I’m usually not one for mixing spices, citrus and dried fruit – Christmas pudding and fruit cake being prime examples of things I really don’t like. My exception, hot cross buns, is one that I’m pretty obsessed with around Easter. There’s something quite intoxicating and nostalgic for me about walking into a kitchen where a hot cross bun is being toasted.
I’ve made hot cross buns in the past, infusing them with Earl grey tea. They were delicious but they didn’t quite have that fluffy brioche-esque texture that I look for in a usual bun. This year when I decided to incorporate wholegrains into my hot cross bun iteration I was even more aware of the need to make the loaf as pillow-soft as possible (rye and wholemeal flour can sometimes lead to denser loaves). This is where the tangzhong method of making bread dough comes into play. It starts the loaf off with a simple flour-water mixture heated together to make a kind of roux. It means your dough has some pre-gelatinised starch in it before baking which helps lock extra moisture in so a lighter crumb is achieved.
I’d tried the method out before with white flour a few years ago but wondered if it would translate to wholegrains. I used it here with a blend of dark rye flour and wholemeal bread flour and the results were SO GOOD. The loaf was light, moist and toasted up like a dream. The spices gave the dough a darker colour anyway so no-one even noticed it was a ‘healthier’ bread. Incorporating wholegrains into our diets is so so important as the dietary recommendation for fibre intake has actually increased from 24g to 30g per day (according to SACN, 2015) for adults. An easy way to get that fibre is from making switches to wholegrains instead of refined sources of starch. Increased dietary fibre intake is associated with reduced risk of colo-rectal cancer and cardio-metabolic disease, it makes you feel fuller for longer and, when in the form of wholegrains like rye, is really tasty too! (Especially when that rye is baked into a hot cross bun loaf 😉 )
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 90 ml (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) water
- 50 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 125 ml milk , , any kind
- 1 large egg
- 180 g (1 ½ cups) wholemeal bread / strong flour, plus more for kneading
- 120 g (1 cup) dark rye flour
- 50 g (1/4 cup) white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- A 7g sachet , (2 ¼ tsp) instant active dried yeast*
- 1 tbsp mixed spice**
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Zest of an orange
- 90 g (3/4 cup) raisins
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 to 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp water or orange juice , (from the orange you zested earlier)
Make the paste:
- Combine the plain flour and water, then pour into a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the mixture thickens into a paste. Take it off the heat then stir in the butter until melted and combined and leave to cool to lukewarm.
- Stir in the milk and then the egg until the mixture is smooth and leave to cool to room temp.
Make the dough:
- Place the wholemeal bread and rye flours, sugar, salt, yeast, mixed spice and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir them together then make a well in the centre of these dry ingredients. Pour the paste mixture into the well then stir everything together to make a dough.
- Tip the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead for 6 to 8 minutes until smooth and slightly sticky, adding flour as needed.
- Place the dough back into the bowl and cover it with clingfilm. Leave it in a warm place for 2 hours or in the fridge for 12 hours. The dough should have doubled in size***.
- After this resting period, add the orange zest and raisins to the bowl – fold and knead them into the dough.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll them into balls.
- Grease a 2lb loaf tin with some rapeseed oil and line the balls of dough up in the tin (2 rows of 4 dough balls). Cover the tin loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for around 45 minutes to rise again.
- Remove the clingfilm from the dough. Mix together the cross mixture (adding enough water to make a pipeable paste) and place into a sandwich bag with the very corner cut off. Pipe it in continuous lines across/along the rows of the dough, decorating each ball with a cross.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes in an oven preheated to 180 C until deep golden on top.
- Meanwhile heat the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir and bring to the boil, cooking it until reduced by half. Remove from the heat.
- Remove the baked bread from the tin and brush all over with the warm glaze. Leave to cool completely before slicing. The glazing of the loaf is completely optional but it helps add a bit of extra sweetness and makes it look even more amazing!