I’ve been on a very steep learning curve this week. I love hot cross buns and it’s that time of year again. I really fancied making my own this year but they are, of course, based on a yeasted bread dough. My bread-making travails are well-documented. Apart from my focaccia flop with which I have already regaled you, I’ve also tried making the bread recipe on the back of the Dove’s Farm gluten-free brown bread flour bag. It came out of the oven a claggy brick which then disintegrated into a cloying mush in the mouth. Truly unpleasant and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without some serious tinkering first. My bread-making pedigree then did not promise great things…

My first attempt at these hot cross buns was OK-ish. I made them with a mixture of rice flour and ground tapioca. I wasn’t sure about them even before they went in the oven though: the dough had seemed quite firm when it went in and I know that gluten-free bread dough should be more of a sticky batter. When they came out of the oven, I was right to be suspicious. The taste was definitely there but the texture was still quite dense. So I started musing about how to give them more spring. I looked on the ingredients label of my shop-bought gluten-free loaf: the ingredient listed first, I assume because it’s in the greatest quantity, is tapioca starch and it also contains other starches. I then researched the topic quite widely on the internet and, after all this, came to the conclusion that I really needed to up the starch to flour ratio…! I ditched the rice flour and ground tapioca in favour of a flour blend with added cornflour and potato flour. I added more egg and decided to beat this together with the sugar like in a muffin recipe to get as much lift in as possible. The resulting buns are much more successful – they’re moist, soft and have air in them. Do they taste like glutenicious hot cross buns? Absolutely. Do they have the texture of glutenicious hot cross buns? Um, no. I’m not a miracle worker. They’re a halfway house between a bread and a muffin – they’re too muffiny to be a bread but too bready to be a muffin. So that’s why I’ve called them bunmuffins.

Gluten-free hot cross bunmuffins

Makes 9

210g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
60g cornflour (cornstarch)
60g custard powder
60g potato flour
25g milk powder
7g fast-action yeast
1 tbsp xanthan gum
1½  tsp gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp salt
75g sultanas
25g candied peel
185ml whole milk
60g butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs
60g caster sugar
125ml tepid water
1 tsp cider vinegar

For the top:
2 ½ tbsp gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp golden syrup

You will also need a 9-hole muffin tin, muffin paper cases, a baking sheet, a large polythene bag, a piping bag with a 5mm nozzle or a plastic food bag and a roasting tin.

First, prepare the muffin cases by putting them in the muffin tin and brushing them with olive oil.

In a large mixing bowl and using a balloon whisk, whisk the plain flour, cornflour (cornstarch), custard powder, potato flour, milk powder, yeast, xanthan gum, baking powder, mixed spice, salt, sultanas and candied peel until everything is well-mixed and all lumps have disappeared.

In another bowl, using an electric hand whisk, whisk the eggs and the sugar for 2-3 minutes until they are pale yellow and have tripled in size.

Place the butter and milk into a microwaveable bowl and put in the microwave on ‘high’ for about 20 seconds. Remove from the oven and let sit until the butter has melted into the milk. Mix in the olive oil. In a separate glass, mix the water and the cider vinegar.

Pour the egg mixture and the milk and butter mixture into the flour and, using a wooden spoon, give it a couple of stirs. Then add the water and cider vinegar and continue stirring until everything is well-combined. The mixture should be a sticky batter.

Distribute this batter evenly among the muffin cases, put the muffin tin on the baking sheet inside the large polythene bag (make sure the plastic isn’t touching the top of the batter) and put somewhere warm to rise for an hour (I put mine in the airing cupboard).

Ten minutes before the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 170°C (fan-assisted). Mix the 2 ½ tablespoons of plain flour with 1 tablespoon of water and mix until it has the consistency of double (heavy) cream. Spoon the mixture into the piping bag or plastic bag. If using the plastic bag, squeeze the mixture into one of the corners, and just before piping, snip the end off. Pipe a cross over the top of each bunmuffin and place in the oven. Place a roasting tin of water at the bottom of the oven. Bake for 25 minutes or until the bunmuffins are risen and golden.

Take the bunmuffins out of the muffin tin and place on a cooling rack. Microwave the golden syrup on ‘high’ for about 10-15 seconds or until hot and runny. Brush the top of each bunmuffin with hot golden syrup until glistening.

Best eaten whilst still warm but they’re also lovely toasted and slathered with butter.

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