It’s not officially hot cross bun season, but as soon as the sun starts to come out, and I’ve smelt someone cutting their grass, it means spring is just around the corner, and hot cross buns can be baked.

I realise that my favourite day of the year (Shrove Tuesday – the pancakes, the Nutella, the indulgence) hasn’t even happened yet, but the prospect of warm spicy buns was too hard to resist.

It might seem odd to be such a fan of hot cross buns when dried fruit is something I try and avoid, but switching all the sultanas and dried peel for chocolate and cinnamon gives a whole new feel to the humble bun.

Every hot cross bun should have an element of spicy warmth to it, be that cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice, ginger, or all four. The orange zest adds a sweetness and a fresh flavour. As you bite into it, you get the sense that spring is coming. Dark chocolate adds a certain richness. I always go for big chunks that excite you when you come across one. The chocolate melts a little during the baking which makes them that little bit more indulgent.

While the taste and appearance of hot cross buns would be enough alone, the smell is possibly the best aspect. When they start proving, the sweet dough scent fills the room, but when they’re baking the warm cinnamon comes to life, urging you to eat one straight out of the oven.

The Recipe – Originally from BBC Good Food

300ml milk
50g butter
500g strong white bread flour
1 tsp. salt
75g caster sugar
7g sachet fast-action yeast
1 egg
Sunflower oil
75g currants
100g dark chocolate, chopped
Zest of 1 orange
2 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tsp. mixed spice
75g plain flour
100g caster sugar

– Place the milk in a pan and bring to the boil.
– Take off the heat and add the butter.
– Leave to cool a little to hand temperature.
– In another bowl, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
– Add the milk mixture and egg.
– Mix together, then using the dough hook on an electric mixture, knead for a few minutes until smooth and stretchy.
– Lightly oil a clean bowl and place the dough in the bowl.
– Lightly oil a piece of cling film and cover the bowl.
– Leave in a warm place for an hour to rise.
– After an hour, knock the dough back and add the currants, chopped chocolate, orange zest and spices.
– Knead into the dough, then cover with the cling film and leave for an hour to rise.
– Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
– Knock the dough back, and divide the dough into 12 even sized pieces (around 85g per bun).
– Place on the lined baking trays and loosely cover with oiled cling film.
– Leave for another hour in a warm place.
– Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees celsius.
– In a bowl, beat the flour with spoonfuls of water until it has a thick but pourable consistency.
– Once proved, remove the cling film. Place the flour paste in a piping bag and pipe a cross on each bun.
– Bake the buns in the oven for 20 minutes (checking after 10 minutes, you might need to cover with foil if they brown too quickly).
– Place the sugar in a pan with a few spoonfuls of water and heat until it has a syrupy consistency.
– When they buns are baked, brush with the syrup and leave to cool.