I am a bit of an experimenter, my favourite subjects at school being science and maths, so once I got a little more confident in the kitchen I began to experiment with recipes. It does gain me some praise and also some comments of “do you ever follow a recipe?” but I would say on the whole my experiments turn out well. I am actually, in this case, amazed to say my Hot Cross Herman Buns turned out very well too!
Bread baking fascinates me but I have done very little of this in the past, I could probably count on two hands the number of times I have baked bread from absolute scratch, so when I got my Herman a few weeks ago the scientist inside me started wondering what made it bubble and rise. The instructions that came with my Herman said that it was a sourdough cake starter, which lead me to believe that it was wild yeasts in the included flour that were then feeding on the sugar in the Herman, making a very active mix. After weighing the amount of mix that I had and knowing that the proportions of ingredients were one part flour – two parts sugar – two parts milk, I worked out roughly that there was about 70g flour, 140g sugar and 140ml milk in one cut of the starter once divided on day 10 (the maths part!). I then checked in my favourite bread baking book – River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread by Daniel Stevens – for sweet bread recipes and decided on a hot cross bun recipe to experiment with. The following is the recipe I came up with:
Hot Cross Herman Buns
- 450g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 100ml warm water
- 5g salt
- one portion of Herman starter
- 1 medium, free-range egg
- 50g butter
- 100g raisins
- finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
- 1tsp ground mixed spice
If you have a food mixer, combine the flour, water, salt and Herman starter in the bowl and fit a dough hook. Add the egg and butter and mix to a sticky dough. Now add the dried fruit, orange zest and spice and knead on low speed until silky and smooth. (You can do this by hand, but it will be sticky to handle). Cover the dough and leave to rise in a warm place.
I combined my ingredients according to the recipe and put the dough into a bowl, covered over and put into the airing cupboard to rise. I went to have a peak after 20 minutes, then again at about 45 mins and again just after the recommended 1 hour. The dough had not risen at all! This is the point at which I panicked and headed to twitter with a shout for sourdough experts to help! I am totally amazed how many retweets I had and the fantastic advice I was given, especially from Carl Legge.
Due to the advice I was given I left the dough in the airing cupboard for about 4 hours, after this I kneaded it again and as it was late in the evening I actually put the dough in the fridge to slow the rising. The kids got me up early this morning so I took the dough out of the fridge and put it on the dusted side while we had our breakfast. When we’d finished I kneaded the dough and divided into 8 equal pieces, shaped them into rounds then placed these onto a floured baking tray. I covered this again and back into the airing cupboard for one last rise for 2 1/2 hours. I wouldn’t say that the dough doubled in size any of the times that I left it to rise but I believe that sourdough does not necessarily double anyway.
I then preheated the oven to its highest setting (Gas 9 or your ovens highest temp), put a deep baking tray on the bottom shelf and put the kettle on. When I put the buns in I also poured the boiling water into the tin and closed the door quickly (the water in the tin creates steam that allows the bread to rise further before the crust hardens). I let the buns cook for 10 mins, then as they were browning nicely I turned the oven down to Gas 4/180C to cook for a further 10 minutes. As soon as they came out of the oven I glazed the buns with a marmalade glaze to enhance the citrus flavour.
I took the, still warm, buns round to a friend’s house, another friend was also there, both of whom are fantastic bakers and they were both quite impressed. Needless to say I am rather pleased with myself!
How do your experiments in the kitchen generally go? Have you ever baked bread from scratch?
Hope you had a super weekend,