Salted Caramel Hot Cross Buns (w/ Chocolate Brandy Butter)
Kids have all the glory every easter.
They get to revel, impishly in the sugar-coated hype around the mysterious mythical rabbit (read: small, introduced mammalian pest) that hops about leaving them chocolate treats for NO apparent reason. Then they get to cram said chocolate treats into their petite little faces until they become sick and maniacal from the sugar. Like addicts seeking their next fix, normality will not resurrect itself until every chunk of the dark, sweet substance has been consumed.
As a sensible adult, watching the chaos from the sidelines, one can hardly be blamed for feeling a little resentful about being ‘too old’ for all the fun. Well, no more. Leave the eggs to the infants, get yourself a bottle of brandy and whip up a batch of these grown-up hot cross buns and you’ll be very glad you no longer get asked for ID and you won’t even care about the fine lines creeping gently across your forehead with every year that passes. Because children may have youth, vitality and a certain special naive optimism, but you, you wizened, bitter old soul, you have booze and butter. And that’s way better.
For the buns
1 1/2 cups sultanas
3/4 cup brandy
2 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp yeast
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
2 cups wholemeal self raising flour
2 cups bakers flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp butter
2 eggs, beaten
For the caramel centres
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup condensed milk
Pinch of salt
For the chocolate brandy butter
1 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
Remainder of the brandy (it should be about 5-6 Tbsp)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder (optional)
For the flour paste
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup water
For the glaze
1 tbsp salted caramel
1/4 cup water
Put the sultanas and brandy in a bowl and leave to soak for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then to let the sultanas absorb as much of the brandy as possible.
To make the caramel centres, melt the butter and brown sugar in saucepan over low heat. Once the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, stir in the condensed milk and the salt flakes. Taste and add a little more salt if desired (I used 3 generous pinches in mine). Bring to the boil briefly then take off the heat. Pour into a bowl or Tupperware container and put in the fridge to set.
To make the dough mixture, put 2 tbsp warm water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast top. Leave for 2-3 minutes. Put the milk in a microwave safe jug and heat until lukewarm. Add the milk to the yeast and water, then let sit for 10 minutes. The mixture should start to look frothy.
Combine the flours, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon and salt in a big bowl. Mix well to make sure there are no lumps.
Take the sultanas out of the brandy and reserve the remaining brandy that hasn’t been absorbed (you’ll use this later to make the chocolate brandy butter).
Melt the 2 Tbsp of butter and pour it over the flour mixture. Add the raisins to the flour mixture, then add the whisked eggs and the yeast/milk mixture. Mix until the dough holds together, then turn onto a clean, floured surface and knead until a smooth dough forms (if the mixture is a bit sticky you may need to add a little more flour). Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and put in a sunny spot for about an hour (or until the dough has doubled in size)
While the dough rises, make the brandy butter. Melt the dark chocolate in a microwave until just molten. Using electric beaters, cream the butter, then add the sugar, molten chocolate and rum. Whisk until well combined. Put in a jar and place in the fridge to keep cool until using.
Once your dough has risen, punch it back down and knead it for a few more minutes, then cut it into 12 equal-sized portions. Roll these into balls then, using your thumb, make an indentation in the centre of each ball. Put 1 tsp of the salted caramel mixture in the centre of each indentation, then pull the dough up around it, pinching the dough together to seal the caramel inside (a bit like a dumpling). The dough will rise up around the salted caramel centre. Try to fit in as much caramel as you can - the more caramel in the centre, the more decadent the hot cross bun. Place the hot cross buns 1cm apart on baking trays, with the pinched-together sides facing up. Leave to rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
While your dough is rising, make the flour paste and the glaze. To make the paste, simply whisk the flour and water together using a fork until no lumps remain. Put this in a piping bag. To make the glaze, put the salted caramel and water in a microwave proof jug and microwave until very hot.
Once your hot cross buns have risen, pipe the flour paste on top of them, giving them the traditional crosses. Place the buns in an oven set to 180 C and bake for 20 minutes, or until the buns have turned a golden brown colour on top.
Remove the buns from the oven and immediately brush over the glaze to give them a shiny, glossy top. Serve while piping hot, with the brandy butter on the side.