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This variation on hot cross buns was inspired by a visit to the Felin Fach Griffin pub in the Brecon Beacons (highly recommended, both for the accommodation and for the food). We stayed overnight, and at breakfast there was a bowl of prunes which had been poached with quartered oranges, complete with their peel, and cinnamon. With a dollop of thick, creamy yoghurt, these were truly delicious, and completely changed my previously lukewarm opinion of stewed prunes. I have tried to capture those wonderful flavours in these buns.

I was also inspired by my recent Pastry class with Richard Bertinet to add some rum to the prunes and to the glaze. In the class, Richard demonstrated with a before and after tasting what a magical, transformative effect a dash of rum could have on an almond crème, drawing the flavours together and somehow intensifying the taste of almond. So I thought I’d see what effect it had on these buns. It was good!


Makes 16

To Prepare the Prunes

  • 200g soft prunes
  • Grated zest of 1 medium orange (6 teaspoons)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon (4 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum

For the Dough

  • 150g wholemeal spelt flour (or ordinary wholemeal)
  • 350g strong white flour
  • 7g quick action yeast
  • 5g fine salt
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 200g milk
  • 120g sour cream (full fat)
  • 1 medium egg
  • 50g candied orange peel, chopped (or use chopped mixed peel)

For the Crosses

  • 50g plain white flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 50g water

For the Egg Wash

  • 1 egg mixed with a pinch of salt about an hour before you need to use it

For the Glaze

  • 30g water
  • 30g milk
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1 or 2 baking trays lined with baking parchment

First prepare the prunes. Chop them up into raisin sized bits. Put them in a small bowl with the orange and lemon zest. Add the 1 tablespoon of rum and 3 tablespoons of boiling water. Stir, cover and leave for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

In a large bowl, mix the wholemeal spelt and strong white flours, yeast, salt, sugar and cinnamon.

Heat the milk until almost boiling then mix with the sour cream. Leave to cool if necessary until lukewarm, then add to the bowl along with the egg. Mix everything together until well combined.

Scrape the dough out onto an unfloured surface and work or knead it for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. A few minutes before it is ready, spread the dough out about 2cm thick and scatter the prunes and orange peel over the top and press into the surface. Fold the dough over itself (you might need your scraper to help) and carry on working for a minute or two. Bits of fruit will probably pop out; just pop them back in!

The dough will still be quite sticky. Don’t worry about this, it will work!

Scatter a little flour around the dough and use your scraper to gather it together and form it into a ball. Put half a teaspoon of oil in the bowl and turn the dough over in this to coat. Cover with clingfilm or a shower cap and leave to rise until doubled in size. This could take longer than an ordinary bread dough.

Scrape the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 16. As the dough will probably be quite moist still, you may need to use a bit more flour to help you shape the rolls, but use the minimum you can get away with. Form each piece into a ball and place about 2cm apart on the baking tray(s). Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until almost touching. I actually think I could have waited a bit longer (I keep pushing the length of the second rise, and so far the result has been lighter bread and no collapsing).

Just before baking, brush the buns with egg wash. Mix all the ingredients for the crosses together, and use a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle to make the crosses.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 180C / 350F / Gas mark 4 (adjust for fan ovens). Check after 10 minutes and turn the trays and swap shelves if they are browning unevenly.

Just before they are ready, boil the sugar, water and milk for the glaze together for a few minutes, then add the rum. Brush the glaze twice onto each bun as soon as they come out of the oven.

Cool on a wire rack.

A Variation

As it happened, I only made half the dough into hot cross buns. With the other half I made a bun cluster. I divided the dough into 9 pieces, the one for the centre slightly larger than the others, and formed them into a flower shape. Before baking I brushed them with the egg glaze and scattered nibbed sugar on top. When they were hot from the oven, I glazed them with the rum glaze (this had no adverse effect on the sugar coating). My “tasting panel” and I concurred that these were possibly nicer than the hot cross buns.

Fresh from the Oven

As luck would have it, I posted my version of Hot Cross Buns on 31st March, the day before the Fresh from the Oven challenge for April was published by Kate at The Little Loaf. This turned out to be for Hot Cross Buns. Whilst I’m sure I would have been forgiven for submitting my post as my entry to the challenge, I thought I would try and come up with something different. Hence this recipe.

The round up for April’s challenge will be found here from 1st May 2012.