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Wednesday 16 April 2014

Baking for Beginners: Hot Cross Dough Balls

One of my favourite Easter treats is hot cross buns. Usually, I don't meddle with them, but this year I felt like deconstructing them.

I thought about what I like best about hot cross buns, and decided it was when they're enjoyed straight from the oven and dripping with butter. So, I decided to try making butter-filled hot cross dough balls. Reader, this was one of my better life decisions.

They're delicately spiced and oozing with melted butter and dried fruit - they taste like hot cross buns, but with all the fun of buttery dough balls. I am notoriously bad at bread-making, so I have completely and utterly cheated by using shop-bought bread mix. The time you save by not fannying about with yeast and measuring stuff and covering yourself in egg can be spent eating eggs of the chocolate variety.

Hot Cross Bun Dough Balls (makes 25-30)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Proving time: 1-2 hours
Baking time: 20 minutes
You will need:
For the dough balls
  • 500g white bread mix
  • 25g caster sugar (optional - I found mine sweet enough without it)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (use 4 tsp mixed spice in place of all three spices, if you prefer)
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 350ml warm water
  • The zest of one orange (reserve one tsp of zest for the butter)
For the butter
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 125g mixed dried fruit
  • The juice of half an orange
  • 1 tsp orange zest
For the crosses
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp water
For the glaze (optional)
  • Some runny honey
Make it!
  1. Mix the bread mix, sugar (if using), cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger (or mixed spice in place of all three), then rub the butter through the mixture using your hands. Add the water and orange zest, and combine until it's come together.
  2. In a mixer with the dough hook attached, or by hand using lots of muscle power, knead the dough for 10 minutes (by hand) or 5 (in a mixer). It should be smooth and elastic by the time you've finished. 
  3. Place the dough in a greased bowl in a warm place, with a damp tea towel on top, for anything up to two hours. It will have doubled in size when it's finished rising.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 and line a couple of baking trays with parchment. Quickly mix up your butter stuffing by stirring the butter, dried fruit, orange juice and zest vigorously until combined.
  5. Grab your dough, and on a lightly floured surface and with floured hands, punch it a few times to get the air out, then give it a quick knead. Now roughly divide it into about 30 pieces.
  6. Roll a piece into a ball then flatten it on the work surface, either with a pin or the palm of your hand. Spoon a teaspoon of butter mixture into the centre, then fold up the edges and pinch to seal the butter inside. The dough is tough, so you can be quite rough with it and really make sure any holes are fixed. Flour your hands again before rolling your newly-formed dough ball in your palms. Place on the baking tray and continue with the rest.
  7. Once all the dough balls are done, mix the plain flour and water until you have a paste - you may need to add a little more water along the way to keep it smooth. Pour this into a sandwich bag or piping bag, snip off a tiny corner, and pipe crosses on each ball.     
  8. Place your trays in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes - the dough balls will turn golden brown when done. Despite our careful sealing, pinching and rolling, it's inevitable that some butter will escape, and for me that's the best bit, so don't panic. 
  9. You can either leave your dough balls to cool, and then glaze them with a little honey brushed on with a pastry brush, or toss them around in the baking tray to cover them with butter, and devour immediately. I recommend option 2.   


  1. I've just made these. I may have to make more before Easter. Scrummy!


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