My boys once averse to Hot Cross Buns have only just started eating them this year (they are 11 and 7 and can be overtly fussy when it comes to sweet things!). As a result, in the past few weeks, I have been making regular trips to my local Bakers Delight for their Hot Cross Buns. Hot Cross Buns are as synonymous with Easter as chocolate eggs. Their history suggests that they were originally fruit and spice buns made without dairy (which was forbidden during Lent) and eaten hot on Good Friday. Marked with the instantly recognisable cross (made of flour and water) on top, Hot Cross Buns have since spawned more than a dozen variations, folklores, songs, flavours, forms and events. With buns arriving on bakery shelves nearly four months ahead of Easter, the Hot Cross Bun eating experience is not only prolongated but also made creative by using the buns to make baked desserts, battered breakfast toasts and even an ingenious stuffing for your Easter weekend roast.
A few weeks ago, I was invited into the Bakers Delight kitchen at Cherrybrook one early morning to see and learn first-hand how they bake their delicious Hot Cross Buns. Owner David explained the nitty-gritty of running a bakery and the semantics of churning out a variety of hot, fresh bread mixed, proved and baked on the premises. Bakers Delight have a philosophy of sourcing the freshest ingredients, a majority of them local. They also have a zero tolerance policy towards the use of preservatives. Their Hot Cross Buns for example had on average more fruit than most traditional Hot Cross Buns on the market. It was also very refreshing to hear David talk about the bakery being seriously embedded in the community and supporting everything from school events to weekend games and Scout clubs. Bakers Delight have been baking their Hot Cross Buns for over 35 years and this year they are expected to bake 17 million buns in the lead up to Easter. They also proudly run a Bundraiser every year where $1 is donated to charity for every pack of Hot Cross Buns you buy.
With a warm fuzzy feeling of connecting with honest to good artisans and people who cared about the food they created and the community that grew them, I returned home that morning with an even warmer bag of Hot Cross Buns baked freshly for me. I froze a big batch (like I always do! Because hot cross bun cravings can also strike post-Easter) and with the rest, I created this beautiful Nutmeg Tray Bake.
A bread and butter pudding has been my go-to dessert from the time I lived in Singapore. It was something I always baked, chilled and brought to potlucks the next day. Chilled, because it was so dang hot in Singapore and a chilled pudding was akin to having frozen cookie-dough swirled ice cream. Delicious! With autumn settling firmly in Sydney, cooler nights call for warming treats. I love soaking Hot Cross Buns in homemade nutmeg custard, then soaking them some more and baking them in a tray covered with foil. The top remains the bun while the bottom half is transformed into pudding. Served with a dollop of Crème Anglaise and a grating of fresh nutmeg, it is absolutely divine. Tastes sensational on the second day and out of the world on the third.
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HOT CROSS BUN AND NUTMEG TRAY BAKE
- melted butter for brushing
- 12 traditional Hot Cross Buns from Bakers Delight
- 800 ml milk
- 1 cup raw sugar
- ½ cup white chocolate buttons
- 4 large eggs
- a pinch of salt
- 1 whole nutmeg, freshly grated (or 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg)
- handful of pecan nuts, to serve
- crème anglaise, to serve
- Preheat oven to 180C. Brush a shallow (5cm deep and 28cm X 24cm base measurements) tray with melted butter.
- Place Hot Cross Buns snugly in the buttered tray and set aside.
- Heat milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add sugar and white chocolate. Heat until just bubbles appear along the periphery, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring gently. Crack eggs in a bowl and whisk lightly. Add the whisked eggs to the milk mixture, beating gently with a balloon whisk to ensure that the custard remains smooth. In a few minutes when the custard starts thickening and coats the whisk, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Sprinkle a teaspoon of grated nutmeg and the salt in the custard and mix well.
- Gently pour half of the custard over the Hot Cross Buns and allow to soak for 10 minutes, pressing down gently on the buns with your fingertips. Pour the remaining custard and scatter the remaining nutmeg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 10-15 minutes until the custard is just set. If you feel the Hot Cross Buns start to brown too quickly, cover them with a foil.
- Remove from the oven. Serve warm with pecan nuts and crème anglaise. Will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Note - This post was sponsored by Bakers Delight. Thoughts on Hot Cross Buns, opinion, words and recipe are my own.