14 Apr 2022

Easter review: Which Auckland hot cross bun is the best?

From Checkpoint, 5:23 pm on 14 April 2022

'Tis the season for hot cross buns, and we've had plenty of debate this week about what makes a good bun.

Is it the humble supermarket six pack, the corner bakery bun - or the posh cafe creation?

We selected four buns from different locations around Auckland to put to the test.

Our reporter Nick Truebridge and cameraman Nick Monro found someone with a slightly more refined palate to pick a winner.

And below is a recipe from a listener for sourdough hot cross buns.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

Makes: a baker's dozen (13!) hot cross buns (~100g each)

This recipe requires 200g of 60 percent hydration starter. If you don't have enough storage starter then you can make up the required amount the night before you intend to make the buns by mixing up the following:

  • 115g flour
  • 62g water
  • 35g mature storage starter (assuming 100% hydration)

Mix and leave to mature overnight.

For the final dough:

  • 250g bread flour
  • 90g whole wheat flour
  • 60g rye flour
  • 250g mixed dried fruit (for example 100g currants, 100g sultanas, 50g candied peel)
  • 200g starter (60% hydration)
  • 90g sugar
  • 90g butter (room temperature)
  • 150g water
  • 1 large egg + 1 yolk (~80g)
  • 30g golden syrup
  • 30g oil
  • 2 tbsp milk powder
  • 9g salt
  • zest of one orange and one lemon or lime
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • a few tablespoons of milk

for the crosses:

  • 50g flour
  • 13g icing sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 40g water

or the glaze:

  • 50g sugar
  • 50g water
  • 25g honey

1. Mix the flour, starter, water, egg, syrup, oil, milk powder and salt into an even dough.

2. Let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes** 3. Gradually knead in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time until you have a fully developed dough.

4. Bulk ferment the dough in a warm place (approx 25°C) for 7 to 10 hours until the dough is roughly 1.5 times its original volume. Apply several folds at even intervals during this time.

5. While the dough is rising, mix the spices into the butter until they have been distributed evenly.

6. After bulk ferment, knead the butter into the dough, a tablespoon at a time.

7. Rest the dough for 20 minutes.

8. Gently knead or fold the dried fruit and citrus zest into the dough.

9. Allow the dough to rest for another 10 minutes before dividing and shaping into 13 buns

10. Place the on baking tray and brush with milk.

11. Proof the buns for 8 to 12 hours until they have doubled in volume.

12. Prepare the glaze by heating the sugar, water and star anise in a pan until boiling, and simmer for several minutes. Allow the glaze to cool before stirring in the honey.

13. For the crosses, rub the butter into the flour and icing sugar. Stir in enough water to make a thick, smooth paste (suitable for piping).

14. After proofing, gently brush the buns once more with milk.

15. Using a piping bag (or plastic bag with a hole in one corner), pipe crosses with the flour paste on to the buns.

16. Bake the buns at 200°C for 15 minutes or until they are nicely browned on top.

17. Glaze the buns immediately after baking and once more while they are still warm.

From the author:

I mix by hand as I have no stand mixer.

The initial stage should involve minimal kneading:- mix up the starter, egg, syrup, oil, water, salt and flour until everything is evenly hydrated and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes before mixing to a smooth dough.

Once you start adding sugar, you should realllly slow things down. I add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. I then pull/stretch from the outside of the dough and folding back over into the centre, while rotating the mixing bowl.

I do this about 10 times before resting for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, followed by another 10 stretch/folds and another rest before adding the next tablespoon of sugar. By the end of this the dough will be sticky, but should still maintain some elasticity and extensibility.

During the initial fermentation, I highly recommend folding the dough a few times at regular intervals to add strength and elasticity to the dough.

When adding the butter, I recommend slap and fold, again with 30 second rests between each incorporation.

After all the butter is incorporated rest again for 20 minutes before adding the fruit.