Essentially a brioche recipe, these light, melt-in-the-mouth buns are great to make at the weekend when you have a bit more time than usual. It is a tricky and time-consuming recipe but, when you see the results, you’ll feel like a professional. The dough can be started the night before and left in the fridge to be baked in the morning. Eat them with anything you want: jam, fruit, butter … or how about chocolate spread?
60ml whole milk
10.5g (3 tsp or 1½ packets) fast-action dried yeast
45g caster sugar, plus 1 tsp, plus more to glaze
440g strong white flour, plus more to dust
11g (2 tsp) sea salt
300g/280ml (about 6 medium) eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 more to glaze
250g unsalted butter, softened
Warm the milk in a microwave or saucepan until tepid, then add the yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar, mixing thoroughly. Cover and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until frothy.
Combine the flour, 45g of sugar and salt in a food mixer fitted with a dough hook, or use your hands. Make a well in the middle, add the yeast mixture and eggs and knead for 7 minutes. Now slowly add the butter, 1 heaped tbsp at a time, allowing plenty of kneading after each addition to ensure it is thoroughly incorporated. Regularly scrape the butter from the sides of the bowl back into the dough. Cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes.
Knead, just to knock back the dough, for 3 minutes. Put into a bowl, cover with cling film and prove a second time for 30 minutes. (Or, the night before, refrigerate, tightly covered with cling film so it doesn’t dry out. In the morning, return to room temperature before working the dough.) Knock the dough back again, then divide into 12 and place each piece in a floured muffin mould (we use silicone but, if you haven’t got those, line the moulds with baking parchment or paper cases first). Cover loosely with cling film and prove for a final time until increased in size by one-third; it should take about 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 175°C/fan 155°C/gas mark 4.
Bake for 10 minutes, then brush the tops with a little beaten egg and a sprinkling of sugar and bake for 3–5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
For Easter you can make hot-cross butter buns: add 1 tsp (3g) ground cinnamon to the flour mix and 400g mixed dried fruit after the first proving. To make the cross, form a thick paste from sifted plain flour and water, piping it over the buns before they go in the oven.