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Hot Cross Buns Hard On Top

Asked by Tea room. Answered on 23rd March 2016

Full question

Hello Nigella and the team. I made Hot Cross Buns and followed the recipe nearly exactly, but I was dying to try them so I didn't leave overnight to prove. I left the dough to double in size and then followed the recipe carefully. The crust of my buns came out very hard. I live in Bulgaria but found 650 strength bread flour, also found dried yeast in 7g packets. Was it simply that I did not prove over night, or maybe I kneaded too much or not enough, or the oven was too hot, but I had it set at the correct temp. Please help as I want to make some more this week. Many many thanks in advance.

Our answer

Traditionally Hot Cross Buns, such as Nigella's Hot Cross Buns (from FEAST) are served on Good Friday (this year on Friday, March 25th). The dough is a bread dough that is enriched with butter and sugar. There can be a few different reasons why the crust could be hard, but often it comes from the oven being too hot. If you oven temperature is correct then this is less likely, though if it is a conventional oven then make sure you bake the buns on the middle shelf of the oven and not on a high shelf.

Otherwise it is most likely that the dough was not kneaded sufficiently. Gluten is the protein in the flour that stretches as you knead it, and this provides structure to the buns. If the gluten is not worked sufficiently the buns can be hard. However fat (from the butter and egg yolk) and sugar can both retard gluten development so sometimes a little extra kneading is required. Once the dough has been kneaded enough it should be smooth and shiny and should also spring back easily if you press your finger on the dough. However be careful if kneading by machine, as it is possible to over-knead the dough which will eventually break down the glutens and can also cause the buns to be hard. So if using a dough hook and mixer, use a low speed and check the dough frequently. It is not strictly necessary to let the dough rise overniight, this is more for convenience if you want to serve freshly-baked buns in the morning. If you allowed the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size on the first rise then this should be sufficient.

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