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Taste of Europe: Roberta Hall-McCarron’s carrot hot cross buns

These hot cross buns are far more interesting than regular ones, where the foremost flavour is raisins and cinnamon

Roberta Hall-McCarron's carrot hot cross buns

I’m afraid to say I find hot cross buns pretty boring. Just regular old buns aren’t they, with a religious symbol on the top? As a semi-Catholic, I feel
obliged to have one or two, but so often the spicing is off, or they’re too
sweet, or, worst of all, they are dry, like a Mass by a wearisome priest.

Marks & Spencer did well to dream up its Marmite hot cross bun collaboration. More yeast is a buoyant addition, especially for those who like
a slice of cheddar in lieu of jam or some other fruity plagiarism.

A friend of mine of Jamaican heritage explained the “bun and cheese” eaten there is a descendant of a Good Friday hot cross bun, but usually the bread comes from a loaf, and stout is added to the dough. He also told me that he would often find M&S buns filled with cheddar in his lunch box at school, Easter or not, which bemused his suburban friends.

Another variation I find myself attracted to is Roberta Hall-McCarron’s carrot buns with whipped Hebridean blue cheese. The Scottish chef, who recently moved her wellloved Edinburgh restaurant The Little Chartroom to a bigger and more fitting location, uses carrot molasses as a glaze, and makes carrot jam. I appreciate all this sounds sugary, but I love carrots, so leave me alone.

The point is, these hot cross buns are far more interesting than regular ones, where the foremost flavour is raisins and cinnamon. So give these a go this
Easter. Or visit The Little Chartroom, where this is on the menu alongside the likes of gala pie, scallops and white asparagus, and lamb with courgettes,
barley and Merguez sausage.

CARROT HOT CROSS BUNS WITH WHIPPED HEBRIDEAN BLUE CHEESE

MAKES 14-16 BUNS

For the poolish (overnight starter)
Strong flour 225g
Dark soft brown sugar 70g
Mixed spice 1tsp
Cinnamon 1tsp
Ground ginger 1tsp
Grated zest of 2 oranges
Fresh yeast 14g
Water 300g, tepid

Mix the flour with the spices, orange zest and sugar.
Dissolve the yeast in the water.
Pour the water-yeast mix into a stand mixer and add the flour in, using a dough attachment mix on speed 1 making sure all the flour is incorporated – scrape down the sides if necessary.
Add in the treacle.
Leave in the fridge overnight.

MAKING THE BUNS
Strong flour 400g
2 egg yolks
Unsalted butter 125g; cold and diced small
Salt 10g
Mixed peel 125g
4 pieces stem ginger
Sultanas 250g

Mix the salt and flour together.
In a stand mixer with the dough attachment, mix together the flour and
poolish.
Add in the egg yolks.
Slowly start adding in the butter in small amounts – it should take approx. 8 mins to become fully incorporated.
Chop the stem ginger into small pieces.
Mix all the fruit together, and add to the dough. Gently mix through until fully incorporated.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film, leave to prove at room temperature for approximately two to three hours until it has doubled in size.
Knock back and divide into 100g portions – shape into tight balls, using the worktop to roll them.
Place on to greaseproof paper and cover with cling film or a teatowel, and
leave to prove for another hour.
Pre-heat your oven to 190C – fan assisted.

CROSS PASTE
Plain flour 4tbsp
Water 4tbsp

Mix together until a smooth paste has formed. Transfer to a small piping bag (you can easily pick up small disposable bags in the supermarket).
Cut a 1/₂cm hole in the bag and pipe a cross over each bun, making sure to
cover the whole bun.
Place in the oven and bake for 14-16 mins until springing back.
Take out and place on a wire rack to cool.

CARROT GLAZE
Carrot juice 600ml
Sugar 150g

Mix together and heat, reducing by half until it has a syrup consistency.
Brush the syrup all over the buns.

CARROT JAM
Carrots 300g
Carrot juice 200ml
Caster sugar 180g

Using a box grater, grate the carrots on the largest part.
Mix all the ingredients together and cook out in a pan over a medium heat.
The carrot juice should be reduced by 2/₃.
Blitz in a blender to a smooth puree.
Transfer to a piping bag.

WHIPPED BLUE CHEESE
Makes 12-15 portions
Blue cheese 600g
Crème fraîche 200g
Double cream 130g
Fresh micro herbs/cress 50g
Walnuts/hazelnuts 15g per person – optional extra.

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Transfer to a
piping bag.

TO SERVE
Warm the buns in a hot oven for a few minutes.
Pipe the cheese into a bowl (approximately 60g per portion), using the back of a spoon make an indentation, and pipe the carrot jam on top of the cheese.
Garnish with cress/micro herbs.
Optional extra: Toasted chopped walnuts/hazelnuts, sprinkled on top

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