Easter is upon us again and naturally, one can’t endure a chocolate drenched long weekend without some hot cross buns to level things out (sort of… maybe not…). Last year I turned Easter Japanese with some Green Tea and Azuki Hot Cross Buns but this year I decided to inject my buns with the ‘It’ girl of flavours: salted caramel.
When I say inject, I meant that literally as I found getting the caramel sauce into the buns was best done via the many, many medicinal syringes that I have in my kitchen drawers. As it’s also a process that I wanted to do at the last minute once the buns proved, injecting the luscious caramel ensured that it remained in a puddle during baking, slowly working it’s way through the dough. Putting the caramel filling in too soon saw the lot escape during proving, causing the bottom of the buns to get lined with burnt sugar.
The caramel does mostly get absorbed into the dough during baking but you do get some sticky caramel kicks here and there which is rather lovely. It’s quite hard stopping at one bun :)
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cream (for whipping, aka single)
Small knob of butter
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
To Make: Place sugar and water in a heavy based saucepan and heat over low/medium heat. It’s tempting to stir sugar while it’s cooking but leave it alone where possible. Just brush sides down with a wet pastry brush if crystalliation occurs or put lid of saucepan over the cooking sugar from time to time. Once the sugar starts to take some colour, do not take your eyes of it! Once it goes an amber colour it doesn’t take much longer for it to burn. If you know what level of caramel you like, then add cream once reached. I personally like it darker, just before going bitter. If you are unsure, stop once it reaches an even light brown colour. Be careful when you add the cream as the mixture will bubble vigorously. Stir over low heat for a minute then add butter and salt. Mix through and leave to cool.
Salted Caramel Hot Cross Buns
(recipe modified from Gourmet Traveller’s recipe)
3 cups of plain flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/4 cup of light brown sugar
180 ml milk
2 tbsp of salted caramel sauce
1/2 cup pecan pieces if desired
1/4 cup plain flour, extra
1/4 cup salted caramel sauce, extra
To Make: Combine flour, sugar and yeast and scant 1 tsp salt in mixing bowl (I use a stand mixer). Gently warm milk and butter over a low heat until butter melts and mixture is tepid. Add egg to milk mixture and whisk. Add milk mixture to flour and use dough hook to knead for 5 minutes. Add caramel sauce and knead for another minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size. You can elect at this point to put the dough in fridge overnight for a morning bake (remove dough from fridge at least 20 minutes before following step). Knock back dough and cut into 8 equal pieces. Knead each piece into a ball, place in a lightly greased 22cm-square cake pan, cover with a damp tea towel and stand in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 220C. Combine 1/4 cup flour and 2 tbsp water and stir to a smooth paste. Use small syringe filled with caramel and poke through centre of each bun and fill with caramel. Use another piping bag if no syringe available, or spoon in with a teaspoon. Cover over hole. Spoon flour paste into a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle and pipe lines down each row to form crosses. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden. (They’re ready when they sound hollow when tapped). Once out of oven, use a pastry brush to glaze buns with extra caramel sauce.