For the buns:
- 180g dried fruit – sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, cranberries, cherries, apricots etc.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 4 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp salt
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 tsp fast action dried yeast
- 1 orange. Zest in the buns, juice in the glaze
- 250ml milk
- 50g unsalted butter, diced
- 1 egg
For the crosses:
- 35g plain flour
- 3 tbsp water
- Pinch of salt
For the glaze:
- 2 tbsp juice from the orange
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
Put the dried fruit in a bowl. Feel free to use whatever dried fruit you like – sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, and cranberries work well. Then cover in approx. 100ml of boiling water and leave to soak, so they go nice and plump. (If you fancy a slightly more complex flavour, chuck in an earl grey teabag too!)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, mixed spice, salt, sugar, orange zest and yeast.
In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter over a low heat, until the butter has just melted. Then take off the hob and leave to cool for a minute, before pouring into the dried ingredients, adding the beaten egg. (Make sure the milk isn’t too hot, or you’ll end up with scrambled egg. Ugh!).
Mix until it comes together and all the dry flour is gone, and then drain the fruit and add it to the bowl. Make sure you don’t add too much excess water. Begin to knead it in the bowl, mixing the fruit through the dough.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and then knead for about 5-10 minutes. The dough will be sticky at first, but keep going until it’s far less sticky, and smooth. Keep an eye out for rogue fruit that tries to escape, and incorporate it back in.
When the dough is smooth, shape it into a ball, put it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm for about an hour, until it’s doubled in size. Once the dough has doubled in size, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for 30 seconds, to deflate it and get rid of the big air bubbles. Then divide it into 15 equal size pieces. Shape into tight balls, trying to keep the fruit on the inside as much as possible. Then lay them on a lined baking tray (3 rows of 5), with a bit of space in between. Cover with the tea towel and leave to prove for another hour or so, until they’ve almost doubled in size.
When the buns are proved, heat the oven to 220c/200 fan, and then begin making the paste for the crosses. You don’t want to make this too early, because it will become like cement! In a small bowl, mix 35g flour with a pinch of salt and approx. 3 tbsp water, until it is like a sticky paste. You may need to adjust the water quantities a little.
If you have a piping bag, pipe the crosses onto the buns. If you don’t have a piping bag, you could make one with greaseproof paper, or just use a teaspoon for a slightly more rustic, but perfectly acceptable cross! Try not to let the crosses get too thick, because nobody wants a chewy cross ruining their bun. (And if you don’t much like the crosses, you could just pipe icing crosses on once they’re cooked and cooled instead.)
Bake for 20-22 mins until brown on top.
Just before they’ve finished baking, make the glaze. Put the sugar and orange juice in a saucepan over a low heat, and cook gently, until the sugar has melted. As soon as the buns are cooked, put them on a cooling rack, and brush them with the orange glaze. Leave to cool, for as long as you can resist them.
They should stay fresh for about 2 days in an airtight container. But beyond that, they’re brilliant toasted!