Knot Cross Buns

This recipe utilises the Tangzhong or water roux method, popular in the making of soft milk bread across East Asia. It has many scientific principles that I wont go into here because I’m sure someone has already written a much better account of it than I can. All I will say is I like the way it lends a tender fluffy quality to sweet yeasted bread doughs. You will notice maximum fluff when the method is used with white flour but here I used a mixture of stoneground, smoked bread flour and rye flour, both known to affect fluff and stuff when it comes to bread making. The extra effort with the Tangzhong method however makes all the difference, giving you the wholesome flavour with a lighter texture. I used smoked flour because I’m fancy, but don’t get your knickers in a twist, just sub in regular wholemeal flour instead.

 

Method

1. Start by making the tangzhong paste. Mix the flour and water together in a small saucepan, place over a medium heat and stir until thickened, as you would for choux pastry or when making a roux sauce. The thickening of the mixture signifies that the starches present in the flour have gelatinised.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter to melt. Set it aside to cool to lukewarm then add the egg and milk and leave to cool completely. This is now your starter dough.

3. In a large bowl mix together the smoked flour, rye flour, yeast, salt, sugar and mixed spice. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the cooled starter dough. Using a wooden spoon mix the flour into the starter to combine into a rough dough then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to form a smooth dough.

4. Place the dough in an oiled bag and refrigerate for 12 hours, by which time the dough should have doubled in size.

5. After its time out in the fridge place the dough onto your work surface, add the orange zest and raisins and knead to evenly distribute.

6. Divide the dough into 8 pieces (if you’re an obsessive then feel free to weigh the dough and divide into equal portions, if you have better things to do just eyeball it). At this stage you can pick your destiny and shape the dough balls however you like.

7. Once shaped take a baking tray and line with greaseproof paper, place your plaits/braids/knots/rolls onto the baking sheet and leave a little space, about a couple of centimetres between each one so they can prove up without getting in each others way. I’d go for a 4 x 2 formation. Cover them with a piece of lightly oiled cling film to keep them from drying out and set them somewhere warm but not hot to prove. Mine take approximately 2 hours depending on the room temperature. Keep an eye on them and watch for them doubling in size and getting all cosy with one another.

8. When your buns look to have doubled in size turn the oven on and pre-heat to 180 degrees celsius. Once the oven is up to temperature pop the buns in and allow to bake for 20-30 minutes, mine take around about 23-25 minutes but know your oven and trust your instincts. You’re looking for them to be well risen and nicely golden brown on top. Remove from the oven when baked and immediately brush with the glaze. Serve warm with a little salty butter. Marmalade wouldn’t go a miss, the thick cut, aged Seville stuff.

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