Several months ago I posted the recipe for an Overnight ciabatta bread on the blog. It’s one of eight easy recipes from The Breaded Table chapter of my cookbook, Bibby’s Kitchen. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received a stream of messages and requests for similar bread recipes that are un-intimidating and doable. With Easter just around the corner, I thought an Overnight Hot Cross Bun Bread would be a good idea.
Based on the same principle as the ciabatta, here, all the ingredients are mixed together at once and chilled overnight. There’s no kneading either, which makes matters a whole lot less complicated. Overnight proofing in a cool environment improves the texture of the crumb and melds the flavours into a sweet, mellow warmth. It also helps to get the prep work done the night before.
So here’s what sets this loaf apart – the caramelised cinnamon crust. I bake the loaf in a cast iron casserole encrusted with granular cinnamon sugar. As it bakes, the sugar and butter darken into a sugary caramelised crust. A Le Creuset casserole is ideal. Failing that, a deep 20cm baking tin will suffice although, the encircled heat of cast iron does wonders to support a good overall crust. The chestnut exterior conceals a tender spiced crumb mingled with the warmth of earthy spices and citrus soaked fruit. Negating the need for fanciful finishes, a stencilled dusting of powdery snow is all it needs. Salted butter and perhaps a gloop of honey are the perfect companions. That, and a pot of tea, of course.
On the side: The bread keeps well for several days. It’s also good for posh French toast.
Overnight hot cross bun bread
Makes 1 large loaf
- 1 1/4 cups mixed fruit (any combination – sultanas, raisins, currants, dried cranberries)
- zest of 1 orange
- 60ml(1/4 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
- 250g cake wheat flour (all-purpose)
- 250g wholemeal flour (fine wholewheat)
- 1/4 cup castor sugar
- 12.5ml (2 1/2 teaspoons) ground cinnamon
- 5ml (1 teaspoon) mixed spice
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt
- 7.5ml (1 1/2 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 60ml (1/4 cup) butter, melted and cooled
- 375ml (1 1/2 cups) water, room temperature
- 60ml (1/4 cup) full cream milk, room temperature
- butter, for greasing
- cinnamon sugar for coating the casserole
- icing sugar, for dusting
- Place the dried fruit, zest and orange juice in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just enough to warm the juice. Set aside for 10 minutes to plump the fruit.
- Sift the flours, sugar, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and mix to combine. Add fruit along with all the juices.
- In a small jug, whisk together the butter, water and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well to incorporate. Scrape the dough into a large oiled bowl, cover with cling film and chill overnight.
- The next morning, bring the dough up to room temperature before continuing with the next step.
- Preheat the oven to 200º C. Spray a heavy cast iron casserole with non-stick spray. Then, grease the casserole generously with a knob of butter. Scatter 2-3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar onto the base and up the sides of the casserole.
- Tip the dough into the casserole, dust lightly with flour, then ease the dough into a round. Cover and set aside to proof until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 200º C. Bake with the lid on for 35 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. To prevent the top darkening too much, cover loosely with foil for the last 10-15 minutes of the baking time.
- Rest in the casserole for around 10 minutes before gently loosening around the sides. Turn the loaf onto a wire rack. Cool completely before slicing. Use a stencil to dust the top with icing sugar, if you like.
You may want to add these Easter inspired bakes to this year’s list: