It was fun baking with a friend, though the between kneading and proofing gossip was so engaging, I forgot to take pictures until midway through the process. The buns turned out beautifully tender and moist and the fact that they were riddled with chocolate instead of the often reviled raisins, currants or peel, meant that more than half the batch had disappeared long before dinner.
The milk powder makes the crumb moist yet feathery light and imparts a rich and creamy flavour. You could replace the milk powder and water with liquid milk but I must tell you the buns will not taste as good or have as satisfying a mouth feel. I can't say why this is so, but so it is. Could be that milk fat or sugar is more concentrated in milk powder and this contributes to both flavour and texture. Whatever the case, it ain't broke so I wouldn't fix it.
For some reason, hot cross buns are often served on Easter morning, for breakfast. I find this a bit strange, to be honest, as in the relatively modern context, they are meant to be eaten on Good Friday morning, in commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, rather than as part of an Easter spread, a decidedly more joyous occasion. Yes, I am just a little bit of a proper food for the proper occasion geek. Then again.... maybe someone who replaces the dried fruit in a bun, meant as a marker for an occasion as solemn as Good Friday, with something as decadent and possibly irreverent as chocolate (oh horror!) without an ounce of compunction, should not be too bothered about propriety or tradition. In any case, to all who observe and celebrate, I wish a Blessed Holy Week, and a Very Happy Easter!
chocolate chip hot cross buns
prep 4 hrs cook 25 mins makes 16 buns
500 g (5 cups) bread flour
4 tbsp milk powder
75 g (1/2 cup) fine sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 - 2 tsp ground cinnamon or mixed cake spice
3 tsp yeast
300 ml (1 1/2 cups) water
2 tsp vanilla extract
75 g (1/2 cup) soft butter
200 g (1 1/3 cup) mini dark chocolate chips
1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
Paste for Crosses
75 g (3/4 cup) plain flour (or bread flour if it's all you have)
4 - 5 tbsp water
11/2 tsp sugar
50 g (1/3 cup) fine sugar
50 ml (1/4 cup) water
Combine flour, milk powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and stir with whisk until well mixed. Stir in yeast.
Pour in water and mix to a shaggy dough. Cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Knead in butter a third at a time, until well combined. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Remove from bowl and shape into a neat ball. Grease inside of bowl and return dough to bowl.
Cover and leave to rise until dough is slightly more than doubled in volume. This should take about 1 hour.
Gently knead chocolate chips into dough and form into a neat ball. Place on a lightly greased surface, cover and rest for 15 minutes. Divide dough into 16 and form each into a tight neat ball. Place seam side down on a lined baking sheet.
Cover lightly with a clean cloth or plastic sheet and leave to rise for about 40 minutes or until doubled in volume. While buns rise, preheat oven at 200 C (400 F). When buns are ready for oven, brush each gently with the egg wash.
Combine paste ingredients (for crosses) until smooth and transfer to a piping bag. Pipe a cross on each bun. Bake buns for about 20 minutes or until well risen and golden. If they darken too quickly, lower temperature to 190 C (375 F).
Remove from oven when done and transfer to a cooling rack with a sheet of baking paper or tray beneath to catch the glaze drips. Combine sugar and water for glaze in a small pot and bring to a boil. When sugar melts, keep boiling until it thickens to a light coating consistency. Turn off heat and allow glaze to cool slightly.
Brush top of each bun generously with warm glaze, including crosses and leave to set before serving.