Vegan hot cross buns – these eggless and dairy-free vesions of the classic British Easter treat are perfectly soft, fluffy and full of flavour. Served split, toasted and buttered they make a wonderful breakfast or snack.
Tip the flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the sugar, cinnamon, mixed spice, salt and orange or lemon zest to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Mix well to combine.
Heat the butter in a pan over a low heat until it is melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the milk. The mixture should be lukewarm. If the butter resolidifys then you can heat it up gently until it is melted again but make sure that is doesn’t get hot. If it does then set it aside until it has cooled until it is just warm.
Pour the butter mixture into the bowl of flour and mix with a wooden spoon until no dry spots remain. The dough should be quite sticky.
Turn the stand mixer onto a medium-high speed and let it knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl cleanly.
Alternatively you can knead the dough by hand on an unfloured surface but it is quite sticky.
Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover (I use a shower cap) and set aside to rise until it has at least doubled in size, about 1 1/2-2 hours in a warm place.
Alternatively, you can place the dough in the fridge and let it rise overnight instead. The following morning, let it come up to room temperature for half an hour or so before continuing with the recipe.
Once the dough has risen, give it a brief knead to knock it back then flatten it out into a rough rectangle, scatter over the sultanas and mixed peel, roll it up and give it a good knead to evenly distribute the fruit.
Divide the dough into twelve even portions and roll them into balls. Try to make sure that there isn’t much fruit on the outside of the bun as it can catch and burn in the oven.
Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, leaving a gap of about 1-1.5cm (1/2 inch) between each one and flattening them very slightly with your hand.
Loosely cover the tray and set aside to rise until about doubled in size, around 45-60 minutes. The buns should now be touching each other and spring back slowly if you gently poke one with a finger. If it springs back quickly they need a little longer.
While the buns are rising preheat the oven to 200°C/180°fan/400°F/gas mark 6 and prepare the paste for the crosses.
Place the plain flour in a bowl and gradually stir in enough water to form a thick but pipeable paste. You may not need all of the water. Place the paste in a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle (about 3mm).
When the buns have risen pipe a cross on top of each one. If you’ve got them well lined up on the tray you can just pipe in one long line across the row.
Bake the buns for about 25 minutes until deep golden. I use a probe thermometer to check they are cooked all the way through, the internal temperature should reach 94C/201F.
Remove the buns from the oven and brush them all over with maple syrup to give them a good shine. If you are using golden syrup or apricot jam instead you will need to gently warm them up until they are runny first. Allow the buns to cool before serving.