This being the very first review post of the very first bread, I'll make sure to include a detailed review right here in the forum as well as link to the blog post.
I made certain yesterday that I had everything required to make this very first MellowBakers bread and, with candied lemon peel in hand, set everything up for the bake in the early afternoon. Checking the 'online' Hot Cross Bun recipe we're also pointing members to over on Susan's WildYeastBlog.com
, I noted that the entire process would take roughly 4-4.5 hours, although not all of that is active since there are 2 hours of proofing included in there. But in essence, this is a short, one-day bread. A lot less time than some of the longer sourdoughs those who have dabbled in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge have gone through.
So I set up all my ingredients in the usual Mis en Place that I've done for nearly all my blog posts. Here's what we'll be using:
Making up the sponge was pretty straight forward but it's the first time I've ever run across a sponge dough this liquid. Still, it ended up creating a somewhat semi-solid sponge after 40 minutes, covered, in the oven with the light on.
Once this was ready, it was time for the main dough. I mixed the flour and butter in the KitchenAid mixer, then added the egg, Allspice, salt and sugar I'd previously measured and set aside. After a quick mix, I added the sponge and gave the dough a 3 minute mix. But it seemed like the dough went really soft. Quite pasty, in fact.
Still, I forged ahead, assuming Mr Hamelman knew his stuff better than I. So in went the cranberries (I had substituted for the recipe's currants) and the candied lemon. Still, the dough looked really soft with no body at all. I happen to taste it, expecting a lovely allspice flavour but all I could taste was... SALT!
Then I noticed the little white ramekin that we keep salt in next to the stove was missing. Oh, fer Pete's sakes (or some expletive of the sort). I had dumped that in instead of the 1/4 cup of sugar I had placed... in a white ramekin. See it up there in the Mis en Place? Salt looks exactly the same. But sure tastes different!
There was no saving this. So into the recycle bin it all went and I started fresh. But I was nearly out of cranberries so out came the raisins instead and on we forged.
Catching up, the dough at the last stage was now much better, had good body and would be easy to manipulate. In went the raisins and lemon and out came the dough for a quick final knead, then into the oiled proofing tub.
30 minutes later, the dough is turned out and given a stretch and fold, then returned for another 30 minutes of bulk proofing, a total of one hour.
Once done, the dough is then divided in 12 (I calculated 72 grams per piece) and shaped into balls, to proof for another hour. Meawhile I mixed up the last of the three stages, the decorative paste and put it into a piping bag with a #12 round tip. The oven is turned on at this point to preheat to 440ºF.
Once the dough balls were proofed, I added the cross over each one.
Please note that we've found there are two different versions of this paste in different printings of the Hamelman book. See the thread here.
The paste recipe also make a VAST amount of paste, so you may want to cut that back by a fair bit, to perhaps to 1/3 or 1/4.
Into the oven the dough went, baking for 14 - 16 minutes. While they were baking, I made the simple syrup which is, simply, water and sugar taken to a boil. I halved the given recipe as it seemed to be too much syrup for just 12 buns. As soon as the buns were done, they came out of the oven and given a brushing with the syrup.
And here's the final result:Final Remarks:
These little dudes are relatively simple to make (barring dumb mistakes) and rather fancy lookin’, so they’ll have a good “wow” factor.
Taste wise, they are lightly savoury from the allspice, have little hits of zing from the dried fruit and only a little sweet so they aren’t what North Americans generally would call “desert” breads. I quite like these buns’ low sweetness level, much less “in your face” piles of sugar found in commercial Hot Cross Buns.
They don’t hold up well for a long time so it’s best to eat them fresh. But I don’t think this is going to be an issue.
All in all, an excellent little bread. And appropriate for any seasonal equinox event, the cross design is not specifically religious and can signify the beginning of any the four seasons. So make them year round festive treats.Suggested changes in the recipe:
Cut back a lot on the paste – although the quantity may be so that the mixer has enough mass to mix. But seriously, the amounts given are way too much for a dozen buns.
Likewise the simple syrup: I made 1/4 cup and still had most of it left when finished. Although it does keep, if you would use it again soon. Reduce the quantities here too.
And don’t use salt instead of sugar. Really bad idea. And I've changed the white salt ramekin to a small glass bowl we only have one of.
If you would like to see the more detailed blog version of this, please visit here.
Comments and questions are welcome here or on the blog.