Ima’s hot cross buns

I’ve finally conquered the mighty hot cross bun. I’ve never had much success with these before, my previous attempts could have been used for shot put, but finally, success! Also, I’m glad Easter is once a year, because these are a labour of love.

There is a restaurant in Auckland which is famous for their hot cross buns. I’ve never tried them because they sell out in minutes but the buns from Ima Cuisine have a cult following. The buns that sell in the day before Good Friday number in the thousands. So, purely based on the hype surrounding these buns, I decided to make them. Luckily, the recipe is published in the beautiful cookbook “Ima Cuisine: An Israeli Mother’s Kitchen.’  The author, Yael, recommends grinding your own spices for the best flavour, and the cross on top is a very decadent pastry cream, so it’s a bit more involved than other recipes, but it is totally worth it and I’m glad I persevered.

Happy Easter!

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For the spice mix

Ingredients 

15g cinnamon sticks (or 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon)
1 whole nutmeg (or 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg)
20 whole cloves (or 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves)

Method

Chop up the cinnamon sticks and cut the nutmeg into quarters. Transfer all of the spices to a grinder and grind to a fine powder.
If you are using ground spices, combine them in a small bowl.

For the buns

Ingredients 

500ml milk
20g instant yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
850g strong flour (I used high grade)
125g butter, cut into cubes and softened
175g honey
2 tablespoons sea salt, crushed
250g currants
125g mixed peel
1½ – 2c pastry cream

Method

Pour the milk into a large heatproof jug and microwave for 1 – 1½ minutes, until the milk is quite warm (although not too hot to stick your finger in.) Sprinkle over the yeast then gently mix it in along with the 2 teaspoons of sugar. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until the yeast has activated and is frothy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, butter, honey and milk mixture. Mix on low for 10 minutes.
Add the salt and spice mix and mix for a further 5 minutes. Leave the dough in the bowl, cover it with a clean tea towel and transfer it to a warm place to rise.
The dough needs to double in size, 1½ – 2½ hours, depending on how warm your house is. Mine did not rise for over an hour, then started to. (While it’s rising, prepare the syrup.)


Once the dough has risen, tip it out onto the bench and knead in the currants and peel. I tried to do this in my mixer but a lot of the currants stayed at the bottom of the bowl.
Line a baking tray with non stick paper and preheat the oven to 180°C.
Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (see notes) and gently roll them into balls. Place them on the baking tray, leaving a gap of about 4cm in between. Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave them to rise in a warm place, until they have doubled in size.


Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut a cross about ½cm deep on each bun.
Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes, until pale golden on top.
Remove from the oven and pipe a thick cross of pastry cream onto the scored lines on each bun. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until the buns are medium brown and spring back when touched.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, then carefully brush each bun with the syrup. Serve warm or at room temperature.

These are best toasted and served with lashings of good butter. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Leftover buns can be frozen for up to one month.

For the syrup (make this while the dough is rising)

Ingredients 

¾c caster sugar
½c water
2 teaspoons orange blossom water (optional)

Method

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally, then simmer for one minute.
Remove from the heat and stir in the orange blossom water and allow to cool completely.

For the pastry cream (see notes)

Ingredients 

1l milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
120g cornflour
180g caster sugar
5 large eggs (I used size 7)
100g butter, cut into little cubes and at room temperature

Method

In a large saucepan set over medium heat, warm the milk until it just starts to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Leave for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cornflour and sugar. Add the first two eggs and beat on medium until combined.
Add the remaining eggs one by one, beating until the mixture is nice and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
With the mixer on slow, slowly pour in the warm milk then increase the speed slightly and beat until combined.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk continuously over low heat until the mixture becomes thick and is difficult to whisk. Cook for another 2 minutes to cook out the cornflour then whisk in the butter, piece by piece.
Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely. You can do this by scraping the pastry cream back into the mixer bowl and using the whisk attachment, beat it until it’s at room temperature. Or, transfer it to a bowl and cover with Gladwrap, pressing the wrap onto the top of the mixture to stop a crust forming. Store in the fridge until needed.

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Notes

  • Recipe adapted from Ima Cuisine.
  • If you make 12, they will be quite big. I think dividing the dough into 16 might make them a better size.
  • The recipe makes 5-6c of pastry cream, way more than you need. You can share it with a friend or freeze the remainder. It can be thawed and re-used, here’s a great guide to bringing it back to its silky self.
  • Pastry cream can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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