bowl, mix briefly to combine, then make a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast mixture, along with the butter, yolk, syrup and fruit. Bring together with a flat bladed knife, then tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Bring the dough together with your hands, then knead for around 8-10 minutes, stretching the dough away from you, folding it back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. Once the dough is smooth and elastic place in a lightly greased large bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for around 90 minutes. 

Once the dough has doubled in size you can make the buns. Uncover the cling film then, with a lightly oiled hand take a small handful of the dough. On a clean, dry surface, roll in a circular motion, holding the dough loosely with the top of your hand to form a sphere. Once rolled place on a greased baking tray and press lightly to flatten a touch. Repeat for the rest of the dough, which should be enough for around six buns. Once the buns are all on the tray, evenly spaced apart cover gently with a sheet of lightly greased clingfilm and return to the warm place for a further 30 minutes to rise again.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. I tend to not go any hotter than this as I find the buns will scorch before having time to bake properly. Take the buns from where you have left them to rise and carefully remove the cling film. Mix the plain flour and water to a paste, then using a piping bag or tube pipe a cross onto the top of each one. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 mins.

Once the buns are nice and golden you can remove from the oven. Lightly brush each bun with a final glaze of agave syrup and leave to cool on the tray for about 15 minutes. They are then ready to serve, fresh and warm and delicious!

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