Dessert recipes

Seasonal baking recipes: hot cross buns for cold weather, lemon bars for when it’s hot

Unpredictable weather can see even well-laid culinary plans unravel. Susan Jung offers two seasonal favourites that’ll give you peace of mind

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 January, 2018, 10:38am

Cooking seasonally can be hard in Hong Kong's ever-changing spring weather - you can plan a meal for the weekend only to end up serving cassoulet when it's 28 degrees Celsius or throwing a barbecue when it's eight degrees. Baking seasonally, too, can be hard - we crave heavier desserts when it's cold and something light and easy when it's warm. This first recipe is better for cool weather, the second - which takes only about 45 minutes from start to finish - is lighter and therefore better for when it's hot outside.

Hot cross buns (pictured)

It's the time for hot cross buns - they're traditionally eaten on Good Friday, which falls this week. These spicy, slightly sweet buns can be delicious (of course, the cross can be omitted if you are not a Christian). Some people like to eat hot cross buns fresh, but I prefer them a little stale - cut in half and toasted on both sides in a lightly oiled skillet (or under a grill) then spread with salted butter.

This recipe has been adapted from Baking with Passion by Dan Lepard.

7 grams active dry yeast

200ml lukewarm water (35 degrees)

870 grams bread flour, divided, plus extra for dusting

100 grams granulated sugar, divided

10 grams fine sea salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground allspice

1/8 tsp ground cloves

260ml milk - simmered then cooled to room temperature

1 large egg, at room temperature

85 grams unsalted butter, softened

100 grams raisins

70 grams dried currants

80 grams candied citrus peel, chopped

For the piping paste:

30 grams plain (all-purpose) flour

12 grams sugar

About 15ml cold water

For the glazes:

1 egg yolk whisked with 15ml milk

100 grams sugar dissolved in 50ml water

Pour the water into a large bowl (preferably one from a heavy-duty mixer) and sprinkle the yeast on top. When the yeast has dissolved, whisk in five grams of granulated sugar, then stir in 200 grams of flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the mixture is foamy and has risen by about a third. Add the remaining flour to the bowl. Stir together the salt, spices and remaining sugar, add to the bowl and stir briefly. Whisk the egg with the milk, pour it into the bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter in chunks. Stir on low speed for five minutes then leave to rest for 10 minutes before stirring for a further three minutes, again on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and stir in the raisins, currants and citrus peel. Knead the mixture by hand on a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a large ball. Lightly spray a large bowl with pan coating, put the dough in the bowl then flip it over so the greased side is on top. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until doubled. (If you prefer to prepare the dough a day early, put it in the fridge and let it rise overnight. Let it come to room temperature before proceeding.)

Deflate the dough by giving it a firm whack then place it on a work surface that's been very lightly dusted with flour. Cut the dough into 60-gram pieces and shape each piece into a tight, firm ball. Place the dough balls, smoothest side-up, on a parchment-lined baking tray, leaving about 1cm of space between each one. Leave at room temperature until the balls have almost doubled in size (this second rise takes a long time).

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Make the piping paste by stirring the flour with the sugar and enough water to form a sticky mixture that's thick enough to be piped but firm enough to hold its shape. Put the mixture in a small piping bag fitted with a plain metal tip. When the dough has risen sufficiently, brush the egg yolk and milk mixture carefully over the surface of each ball. Use the back of a knife to press the indentation of a cross over each ball then use it as a guide to pipe a cross on top. Put the baking tray in the oven and decrease the heat to 180 degrees. Bake until the buns are medium-brown and cooked through. As soon as they come out of the oven, brush the buns with heated sugar glaze. Let them cool to room temperature before serving.

Lemon bars

For the crust:

240 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened

90 grams icing (confectioner's) sugar, plus extra for dusting

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

260 grams plain (all-purpose) flour

For the filling:

4 large eggs

180 grams granulated sugar

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

60 grams plain flour

160ml fresh lemon juice

The finely grated zest of three lemons

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Lightly spray a baking tray (with dimensions of about 23cm x 28cm x 3cm deep) with pan coating.

Make the crust by beating together the butter, icing sugar and salt until light. Add the flour and stir until it's just combined. Press the mixture evenly into the pan, place in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 160 degrees. Bake until the crust is fragrant, pale gold, dry on the surface and firm to the touch (if it's browning too quickly, lay a sheet of aluminium foil loosely over the top and continue to cook). Remove the crust from the oven but leave the heat on.

Whisk the egg with the sugar and salt. Whisk in the flour until thoroughly combined, then stir in the lemon juice and zest. Pour the filling over the hot crust and bake at 160 degrees until set - when you shake the pan, the filling will be firm. Cool to room temperature before cutting into rectangles or squares. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Styling: Corner Kitchen Cooking School