These will make your house smell wonderful, and you can have fun creating whatever bunny shapes you like out of the non-yeasted dough. The hot-cross-bun dough is quite wet and sticky before its first rise, so it’s ideal if you have a stand mixer or bread machine to make these. Though if you’re comfortable with wet dough, feel free to work by hand. The bunnies are more for decoration, but they add a lot of fun and charm to this classic Easter bake.
Prep time: 50 minutes, plus 20 minutes infusing and 3 hours proving | Cooking time: 25 minutes
65g unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature
180g mixed dried fruit and peel
Apricot jam, to glaze
For the bunnies
75g plain flour
Pinch of salt
Food dye, to add details
For the cross
50g plain flour
Add the milk to a saucepan along with the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and star anise. Bring to a simmer, then take off the heat and leave to cool and infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the milk.
Add the flour, sugar, ground spices, zest, yeast and salt to a the bowl of an electric stand mixer, then stir together. Add the water to the tepid milk, then add the eggs and whisk together. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients.
With the dough hook attachment in place and the stand mixer on low, let the machine knead the dough for eight minutes. Add the softened butter and let the machine knead it in until fully incorporated (you can also knead the dough by hand, though this is a sticky/wet dough so a dough scraper is advised).
Cover the dough in its bowl loosely with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size (about two hours, but it will depend on the ambient temperature).
When risen, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, scatter the mixed dried fruit all over, then roll it up again and knead until the fruit is evenly distributed.
Grease a 25cm square baking tin.
Divide the dough into 16 even portions and form into smooth rounds. Arrange in the tin, leaving gaps about the width of your finger between each one for them to rise. Loosely cover with oiled cling film and leave for an hour to an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the dough for the bunnies by mixing together the flour, water and salt. Shape small pieces of the dough into bunnies/carrots and paint on details using food dye mixed with water.
Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7.
When the buns have doubled in size, whisk an egg and brush this over the buns to glaze. Mix together the flour and water to make the paste for the cross, transfer to a piping bag or a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off, then pipe crosses over each bun. Nestle the bunnies in the dough.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6 and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until golden brown. As soon as they are out of the oven, glaze the buns with apricot jam and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
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