Vegan hot cross buns
- 65g/2¼oz dairy-free margarine
- 50g/1¾oz caster sugar
- 250ml/9fl oz lukewarm unsweetened almond milk, or other plant-based milk
- 7g sachet dried fast-action yeast
- 400g/14oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 150g/5½oz dried mixed fruit
- sunflower oil, for greasing
Heat the dairy-free margarine in a saucepan very gently until melted, stirring with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and milk; the milk should be lukewarm (if it remains quite cold, heat it gently but don’t allow it to overheat or the yeast won’t work). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk, stir and leave to stand for 2 minutes.
Mix together the flour, salt and mixed spice in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour the warm milk into the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball.
Turn onto a very lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes to make a smooth, pliable dough. Knead the mixed fruit into the dough, a little at a time, for 2–3 minutes, or until evenly distributed. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1½ hours, or until doubled in size and spongy to touch.
Return the dough to the work surface and knock back with your knuckles. Knead lightly, then divide into 12 portions. Roll each portion into a ball, then pull the dough from around the sides to underneath each bun to give a neat shape.
Place the buns around 1½cm/½in apart on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Cover lightly with oiled cling film and leave to prove for 45–60 minutes, or until well risen. The buns should be just touching each other. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6 and remove the cling film from the buns.
To make the cross decoration, mix the flour with 2 tablespoons of cold water to make a smooth paste. It should have a thick dribbling consistency, so you may need to add a few more drops of water, but don’t allow it to get too thin or the crosses won’t show up when the buns are baked. Spoon the paste into a small freezer bag and snip off one corner, or piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe lines of the flour paste on top of each row of the buns in one direction and then the other.
Bake the buns in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. Brush the warm buns with maple syrup and leave to cool a little before eating. Once cold, they can also be toasted under a grill.
These buns are best eaten fresh on the day they are made, but can be toasted for a couple of days afterwards or frozen.